Oberholtzer Sites In Germany

Steinsberg Castle in Weiler, near Sinsheim, Germany
-- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved

The story begins with Carroll Overholt meeting up with his son Charles in Europe, and after visiting several Oberholtzer sites in Germany, they trekked to Oberholz, Switzerland.

Written, Compiled & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield
Special Reports & Photographs by Carroll Overholt & Charles Overholt
~ Published May 15, 2014 ~


First, a little background!

My introduction to Carroll Overholt came via his e-mail message dated November 30, 2012. He was looking forward to an upcoming trip to Europe, and had a few questions to ask about our ancestors. He cited the A. J. Fretz material that states Martin Oberholtzer was born "thirty miles from Frankfort-on-the-Main," and asked for more information about Martin's parents, about where they lived in Germany, and whether the parents immigrated to America.

Carroll's "O" ancestry traces back to Martin Oberholtzer (c1709-1744) and Agnes Kolb (1713-1786), just as mine does, which of course means our disparate branches of the Extended Overholt Family Tree point back to Martin's father, MC Marcus Oberholtzer (c1664 Europe-1726 Coventry Township, Chester County, PA) and Elizabeth Ely, whose surname is an English derivative of Eby.

Recent OFA genealogical research identifies Martin Oberholtzer as the sixth child of his family (not the seventh), and it turns out that Henry Oberholtzer was not the second child of the family, but actually the youngest brother, who was born in America -- the seventh child. It is Martin who was born during the family's immigration from Germany's farming communities near Sinsheim, to Rotterdam on the coast of the Netherlands, and from there to London, England. At that time, the English were welcoming the newly arriving Protestants into their country, only to insist they swear allegiance to the English crown, before hurrying them out again to populate their colonies in the New World.

Questions arise about the story of Martin's birth, because normally, a woman would not be expected to travel during pregnancy, for fear of coming to term in surroundings that would be hazardous to both mother and infant. So, we might assume that Marcus and Elizabeth Oberholtzer did not choose the time of the journey, but rather the journey was thrust upon them. Anyway, with all the stress and physical activity that was part of their rush to immigrate with children Jacob, Samuel, Nancy, Marcus and Elizabeth, their son Martin was born (c 1709) somewhere along the way -- and we are told it occurred thirty miles from Frankfurt am Main (see Maps of Interest to "O" Families on Karen's Branches).

Flashing forward to the year 2013, Carroll Overholt's trip to Europe would begin by meeting up with his son, Charles, who was a Fulbright Scholar studying in Marburg, Germany. "He has been there since August and I plan to visit him in February," wrote Carroll at the end of 2012. "My upcoming trip has rekindled my interest in family history, since we plan to visit the Wald and Oberholz areas." He mentioned the research that stated Oberholtzers were living in the area of Sinsheim and Immelhäuser Hof, after the Thirty Years' War. "Low and behold, Sinsheim is just south of Heidelberg, and Charles is there for this weekend, and has been there at least twice before."

By way of supplying more useful "O" history, I gave Carroll access to data being added to my Timeline Renovation (a web page coming soon to Karen's Branches), which includes material from the most recent genealogical data and family history articles produced by the Overholser Family Association. And I sent him some helpful details about the location of our village of Oberholz in Switzerland, because there are other places named Oberholz, too. Plus, I passed along a few details about Oberholz that were discovered by others who have visited there, like giving him a "heads-up" about the Oberholzer family crest and where to find it. Gathering all the information took me a couple months, but Carroll had everything before he boarded the plane for Europe.

Carroll is a retired First Sergeant of the Maryland State Police. Since putting away the rank and badge, Carroll has been "an Eastern Shore waterman," harvesting crabs and net fishing in the Chincoteague Bay and other waterways around his home. He does some firefighting, too.


Officer Dad & Kids (1995)

Carroll's Good Day Crabbing (2010)

Firefighter 1 Grads -Rob Korb © 2010 All Rights Reserved


For the Carroll and Valerie Overholt family, home is near Pocomoke City, Maryland. Carroll's grandfather, Howard S. Overholt, came to Maryland with his parents and siblings, from the Maumee River area of Defiance, Ohio. Carroll's father, the youngest of five brothers, was born just west of Pocomoke. To this day, Overholt Road can be found on a local map, wending its way past Carroll's grandfather's farm, as well as his great-grandfather's farm. "A cousin of mine still farms those lands."



After writing back and forth with Carroll, we discovered amazing similarities in our respective families. Among other things, both have connections to careers in law enforcement. And Valerie came from a military family, just like me. Her father retired from the Navy at the old Chincoteague Naval Air Station. And she had her son the same year my own son was born. Both boys gew up engaged in church activities, both sang and played instruments, and both are writers. Charles learned to appreciate history and military history from his maternal grandfather, and my Matthew learned pretty much the same from me.

It was great getting to know this Overholt family, who live near places named Westover, Crisfield, and Berlin -- perhaps pointers to West Overton, Critchfield, and Germany?


