Accéder au contenu principal

THE ANDRES FAMILY

Who were our ancestors? Where did they come from?
Who did not wonder about these questions, especially as you become aware of your own mortality?
W hen I started the Andres family tree, I had a vision of what a family tree is supposed to look like: some kind of a fancy graphical representation of a tree with little boxes dangling from limbs and branches, reading "grand-mother", "great-grand-father" and so on.
Well, it did not turn out that way. The family tree has become something with a life on its own, and in some ways, has taken over my own. Through the research, I have learned so many things, about family, countries, war, language, met so many people, related or not, renewed old friendships and developed new ones. For this, I am grateful to all who have shared their information, their knowledge, and to those who have showed such appreciation for what I have been able to share in turn.
While the family tree is, almost by definition, full of dead people, one can only wonder about the village of Ormersviller, the birthplace of so many of our ancestors. The village is still there, changed maybe, but with is own character and charm. I have been privileged to spend many of my youth summer holidays there, and have been asked so often to talk about it, that I thought it would be interesting to prepare a small document on the village, its history, its families, and try to explain the Alsace-Lorraine, the German and French connections, the language, etc.
While many of the answers were known to me, I had to find others in history books. As you know, there is nothing more difficult than to explain simply something extremely complex. For the sake of clarity, I have voluntarily omitted some historical facts. What I submit to you is only meant to help you get a feel of the place where your ancestors came from. Many of the historical facts have many spins to it, and not everybody agrees with any one given version. At one point, I had to make up my own mind as well, and hopefully, it is a reasonably accurate one.
Please forgive me for the omissions and involuntary errors that may have crept into this text, and enjoy it.
Note of thanks : I have made extensive use of a book titled "Ormersviller au fil des siècles" written by a priest, Gérard Henner and several others. This book is available only in French and some of the chapters are in German. If you are interested in it, contact me and I shall give you all details to purchase this book.


THE FIRST ANDRES IN THE ORMERSVILLER AREA.

In 1717, George Andres, died in Ormersviller. He came to the area with two of his brothers, Joseph and Thomas. The three brothers settled in three different villages, all within a few miles of each other: Ormersviller - Epping (1 mile away) and Hanviller (about 8 miles). Both Ormersviller and Hanviller will become home to many generations of Andres families. These villages are in the departement of Moselle, (France is divided into 95 administrative regions called "departements") This departement is situated in the province of Lorraine. (To learn more about Lorraine and Alsace-Lorraine, follow the Lorraine link or go to the dedicated chapter)
You will see later that Lorraine was not always part of France.
The map below will give you an idea of the location of Lorraine, and of Ormersviller.


You will see later that Lorraine was not always part of France.
The map below will give you an idea of the location of Lorraine, and of Ormersviller. 




THE BAVARIAN CONNECTION
George, Joseph and Thomas were sons of Martin and Barbe Beck (or Boeck), from a small town in Bavaria, called Eisenberg, located near the famous Neuschwanstein castle. 




What prompted the three brothers to leave Eisenberg, in the picturesque Tyrol mountains, to go to the Ormersviller area? The Thirty Years war had ended in 1648, and the King of France and the Duke of Lorraine were very anxious to repopulate Lorraine, which had been devastated. To learn more about the Thirty Years War, follow the link or go the dedicated chapter. 


THE BAVARIAN CONNECTION
George, Joseph and Thomas were sons of Martin and Barbe Beck (or Boeck), from a small town in Bavaria, called Eisenberg, located near the famous Neuschwanstein castle. 




What prompted the three brothers to leave Eisenberg, in the picturesque Tyrol mountains, to go to the Ormersviller area? The Thirty Years war had ended in 1648, and the King of France and the Duke of Lorraine were very anxious to repopulate Lorraine, which had been devastated. To learn more about the Thirty Years War, follow the link or go the dedicated chapter. 
Robert Andres


