Saturday, 25 January 2014

Looking for Peckinpah Heritage

I have  yearned to know my history. That search for roots on one side of the family has taken me to the likely source of my mother's people in Germany. The first recorded ancestor of a long line now populating the United States from Pennsylvania to California where my mother was born. Thankfully a number of the previous generations had seen fit to explore the archives and records in various North American locales documenting the births, deaths, marriages and possible enterprises undertaken by the family as time proceeded.
Near the centre of Germany where Baden-Württemberg and Hessen  come together is a settlement called Eiterbach, a link to that past individual who chose to leave and eventually stood on the deck of some ship arriving in the new world so long ago. My imagination kicks in frequently as I pursue this thread. Did that family; a  widowed mother, 3 sons and new husband have any idea what to expect? and on arrival to what end did they change the name they'd chosen, carried or ran away with?
The evidence is scanty. But there are threads.
During my time in Germany I was able to arrange a road trip, across the centre and south into the mountainous region of the Oldenwald from where my source had indicated the family in question had fled. A long way from any Autobahn, tucked away in a narrow valley, isolated even now, I cannot (but I'm trying!)  imagine what efforts it might have taken to cover the ground I did in an afternoon on paved roads, 340 years previously.

View Peckinpah Heritage in a larger map Proceeding northwest from Heiligkreusteinach we entered an idyllic and bucolic scene of fields and forest. Small settlements of houses, the occasional farm house perched on the edge of the valley's  north side, I wondered how much had changed since their departure. To the south a stream descended along the bottom of the valley eastward, nearby a Pension offered accommodation. Unfortunately we had a tight timeline. We drove on, then soon turned back as the road began to climb into the mountains. Not a big place.
 The  Neckar river to the south 12 km from Heiligkreusteinach  flows through a gorge there, not a likely route. Our path through the mountains took us south, east, west and north, up, down and around. We followed the smaller river courses and then emerged onto the floodplain of the mighty Rhine flowing north to the Atlantic
Here we found the name source,  Bickenbach-  Bicken creek, one in series of larger and smaller towns at the base of the hills and mountains stretching back to the Odenwald. For my money, I'd bet one of those castles still standing on the peaks of the foothills was likely the birthplace of our heroine or  her children's godparents.
The locals are happy to cash in on interest in history and those sometimes derelict constructions, the original residents long since gone, leaving little trace of births, deaths, marriages or enterprise on the heels of religious persecution, mercenary soldiers and the changing fortunes time engenders.
There is continual traffic on the river; north to Holland and south into Switzerland. I'm assuming their passage on a barge or river boat was eventful in itself. What choices led those people to leave? To throw away past alliances or investments and gamble on the unknown? I can only guess. From my perspective, it was a tremendous and challenging undertaking for which I have great appreciation and gratitude.

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