Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Feuersteins in Leshara, Nebraska

Spent the weekend at a car rally in Colorado, bought a cheap car in Denver (a Saab, of course), and drove it home. Monday night I stayed in Wahoo, Nebraska, north of Lincoln and west of Omaha, at a mom-and-pop motel that reeked of stale smoke, must and cleaning fluids. But the price was only $25 a night.

My goal was to visit Leshara, where John Nicholas and Anna Feuerstein settled and raised their family. They and their son, Gus, are buried in the St. Therese Cemetery near Leshara. The church is long gone, having burned down many years ago, though there is a statue of Our Lady to mark the site.

I arrived at sunrise on Tuesday, even had to wait a few minutes for the sunlight to bathe the grave markers. Fortunately the markers all face east. In addition to the Feuersteins, John N. Feuerstein's sister Mary and her husband, George A. Feist, are buried at the site.

There are no more than a few dozen markers in the small cemetery, located among rolling hills near the Platte River. Look for photos of the cemetery and Leshara at

Monday, August 15, 2005


Journey's End... for now

My final day in Germany was dedicated mainly to travel. Caught the ICE in Karlsruhe with plans to arrive in Dusseldorf a couple of hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. This time the display at the front of the rail car showed 300 kph for part of the trip!

All flights were pretty much on time, though there was quite a bit of security getting on to the NWA flight in Amsterdam, and again getting off at MSP. Seemed overkill to get interviewed at both ends of the flight.

About 20 hours from the time I left Liz's place in Karlsruhe, I was pulling into my own driveway in Industrial Twp, Minnesota. A similar trip for Johann Winker in the early 1850s took months, possibly years, before he settled in Royalton Twp, Wisconsin.

But there are bound to be more travels for me in search of family history. Check back occasionally for the latest adventure.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Desperately Seeking Winkers

Winker businesses in Spaichingen
Photo copyright 2005 by Tim Winker
Photo copyright 2005 by Tim Winker
Photo copyright 2005 by Tim Winker
Sunday dawned with diminished hopes for locating any substantial information on the Winkers. We decided to check out a few of the businesses in the area that had the name Winker attached. There was “Winker Bauträger”, a construction and real estate office; “Metallwarefabrik Hermann Winker GmbH & Co. KG”, a metal fabrication company; and “Peter Winker Metalltechnik”, which creates metal sculptures for home and garden use.

Liz tried to call a few Winkers in the telephone book. She did speak briefly with Anni Winker, the woman whose daughter Liz was said to resemble, but Anni was suspicious about getting a phone call on a Sunday morning from someone who claimed to maybe be related many generations back. Others simply were not at home.

Rain was threatening so we hit the road for a side trip through the Black Forest. Had one more great German lunch in Hornberg, then arrived at the tourist trap known as Triberg. Triberg thrives on German Kitsch, with dozens of shops providing beer steins, nutcrackers, liqueurs, wines, schnapps, and clocks. Grandfather clocks, desk clocks, wall clocks, and cuckoo clocks. We even visited the World’s largest Cuckoo Clock! I bought a few typical German souvenirs, and then we hit the road for Liz’s home in Karlsruhe.

Despite the rain, it was a great drive through some beautiful country, with picture postcard farms and small towns at every turn.

Liz's church was hosting a group of young people from Italy on their way to World Youth Day in Cologne, so we went over there for dinner and the prayer service, and to meet some of her friends. It was quite interesting to try the German version of a "church basement supper", with the variety of salads and pork for the main dish.

Got back to Liz's place where I tried to pack my bags with all of the days purchases. It wasn't that difficult, but several books added to the weight and I decided the Schwarzwald felt hat was going to be a carry-on item.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Halfway between Rottweil and Tuttlingen

13 Aug 2005

After a few updates to the blog, I head again to the cemetery to find more Winker graves. By the time I am done, I have probably photographed 50 grave stones. There are quite a few Winkers buried there, but the earliest birth is about 1865, so I have not found anyone who might be a sibling of Johan Winker.

Liz arrives shortly after noon in her BMW and we head to Denkingen, only a few kilometers away. The Family History Centers have church records of a Johan Winker, born 10 April 1923, who was the son of Georg Winker and Agatha Streicher. I am about 90 percent sure that he is our ancestor who emigrated to America, but I don’t have that link to be certain. I am hoping we can find something there.

Unfortunately, we don’t. The church was built in the 1920s, and the oldest burial in the local cemetery is maybe 30 years ago. Liz asks a local resident if there is an older cemetery; the answer is no. And there are no Winkers buried here. It is a puzzlement. Maybe there is an earlier cemetery, maybe graves were not so well marked in the 1800s.

Sailplanes at Klippeneck
Photo copyright 2005 by Tim Winker

From there we drive up the hill (Klippeneck) to a sailplane base and watch them launch gliders for awhile. The site is perfect for such activity, with a long grassy runway atop the ridge. There are a pair of cable trucks and a motor driven plane working almost constantly to put gliders into the air. It is quite a sight!

This is also a great place to view the valley where Spaichingen and Denkingen are located. There is a restaurant up there as well, so we have lunch.