Carroll & Valerie (2010)

Carroll's family & Victoria's fiance, Tyler (2012)

Goodbyes at Dulles Airport (2012)

Carroll and Valerie Overholt brought Charles and Victoria into the world, and these two youngsters grew up to be excellent students. Victoria graduated Wor-Wic Community College, earning high honors and two AAS degrees -- for Business in 2011, and for Office Technology in 2012. This "darling daughter" is called the athlete of the family. "She has had to work hard for her grades," wrote Carroll, proud that she earned "all A's, except for one B." At the time Carroll and I were e-mailing, Victoria was working for the State Health Department, and making plans to return to college and earn a degree in nursing.

Carroll described son Charles as a natural student, having "a super personality," who "makes friends easily, especially with older people." In June 2009, Charles graduated Wor-Wic Community College with an AA in General Studies. His time at Wor-Wic overlapped that of sister Victoria, so both their names appeared in one Dean's List after another. In 2011, Charles earned a B.A. in History from Salisbury University. He was working on a master's degree with a concentration in European and World History, when he became a Fulbright Student. The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs awards student fellowships to graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals, and artists to study, teach, or conduct research. Generally, by the start of the Fulbright grant period, a candidate is required to have already earned a bachelor's degree, or its equivalent. "Some exceptions may apply, especially for artists."

  Taken from http://eca.state.gov/fulbright

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

See more at http://eca.state.gov/fulbright#sthash.NdHG353I.dpuf


Being awarded the Fulbright Student Fellowship hurled Charles into the limelight, because he was the first student at Salisbury University to achieve the honor. He would spend the 2012-2013 academic year at the 485-year-old Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany.

On April 3, 2012, Carroll posted a URL on his Facebook page to a Salisbury University article: Overholt is First SU Student to Earn Fulbright Fellowship. "Sooooo proud of Charles," he wrote. And then began one-half of a long tale about Charles, an Overholt son who left behind his home and family, in order to sally forth and experience life in Europe. The other half of the long tale would begin when Carroll, in turn, became an Overholt son who left behind his home and family, in order to sally forth and experience life in Europe. Their combined stories and photographs generated the new Oberholz web pages published on Karen's Branches, save one.

  On the Western Edge of Canton St. Gallen was generated by Nelson Lafon's essay about a visit he made to Oberholz in August 2011, that was published in the Summer 2013 OFA Bulletin, along with a few of the photos he took during the "green season."  

In August 2012, Carroll posted to his Facebook page, "Just got home after taking Charles to Dulles Airport. By tomorrow morning he will be in Frankfurt, Germany, and then a short train ride to Marburg. There he will begin his Fulbright Fellowship. Yes, we'll miss him, but we are some kind of PROUD PARENTS!"

Charles launched a Wordpress blog with the title, In der Heimat: My Year in Germany (In the Home: My Year in Germany), to keep his friends and family informed of his time overseas. If you visit the blog (http://inderheimat.wordpress.com/), you will see a subtitle, Und meine Seele spannet, Weit ihre Flügel aus, Flog durch die stillen Lande, Als flöge sie nach Haus, which (according to Google Translate) means, "And my soul spread wide its wings, flew over the quiet countryside, as if it were flying home." The first post, written from the heart, was A Shoreman Bids Farewell. It is poetry that describes his home in America, with appreciation for the life he had lived growing up on the waterways of Maryland, composed when he had to give it all up, at least for a little while.

"Words can never describe how proud I am," wrote Carroll on Facebook. "He never ceases to amaze me. We found this 'Farewell' poem on the back seat of the car after leaving Charles at Dulles."


Sunrise on the Chincoteague Bay -- Charles Overholt © 2012 All Rights Reserved

A Shoreman Bids Farewell

From the Ocean City inlet, down the isle of Assateague,
Where the marshes stretch under the sky and herds of ponies feed,
The lighthouse on the horizon beckons all who pass that way,
To lose themselves in nature and the splendor of the bay.

From Green Run’s off-shore duck blind, through Middlemore’s thoroughfare,
Past the lonely Bob O Dell, its crumbling walls laid bare,
To the sand bar just near South Pope’s, where the Spaniards ran aground,
The wind blows through the marsh grass, and the morning sun shines down.

Oh, the glory of the sunrise, as its rays caress the waves!
Ten thousand painters could not capture the beauty of such days!
The searing heat of summer, the ocean’s salty kiss --
What other land on God’s good earth could ever compare to this?

The green head’s hateful swarming, the sunburn’s painful sting,
The sand upon the beach afire, while above the seagulls sing.
The Pocomoke’s muddy droning, Boxiron’s wistful call,
The workboats tied in Girdletree -- I’ll miss these most of all.

This is my world along the shore, between the ocean and the bay,
And though life takes me far from here, in my soul she’ll always stay.
I shall keep her spirit with me, wherever I should roam,
And revel in her memory -- until at last my heart comes home.