LORRAINE AND ALSACE-LORRAINE
Let us start with a brief history lesson of Lorraine and explain the Alsace-Lorraine term which is a great source of confusion among our American cousins.
Lorraine : from Roman Empire to Austrasia
Even before Romans occupied the region, Mediomatrici and Leuci tribes populated Lorraine in the first century B.C. After the Roman occupation, Lorraine became part of the Belgian province of the Roman Empire. After the Huns ransacked Metz, the Germanic tribes of Alemanni invaded the region and took possession of large areas, only to be defeated by the Franks.
From this time, a boundary was established in Lorraine between a northern area with a Germanic language and a southern area that will become a French speaking area. This boundary still exists, although it tends to disappear to the profit of the French language.
In 511, when the Merovingian king Clovis died, his son Thierry became king of Austrasia, an empire which went from the Rhine to the North Sea and encompassed Lorraine, with Metz as its main city.
Lorraine : from Austrasia to Lotharingia
At the time of Charlemagne (742-814), Lorraine belonged to what was much like a rebuilt Roman Empire. His son Lothar was given the land between the North Sea and Rome (then called The Midlands). When Lothar died, a part of the Midlands was given to his son Lothar II, and he called it Lotharingia (Lorraine) in his father’s honor.
Lorraine is therefore ′′born′′ in 843
Lorraine : from Lotharingia to Duchy of Lorraine
In 959, Lotharingia was again split into two: The Duchy of Upper Lotharingia (or Mosellane) and the Duchy of Lower Lotharingia. The Duchy of Upper Lotharingia was about the same as the present Lorraine, but also included the region of Trier, but excluded the Dioceses of Metz, Toul and Verdun. In 1048, the Duchy of Lorraine was given to Gerard of Alsace, whose descendants governed it for four centuries. In 1552, the cities of Metz, Toul, Verdun were occupied by France. At this stage, Lorraine, mostly French speaking (except for the Upper part which was speaking a German based language called Rhenish Franconian) was part of the Holy Roman Empire, with Nancy as its capital. During the Thirty Year’s War, Lorraine, governed by the Duke Charles of Lorraine, was an ally of the Emperor, thus became an enemy of France, which occupied its territory from 1634 to 1661. 


THE ANDRES FAMILY
Who were our ancestors? Where did they come from?
Who did not wonder about these questions, especially as you become aware of your own mortality?
W hen I started the Andres family tree, I had a vision of what a family tree is supposed to look like: some kind of a fancy graphical representation of a tree with little boxes dangling from limbs and branches, reading "grand-mother", "great-grand-father" and so on.
Well, it did not turn out that way. The family tree has become something with a life on its own, and in some ways, has taken over my own. Through the research, I have learned so many things, about family, countries, war, language, met so many people, related or not, renewed old friendships and developed new ones. For this, I am grateful to all who have shared their information, their knowledge, and to those who have showed such appreciation for what I have been able to share in turn.
While the family tree is, almost by definition, full of dead people, one can only wonder about the village of Ormersviller, the birthplace of so many of our ancestors. The village is still there, changed maybe, but with is own character and charm. I have been privileged to spend many of my youth summer holidays there, and have been asked so often to talk about it, that I thought it would be interesting to prepare a small document on the village, its history, its families, and try to explain the Alsace-Lorraine, the German and French connections, the language, etc.
While many of the answers were known to me, I had to find others in history books. As you know, there is nothing more difficult than to explain simply something extremely complex. For the sake of clarity, I have voluntarily omitted some historical facts. What I submit to you is only meant to help you get a feel of the place where your ancestors came from. Many of the historical facts have many spins to it, and not everybody agrees with any one given version. At one point, I had to make up my own mind as well, and hopefully, it is a reasonably accurate one.
Please forgive me for the omissions and involuntary errors that may have crept into this text, and enjoy it.
Note of thanks : I have made extensive use of a book titled "Ormersviller au fil des siècles" written by a priest, Gérard Henner and several others. This book is available only in French and some of the chapters are in German. If you are interested in it, contact me and I shall give you all details to purchase this book. 


Lorraine: a French province
At the beginning of the 18th century, Lorraine achieves international recognition of its neutrality and in 1766, became officially part of France.
Lorraine: from the French Revolution to the Franco-Prussian War
In 1790, Lorraine, a French province, was divided in 4 ′′departements′′ : Meurthe, Moselle, Meuse and Vosges. Lorraine supplied many soldiers to the Napoleonic armies. In 1816-1817, Lorraine saw many revolts against the rising of the price of bread, after a poor grain harvest. Starvation was generalized. Later, in 1832, cholera found its way into Lorraine, from Asia. Many people died, in particular in villages and among the poorest.
Elsass - Lothringen
In 1871, as a concession after the Franco-Prussian war, France gave up the Moselle portion of Lorraine, as well as another neighboring province, Alsace, to the newly unified Germany. This is where the history of Lorraine becomes entangled with Alsace, as it became the ′′Reichland Elsass-Lothringen′′, the German Imperial land of Alsace-Lorraine 





Alsace-Lorraine: World War I
This period of Germanization continued until World War I (1914-1918), at the end of which, both Alsace and the part of Lorraine the German had taken over, became French again. The Moselle part of Elsass-Lothringen rejoined the existing French Lorraine province and Elsass became the Alsace province again.
Alsace-Lorraine: World War II
History repeats itself. In 1940 Lorraine and Alsace come once more under German Third Reich control. This new ′′Elsass-Lothringen′′ was now composed of 93 % of the French province of Alsace, and 26 % of the French province of Lorraine. This territory was reclaimed by the French after the war.
As you can see, Lorraine was always a province on its own right. It is only when the German Empire proclaimed it to become, along with the province of Alsace, the territory of ′′Elsass-Lothringen′′ (Alsace-Lorraine) that the two names became associated.
So, depending when your ancestors came to the United States, they might have come from Lorraine, or from Elsass-Lothringen, even though they came from the same village of Ormersviller.
To recapitulate the recent timeline of Lorraine, see the table below: 



The provinces of Alsace and part of Lorraine (the departement of Moselle – see map below) have still a very special administrative status in France, going back to the time it was under German rule. Between 1877 and 1914, Germany modernizes its civil laws which apply also to Elsass-Lothringen. 