So far our efforts at locating the Winkers have had little success. But there is a church on the same ridge above Spaichingen that seems to hold a few answers. Liz takes me to a chapel on the way up the hill, one of the Stations of the Cross that end with the Wallfahrtiskirche Dreifaltigkeitsberg (something like Pilgrimage to the Holy Trinity Church) atop the hill. The chapel is called the Amerikaner-Kapelle, and it lists the names of local residents who apparently moved to America and later contributed to the building of this chapel. Among the names is Johan Winker. We don’t know if it is our Johan Winker, and there are several other Winkers on the list.

After walking through the beautiful Wallfahrtiskirche Dreifaltigkeitsberg, we stop at the gift store. Liz asks the woman behind the counter if she knows anything about the Amerikaner-Kapelle. She does not, but does know someone who does, so makes a phone call. Liz gets a few details, but nothing on who the Johan Winker on that list may have been. The pastor of the church is summoned as well, but cannot offer any further insight. He is quite encouraging in our search, however. There are, after all, quite a few Winkers in his parish.

Another woman who overhears the conversations comes up to Liz and says, “You looked familiar when I first saw you but I could not place the name. Now I realize it is because you look just like a friend that I grew up with here in Spaichingen. Her name was Inge Winker.”

We leave with some recommendations of local Winkers to contact. We still have not found the connection, but at least we have some leads.


Euro, my Hero

I like the Euro. I like that the bills come in different colors and increase slightly in size as the denomination increases. Same with the coins, except for the 0,05 which is a little larger than the 0,10 but made of copper instead of brass. The 0,01 piece is smaller than our penny, but seldom used.

I like the train system in Germany. It is amazingly efficient, so much so that owning a car seems unnecessary. For the journey to Spaichingen I took the regional railroad to Immendingen, not far from Tuttlingen. That trip lasted about two and a half hours; I took a nap when I wasn’t watching the “Heidi” scenery. From there it was a local train, more like a bus on rails, for the half hour ride to the Spaichingen Bahnhof (train station). The seats are generally comfortable, though my tall-in-the-torso build does not always fit well.

I like that the beer is served in special glasses – every beer is served in a glass with the name of that brewery and the particular style of beer. In addition, each glass has a “Full” mark, usually 0,3l or 0,5l (0,5 liter is approximately a pint) so you know you are getting the full amount.

I like that the innkeepers are very trusting. On more than one occasion I have merely been handed the key to a room, without giving my name or credit card. When checking out the bill is added up and you pay them.

I like that dogs are welcome in many places including restaurants. The dogs are generally well behaved and obedient, but I imaging that is because they have good breeding and training. There are plenty of smaller dogs like Yorkies, but I have seen some larger working breeds as well.

I like Schnitzel with noodles.

These are a few of my favorite things.

Friday, August 12, 2005


Desperately Seeking Spaichingen

Cousin Liz dropped me off at the train station early this morning so I could hit the rails again. After a three hour train ride (two trains) I arrived in Spaichingen. I made my way first to the Rathaus to see if they had any records on Johan Winker, my great-great-grandfather, who was born about 1823 and settled in Wisconsin about 1855. Took a while to find the place as it is a newer building that is part of the Marktplatz (think small shopping mall). It took a few minutes to locate someone who understood English. Once in the records office, we located several Johan Winkers, but all born too late to be my ancestor. The town records began in 1876, long after g-g-gdfthr left the area. That means I will have to rely on church records. I called Sts. Peter and Paul church in Spaichingen, but no one there spoke English, and a call to St. Michael’s church in Denkingen went unanswered.

I checked in to the Hotel Kreuz on the main road through town (35 euro for a single room with toilet and shower), and had a lunch of schnitzel with noodles.

There are maps of the town about every block, which makes navigation pretty easy when you’re on foot, and noticed a cemetery about two blocks south of my hotel. With camera in hand I found my way there. Grave sites are generally by family, with a double-wide plot showing several names. The grave sites are tended by family members and most have flowers or shrubs growing on them. I spent an hour or more walking through part of the cemetery and found quite a few Winkers, though none that I have in my database. The oldest was born in 1865. They are probably related to me, but I have no idea how far back.

At the friedhof (cemetery)
Photo copyright 2005 by Tim Winker
About the time I was preparing to leave because the skies threatened rain, I noticed a 70-ish woman tending the grave of Hermann Winker (1917-1998) and Stefanie Winker (1910-2000). I tried to make conversation but she did not understand English. We did finally locate someone else in the cemetery that understood a little English (the cemetery was rather busy by our standards as there were quite a few folks tending to their family grave sites) and I was able to let her know that I was also a Winker. Though I took her photo, I neglected to get her name.

I probably searched only half of the cemetery so will go back in the morning to look some more.

There is a strong wireless link to the Internet here, but it is still a pay-for-time site maintained by t-com/t-mobile. I have learned to do my composing off line rather than have the clock running while I type.


Spaichingen has Wireless Internet!

Arrived in Spaichingen late this morning to visit the Rathaus (local courthouse) before they closed at 1300. Did not find much as the civil records begin in 1876, but they did direct me to the local Catholic churches.