Charles Overholt © July 30, 2012. All Rights Reserved


A month later in Marburg, Charles celebrated his 23rd birthday, and he was already "loving life in Germany." During the year away, Charles posted a few essays on his blog, telling about some of his experiences, but mostly he was busy living the dream.


Marburg an der Lahn's Marburg Castle & St. Elizabeth's Church
Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


~ o ~

Carroll Begins to Live the Dream


Together in Europe -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Six months later, Carroll Overholt boarded a plane to join his son in Europe. They put together a busy itinerary, with a visit to France to see Omaha Beach and Paris, and to Austria to visit Innsbrook, but most of the time, they were in Germany.




In Germany, Carroll's list of cities, museums and monuments was long -- Essen, Cologne, Aachen, Marburg an der Lahn, Frankfurt,Worms, Sinsheim, Immelhauser Hof, Weiler (where the Steinsberg Castle is located) and Munich. However, at Karen's Branches, we are focused on the Oberholtzer sites in Germany.


Carroll's European Tour -- with stops in France to see Omaha Beach and Paris


~ o ~

On the Bank of the River Main


As seen in the map above, the portion of the greater city of Frankfurt closest to the river is called Frankfurt am Main. Some of the oldest buildings are there. By the start of the third century (circa 200 to 250), the German-speaking Alemanni tribes were found in what we now call Central Germany, but especially in the River Main area. In competition for prime territory were the Romans.

(See Alemanni, by The History Files, a new web page at Karen's Branches.)


On the Bank of the River Main -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


It meant a lot to Carroll Overholt to stand at the center of the Martin Oberholtzer birth mystery. In the picture above, we see buildings erected in the past alongside modern high-rise buildings, with machinery still working on newer towers. The riverbank is lined with now-famous sightseeing barges that meander up and down the Rhine River, to show tourists many castles and vineyards of the past, and teeming cities that are visions of the future. We also see someone in a small boat, perhaps fishing.


Charles & Frankfurt am Main -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles Overholt is an up-and-coming historian, and like a genealogist, he cannot help but live in the past, present and future simultaneously. Those of us who study family histories travel along figurative streams, slowly, because names, dates and places are many and complicated. We grapple with slippery facts and figures, identified and unidentifiable pictures, words easily read and languages beyond our kenning, while racking up hundreds of questions. Finding a serious genealogist, or historian, among our relatives is a rare thing these days. Finding a happy amateur who enjoys recording family stories, and saves old photo albums and memorabilia -- this is more likely.

Since we are few and far between, picture us as the lone individuals sitting in our small boats, meandering along many slow-moving streams too full of knowledge to venture traveling in a speedboat. One cannot absorb history on the fly! And our boats will be seen crammed with books and bits of data from the past and present, and while we put two and two together in attempts to see the "big picture," we are continuously fishing for more "new" information.


Charles & Frankfurt am Main (2) -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Time, time, time -- life takes time. Looking at all the data before us, keeping our resource books close at hand, balancing proof against conjecture, we set for ourselves the neverending task of creating a useful document. Ultimately, we hope to educate, or simply charm, our families in the here-and-now, and families yet to come. In writing about the history of our people, we are offering a simple proposition.

By studying our ancestors, we discover our own worth,
which in turn changes our expectations for the future

Sometimes we make a pilgrimage to the roots of our genetic inheritance, and become familiar with the footsteps, so to speak, of this or that ancestor. While visiting a place full of the vibrations of the past, if we are sensitive enough, we can feel the spiritual weight of a place, or imagine the very presence of a beloved aunt or great-great-great grandfather who once walked where we are walking now.

To visit the past, we often gaze in wonder at carved headstones in a cemetery, or try to gain some insight from the shape or size of a family monument. We stand still on turf where great battles raged, and listen to the wind moan, or the nearby creek gurgle, or the leaves rustle in tall trees that may have been mere saplings when our great-grandparents were laid to rest. We humbly face our finite moment in history, and recite prayers for the dead, if only in the privacy of our minds, and send good wishes far into the future. More than we care to admit, we imagine our descendants appreciating our personal struggles to document what we have learned, and hope they will send a nod of thanks back through time, back to us standing here, in a place where they may one day come to visit.


~ o ~


Why were Oberholzers living in Germany, anyway?