Upon their reintegration with France in 1919, the inhabitants of the former German territory discovered that the French Civil Code was way behind the German one and did not accept the loss of privileges they had under German rule. Two orders in Council in 1919 reintroduce the French penal code to Alsace and Moselle, while maintaining certain of the advantages the inhabitants were benefiting previously.
It is interesting to know that even now, the people of Moselle and of Alsace have some benefits that the rest of the French people do not have. See some examples below. 


  • There are 2 more civic holidays in Moselle and Alsace than in the rest of France 
  • Social Security is more generous 
  • Bankruptcy laws for individuals were almost 80 years ahead of those of France 
  • Rules governing associations are different 
  • Contrary to the rest of France, religion is still compulsory in Moselle and Alsace, although derogations are routinely delivered. 
  • Ministers of the Catholic, Protestant and Jewish faiths are paid by the French government. 
  • The bishops of Metz and Strasbourg (capitals of Moselle and Alsace) are nominated by decree by the French President after approval by the Holy Seat in Rome. The French Prime Minister names the heads of the other faiths in the region, while ministers of the three faiths are named by the Interior Minister. 
    It should be said however that the procedure is purely administrative and the French 
    President, Prime Minister and Interior Minister have absolutely no spiritual power. 
  • The Muslim faith does not have a recognized status. 
  • A land owner loses the right to hunt on its own land during hunting season (unless it is 
    larger than 25 hectares). The municipality adjudicates the hunting rights for 9 years and 
    the land owner has first right of refusal. 
  • The municipalities have typically more rights than in the rest of France. 
    As you can see, Moselle (the departement which is part of Lorraine) and the province of Alsace, have still a very unique and little known relation with the rest of France, even unknown to many French citizen. 
    I thought it might be of interest to you, less from a genealogy point of view than as a curiosity. 
    In the next chapter, we will try to understand another mystery to many: 
    Why did many of our ancestors who immigrated to the United States speak German? Their landed immigrant papers sometimes listed their country as Germany, or Bavaria, or France. Why? Their civil and Church records were in French, so how come they spoke German?

  • THE LANGUAGE OF OUR ANCESTORS.
    From about the 5th century to the mid-19th the language spoken in the Ormersviller area is the Rhenish Franconian.
    All historians and linguists agree about that much. Where opinions differ is whether the language is derived from German, or whether it even precedes German. The big problem is in the definition of "German", and I will not venture into this battlefield.
    I shall try to explain as simply as I can, why the Andres who immigrated to the United States were classified as German speaking, and therefore as Germans or Bavarians.
    Rhenish Franconian is one of the several Franconian languages. Franconian was the language spoken by the Franks, of which Charles the Great (Charlemagne) was the most known Emperor. It is known locally as "Platt" or "Lothringer Platt", or "Fränkish", or "Lothringer Dietsch", or "Lothringish". There are three major variants of Franconian, but we shall only cover the one of interest to us: Rhenish Franconian, (sometimes called Rhenish Frankisk) spoken in the area of Ormersviller.
    This language should not be confused with the one spoken in Alsace (an Allemanic language) or with standard German or with the "Lorrain" (the language spoken in Lorraine and based on Roman). Remember that we are talking now about the period between 1800 and 1910 when many of the Andres came to the USA.
    Rhenish Franconian is definitely related to the German language.
    Many of the Andres left Europe in the mid to end of the 1800’s. At least one of them came to Alberta (Canada), and some went to New-Jersey, California, and from what we know so far, most settled in Michigan and Wisconsin.
    Let us resolve the language issue first: no matter when they left Europe (and I purposely say Europe and not France or Germany) they spoke Franconian (Rhenish Franconian). As mentioned above, it is a Germanic language, and when they landed in the USA, they obviously did not speak English. They were thus, automatically classified as Germans, because their language was German sounding. This makes sense.
    Why then were they speaking that German derived language, if they were mostly born in Ormersviller, a village in France? Their civil and Church records are in French, so what is going on with the German derived language?
    As for the language, remember that it is a Franconian language spoken in the area since the 5th century and is still spoken now, although on a reduced scale.
    What about the fact that they were in France
  • Ancestors who came to the United States before 1871, and who came from Ormersviller, were living in France, in the province of Lorraine, in the departement of Moselle.
  • Ancestors who came to the United States between 1871 and 1918, and who came from Ormersviller, were living in Germany, in the land called Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace- Lorraine).
    Now, regardless of when they came to the USA, they all spoke Franconian, a Germanic language, as modern German, or Alsatian, or Dutch. This is understandable while they were under German rule, but less clear when they were under French rule. The following table will show the evolution (or lack of it) of the language in Lorraine, and in particular in the Ormersviller area.

