Preliminary researches in the Brenner Archiv

This page is the preliminary page for my various researches in the Brenner-Archiv, also known in English as the Brenner Collection.

I cannot exactly remember how the Archiv came to my attention. My specific recollection is that I learned of it through various reading about genealogical research in Franconia, the home province of the Felbingers, and through my cousin Dieter Kett, whom I met on my first visit to Regensburg in 2001. Dieter had in his possession various transcriptions of Felbinger family members and graciously gave me copies to take home.

The Archiv itself is the original creation of Tobias Brenner, a pastor in Ansbach after the First World War. He became concerned about the difficulty in tracing ancestors through the vital registers of various parishes in the region surrounding Ansbach (effectively Middle Franconia), particularly if the original parish of the ancestor were unknown. His concern was increased because his own researches revealed the poor conditions in which parish vital registers were often kept. He had the idea that it would be most helpful if he could extract the pertinent information from the registers and organize the information by the name of the person and the date of the entry, effectively creating a master index.

In this enterprise Brenner was quite successful, and by the mid-1930s had more than 30 people working on the project with him. Of course, the work did take an insidious turn in the 1930s-1940s because of the Nazi emphasis on racial purity. Germans were often obliged to inquire about their ancestry in order to determine their "Aryan" status.

The Archiv (written on several thousands of individual paper sheets and in many volumes, as well as much supplementary material) survived the war-time devastaton intact. It was discovered in the 1950s by representatives of the Church of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), who purchased the collection from Brenner and had it transported to Salt Lake City, Utah, where it was kept for many years while being microfilmed. The original collection was returned to Ansbach in 1988 where it now resides in the local municipal archive (Stadtarchiv Ansbach, 7/9 Karlsplatz).

I have never been to Ansbach because of the time spent in Nuremberg and Regensburg; should make the trip some day. Nevertheless, I have been able to use at my local Mormon Family History Center the microfilm copies of the records. Research in these records has kept me busy during many nights I could not be in Germany. The records themselves are comparatively simple in format, listing name of person, date and place of marriage, and children if any. There are some death records. Despite simplicity of format, the records themselves still require some ability to read German script: some records are typed, but most are written in a variety of script styles including the Kurrentschrift of the early 20th century and the Sütterlin script also current in the early- to mid-20th century (a script that I myself have never found particularly easy to read). The positive aspect of the records is they are arranged by name and (more or less) by date. The negative aspect is this arrangement often makes it difficult to track individuals and families who move around ... or continue to reside in one place, for that matter. Other factors increase the difficulties. Inadequate knowledge of the location of 88-97 parishes in Middle Franconia makes tracking individuals and families through physical space problematic. Similarity of family and given names makes it difficult to determine one individual from another. This latter problem is compounded by the inconsistency in the original parish records of recording names of the same persons the same way. Additionally, the different handwritings of recorders in the Brenner extractions add aggravation. And last, as I discovered in instances where I had obtained the full original record before seeing the Brenner Archiv extract, the information in the Brenner extract was simply copied incorrectly. All these factors make the Brenner Archiv records a less-than-perfect tool, often like looking for the proverbial "needle in the haystack": a fitting image, as the records report the lives of many Bavarians from the countryside).

Yet, I have been very successful in finding several "needles" among the extracts:

1. The extract for the marriage of great-great-great-great grandparents [Johann] Paul Felbinger and Margaretha Barbara Sieber in the St. Johannis Kirche in Ansbach in 1760. This was a tremendous find because Ludwig Wendel did not find it 1980-1981 and, well, I did. The extract (and later the record) is the first *documentary* evidence I have found for the names of the great-great-great-great-great grandfathers Georg Leonhard Felbinger and Georg Sieber. Before this, I have only Wendel's notes that he obtained from other people; these notes I have considered anecdotal because I have not seen the actual records.

2. An extensive listing for the Fichtelmann family. The extracts here indicate that at least one son remained in Germany when great-great grandfather Ulrich Fichtelmann came to America with his daughter (and great grandmother) Maria Barbara Fichtelmann and great grandfather Johann Georg Felbinger.

