The Thirty Years War Reset

To solve a genetic mystery, I search for others who study the early 1600s in Hessen, Germany. Here is an illustration to inspire you!

The Thirty Years War Casts a Long Shadow
It is not enough to just look at charts and consider how many ancestor boxes can be filled in. Some individuals jump out whereas most seem to be just a name and a date. A few provide mysteries. I want to unravel these and imagine what motivated them to change. And it helps me understand what is going on today.

History rhymes. To read stories in the changing data means to focus on specific event pivot points or to discover exemplary examples of the time. The numbers are like breadcrumbs sprinkled for direction on a long journey’s path.

I have twenty surname branches that emerge from the middle ages in Hessen, Germany—the earliest is from the 1300sshoemakers for the Merenberg family at Gleiberg Castle. Next is a miller family on the Bieber River about 1400. At the time of the Thirty Years War, the branches had fanned out to populate surrounding villages.

The 1600s don’t seem to be an era often portrayed in popular media beyond tales of the Three Musketeers or Don Quixote. Most movies highlight the 1500s with reformation and monarchy, the 1700s with exploration and colonization, the 1800s with industrialization and immigration, the 1900s with world wars and media revolution, and now we write the story for the 2000s.

Between the middle ages and the revolutions in Europe (epitomized in the French Revolution), the bigger event was the Thirty Years War— 1618–1648. As I work on the family history, the conflict’s effect on genetics is profound! We descendants can’t even imagine the drama and disruption of that time period! But the data shows it. (The effects lasted for generations and permanently dictate the intricate design of the family chart.)

Thirty Years War

Researching this conflict, that changed society beyond imagination, is poorly presented online or at the library. Either the description is so brief, it gives no sense of regional effect, or it is so detailed as to require a cast of fifty main characters. Now, in researching, I can see why there are these extremes. The complexity of the politics is mind-spinning! To even find a good map of boundaries and loyalties only yields almost incomprehensible squiggles. To determine who was where is a project in itself because the Holy Roman Empire was a loose structure of powerful principalities that dotted the landscape. Frequently lords would have territories in unconnected places due to marriage acquisitions. Military defense against the march of large Spanish, Swedish, and French armies offered little resistance for the small villages that were plundered for resources.

I tried to map the Hessen region during the war by finding definitive sources. From an ocean away, I have had little luck in specifics. It seems the only way to find out what really happened and its effect on the village ancestors is town-by-town, discovering the pattern in their individual events and allegiances. There are some hints on town history websites. So the border between sides divides neighbors into one side or the other.

The family data offer the best clues. The marriage dates hint at village allegiances, as most of these arrangements stayed within “fiefs.” When waves of ancestors all react to change in the same way, such as many moving to one town in a short period of time, or many deaths at one time, there are reasons.

Though mapping the war is complex, I became inspired to depict the threat of the time. Most towns of my ancestors were destroyed in the 1640’s. The survivors banded together and rebuilt the “old towns” of today. This illustration captures the moment when the villagers who remain to defend their town see a large army on the hillside about to descend upon them. Only farmers and tradespeople, they didn’t stand a chance to fend off this tirade so, the women and children had already fled to safer towns or forrest refuges. Waves of armies sought storehouses and livestock, murdered those who remained, often tortured them for information on hidden assets, and then burnt down the buildings when leaving. Rather than express this moment from the villagers’ points-of-view, I portray it from the army’s position, looking down on the innocent town they are about to plunder. Their muskets and spears are ready for the offense.

—Always inspired, Liane

Please see these other examples of my informational illustrations:

sebastian-surname-search200Search for Sebastian Surname” identifies my search for the origins of my surname, Sebastian, in Baden, Germany. Other than my ancestor that came to Milwaukee in 1845, it seems that back in the homeland, they may have perished. Unlike other surnames on my family tree, it is not easy to trace this one to now. I created this graphic to use in my appeal for information. I have isolated an individual in Germany that drops off the information records in the mid-1700’s. So this is a test to see if anyone in the network can offer assistance. I prepared a simple graphic to attract the eye versus just pose the question, and composed a blog entry with more detail.

Control of the NarcissistSee the Clues: Dangerous Behavior of the Narcissist” identifies the insidious manipulations of the narcissist that are easy to miss. Don’t be a victim of this common personality disorder that undermines progress. As an artist, I have dealt with many in my career, and victimized by a few. The illustration is my visual depiction on how the narcissist manipulates. The article, The Control of the Narcissist is what to do about it. I also include a research project on the topic I wrote a few years ago that has helped  many friends and associates who have suffered from the sting of narcissistic behavior.



Liane Sebastian wears an editor’s hat, designer’s coat, and artist’s shoes.