Over the centuries the "Platt" has evolved, under the influence of the Roman, Germanic, Luxemburg cultures. It is not a homogenous language and was mostly a spoken language. Whenever official documents had to be written, they were in the language of the country they were in at the time.
This is why most of the Andres who came to the USA, spoke that Germanic language, while their official documents, were in French, because that was the language in which birth, marriage, death, were recorded in civil or Church records. Obviously, in the periods when Lorraine was under German control, records were all written in German.
Schooling in Ormersviller was rather uneven over the years. I the period from 1795 to 1816, French schooling law stipulated that:
  • Teacher were nominated by the administration of the Moselle departement and examined by a jury; 
  • Education was limited to reading, calculation (limited to addition-subtraction- multiplication and division), writing and teaching of Republican values. 
  • Teachers were to be paid by their pupils at a rate prescribed by the government, but the latter would furnish a room for schooling and lodging for the teacher. 
    Because most villages were poor and did not have any available room for a class, schooling was very often done in the presbytery, and the teacher hired by the local priest with the approval of the bishop. Most of the time he also doubled as secretary of the village, as well as sexton and cantor at the Church. 
    In 1801, Ormersviller had 304 inhabitants, but no official school. One would be officially opened in 1835 only, however, the archbishop of Volmunster, a village two miles away, wrote that "in Ormersviller "school" was taking place during winter only, and that the teacher was also the Church sexton and sacristan. He has good morals and keeps the Church clean
    One can assume that in summer, the children were working in the fields and did not have time for school. 
    After 1816 and until 1870, French law stipulates that all communes must have a school and that schooling was to be free to poor people. In a 1835 report, the French administration says that Ormersviller does not have a school. A report by the Archbishop of Volmunster however shows an evaluation made for him, of the teachers in the various parishes he supervises. See the results next page . 

The first column shows the parish evaluated.
Ormersviller is the 4th from the bottom.
The name of the teacher is Lauer and his first name Pierre.
The next column evaluates the way Pierre Lauer teaches. His rating: good Evaluation of his German reading skills: goodEvaluation of his French reading skills: very littleEvaluation of his German writing skills: relatively goodEvaluation of his French writing skills: noneCatechism: goodTeaching of the 4 rules of arithmetic: relatively good

As can be seen, the quality of education was not the greatest, and it is very clear that the main language used by the villagers at the time, was "Platt"
After 1870, when the Germans annexed the area again, public school became compulsory, confessional, and every teacher had to have a degree from a teacher’s school. Teaching of French was forbidden.
After 1918, when Moselle reintegrated the French Lorraine, and Alsace returned to France, a French 1882 law applied to them. This law is the Jules Ferry law that stipulates that education in France:
• Is compulsory • Is free • Is secular
It is from this time, that the Rhenish Franconian started to loose ground in the areas of Lorraine where it was traditionally spoken.
Where you to go to Ormersviller in 2005, most of the inhabitants would still speak the "Platt", and all would speak French. There are several movements in France promoting the preservation of "minor" languages, i.e. languages which have not received international status as full fledged languages (ex: Basque in the Basque country of France and Spain, Breton in Britanny, are two other examples)
You might be surprised to see some signs at the entrance of villages, written in both French and the minor language of the area. Thus, do not be surprised if one day, the sign announcing the village reads: ORMERSVILLER, and underneath, ORMERSCHWEILLER.
In reality, the language issue is far more complex than exposed in this simplified version. I tried to explain it in an easy to understand manner while omitting many important facts which would not have shed any more light on the issue of interest to you. For those who really want to go deeper into it, by typing Frankish, or Rhenish Franconian, or Rhenish Frankish, or Franconian, in a search engine like Google or Yahoo, you will get hundreds of leads .
And so it goes with the language issue. Let us talk now about Ormersviller 


ORMERSVILLERVILLAGE OF OUR ANCESTORS 




The village of Ormersviller is located in France, in the province of Lorraine, in the departement of Moselle. To see the location in relation to France, follow the link above. Below is a map of the departement (a departement in French, is one of 93 administrative regions in France. They are also assigned a number. Moselle is number 57) 




As you can clearly see, Ormersviller is sitting right at the Franco-German border. 


