Family reunion

Descendants of the 3 eldest sons of Gerhard Dierksmeier and Anna Maria Luenningmeier meet in August 2000 in the Brochterbeck, Germany area.

In August 2000, my family and I returned to the land of our ancestors, and become reacquainted with our German cousins.  One hundred fifty years after Carl Heinrich Dierksmeyer immigrated to US, the descendants of Carl, and his eldest 2 brothers met in Germany.  Alfred Dierksmeier, descendant of the 2nd son acted as host, translator, and guide during the 4-day reunion.

Brochterbeck is a small village with a population of about 2500.  Recently it was joined with neighboring smaller villages of Lehen and Tecklenberg to now make up moderate government of TecklenbergHorstmersch is a just outside the Brochterbeck village and is primarily farmland.  Tecklenberg (and its subsidiaries) are about 10 km outside of Ibbenburen.  While we were staying in Brochterbeck, it was celebrating its 850-year anniversary.  The town had big plans for the celebration, but unfortunately, we were only able to see the beginnings as our plane was leaving shortly after the start.

Brochterbeck has 2 churches, both an Evangelical and Catholic church.  The majority of the homes were built post WW II.  Alfred Dierksmeier recalls that much of the village was burned when the American tanks rolled in shortly before the war ended.  There still remain some subtle reminders of the war throughout the area.  He showed us a memorial gravesite in Ibbenburen, which marked the graves of many German soldiers who died while hiding in the woods.  Also later, we saw another cemetery where bullet holes can still be seen in many of the headstones and statues upon the graves.  As a young man, Alfred himself spent only a few months in the service.  His father was able to convince the military leaders that his young son was needed at home to help on the farm.

Each home is gaily decorated with flowerbeds both around the homes, as well as hanging from each window.  Even the Catholic cemetery feels like you’re entering a garden as each gravesite is covered with planted flowers and shaded trees.  (Cemetery graves are only kept for 30 years after which they are replaced by new family graves.  It’s not clear what happens to the old headstones or the previously interred bodies).

Descendants of the eldest son whom we met included:

  • Josef Dierksmeier of Horstmersch, son of Antonius and Anna Dierksmeier – current Head of the Family
  • Agnes Markfort and her family of Saerbeck (Ludgar – husband, Anna, youngest son Paul) – daughter of Antonius and Anna Dierksmeier
  • Barbara Kitten of Ibbenburen (her parents Matilde Dierksmeier and Rheinhold Kitten) – granddaughter of Antonius and Maria Dierksmeier
  • Alfred Shroer-Dierksmeier and his wife Elisabeth of Brochterbeck – son of Antonius and Maria Dierksmeier
  • Manfred Dierksmeier of Krefeld – son of Heinrich Dierksmeier
  • Giesela Dierksmeier and her husband Joseph Windoffer of Ibbenburen – daughter of Heinrich Dierksmeier

Descendants of the 2nd son whom we met included:

  • Alfred Dierksmeier and his wife Marie Brunsing of Ibbenburen (also Marie’s mother) – son of Josef and Maria Dierksmeier
  • Ludgar Dierksmeier and his wife Adelheid of Brochterbeck – brother of Alfred
  • Marita Dierksmeier of Brochterbeck and her husband – daughter of Alfred’s brother Norbett and Alfred’s godchild.
  • Annette Dierksmeier’s husband of Brochterbeck – son-in-law of Alfred’s brother Norbett
  • Josef Dierksmeier and his wife Rita of Muenster – Alfred’s younger brother

Josef Dierksmeier – the current head of the family – lives on the farm, which Carl Heinrich, my ancestor was born on in 1821.  Josef is a very young looking man of 52 with a ruddy complexion.  He speaks only a dialect of German, known as Platte-German.  However, between sign language and Alfred acting as translator, we faired quite well in communicating.  Josef works the family farm by himself.  Josef was well aware of the fact he had American relatives, as was many of the Dierksmeier clan.  However, apparently after our ancestor immigrated to US he did not stay in contact with the family back home.  Josef welcomed his American cousins with exuberance, exchanging photos, and testaments to further our joint research.  He recalls he was thrilled when he heard about our interest in the family back in Germany.

He has a good size farm consisting of 20 hectares of land, plus an additional 10 hectares, which he rents out.  The farm consists of many fields of corn plus livestock.  His farm fascinated the children with the 90 cows and 36 pigs.  Josef, with great pride, gave us a tour of the farm talking about how his cows are milked twice a day, and collecting the milk in huge vat, which is trucked away every 2 days.  Katie and Karl were fascinated with Josef’s horse each taking turns feeding the horse.  Josef explained that the original house was burnt down in 1901 and all of his records were destroyed.  His neighboring cousin, currently owned by Alfred Dierksmeier-Shroer (500 meters away), gave the family copies of some of the older records, which Josef currently has.  The only building standing was the utility house, which dates back to the early 1800’s.  Josef has recently moved and expanded this utility home to the opposite side of the main house, using the original wood beams.

