Connecting with ancestors has both a historical side and a contemporary one. In reaching back to origins, past the immigration divide, can round out family history by providing a base.
As a descendant of immigrants from Germany to the United States, I have always wondered what happened to those who stayed at home? It seems, from my new-world point of view, that an entire generation left for new opportunities—that the war ravages, economic hardships, and waves of disease, motivated anyone who could, to leave. But this is not true.
In my search for origins, the earliest documents take me to Allendorf, near Giessen, in Hesse. This small village demonstrates the determination and resilient nature of its residents—the same fortitude that gave the immigrants a chance in a new world. But they have more. Whereas we carved out new identities, they honor the past as well as advance the future. They integrate the new by providing opportunity without building it on top of their ancient center.
I reached out to their resident historian, Tom Euler, (who turns out to be the mayor!) for help on my research. And, we discover that he is also my cousin! From him, I have learned how Allendorf has survived the roller coaster of history, how they are proud of a community that blends nature, history, and a 21st century lifestyle.
As an illustrator, I chose to draw some of their historic buildings to thank Tom for his help. I am thrilled that he has posted my images on their website! And I am more thrilled to make a new friend who shares my same origins! I asked him how the cousins remaining could weather the turmoil. He responded: “It is true that people and societies are impacted by wars, hunger, and starvation. But Allendorf was strong enough to resist.”
—always inspired, Liane
Return to introduction “Ancestor Access: Allendorf on der Lahn.”
Allendorf Access— An exploration of family origins lead to 1500 Allendorf/Lahn-Giessen, Germany. Through a friendship, an amazing discovery, and a place that integrates natural beauty, history, and contemporary living, there is much to inspire. They are proud of many houses that were build in the late 1600s and early 1700s. A series of illustrations captures some of these historical gems and the impact of time.
“Historic Hessen Houses”— Several of the Heritage Cultural homes display the fachwerk construction. From an American viewpoint, their wood patterns convey a warmth and charm. Distinctive consistency gives a harmony to the ancient streets, and the mix of new between the old still maintains style. It turns out that I am descended from three of the founding families, and discover much in common with cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf.
“Ancestor Access: Allendorf on der Lahn” — A closeup of the old bakery, this illustration makes it look smaller than it is. Very deep long building, its side faces the signature tree where the two oldest roads cross. Tom had provided resource material which I quote in this portrayal. Although the town has grown, this remains the center and the soul of place. Because Tom has included these illustrations on their town website, it is as if a small piece of me has gone home.
Liane Sebastian wears an editor’s hat, designer’s coat, and artist’s shoes.