Ormersviller is a very old village. The first documented reference to the village is on a 1304 document, when it was known as Ormeswilre , and part of the province of Lorraine. Although there are no written reference to the village prior to the document mentioned above, it is known that Ormersviller was inhabited way before. In fact, archeological finds put the existence of life in and around the village, to the Stone Age. A collection of chipped flint tools found in Ormersviller is exhibited in the museum of the nearby town of Bitche.
In what is left of the Ormersviller forest, one can still find several tumuli (a tumulus is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves) which are traced back to the Bronze Age (1800 to 750 B.C.) Several ruins of gallo-roman villas have also been found in Ormersviller and several villages around it. Not far, in Bliesbruck (15 miles from Ormersviller) a major gallo-roman archeological find has been turned into a Franco-German Culture Park. The history of human activities there could be tracked back to the time after the ice-ages. There is a Roman villa at Reinheim (Germany) and a big Roman city in Bliesbruck (France). The Gallo-Roman town covers an area of 20 hectares and was a craft centre since the first century AD. The architecture of the Roman villa is comparable to a country estate. If you are interested, follow this link: http://www.uni-saarland.de/fak5/physgeo/Reinheim/estart.html.
The land around Ormersviller is relatively hilly. While the large forst that once covered this area of the country have long disappeared, there is still one small forest left, the one with the timuli. There are several marshes which are a refuge for several varieties of small birds and harriers. In the spring one can also see several small temporary ponds where water accumulates in depressions in the land. Water gradually seeps into the ground and becomes workable.
Meadows are usually close to the houses and often harbor many fruit trees, a non local and non intensive form of orchards. Typical fruits are apples and pears, and the traditional quetsch , a purplish oval prune, resembling (in apparence only) what we call Italian prunes in North America. Let us not forget the mirabelle, a typical fruit of 



The barns and stables are typically attached to the house. While less and less people in Ormersviller derive their livelihood from farming, (many of the young drive to nearby cities for work in services, commerce or manufacturing), there are still many who raise cows and pigs. Very typical of the Moselle part of Lorraine until the early 1950’s, were the manure stacks in front of the stables. While this peculiar habit has all but disappeared, it was part of a village’s look, ...and smell. Drive a couple of miles over the German border, and voila... they had disappeared or are the side of the stables or barns. Of course there were exceptions, but the difference was, and still is, very noticeable between a French village and its nearby German neighbor village.
Below is a typical house. It happens to be the one where I spend most of my youth summer holidays, at my uncle Gustave and sister Marie. On the left, is the barn door, which also housed a dozen or two rabbits. The middle door, leads to the stable, where there was room for about 6 cows, and two dozen chicken. Ducks and geese were raised in a fenced in area in the back of the house, next to another area where pigs were brought out during the day.
The front entrance is at the right, with the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, is another set of stairs leading to the root cellar, and on the right of the house, (hidden by the trees) was the pigsty. A large vegetable garden was along the same side of the house. 




House of Mathias Andres (brother of Damien) where Gustave and Mary Andres, two of his children, lived later on. Picture taken in 1982.
The upper part of the stable door was usually left open, except when weather was too inclement. This allowed swallows to fly in and out of the stable, where they built their nests. They were two types of swallows, the chimney swallow (which built its nest inside stables, barns, buildings) and the window swallow (which built its nest under the overhanging roof). 


The song of these birds, while sitting in long rows on electrical wires or flying and diving from the air, will remain forever engraved in my mind. They were watched by all farmers, as, when they were flying low to the ground, it would announce rain or a storm.
During the day, chicken and roosters were usually roaming free in the meadows and the street. The alarm cries of the crows would send them running in panic, to the safety of their scoop, as they would signal the presence of buzzards, which would plunge from the sky, onto hares or chicken.
Swallows and buzzards (Buse variable) are two of the most typical birds in Ormersviller. Hares are numerous, and wherever there is enough forest, there was an abundance of deer and wild boars, which are unfortunately hunted to extinction in the immediate area. 



The population of Ormersviller has considerably fluctuated over the centuries. 
You have noticed that there is no data for 1648. This is the year the Thirty Years War ended. Was the village, like so many, totally abandoned, or was there no census taken? 


Villagers of Ormersviller have for the most part, been poor. Many of them could not afford horses to work their fields and resorted to use cows to draw their farming equipment. Because of the quasi total destruction of Ormersviller during WWII, the first tractors appeared only in the 1950’s.
During the French Revolution, many priests fled Lorraine to go to Germany. This difficult period is responsible for many errors in the recording of births, death and weddings. Follow the link to find out what it is all about.
When I visited relatives in the USA, there were often references to marriages between Andres’s and a relatively few number of other families. This is not surprising, considering that very often people married others who had immigrated with them, or from the same village or region. It is not unique to the Andres family in the USA. This was also true in Ormersviller and for some very obvious reasons:
Look at the following table. It shows the approximate percentage of family names in Ormersviller, over 2 time periods. Two facts will become very obvious instantly: the Andres family was very prolific in the period from 1891 to 1916, but lost ground thereafter. Unfortunately there are no available statistics that I know of to show the figure before the time period when the Andres family started to move to other countries. 