Frankfurt am Main, Circa 1617-1618 (Wikipedia)

1517 -The Protestant Reformation begins when Martin Luther (1483-1546) nails his 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany; he preaches "great fundamental truths" of justification by faith alone & exclusive authority of the Word of God; his sermons draw thousands of Christians from all over Europe to his philosophy; Lutherans work to discard "degraded & corrupt" practices of the Roman Catholic Church (i.e., salvation by works, denial of the Bible to the people, and the burden of ceremony & forms imposed by the priests
-Authorities of the Roman Catholic Church move against Luther & his movement
1519 -Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) begins preaching biblical sermons at the Great Minster Church in Zurich, Switzerland; his version of Protestantism differs from Lutherans in that the ordinances of baptism & the Lord's Supper have only symbolic meaning; Zwinglians are stricter in their demands for righteous living, emphasizing the doctrine of obedience to God & instituting state churches
-Zwingli exercises great influence over the Swiss Reformation; his Protestant vision spreads to include most of the population of Switzerland north of the Alps, along with sections of southwestern Germany
1521-1648 -Martin Luther is condemned as a heretic & is excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church
-For opposing Luther, England's King Henry VIII receives the title Defender of the Faith from Pope Leo X
1524 -In Switzerland, the alpine cantons of Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Lucerne & Zug remain Catholic; they form a League of the Five Cantons (Bund der funf Orte) to combat the spreading of the new faith; conflicts arise in common territories when administrations change bi-annually, switching the official faith from Protestant to Catholic & back again
1525 -City Council of Zurich threatens exile to any who fail to baptize an infant before the age of eight days
-The Anabaptist movement begins (January 21) in Zurich, Switzerland, with the first adult baptisms of the Brethren, the main issues of contention being their opposition to state churches, their expectation of a complete reformation of the Christian Church & their insistence that the Church include believers only (i.e., adults having an experience with God, who commit their lives in unreserved obedience to the Word of God, solemnized with adult baptism)
-Martin Luther organizes the Evangelical Church of Germany as a universal state church, requiring infant baptism; he agrees with permitting territorial rulers to determine the religion of the people of that territory; he advocates the use of force to persecute those who refuse to accept the authorized religion -- a principal leading to the severe persecution & death of thousands of people that continues for 200 years or more after the Reformation
1527 -Government authorities of Zurich and neighboring cantons institute the death penalty for the Swiss Brethren, the first of the Zurich martyrs (1527) being Felix Manz & the last martyr in the district (1614) being Hans Landis
-Over 1500 lives are sacrificed (1531-1597) for their religious beliefs
-Over the course of the Reformation, persecutions by Catholics & Protestants result in the execution of 4000 to 5000 Anabaptists by fire, water & sword

- Data taken from Renovated Timeline (coming soon) at Karen's Branches


~ o ~

Oberholtzer Communities Near Sinsheim


In the Introduction of The Oberholtzer Book, Willard E. Overholtzer outlines the European history of our Oberholzer ancestors. During the Protestant Reformation, shortly after the end of the Thirty Years War, a few generations of our ancestors worked as tenant farmers in Germany, which is where the "t" began to appear in the surname. For a whole lot of Swiss refugees, the farming areas south of Sinsheim became a magnet of sorts, because the previous war had decimated the German population, especially the farmers in that valley, a "sweet spot" in the Lower Palatinate, situated between the Rhine and Neckar rivers. The Swiss were known to be excellent farmers, and were welcomed in Germany.

Remembering that the word Hof means "farm," Oberholtzer families lived in Immelhäuser Hof, Buchenauer Hof, and the communities of Weiler, Reihen, Hilsbach, and Elsenz. The story becomes clearer with data now available from the OFA, which adds Steinsfurt to the list of places where a few generations of our ancestors lived. And who were these "O" ancestors?




~ o ~

Marti Oberholzer's Six Immigrant Sons

As a young man, Marti Oberholzer (1595 Wald, Zurich - 1670) married Margaretha Schollenberger (c1595 Zurich - died in Aa, Wald, Zurich), and they had nine children that we know about, among them were seven sons: Jacob, Samuel, Hans Jagli, twins MARX and Hans Heinrich, Matheus, and Martin. We do not know if Marti was a farmer. At some point in time, Anabaptists were prohibited from owning property, so they and their families relied upon their skills of weaving and building wood furniture, especially church furniture. If Marti had daughters, we have have no data about them, but there must have been a number of little grandchildren around to brighten life along the way. We do know that at some point, Marti Oberholzer became an Anabaptist preacher.

The Protestant Reformation was an era full of strife between the Roman Catholic Church and all civil and religious protestations against the authority and proclivities of the established Church. However, the strife between all the emerging points of view turned individuals and groups of citizens against each other, manifesting in prohibitions and bloodshed on all sides. Simply put, the people had no practical experience of living in a society that could abide alternatives in the central belief system of the age -- Christianity. After years of engaging in public debates, the Swiss Brethren found themselves hated by most of the other groups, especially those who garnered the most political and religious authority over their neighbors. The Brethren were derided as anabaptists, because they reasoned infant baptism to be invalid. However, the greater sin may have been a pacifism that declared kings, princes and popes had no right to haul them into ranks of soldiers to fight and die in neverending wars. This position made them traitors to the state.

During the religious persecutions, the only one of Marti's sons who did not immigrate from Switzerland to Germany was twin Hans Heinrich, perhaps due to poor health. At about 36 years of age, Hans Heinrich died, and thereafter, the youngest Oberholzer brother, Martin (5/5/1639, Aa - 1/22/1711, Palatinate, Germany), returned to Switzerland to marry (10/26/1669, Wald) widow Elsbeth Kindlimann Oberholzer. Elsbeth was about 28 years old, when she became Martin's second wife -- he was about two years younger. We can assume they returned to Germany together, considering Martin died there in 1711.