Checked into the Hotel Kreuz on the main drag, single room for 35 euro, this time with toilet and shower as part of the room. Plugged in the computer and the wireless antenna found a signal! Unfortunately it is a pay as you go signal from T-Mobile, so I must type fast or do most of my work off-line first.

I will be posting my earlier stories by the date I wrote them so that this journal will appear to be consecutive. Scroll down to read those that have just been posted but written earlier.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Vizitin' Cuzzin Liz

11 Aug 2005

The next stop on my tour of Germany is Karlsruhe, about 70 km west of Stuttgart. My second cousin Elizabeth Winker lives there and works for SAP. She has kindly offered to put me up for the night and will join me in Spaichingen on the search for the Winker family. For those who may not know, our grandmothers were sisters (Martha and Cecilia Feuerstein) and our grandfathers were brothers (John and Lewis E. Winker). Her father, Charles Winker, and my father, Lew Winker, are first cousins and the families have maintained pretty close contact.

Another train and another taxi ride to her door in Karlsruhe, but she will not be home for awhile so I go in search of beer. Fortunately I am able to find one within a few blocks. A couple of beers later and I head back to her place and she meets me there.

For dinner she takes me to a brew pub in a nearby town, where we have wonderful beer brewed on the premises, and another German dinner that can’t be beat. We also meet with one of her colleagues from SAP (who speaks pretty darn good English), so we have good conversation as well. Another memorable evening.


Auto museums in Stuttgart

Spent today at the museums of two major auto manufacturers, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz (a.k.a. DaimlerChrylser) in Stuttgart. Both are easily accessible by S-Bahn and both are free to the public.

The Porsche museum is to the northwest of downtown Stuttgart in Zuffenhausen. It is not very large, housing about 15 cars. There are some significant cars there, however, including the Sunoco CanAm car driven by Mark Donahue, LeMans winners, and the McLaren Formula 1 car powered by the T.A.G. engine designed by Porsche.

The Mercedes Museum is considerably larger, with a timeline of cars beginning with what is considered the first successful automobile in 1885. At that time Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz were rivals, so examples of cars from both factories are on display. The exhibit includes famous competition cars including the Silver Arrows machines from the 1930s. Some of the exhibits are not available at the moment, undergoing restoration or on display elsewhere. In addition, Mercedes is building a new museum that should open next summer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


ICE is so Cool!

Went to the Stadthaus first thing this morning to see if they had found anything on the Schurmann or Borgmann families. Nope. No luck. Seems they have the records only for the city of Recklinghausen. Recklinghaussen is also a “District”, and apparently each town holds its own records. It would take a long time to contact all of them. As a result, the past 24 hours have been kind of a waste of time. Not totally as I drank some very good beer, ate some pretty good food, and did some photo editing on the computer. After leaving the Stadthaus, I took a few photos of the Farmers’ Market in front of the Rathaus, then packed my bags to catch the train to Stuttgart.

Took a moment to mail a package home, with some brochures from the Saab Meet, a couple of souvenirs, and some dirty underwear to fill the spaces. It cost 32 euro to mail it home!!! At least I won’t have to carry that extra weight around the rest of the week. The heaviest item was the Power Converter. As suspected, the computer power supply and the battery charger for the camera battery will both operate at 240V/50Hz, so I have located a simple connector to plug the US plug into a German outlet.

The trip to Stuttgart took two trains, the local into Essen and then the streamlined ICE (Inter City Express) the rest of the way. The fare was 94 euro ($120), not exactly cheap, but pretty relaxing. The ICE stops only at major stations, so the trip is less than four hours. As the ICE was traveling at its fastest, the speed was displayed on the info screen – 297 kph (185 mph)! That was only for a short burst, but it was while we were parallel to an autobahn, and the train was quite a bit faster than traffic in our direction.

The train had to stop for several minutes for some unknown reason, and was about 15 minutes late arriving at Stuttgart. I made my way to the Tourist Information center where they found a room for me near to the city center. By the time I had settled into the room it was 1530 (3:30pm) and a little late to make my way to the museums that close at 1700. The primary reason to visit Stuttgart is to see the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums. They will still be there tomorrow morning.

Tonight I am staying at another small hotel, the “Hotel Museum Stube”. The price for “Einzelzimmer, Etagendusche und –toilette*” is 35 euro (“Mit hund 5 euro Aufschlag”), plus 5 euro for breakfast and 3 euro to the Tourist Information center to make the reservation. Rather than walk the 12 blocks with my bags, I took a taxi for 6 euro. My budget is to find lodging for less than 50 euro a night, so I am just barely within that figure. The room is only about 7’ by 10’ with a simple bed and a sink, sort of like a prison cell but without the bars.

Had dinner tonight at Ochs'n Willi. I chose BBQ ribs with a tangy "Mexican style" sauce. A good choice! The waitress, Sara, helped me to make a dessert selection of various berries in sauce with vanilla liqueur poured over the top. She also directed me to a nearby Internet Cafe, the Level One Cyber Bar. Still have not found a place to use my wireless card, so the other notes that I have written and the photos will have to wait.

* Single room, shower and toilet on the same floor. With dog, 5 euro extra charge.

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