As you can see, if you intended to get married, your choice was rather limited. Going to the next village helped somehow, but there were many of the same family names there as well. So, one of the alternatives was to marry in the family, a third or fourth degree cousin would do in a pinch! Reading the church marriage records, you will see that a majority of the Andres marriages (and I suppose the other families as well!) had to ask for a church dispensation in account of the blood relation to the third or fourth degree.
Ormersviller was not the only village where numerous Andres families were living. While Ormersviller detained the record in the Moselle department during the 1891 to 1915 with 50% of the total Andres population, it dropped to the 4th position for the period of 1916 to 1940, the 40th position for the period of 1941 to 1961 and does not even figure in the 50 first positions in Moselle. 
There are however many Andres families in the departements of Bas-Rhin and of Haut-Rhin, (which together constitute the province of Alsace). In fact, it is in Alsace that we find, for the period of 1891 until now, the most Andres families in France. Whether these Andres also come from Eisenberg in Bavaria or not, I do not know.
Most of the Ormersviller people were simple farmers, and were known to be hard workers. Surrounding villages have given them several nicknames reflecting their lack of wealth but also recognizing their hard work. Among the nicknames:
The tasteless pear eaters (in reference of their habit of eating pears which were hard and tasteless and not usually eaten fresh, but rather cut in slices and air dried) In Franconian, this nickname would be Die Derre Beere Necker
The cow collars (in reference to the fact that many small farmers were using cows fitted with special collars to draw their farming equipment. For these poorer farmers, horses were a luxury they could not afford as they would work only during part of the year, while cows were producing milk year round and at the same time could replace horses as well, although less efficiently.) Die Kuhkummete was the Franconian name.
The awaken (in reference to their habit of being very early in the fields, waking up with the morning dew. It was also said that in order not to loose a minute in the morning, they would sleep with one leg out of the bed. It is also said that some Ormersviller people dismantle their bed at the end of February and put it back together in October!) D’Gedaute in Franconian
Nicknames always have some truth in it, and it is clear from the way their neighboring villages were judging them, that in the most part, Ormersviller inhabitants were poor and hard working people.
As you have seen throughout this narrative, Ormersviller never had much of a good time. I thought it was interesting to relate to you their last torment, their forced evacuation at the onset of WW II and the destruction again. 


WW II AFTERMATH 


Ormersviller suffered extensive damages during WW II. Right at the beginning of the war, the steeple of their church was shot down by the French Army and their beloved St Joseph’s chapel on the hill was dynamited as well, as it was used as an observation point to guide
German artillery.
This is the Ormersviller school in 1939. It was originally the first chapel of the village, called Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) possibly because it was related to a nearby seminary, or because it housed some kind of a relic brought back from a crusade by a lord. History is unclear why it was called a chapel and not a church. There is some written documentation dated 1327, making reference to the chapel. It was turned into a school after Ormersviller was allowed to build its own church.
The Sainte Croix (Holy Cross) church, was built in 1835, to replace the old Holy Cross chapel, which was turned into a school and a house.
A new bell was installed in the steeple in 1762 and among its godparents, were Elisabeth Thomas, wife of Conrad Andres, and Jean Mathis Andres
A new steeple was built in 1890 as shown in the picture on the left. The new "bulb" steeple which is very common in Tirol and Bavaria, gave it a very distinctive look. 


In 1939, the French 32nd Infantry Regiment noticed that night lights shining in the church steeple were followed by intense German artillery shelling. They decided to shoot the steeple down, but had to try several times before succeeding. The result is shown in the picture on the left. 




After the war, the church, not only the steeple, was in a very poor shape. Like the rest of the village, it had greatly suffered from both German and French shelling.
In 1953, a contract for the reconstruction of the church was given, but the process turned into a nightmare. The outside of the church was repaired in 1955, but the inside was not yet finished in 1958, and the architect in charge of the rebuilding was sued. Finally, in 1962 the church was ready. Alas, in 1968, it was discovered that the ceiling was showing important cracks and the church was condemned. Lawsuit after lawsuit followed.
It is only in 1984, after being closed 16 years that the church reopened. 




The original chapel was built on the hill separating France from Germany and was named "Holy Family". There are few details about its construction, believed to be between 1893 and 1895. It was renovated in the spring of 1939, only to be dynamited by the French Army in the fall of the same year. They had determined that it had become a lookout for the Germans to guide their artillery shelling.
A 15 foot sandstone statue of St Joseph which had been erected on top of a pillar of the same stone was damaged during the blast. 




The new chapel was built in 1962- 63, at the same spot at the original one. The design is totally different, and the steeple is now located at the back of the chapel rather than the front. St. Joseph’s statue is again on its pedestal, although the latter is slightly shorter than it used to be.
The chapel is now St. Joseph’s chapel, and it has become a place of pilgrimage. In 1982, it became the center point of a movement of Franco-German reconciliation. The regiments of both countries who were fighting for the hill and the village, held a ceremony there in 1991 and offered a cross made of shrapnel gathered in the surrounding fields. It now hangs in the chapel. See next pictures. 





These two pictures summarize the state in which the inhabitants found their village when they came back to it after being deported. 

