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Welcome to Tenacious Genealogy! This is another post for the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge that I’m participating in this year. It is a challenge hosted by Amy Johnson Crow every year and I figured I’d get in on the fun.
This is the week 14 prompt (which you can already tell I’m lagging behind on) and it is: ‘Brick Wall’.
I’m jumping back over to my mother’s side of the family and focusing on one of her ancestors who has been a bit of brick wall – Johann Joachim Fredrich Streu. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it will be a while before I find more information on him, given who he was, where he lived and when.
‘Johann Joachim Fredrich Streu… his name is my name too…’
Johann Joachim Fredrich Streu was my 5th great grandfather. He lived northeastern Germany around the turn of the nineteenth century. We have baptismal records noting him as the father for two children – Catharina Maria Carolina Streu in 1810 and Johan Joachim Heinrich Streu (my 4x great grandfather) in 1813. Other than that, there is little known about him.
In the 1819 census, his wife (according to the two baptismal records) Christina Maria Kühl lived with her parents, children, and aunt. Her ‘status’ was ‘Tagelöhner Witwe’ which loosely translates to ‘Day Laborer Widow’ – which implies that Johann Joachim Fredrich Streu died sometime between 1812 (if he died while his wife was pregnant) and 1819.
Brick Walls in Germany
The difficulty with finding out more about this particular line lies both in the historical nuances of the various German duchies during that time period as well as my minimal knowledge of the German language. Sufficeth to say, while I am curious about my German ancestors and their stories, I am by no means an expert.
But the little that I do know is this: The Streu family and the Kühl family lived in and near the city of Rostock in the late 1700s and early 1800s, specifically a place called Cammin. Rostock was part of the Duchy (and later Grand Duchy) of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Given the statuses noted for the Kühl family in 1819 (which was also when serfdom legally ended in Mecklenburg-Schwerin) are some variation of ‘day laborer’, it is my impression that they were serfs or at the very least, peasants, in Germany prior to 1819.
Why is this important? Because it means that there would be very few records (beyond baptism, marriage, and death) for these families. It also means that if they were serfs (or somewhere near the bottom of the social and economic ladder), their lives and deaths would not have been of much note and if Johann Joachim Fredrich Streu had died in one of the conflicts that were going on prior to 1819 (Napoleonic Wars, various duchy wars), he likely would not have been noted as more than just a number. Or if he had died of any variety of illnesses that frequently swept through Europe at this time, it may not have been noted as anything unusual.
That said, there is always a possibility that I or another relative could find out more information in the future. I have yet to visit Germany (on my bucket list) and so much of my research so far is based on online research, but if I ever have the chance, I’d love to do more investigating and see if I can find out more.
Questions or comments about this post? Have any brick walls you’re trying to break down? Curious about the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get freebies such as ‘10 Tips For Starting your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber-only’ items.