Around the time Marti Oberholzer should have been celebrating his 75th birthday, when his six surviving sons were safely raising families in Germany, he was identified as an enemy of the state. Margaretha would have been about 75 years old, herself, unless she had passed away by then. Marti may have been living alone, or the old married couple may have been part of a daughter's extended family. In any case, because of religious (and political) beliefs that ran counter to those held by the authorities in Zurich, in 1670, Marti Oberholzer was made a martyr to his faith. Citizens adhering to the tenants and preaching of Ulrich Zwingli took Marti's life by drowning him (see timeline above).

Zwinglians practiced a brand of Protestantism that was decidedly all-inclusive, and left no room for compromise or dissent. In the aftermath, how did the news of Marti's death, and the manner in which he died, affect his sons? Did they weep in frustration, because they had not been in Wald to protect their father? Did they realize that their own lives would have been forfeit, had they been there in Wald, making a concerted effort to save him?

The stories of Marti and Margaretha, and all seven of their sons affect us deeply, but our focus will be on Marx Oberholzer, who (with twin Hans Heinrich Oberholzer) was born in 1633, at the village of Aa in Wald, Canton Zurich, Switzerland. Marx was the direct ancestor of everyone who can trace their family tree back to MC Marcus Oberholtzer and Elizabeth Ely.

In 1657, when Marx was about 24 years old, he was in Buchenauer Hof, near Sinsheim. In 1660, he lived at Immelhäuser Hof, and became the Keeper there, in 1661. He married Margaret (Barbary) Dobler/Tobler, and they had a daughter, Catherine Barbara, and sons Marcus, Hans Jagli/Jacob, and Martin, then another daughter, Anna Barbara. We have not yet discovered the "paper trail" that would give us definitive data, so the OFA genealogists present us with the following information.

  Gen. 1--1 Catherine Barbara Oberholtzer (born1663, Europe - died age 18, 1681/82 ?)  
  Gen. 1--2 MC Marcus Oberholtzer (born c1664, Europe - died 12/3/1726, Chester County, PA)  
  Gen. 1--3 Hans Jagli/Jacob Oberholtzer (born c1665, Europe - died date? place?)  
  Gen. 1--4 ML Martin Oberholtzer (born c1667, Europe - died prior to 1733, Lancaster County, PA)  
  Gen. 1--5 Anna Barbara Oberholtzer (born 1670, Europe - died 1742, place?)  

According to Robert L. Reeser's Oberholtzer Family History (see reference below), as quoted by Brian Oberholtzer's web site (Oberholtzer.net), our Marx shows up in a couple of official records -- one that states Margaret Dobler was a servant of the oldest Oberholzer brother, Jacob, before Marx made her his wife. You have to wonder about the story of Marx and Margaret. For instance, was Margaret Swiss or German? Was she Catholic, Protestant or Anabaptist? Had she been a servant of Jacob's family back in Wald, and brought along during the immigration, or had she been added after the family reached Germany?

  The Geneallandearchiv, Karlsruhe, gives this quote from the seventeenth century: "A number of the Wiedertauffer wish to settle here, which people practice their religious exercises partly in the forest, partly in their houses, and some have their land on the church support land. Many adapt well, among them is Marx Oberholtzer, who announced that he plans to marry his brother's servant, but does not intend to have his marriage announced publicly."

Marx Oberholtzer was among a group of 53 Anabaptists meeting for worship near Sinsheim on the evening of March 2, 1661. While they were singing, the meeting was abruptly ended by German authorities. Their names were taken, which included other familiar Pennsylvania names such as Groff, Hess, Landis, Meyer and Miller. They were to report for punishment on March 29th. Appearing on that date, they stated that they had come into the country from Switzerland in 1655, and had been meeting for worship secretly in the forests near Steinsfurt. The government fined them but they continued to meet. In 1662, Elector Karl Ludwig ordered that the Mennonists should no longer be forbidden to meet, but that every participant must pay a tax.
- Taken from, Oberholzer Family History: An historical account of the life and ancestors of Nathan Reist Oberholtzer (1864-1923) and his wife Martha Bomberger Bucher (1877-1952), by Robert L. Reeser, Strasburg, Pa.1995; quoted on Brian Oberholtzer's Oberholtzer.net.


When Marx Oberholzer was about 47 years of age, he died on Sept. 14, 1680, and was buried at "the Buschen Hof in Hilsbach" without singing or bells, which perhaps indicated that Marx was a devout Taufer to the end. Perhaps "Buschen Hof" refers to Buchenauer Hof near Hilsbach?