3. For great-great-great-great-great grandfather Georg Sieber, I did find an additional extract for him as the father of A. Barbara Felbinger. The extract that follows this extract is also for a Georg Sieber, who married and had two children (one of them A. Barbara in 1736) in Höfen, a small village to the west of Ansbach. The extract is intriguing because the 1736 birth date for (Anna) Margaretha Barbara Felbinger is off only by a year from her age listed in the Ickelheim death register (1804). The evidence leads me to the thought that the Siebers were also not originally from Obersulzbach-Oberdachstetten, so it is a line of research to pursue at a later time.

4. I found nothing of particular interest in searching the Beierlein family and its variants, and the same can be said for the Schuri (on the Fichtelmann line).

5. The Sturms were a different story, and the extracts here yielded much information about Johannes (aka Johann) Sturm and his first wife Anna Christina. Sturm himself is of course important to the Illinois and West Coast Felbingers. Unfortunately, the Brenner extracts yielded only a few tantalizing clues to Sturm's ancestry, but these may also prove to be enough to go on in following that line.

6. The Eder family proved to be quite a treasure chest of information. Actually, I obtained the baptismal record of Kunigunda Eder (m. Leonhardt Friedrich Felbinger, brother of great-great-great-great grandfather Johann Paul Felbinger) before I obtained the Brenner extract for her. On a superficial examination, the two records do not coincide; so, as usual, "more research needs to be done". Still, the Brenner extracts did provide me with the first documentary evidence that Kunigunda is the descendant of one of the "Exulanten" families that emigrated from Austria in the aftermath of the Thirty Years' War. I obtained further confirmation of this from the book by Eberhard and Friedrich Krauss, Exulanten im Evang.-Luth. Dekanat Ansbach (Nürnberg : Gesell. für Familienforschung in Franken, 2004). Of course, the book takes the research from the beginning to only 1700, which does not cover Kunigunda. Still, it points out another interesting line of research.

7. And there are still other family lines I have yet to pursue. Having found that Johann Michael Hörber married Margaretha Barbara Felbinger (sister of 4GGF Johann Paul Felbinger) in 1764 in Oberdachstetten, the Hörbers should prove another line for research. And of course there is the line of great-great-great-great grandfather Johannes Schmidt, whose death record (1785) I stumbled on only in 2006. I dread the prospect (every family tree should have a "John Smith" !), particularly as his death record indicates he moved frequently. Still, the search might yield more information about Anna Christina and Anna Sybilla Schmidt (m. Johannes Sturm); I can hope for their mother. And there the ancestral families of the Fichtelmanns to consider. So I can see my nights may be well occupied at the Mormon Family History Center.

For additional information about the Brenner Archiv, the following sources are available:

1. The Family Search web page of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). Click the tab that says "Library"; then click the tab "Family History Library Catalog"; then click the tab "Title Search", and enter "Brenner Collection". This will bring up the catalog entries for the Brenner Archiv (aka in English: Brenner Collection).

2. CEFHA, the Continental European Family History Association, has a long explanatory introduction and index to the Brenner Archiv that is not well maintained: many links are "broken". But with a little finagling and using the "" portion of the URL, many of these links can still be found. It is particularly interesting because it lists the congregations in each parish as well as the parishes themselves. Indeed, I suspect a really close reading of the lists here may save me much work further along, as it is clear from these lists that Brenner and his colleagues did not reach all the congregations in a specific parish.

3. The Gesellschaft für Familienforschung in Franken has on its English webpage a link for the Brenner Archiv (in German, of course). Click on the link "Other archives", which takes the user to another clickable link for the Brenner Archiv. This document lists in a simple format the parishes covered by the Brenner Archiv, plus other information.

The listings for my transcriptions of extracts from the Brenner Archiv are as follows. The extracts for the Felbingers are all the listings in the Archiv. For the other families, I selected extracts I thought relevent from the Archiv; my notes about my criteria for my selection are noted at the beginning of the extracts.

Felbinger family
Fichtelmann family
Sieber family
Beierlein family
Sturm family
Eder family

--JEF, June 11, 2007