Local heritage book Behrungen (Original Hartwig Quabeck)
Behrungen is a village of ca. 700 inhabitants in the ‘Grabfeld’, close to the south-west boundary line of today’s district of Schmalkalden Meiningen. After World War II from 1945 to 1990 when Germany was divided, Behrungen was situated in the immediate vicinity of the demarcation line between East and West Germany, i.e. up to 1949 on the ‘Zonengrenze’ and after that on the eastern side of the frontier between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. Today Behrungen belongs to the Land of Thuringia; its inhabitants, however, feel like people from the ‘Grabfeld’ rather than Thuringians.
The place was fortified and had two gates, the ‘Kuhtor’ and the ‘Lämmertor’. Particularly during the thirties and forties of the 17th century, that is during the Thirty Years’ War, Behrungen suffered from great distress, the most outstanding examples to be mentioned being the period of occupation by imperial troops, Croats under Piccolomini, and those times when its entire population left the village for weeks to seek refuge in the surroundings, e.g. in Mellrichstadt. At times it also happened that numerous inhabitants of Rappershausen, a neighbouring village, escaped to Behrungen. 132 death entries in 1635 alone give us an idea of how terrifying the imperial occupation must have been.
A 1640 entry in the church register (p. 86) by minister Matthäus Gottwald reads: “Folgende Persohnen sind abgestorben theils unter dem feindseligen einfall der Keyserischen (?) Soldaten und gäntzlich ausplünderung, theils als der pfarrer mit seinen Pfarrkindern anfangs nach mellerstad, da man sich auf die 6 Wochen aufhalten müßen, darnach nach Römhild gewichen, und auch auf die 6 oder 7 Wochen alldo iämmerlich leben müssen. ...“ And at the end of that year he records how many people are still alive in Behrungen: „28 Wittben, 8 Wittber, 38 baar Ehevolks (76 Persohnen), 105 Jung und alt, Zusammen 217 lebendige Seelen ...“.
Also in some of the following years the number of inhabitants is mentioned at the end of each year: 1641: 205 souls, 1642: 210 souls, 1649: 191 souls, 1651: 235 souls, 1652: 246 souls, 1653: 261 souls, 1654: 270 souls, 1655: 280 souls, 1656: 288 souls, 1657: 297 souls, 1658: 306 souls, 1659: 308 souls, 1660: 311 souls, 1661: 305 souls, 1662: 298 souls, 1663: 307 souls, 1664: 320 souls, 1665: 323 souls, 1666: 331 souls, 1667: 326 souls, 1668: 322 souls, 1670: 340 souls.
When in 1640 imperial soldiers set the village on fire, two thirds
of all the buildings were burned down. In 1752 a big fire destroyed the
western part of the village: 40 houses as well as 45 ‘Städel’ fell
victim to the flames; further houses and stables were badly damaged.
Notes on the origin and development of the project.
When I was searching for my children’s ancestors, I also came to Behrungen. As I knew by then, one of their great-grandfathers was born there and soon it was obvious that most of his ancestors, too, had come from Behrungen. But it turned out to be almost impossible to work out a complete and faultless genealogy. The rather small numbers of both different surnames and Christian names used in the 17th and even in the 18th centuries can easily lead to confusions. This again all the more as most entries in the church register were very short. It was only by the middle of the 18th century that the situation gradually improved. I therefore decided to copy not only the entries I believed to be relevant for my own genealogy but all the entries in the oldest church register of Behrungen (1605 – 1768). But as I live quite a distance from the place where the church register is kept this was easier said than done. Although I repeatedly spent several days in Behrungen, this task would have been finished much later if Mrs. Doris Günther from Behrungen had not effectively supported me by copying the entries from 1701 – 1768.
I first entered the entries into an Access database and then into a genealogy programme so that family groups became recognizable.
Notes on the condition of the sources
Almost all the dates mentioned in the record of family descent are
taken from the two oldest church registers of the Protestant-Lutherian
parish of Behrungen. They are in the Protestant clergyman’s office in Queienfeld.
Partly the handwriting is difficult to read, in a few cases I could hardly decipher it or (as far as surnames are concerned) not at all. Especially in the first decades the entries are extremely short so that a classification beyond any doubt of certain persons or families is hardly possible or even impossible. In the record of family descent cases in which the filial generation is uncertain are marked. The filial generation of persons that were born before 1605 can occasionally only be concluded from entries of godparents – ‘son of …’ or ‘daughter of …’. Therefore when someone was godfather or godmother I’ve mentioned it in the ‘history’ of that person in the first decades. Until 1753 the name of the mother is hardly ever mentioned, it appears from 1754 onwards, at least in most cases.
In Behrungen the Julian Calendar was adapted to the Gregorian Calendar
in 1700. In that year February 28th was followed by March 1st.
Whoever has tried to find out about their ancestors knows how laborious it can be to search for the place a spouse came from when he or she was not from the same village; very often the church register gives no hint. In some cases the families were found among those who had come from places in the neighbourhood of Behrungen (e.g. from Berkach). I have included these families although strictly speaking they don’t belong to the Behrungen families. The additional dates concerning minister Wolfgang Weißheit I found in the internet.
A rather tricky question is the different spelling of some surnames, such as Hornung, Hörnung, Hörning, …, or Hähner, Hener, Hehner, Heyner, …, or Seifert, Seyfarth, Seyfriedt, …, etc. demonstrate what I mean. In these cases I generally decided on one version and I entered into the program – as an ‘Aliasname’ – a frequently used second spelling. (This is a weak point of the genealogy program GES-2000.e, which, to my mind, otherwise is quite easy to handle.)
Although it is commonly understood that besides the church registers almost all the other sources available should be referred to for a comprehensive record of family descent, this has not been done in this case and therefore the record is incomplete in this respect. Besides, the chronological records by the respective ministers, which are to be found in the oldest church register, are only exceptionally taken into account. On its final pages the oldest church register also contains a list of descendants of the family of Stumpf and a list of ancestors of the family of Wölfing (full of mistakes) as well as a table of a 'Waffenmusterung' 1577 (Inspection of Arms) and one of the 'Erbhuldigung' 1606. (Homage to the Heir). These last two tables might be quite interesting from a genealogical point of view. They are therefore – sorted after surnames – provided as RTF-data for downloading.
As I mentioned at the beginning this record of family descent was originally intended for my own use only. But after it has been completed I think it might be useful for others as well, who want to trace their family descent in Behrungen. One should never forget, though, that such a record of family descent always includes a large amount of interpretation, which can lead to wrong results even if the work is done most scrupulously. However, I hope that I succeeded in keeping the number of mistakes within limits. Again, Mrs. Doris Günther kindly helped me to realize some mistakes and to correct them. I am also very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Rinecker, who were ministers in Queienfeld until the autumn of 2000. It was their generous cooperation that enabled me to begin this work in the first place.
Braunschweig, October 2002