Some time later, widow Margaret Dobler Oberholzer emigrated with her three sons, when they and their families left Germany for England. Oldest son Marcus was our MC Marcus Oberholtzer, whose pregnant wife, Elizabeth Ely, gave birth to our Martin Oberholtzer (c1709-1744) along the way. Let us speculate about whether Grandmother Margaret was traveling with her oldest son's family, and was present for what had to be a memorable birth, one that was noted in history books.

Jacob Oberholzer (1620-d. after 1683) immigrated from Wald, Canton Zurich, Switzerland, to Germany in 1657. At that time, he was perhaps 32 years old, and had been married (1/27/1646) to Anna Buchman (daughter of Anabaptist Casper and Vreni nee Wyss Buchman) for roughly 11 years. They had four children: Hans Jacob, Samuel, Regel, and baby daughter Barbara (b.c.1656). Their fifth child, Johannes, was born c.1660, perhaps in Immelhäuser Hof. And apparently, Margaret Dobler was a servant in the household of Jacob Oberholzer, probably keeping busy with housework and helping Anna with the children.

  Gen. 1--1 Hans Jacob Oberholtzer (born 12/20/1646)  
  Gen. 1--2 Samuel Oberholtzer (born c1644 - died 11/12/1705, age 61, Immelhäuser Hof) Wiedertauffer  
  Gen. 1--3 Regel Oberholtzer (born 3/4/1649)  
  Gen. 1--4 Barbara Oberholtzer (born c1656)  
  Gen. 1--5 Johannes Oberholtzer (born c1660)  

It is noted that Jacob was a Wiedertauffer at Immelhäuser Hof in 1663, but you have to wonder when he and his family took up residence there. Younger brother Marx was living in Immelhäuser Hof by 1660, and had his first child, Catherine Barbara, in 1663. So, could both Jacob and Marx have been among the group of 53 Anabaptists surprised by German authorities on the evening of March 2, 1661? I would like to see the list of names the authorities made. Also, did that surprise happen before or after younger brother Marx became the Keeper of Immelhäuser Hof?

We might also wonder how near to Steinsfurt (see map above) the secret worship meetings took place. Let us imagine the forests of that time period as covering a whole lot more area than they do now. Perhaps they met in the forest at the nearby castle, now called Burg Steinsberg (seen in the picture at the top of this page). According to Google Translate, the word steins means "stone" and berg means "mountain." Castle Steinsberg is surrounded by vineyards, much like another fortress on a hill in the Heilbronn district, called Weinsberg, a name that translates as "vineyard," despite the fact that weins means "wine" and (again) berg means "mountain." Like the castle in Weinsberg, the "stone mountain" castle near Weiler was destroyed in the German Peasant's War of 1524-1525.


Weinsberg's Castle, 1578


Castle Ruins & Vineyards in Modern Weinsberg (Wikipedia)



In modern times, Weiler's castle site has been spruced up for the sake of tourism, and named Steinsberg (see map below). It is worth speculating about where the Anabaptist secret worship meetings took place, because it would have been a whole lot easier for them to come together in the forests somewhere close to the farms where they lived and worked, someplace centrally located and easy to find in the dark -- like the local castle grounds. It was far enough away from their homes and families to afford them (the families) some measure of protection, but not so far away that the men could not get back home before dawn.



Internet maps show us that Buchenauer Hof has become the Golfclub Sinsheim Buchenauer Hof. In The Oberholtzer Book, Will Overholtzer names Oppau and Fiesenheim as the other German villages where our ancestors lived. I found Oppau near Frankenthal, northwest of Mannheim, on the west bank of the Rhine River. A search for "Fiesenheim" only brought up the name Friesenheim, which showed up in two different locations. Right next to Oppau is a community of similar size named Friesenheim, so it is my guess this is the place where our people lived, precisely because it is next door to Oppau. However, it is interesting that the other Friesenheim is on the western edge of the Black Forest, southeast of Strasbourg, the capital of the Alsace region in eastern France.

(See Maps of Interest to "O" Families at Karen's Branches.)



~ o ~

Oberholz, Germany -- Nine of them, and counting!

Before Karen's Branches had its own URL, one of the earliest web pages at The Overholt Family Tree ~~ Karen's Branches had the title, Research Entry #1, and was published in the year 2000. For that page, I compiled a number of interesting e-mail messages from members of the "O" family who had written to me and shared a bit of their family history. I heard from Jacob H. Overholt in July of 1998. Jack was a retired electronics engineer and a former Army Major, whose family tree went back to the founders of the Deep Run Mennonite Church. His grandfather was born at the original Overholt Homestead in Bucks County, at the intersection of Deep Run and Dirstine Roads. Jack's family had always shown great interest in tracking down the German history of our ancestors. A portion of his e-mail is below. Note that the Holy Roman Emperors of the German Kingdom (962-1806) called themselves Kaiser, meaning "Emperor."


My grandfather, Jacob Baum Overholt, financed an extensive search in the late twenties and early thirties, which traced the name back to the Swartzwald in Germany. The earliest user of the name was a Baron Uberholzer (umlaut over the U and the o in the name). He was, as the name implies, the keeper of the Kaiser's forests. The name translates: Uber = Over, and holzer = forests.