THE EVACUATION
Shortly after the end of WW I, plans were drawn for the next possible evacuation of the territories of Moselle and Alsace. The first documented trace of this preparation is dated February 11, 1922, and was a first initial instruction prepared by the then War Minister, André Maginot. The supposedly impregnable defense line, the Maginot Line, bears his name. Over the years the plan was secretly detailed and refined, so as not to alarm the population.
In September 1939, 784000 people from Moselle and Alsace were displaced from one end of the country to another, with only 4 hours notice and a 65 lbs limit of luggage. They were not told what their destination was as they left the village.
One can only imagine the anxiety brought on by their sudden departure, the abandonment of practically of their property, their animals, their village which they had never left before!
This evacuation was only the first of several traumas to ensue, and which afflicted them for over seven terrible years. After being evacuated to Charente, in the south west of France, they are told to go back to their village when the German occupy also the Charente department. While it appeared to be good news, they soon found out that Ormersviller and 17 neighboring villages had been declared part of the Bitche military exercice and firing range, and out of limit to civilians. The Germans took then some locals who had defied their orders and sent them to the south of Moselle, where they had expulsed the French speaking population. In effect, they turned the Franconian speaking population into settlers on their brothers land and into German government paid rural employees, who had to keep strict accounting of all crops and livestock. Under German control, they were despised by most of them, and considered traitors by many French people. This is a classical case of "heads you lose, tails you lose"
1938 : Mayors of villages at the Franco-German borders (the red zone) are notified of the possibility of mass evacuation and are asked to prepare the population
August 23, 1939 French Army, Navy, Air Force reservists are called to duty.
September 1, 1939 : general mobilization of all French Armies
September 1, 1939 – 2 PM – two gendarmes from Volmunster notify the mayor that all inhabitants must leave the village by 4 PM, with a maximum of 65 lbs of luggage. Many inhabitants had already prepared the belongings they planned to take with them, buried or hid whatever valuables they could not take with them. The bell of the chapel on the hill was buried in a grave of the cemetery.
September 1, 1939 – 4 PM – Departure towards Volmunster. Already, they have to make a detour because the bridge over the railroad tracks is readied to be blown up by the French Army. 


September 3, 1939 : at the village of Rhodes, they are told to abandon their carriages. They receive a receipt for their horses and cows from the government (for which they will
never be paid) and told to keep only what they can carry.
Chicken, rabbits, hogs, dogs and cats must be released free. Everything else is deposited at the Rhodes city hall, never to be seen again.
September 5, 1939 : They are asked to go onboard a train in Azoudange, 40 or more per cattle-railcar. Passenger railcars are reserved for troops and military transports. They are not told what their destination is. Halts during the night in the middle of nowhere are long and frequent. There is no light, no comfort except for some straw bales, and anxiety is at its peak. Some railcars are emptied of their passengers at some unknown stops.
Finally, they arrive in the department of Charentes, where nothing ready for them. The mayors of the towns where they are directed scramble to find accommodation for the refugees. After having lost their houses, their livelihood, having traveled in dire conditions, they are now faced with a terrible communication problem: many of them, mostly the over 30 years of age, speak exclusively Franconian, the Germanic language, and they can’t understand nor get understood by their hosts. The younger evacuees translate for them.
Eventually, everybody finds a place to live, be it with local farmers, public buildings, mills and so on. Relations are sometimes tense between the French and these funny Frenchmen who speak a German dialect. The refugees find work in farms or industries and life goes on.
June 25, 1940 : The German arrive and occupy the department of Charentes.
September 9, 1940 : The people of Ormersviller are told they can return to their village. When they arrive in Lorraine, some will be imprisoned for anti-German behavior. The others continue their trip but their final destination is not Ormersviller, but Sarrebourg, from wher they are sent to live in Lorquin, at the psychiatric asylum. They now learn that their village is now a military camp and is off limit to them. Several Ormersviller people decide to go back home anyway, and start rebuilding the houses.
November 29, 1940 : The Germans take all the people who had defied the interdiction to come back to Ormersviller and other surrounding villages, and truck them south of the Moselle department where they had expulsed French speaking inhabitants. The arrested people are now forced to work the land of their brothers and become rural employees of the German State, with tight accountability of crops and livestock to be supplied to it.
Spring 1941: The German decide to use the fields of Ormersviller and turn them into a German State Farm, because they were lying at the extreme north limit of the military camp.
A few Ormersviller residents are allowed to return providing they pay rent to the German government, for the use of their own homes! Russian prisoners, and Polish and Ukranian families work the State farm. Labor is cheap and work is tightly supervised and starts at 8, finishes at 5 PM. Each family is allowed one cow, one pig, rabbits and chicken for their own use. 