Josef also gave me some copies of photos of his father and 3 of his uncles who past away in WW I and WW II.  Included were also some further documents, which I have not yet translated, related to the eldest brother’s family.  Everyone was sad to see the 3-hour visit end.

We saw Josef again the next day as he escorted us to his sister’s home (Agnes Markfort) in the neighboring town of Saerbeck.  The Markfort’s also have a farm and we stayed and chatted with 2 of their 4 children.  Anna, age 16 – has had 6 years of English.  Her younger brother Paul at age 13, has had 3 years.  I was quite impressed with how well both of them spoke English.  Paul took Karl out to see the animals while the rest of us chatted and were acquainted.  Later we were taken on a short tour of the family, and I found it quite comical when we visited the Pigsties.  The pigs (which he has 500) appeared to be playing the childhood game of ‘Red-light, green-light’.  A pig would snort and they other pigs would scurry around.  You would then hear another snort and the pigs would freeze like statues.  This behavior went on for quite some time.  Karl liked the chickens and geese and would constantly go back to look at them while the adults continued to chat.

On the last full day, we spent the morning with another branch of the eldest son, Manfred Dierksmeier and his sister Giesela and husband, Joseph Windoffer.  Manfred, who has spent the last 25 years abroad speaks many languages, including excellent English.  His sister and husband only spoke German.  He mentioned that the descendants of one branch of the eldest son, known as the Dierksmeier-Shroer are quite close and continue to have a family reunion every 2 years.

Manfred and Giesela’s father, Heinrich was the eldest of Martin Dierksmeier-Shroer’s children.  Heinrich moved to Meppen Germany in 1938 and did not serve in the war.  But he supplied fuel to the German army resulting in him traveling quite a bit during the war throughout Germany.  Heinrich and his wife encouraged their children to also travel and as a result many of their children have lived abroad for many years.

Their eldest daughter, Giesela lives in Ibbenburen with her husband Joseph Windoffer.  Joseph served in the war at the young age of 16 and became a POW of Russia.  He now is a beekeeper where he collects honey other bi-products for natural skin cremes.  After our visit, Joseph showed us one of his bee hives and explained how the bees clean themselves before entering the hive and create a natural anti-biotic which is used in medicines today.

Manfred’s sister Imgard married a gentleman from Portugal and currently lives in London.  Their next sister, Christa lives in Munster area near Berlin.  The youngest sister, Inge, lived abroad with her husband in Taiwan for 5 years.  Manfred, himself is in hotel management, having spent many years in Greece, Spain, and Africa.  He is also a talented artist (as he later told us many of the Dierksmeier clan is) and gave us a small sample of his work.  Manfred at one time had tried to locate his American cousins, but was unsuccessful.  Both he and his sister were quite excited to have connected with our branch now.  We have exchanged addresses and plan to continue to stay in touch.

Manfred mentioned that Carl Clemens – son of Gerhard Dierksmeier and Anna Wellmeier moved to Muenster.  They had a son named Josef, who then had a son named Ernst.  Manfred is still in contact with this branch.

The last branch of the eldest son we visited was Barbara Kitten and her parents.  Our stay with the Kitten family was brief as we planned to drive to Muenster later in the afternoon.  The Kitten’s also have a large farm located in Ibbenburen.  Barbara has 2 brothers and a sister.  I first connected with Barbara via e-mail shortly after the first article was written in the IVZ.  Although her family has had numerous visits from her father’s family – Kitten, we were the first from her mother’s side to visit.

Alfred Dierksmeier, the eldest son of Josef, Johann Heinrich’s grandson acted as host and principle translator throughout the duration of our visit to Tecklenberg.  Alfred was very gracious with his time and acted as tour guide telling us tid-bits of information not only about the family but also about the history of the area and the village of Brochterbeck itself.  Alfred is an energetic man in his early 70’s and lives in Ibbenburen which his wife Marie and her mother.  Although he claims to have learned his English 50 years ago while at school, his English was quite good and we had no trouble communicating.  He is now retired from teaching at the Commercial school (post high school education) in Ibbenburen and spends his time gardening and visiting his children scattered around Germany.

Alfred recalls a story his father and aunt shared with their children regarding his and my great-grandfathers.  He tells that the brothers Johann Heinrich – known as Rix (Alfred’s ancestor) and Carl Heinrich (my ancestor) had been amusing and entertaining young men who sometimes would have a drop too much to drink.  They both decided to try their luck in AmericaRix was said to have headed for the gold mines where he later returned to Germany after a few years with much gold.  Upon his return Rix went to the Borchelt farm and asked Frau Borchelt if he could marry into this house.  Frau Borchelt, recently widowed, thought he was referring to herself and tried to dismiss him saying that ‘It is not possible to talk about this, now’.  Rix quickly corrected her, by announcing that he did not want to marry her, but her daughter, Maria Elisabeth who was 18 years hold.  They married.  The Borchelt farm was in debt and in need of repair.  Rix paid off the many debtors from the gold he earned in the US and started working on fixing up the farm.