My father, Warren Harr Overholt, spent seven summers in Germany looking for our place of origin. He found a little crossroad village in the Black Forest with the name Uberholzer/Overholt, where he was told that a castle once stood, and that it was the seat of the Baron Uberholzer.

In my ancestors, there were three men and two women, all in their late teens and early twenties. The story is that the Overholts were part of a rebel group of students who marched on the Kaiser's palace demanding changes in the feudal system -- the "activists" of their day. The Overholts were all identified and proscribed for rebellion. They escaped in family groups, through Belgium into Holland, then to England. They were not welcome in England . . . they were given a brief time to find some other place [to live] or be returned to Germany . . . .


This e-mail reveals the prevailing confusion, in times past, about the location of Oberholz, the village where our Oberholzer ancestors came from, because Germany really does have a place named Oberholz that is located in today's Baden-Württemberg, near the city of Ravensburg. But this is not in the Black Forest, or at least what is today identified as the Black Forest. Today, the Schwarzwald is found in the southwestern corner of Baden-Württemberg, near the border of France. In the 1560s, when our Oberholzer ancestors immigrated to the area, the Black Forest may have covered a larger area.



Below is a map showing the location of Oberholz in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. I have found nine different locations, so far. This Oberholz caught my eye, because it is situated (in geological terms) close to our village of Oberholz in Switzerland. Lake Constance is bigger than the Obersee, but in comparison, both Oberholz locations are similarly close to their lakes. As the crow flies, the two are not far from one another -- correction, as the raven flies!





The Birds' Eye View above shows the last remaining portion of a woodland that once must have been a vast forest. Such landmarks invite speculation, regarding Jacob H. Overholt's story about the Baron Überhölzer. Was this baron one of our "O" ancestors, or did the name simply identify his occupation, or merely indicate his location at the top of a wooded hill or mountain?

In the Winter 2014 edition of the OFA Bulletin, genealogist Dennis L. Oberholtzer added more to his series, OUR BARBARIAN ROOTS, with Family Growth on Oberholz Mountain. In a few paragraphs, we are reminded how our ancestors handled land ownership and their growing families.


As the top of the mountains in Eastern Switzerland became filled by each family, the brothers would divide the mountain. One family would remain at the top of the mountain and continue to farm and herd. The other family (usually the youngest) would move down the mountain into the valley areas to clear land and raise plants and grain which could not withstand the weather on top of the mountain . . . .

By the beginning of the 17th century, the family expanded into an upper and lower house. "The lower house also spelled their name Oberholzer, until after they moved to America." The present Oberholzers used the upper house since about 900 A.D. Due to the shortage of employment, most of the children would move to other areas of Switzerland and Bavaria to find or use their skills. This, as well as losing some sons to the continual war skirmishes over the next five centuries, and plagues thinning the family, led to the ability to trace the Oberholtzer family back to the 1400s with only one parental ancestor . . . our ancestor in Aa/Wald came from the 'lower' house and can safely be traced to the Oberholzer 'upper' house which was situated in the present village of Oberholz.
- From OUR BARBARIAN ROOTS: Family Growth on Oberholz Mountain, by Dennis L. Oberholtzer; OFA Bulletin, Winter 2014, p. 13. [Karen's Note: The bold font is mine.]


Considering that the map above shows the relative close proximity of Germany's BW Oberholz to our Oberholz in Switzerland, perhaps it is not such a stretch of the imagination to speculate that the Swartzwald Baron Überhölzer was one of our long-lost ancestors. Still, let us bow to the OFA for the last word on this matter. In the meantime, we must recognize that Germany has plenty of places named Oberholz, and even some people with the surname Oberholz. Just do an Internet search and see for yourself!

In Germany, aside from the Oberholz in Ravensburg, Bing Maps listed an Oberholz in Bavaria, Ebenweiler, Göppingen, Ilshofen, Neu-Ulm, Niederaichbach, Ochtendung, and Würzburg -- with Oberholzheim, Oberholzklau and Oberzellerholz, just for good measure. If you do a Bing Maps search for Oberholz, Switzerland, several locations will pop up, too, like Bülach, Bülach; Hohenrain, Hochdorf; Radelfingen, Bern, Seeland; Schüpfen, Seeland; Trachselwald, Emmental; Ueberstorf, Sense; and our ancestral village in See-Gaster.

A salient point is being made here. We are members of a clan who are blessed to have discovered where our actual Swiss ancestral home was, blessed that the village still exists, and blessed to be able to visit our cousins who still live there. And there is an additional point being made.

All this came about through genealogical research.


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Exploring Sinsheim


Carroll Overholt's Travel Narrative

Prior to my arrival in Europe, Charles had travelled to Sinsheim, and said there wasn't much to see, "except for an old castle in Sinsheim." We visited the castle in Sinsheim [Stift Sunnisheim, see below].