1943 : The Germans take all the farming equipment found in Ormersviller, le church benches, all the furniture, and send it to Germany. In March, the 4 bells of the church are taken down, to be shipped to a foundry.
March 16, 1945 : The 15th Us Infantry Regiment liberates Ormersviller, and most of the surrounding villages.
Free at last, people return to their Ormersviller homes, when there was still was one standing. Most of the village had been destroyed, with one part of the village (called Selven) relatively unscathed. Many inhabitants stayed in their basements if they could and until the roofs and walls were repaired. Houses too damaged were bulldozed . War prisoners were sent to de-mine fields. The French Government built temporary barracks for family whose houses were totally destroyed. 4 barracks house 15 families and war prisoners. They had no running water nor electricity.
The school reopens in 1945 and the bell from St Joseph’s chapel is exhumed from the tomb where it had been hidden, and is installed on a stand against the school wall.
While life was tough, people were free again, and compared to the suffering of the previous 7 years, it must have been sweet in their hearts. 

Lorraine.andres_robert@yahoo.com
Tph: 450-437-7779 Fax: 450-437-7766 Skype : rfandr41 2007-05-16



To our friends and cousins in North America,

Over the years many descendants of the Andres immigrants to the United States came to Ormersviller to retrace their roots. Those who came in the years 1960 to 2000 did not have any difficulties tracking Andres families in the village and despite some minor communication problems, they were able to meet and exchange with their French relatives.

Now, it is younger generations who sometimes come to Ormersviller. Grand children, even great grandchildren want to see where their ancestors came from. Alas, tombstones do not reveal much and the number of Andres families in the village has dwindled.

Should you decide to visit Ormersviller, Daniel Andrès and Joseph Sprunck will be pleased to assist you in your search for relatives and share their knowledge about the village and its history.

We suggest you reach them by email well before you plan to visit Ormersviller and give them some family information so that they can start researching relevant information and prepare for your visit.

Hoping to see you soon.

Daniel Andrès, 8, rue de La Chapelle F 57720 Ormersviller

Joseph Sprunck, 6, rue des Romains F 57720 Volmunster

Posts les plus consultés de ce blog

Les épreuves subies pendant et après la guerre de 1939-1945 par une famille lorraine

C’estl’histoire authentique d’une simple famille paysanne du Bitcherland
Quand Antoine, habitant d’Ormersviller (Moselle), situé à la frontière sarroise, à 11 km au nord de Bitche, est mobilisé le 23 août 1939 au 23 èmeSIM à Dieuze (Sud de la Moselle), il ne se doute pas qu’il ne pourra pas exploiter sa ferme d’une quinzaine de hectares pendant sept ans. 



Il quitte Ormersviller avec le “Poschtauto” Jost, prend le train à Bitche, puis à Sarreguemines pour Dieuze, où il reviendra fin 1944 avec sa famille après une longue pérégrination.Il ne retournera avec sa famillehabiterdans son village natal que le 1er avril 1946. Après avoir déménagé huit fois, iln’emménagera qu’en 1954 dans sa maison reconstruite.

Antoine avec ses deux chevaux et René monte un cheval La mobilisation En 1939, Antoine est père de cinq enfants, Yvonne 14 ans, René 13 ans, Marie-Thérèse 10 ans, Valérie 7 ans et Joseph 6 mois. A 43 ans et père de cinq enfants, il ne devrait normalement plus être mobilisé. Antoine va réclame…

La riche histoire d'Eschviller contée par Auguste Lauer

Auguste Lauer, membre fondateur de la Société d’histoire et d’archéologie de la section de Bitche, a enseigné en 1936 à Eschviller. Très intéressé par l’histoire locale, il a mené comme son collègue Paul Glad à Bousseviller, des recherches historiques sur Eschviller. Avant guerre, Auguste Lauer et son épouse, née Anne Schwartz, enseignaient dans les deux classes à Eschviller, annexe de Volmunster. Nous avons retrouvé un texte écrit en allemand très intéressant qui est une synthèse de nombreux documents connus en 1936. Il nous apprend mieux ce que les habitants d’Eschviller et de la région ont dû subir sous le joug des seigneurs, à cause des guerres et des invasions. Nous l’avons traduit en français pour vous faciliter la lecture. Les textes en italique ont été rajoutés par le traducteur pour une meilleure compréhension.

L’histoire d’Eschviller
et de sa région proche


1. L’âge de pierre
Pour l’instant nous ne connaissons pas grand chose sur notre région pour l…

Des Lorrains ont participé à un pèlerinage en Géorgie

Pendant huit jours, une trentaine de pèlerins lorrains ont participéà un pèlerinage en Géorgie. Il était initié et dirigé par l’abbé François Riehl. Ce fut l’occasion de découvrir ce pays occupé par les Soviétiques de 1921 à 1991.

Katia, la guide, nous accueille le samedi matin pour la visite de la capitale


Place Saint Georges



De  nombreux espaces verts avec des statues en bronze. Dans les églises,  il n'y a que des icônes, mais en ville on rencontre beaucoup de personnages en bronze.




 Il est midi, des marionnettes sortent de la tour




 Tbilissi est arrosé par la Koura


 Les bains turcs


Le bâtiment de la sécurité


Sur  un mont dominant la capitale se dresse les relais des communications. On y accède en funiculaire et on peut  prendre un repas dans le restaurant contigu.