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January 3, 2002
Darmstadt: twigs and branches (Gail)

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Downtown Darmstadt

While we are in the general area of Darmstadt we decided it would be interesting to make a day trip to take a look at the area where my father's mother's family, the Geron's and the Gantz came from. This side of the family has proven to be much more difficult to locate even though they came to the USA more recently than any other, about 1892. I hoped to find some sort of Records Office or cemetery with any info that would help jump-start my search. We expected this trip to take about two and one half hours so we took off at 10:30, much earlier than the day we went to Kleinich. Again with our trusty pb & j sandwiches, snacks, Game Boys and high hopes we packed up and off we went.

Russell navigated us beautifully down the back roads looking for the connector to the A1. After an hour we had to concede defeat and admit that the A1 motorway does not go all the way through (which explained the gray dotted road on the map). Luckily this only added a half an hour to the trip and once we got on the motorway we made very good time. It took us three and one half hours, arriving after 3 p.m.

Darmstadt is a city, much bigger than Kleinich. We drove around looking for the Tourist Information Office near the Hauptbahnhof. We turned down a road and I said "Well there's the train station" and drove right by. Russell was surprised. He thought I knew that the train station and the Hauptbahnhof are the same thing. Well so much for "born in the blood" language skills.

After maneuvering ourselves down what could have been a one-way road or a walkway (it was covered in snow) and being nicely directed to the parking lot by a concerned taxi driver we arrived at the TI. I went in and got the info about where to find the einwohnermeldeamt or Office of Records. This is not a word easily pronounced or remembered by non-German speakers so I had asked Jayne's friend Stefan to write it down. I was able to just show the TI person what I was looking for. She immediately started to give me bus lines and directions and was surprised that we were driving, not the tourist season I guess.

She directed us to the City Center, near the castle. Wow the city has a castle, neat. The parking garage is located just under the main City Center and we popped up near where we wanted to be. Problem was that it was in the middle of the main shopping district and we had no idea which way to turn. One way is as good as any other in these circumstances so off we went to the left, uphill toward a monument that looked promising. It was the wrong way. It was -5 Centigrade, we were cold, Joss' feet were itching with every step, his bootlaces kept undoing and he was hungry. Cameron just kept walking along he had on his long johns and seemed to be happy. Russell took pity on Joss and sent the three of us into a toy store, while he ran off to find the TI that would ultimately send us in the correct direction for the Records Office. Joss immediately removed his shoes and socks to scratch his feet properly while Cameron and I played with the stuffed animals.

We were here for a day trip and were rapidly losing the day. After about half an hour Russell came back, and took us all to the TI, which was pretty much hidden, I never would have found it. He is amazing.

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Walking to the Stadtarchiv Darmstadt building (in the freezing cold)

We were directed to an office about three blocks away. I thought I had enough to work with. After all I had the town name right? I had the family and first names plus the dates of birth. When we arrived we were told we were too late to access any records except for the Internet. It was explained that looking for records of Hess Darmstadt is like looking for records in a county without having the name of the city of birth. When I asked about the old cemetery he again asked which village? Aaargh. After all this time to learn that I don't have quite enough information to locate the records. Since I had some dates and names he nicely let me on to the Internet to try my luck.

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Gail researching her family, on a PC tucked away in a corner of the State Archives

While the boys sat and played Game Boy and Russell browsed through the office's documents I entered the last name in and came up with a match. I think. The dates look right and the first name matches. So I now have a town, Heppenheim or Linnenbach. Looks like we may have to come back. Looks like I've been close to my Geron and Gantz ancestors now but still have to get to one of these small towns to prove it. Perhaps there will be an Office of Records or an old cemetery. Who knows.


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