I knew that Immelhausen was approximately two miles from Sinsheim, so I persuaded Charles to inquire from area taxi drivers about the possibility of finding Immelhausen, and getting there. Charles was skeptical that the castle and Immelhausen even existed, but I pressed on. As I look back, it was a thrilling time in my life. Would we find the Immelhausen Hof (farm)? Would the castle still be there? My son, the world traveler, was not as optimistic as I, but for once, I felt a strange sense of hope and purpose. I had come too far to give up now.

We purchased a map of the Sinsheim area, and found the correct spelling to be Immelhauser, and not Immelhausen, as I had read in all other material. The first taxi driver was unfamiliar with the area, but the second was familiar with the area, and agreed to take us there. Off we went -- an old farm boy turned cop, and now a waterman, with his Fulbright son -- attempting to find the places where their ancestors had once lived.


Taking the Train to Sinsheim -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sinsheim Train Station -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


At the Train Station-- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sinsheim Finanzamt Vorne & Bus Stop -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & Sinsheim Freiheitsdenkmal -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & Elsenz River -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Elsenz River -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sinsheim Stift Sunnisheim Entrance -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sinsheim Stift Sunnisheim & Kirche -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Sinsheim Stift Sunnisheim & Kirche -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Part of Sinsheim Stift Sunnisheim -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & Sinsheim Taxi -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


View of the Modern City of Sinsheim -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved



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Locating Immelhäuser Hof


Locating Immelhäuser Hof -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sure enough, we found Immelhäuser Hof, a small village in a region of beautiful rolling hills, much like the Amish area of Lancaster County, PA. The driver, named Stephon Benzinger, agreed to wait while we walked the area and took numerous pics.

How many Overholts can say they have been to Immelhäuser Hof, Germany?


Morning Breaks Over Immelhäuser Hof -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


The Center of Immelhäuser Hof -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll in "Downtown Immelhäuser Hof" -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Immelhäuser Hof Sign -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & Immelhäuser Hof Sign -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Immelhäuser Hof Homes -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Immelhäuser Hof Homes (2) -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Fields of Immelhäuser Hof -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


As I gazed off to a distant hill, I saw a tower-like object approximately two miles away. Was that the castle?


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Finding Burg Steinsberg, or
"Hey, is that a castle tower over there?"

We persuaded the taxi driver to take us further to what I was confident was the castle I was looking for. A short and exciting drive took us there.


Eyes Tracking a Distant Hill
Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Stephon Waves from the Driver's Seat
Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Tower Above the Trees
Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Approaching the Castle
Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved

Steinsberg Castle is located on the northern edge
of Weiler, a town southeast of Immelhäuser Hof.


Distant Ramparts Above Vineyards -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Treeline of Burg Steinsberg -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


The driver agreed to wait again, while we walked the castle grounds, taking many more pics.

A plaque on the castle wall dated the construction timetable (first started in the 1200's) and stated that the walls were 3 meters thick (16 ft.), and the tower was 100 feet tall. This was the Elector's Castle!

I asked Charles, the history buff, "What was an Elector?" Electors, he explained, had a vote when they elected the Holy Roman Emperor.


Burg Steinsberg Entrance -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Sign at the Entrance -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Walls, Well & Base of the Tower -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle 's High Tower -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Pinnacle of the Castle Tower -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Inside Castle Walls -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll Inside Steinsberg Castle -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Antique Canon -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & the Canon -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Bergfried Sign -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Date of Construction, 1622 -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Burg Steinsberg Periods of History Sign -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Door to Burg Steinsberg Restaurant -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


View to the Tower Top -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Circular Castle Fortifications -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Guard Tower -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & Castle Guard Tower -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Oberes Eingangstor Sign -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Castle Fortifications -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Castle Fortifications (Detail) -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Äußeres Tor Signs -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Ramparts & Vineyard -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Steinsberg Castle Ramparts -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Burg Steinsberg -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Carroll & Burg Steinsberg (Detail) -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Ramparts Road -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Annakapell (Anna's Chapel) -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Outside the castle walls was "Anna's Chapel," an old church. Pressed for time by the waiting taxi, we did not go in the Church, but took numerous pics around and inside the castle. What a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside!


Carroll & Castle Vineyards -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Vineyards Above Weiler -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Vineyards Above Weiler (2)-- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Vineyards Above Weiler (3) -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Annakapell Seen Beyond Vineyard -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Castle Vineyards Above Weiler (4) -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Road Up fromWeiler -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Weiler Homes at Burg Steinsberg -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Weiler Homes at Burg Steinsberg (Detail) -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Charles & Local Monument -- Carroll Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Monument -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


Darkening Sky Over Weiler -- Carroll/Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


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Next Stop: Zurich, Switzerland


Carroll Naps After a Busy Day -- Charles Overholt © 2013 All Rights Reserved


~ Coming Soon! ~

The next page in this series: Finding Oberholz


End of Page ~ ~ Return to Karen's Branches

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