Apparently he also wore a strange looking hat, and was often teased about his hat by his neighbors.  He was told that you have to buy a new hat, because your hat is without a deck.  He would answer with a short sentence ‘Schaut das nicht gar lustig aus, wenn die Haare oben kommen raus?’.  Basic translation for this was that ‘Isn’t it funny to see when the hair comes out above?’

Once Rix married into the Borchelt family – the family took on the surname BorcheltIt wasn’t until the 1940’s that Alfred’s father changed the name back to Dierksmeier.  As a result, Alfred himself was known as Alfred Borchelt, then later as Alfred Dirksmeyer and finally as Alfred Dierksmeier.  This could be also why I had not found any information on this line up until now, as I was only looking under various spellings of Dirksmeier and didn’t take into consideration that the men would change their surname.  (A similar situation occurred with Martin Dierksmeier marrying into the Shroer family.  They took on the name Dierksmeier-Shroer or Shroer-Dierksmeier

Today Alfred’s younger brother, Norbett lives on the Borchelt farm with one of his daughters and her family (husband with 1 year old triplets).  We stopped by to visit, but most of the family was out.  Norbett’s son-in-law showed us around the place.  It has been converted into JB Electronics, Plumbing and Heating store.  His son-in-law also does contracting.  Their backyard was beautifully landscaped with a small fountain in the corner running into a man-made stream.  The family pet, a dog that plays soccer, then entertained us.  He was quite skilled at dribbling the ball around the yard and kept the children quite amused.

Alfred is very involved in the church and works with Third World countries to help improve conditions.  He has traveled to Tanzania in 1974 on a mission to help the poor.

We made a short visit to another brother in Brochterbeck, Ludgar and his wife Adelheid.

Katie and I met one other brother, Josef, who lives in Muenster with his wife Rita.  Both Josef and Rita speak English very well.  Rita previously studied in Buffalo New York and then later taught elementary school in Germany.  They have one son, Claus who has recently received his masters in philosophy at Hamburg University, followed by his doctorate with his thesis focused on the philosopher Kant.  He is now an assistant professor in Jena, East Germany for the past 2.5 years.  He hopes to teach a combination of philosophy and ethics with a focus on comparison between Spain and German Law.

Alfred mentioned 2 other siblings, his brother Hubert.  Hubert married Dietlinde Lotze and have 4 children.  Hubert is a teacher of philosophy, religion and math.  Alfred has one sister, Maria, who joined the nuns – Thuiner Ordensschwester Magdalis.

August 2001 - Alfred and some of his family came to visit Boston - His son Stefan and his son Martin and his wife Sybille and son Stephen.  We met at my parents house for dinner giving them the opportunity to meet some of their other American cousins.  (Trudy Dirksmeier Martel, Joseph and Louise Dirksmeier, Peter with his 2 sons Corey and Peter, Joseph Dirksmeier Jr, Bob and Anne Tullis, Andrew Tullis, and the Chung family.)  Martin and Stefan had to return home that evening, but Alfred, Sybille and Stephen spent a few nights in Marlborough with the Chung family.

April 2002 - Claus Dierksmeier accepted a position of Associate Proffessor at Stonehill College in Massachusetts.  He is planning to come over in August 2002 and then to stay to February.  He contacted me in the hopes to meet some of his other relatives in the Massachusetts area.  In August 2002, Claus met his Tullis cousins.  It was followed a couple weeks later by a pool party at Donna Leitao's house which gave him the opportunity to meet many of his other Dirksmeier cousins.

January 2003 - I was contacted by a descendant of Gerhard Dierksmeier and Anna Maria Luenningmeier youngest daughter who married Georg Kluck.  Bettina Kluck had recently become interested in her family history and still lives in Brochterbeck.  Bettina has filled me in on the some of the descendants of Anne Maria Dierksmeyer and George Kluck as well as some of the descendants on her older sister Anna Maria Theresia Dierkesmeyer and her husband Carl Heinrich Korsmeier.

May 2006 Hi Ginny,I hope you and your family are doing well. Today I'm writing you not because of long passed relatives – as usual – but for linving ones for a change. 
My brother Markus will spend 8 weeks in Boston this summer. He'll be at EF International Language School of English to improve his English skills. And because he's near 
you he would like to meet you. If you want to meet him too I'm passing your E-Mail address on to him, so he can contact you and you can make further arrangements. Markus
 is 23 years old and will complete his first year at the University of Applied Science in Aachen this summer, where he is studying aerospace technology.  He also has a homepage,
 which you can check out if you want to know more about him. On his homepage you can choose between English and German. Markus will be in Boston from July 15th 
– September 9th, 2006.  I'm looking forward to hear from you! Yours Bettina