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Home > Databases > Local heritage books > Behrungen

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Local heritage book of Behrungen

Behrungen is a village of ca. 700 inhabitants in the Grabfeld, close to the south-west boundary line of todays district of Schmalkalden Meiningen. After World War II from 1945 to 1990 when Germany was divided, Behrungen was situated in the immediate vicinity of the demarcation line between East and West Germany, i.e. up to 1949 on the Zonengrenze and after that on the eastern side of the frontier between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. Today Behrungen belongs to the Land of Thuringia; its inhabitants, however, feel like people from the Grabfeld rather than Thuringians.

View on Behrungen (1995) (Foto:Doris Günther)

The church in Behrungen (2002) (Foto: Doris Günther)
Behrungen has a chequered history. As far as we know the first documentary evidence of Behrungen was given in 795. Behrungen war erst henneberg-schleusingisch, wurde aber 1440/53 zusammen mit Haina und Sülzdorf an Römhild abgetauscht, um 1549 nochmals an Schleusingen zu kommen. Es fiel dann 1660 an Altenburg, 1672 an Gotha, 1680 an Römhild, 1710 an Hildburghausen und 1826 an Meiningen, das den Ort mit dem zugehörigen kleinen Amt (Kellerei) sofort Römhild angliederte. (Zitat aus: Günther Wölfing, Kleine Henneberger Landeskunde, Verlag Frankenschwelle Hans J. Salier, Hildburghausen 1995.)

The place was fortified and had two gates, the Kuhtor and the Lämmertor. Particularly during the thirties and forties of the 17th century, that is during the Thirty Years War, Behrungen suffered from great distress, the most outstanding examples to be mentioned being the period of occupation by imperial troops, Croats under Piccolomini, and those times when its entire population left the village for weeks to seek refuge in the surroundings, e.g. in Mellrichstadt. At times it also happened that numerous inhabitants of Rappershausen, a neighbouring village, escaped to Behrungen. 132 death entries in 1635 alone give us an idea of how terrifying the imperial occupation must have been.

A 1640 entry in the church register (p. 86) by minister Matthäus Gottwald reads: Folgende Persohnen sind abgestorben theils unter dem feindseligen einfall der Keyserischen (?) Soldaten und gäntzlich ausplünderung, theils als der pfarrer mit seinen Pfarrkindern anfangs nach mellerstad, da man sich auf die 6 Wochen aufhalten müßen, darnach nach Römhild gewichen, und auch auf die 6 oder 7 Wochen alldo iämmerlich leben müssen. ... And at the end of that year he records how many people are still alive in Behrungen: 28 Wittben, 8 Wittber, 38 baar Ehevolks (76 Persohnen), 105 Jung und alt, Zusammen 217 lebendige Seelen ....

Also in some of the following years the number of inhabitants is mentioned at the end of each year: 1641: 205 souls, 1642: 210 souls, 1649: 191 souls, 1651: 235 souls, 1652: 246 souls, 1653: 261 souls, 1654: 270 souls, 1655: 280 souls, 1656: 288 souls, 1657: 297 souls, 1658: 306 souls, 1659: 308 souls, 1660: 311 souls, 1661: 305 souls, 1662: 298 souls, 1663: 307 souls, 1664: 320 souls, 1665: 323 souls, 1666: 331 souls, 1667: 326 souls, 1668: 322 souls, 1670: 340 souls.

When in 1640 imperial soldiers set the village on fire, two thirds of all the buildings were burned down. In 1752 a big fire destroyed the western part of the village: 40 houses as well as 45 Städel fell victim to the flames; further houses and stables were badly damaged.
For more detailed information about Behrungen and its history we recommend Behrungen, Geschichte eines Dorfes im Grabfeld. It is a chronicle that was published by the community of Behrungen in 1995 on the occasion of the celebration of its 1200th anniversary.

In this family database individuals living in the years 1605 - 1852 are collected.
Notes on the origin and development of the project.

When I was searching for my childrens ancestors, I also came to Behrungen. As I knew by then, one of their great-grandfathers was born there and soon it was obvious that most of his ancestors, too, had come from Behrungen. But it turned out to be almost impossible to work out a complete and faultless genealogy. The rather small numbers of both different surnames and Christian names used in the 17th and even in the 18th centuries can easily lead to confusions. This again all the more as most entries in the church register were very short. It was only by the middle of the 18th century that the situation gradually improved. I therefore decided to copy not only the entries I believed to be relevant for my own genealogy but all the entries in the oldest church register of Behrungen (1605 1768). But as I live quite a distance from the place where the church register is kept this was easier said than done. Although I repeatedly spent several days in Behrungen, this task would have been finished much later if Mrs. Doris Günther from Behrungen had not effectively supported me by copying the entries from 1701 1768.

I first entered the entries into an Access database and then into a genealogy programme so that family groups became recognizable.

Notes on the condition of the sources

Almost all the dates mentioned in the record of family descent are taken from the two oldest church registers of the Protestant-Lutherian parish of Behrungen. They are in the Protestant clergymans office in Queienfeld.
The oldest church register starts in July 1605, obviously on minister Michael Muretus assumption of office, and covers to 1768. It is in bad condition and badly needs repairing and new binding. Abrasion and damaged parts at the sides of the pages have partly led to the loss of dates of birth (above all days, now and then of months). It is not absolutely clear in all cases whether a date means the day of birth or that of baptism; the day of death or that of burial. This uncertainty, however, is not of major significance as it was common use at the time in question that a child was baptized on the day it was born or one day (at the most two days) later and a deceased was buried one day or two days after his death. In addition, there seem to be small gaps in the chronology of entries when a minister in office had died, as in 1638. One may also assume that for the times mentioned above when the inhabitants of Behrungen were forced to leave the village, not necessarily all the births, marriages and deaths were added to the church register.

Partly the handwriting is difficult to read, in a few cases I could hardly decipher it or (as far as surnames are concerned) not at all. Especially in the first decades the entries are extremely short so that a classification beyond any doubt of certain persons or families is hardly possible or even impossible. In the record of family descent cases in which the filial generation is uncertain are marked. The filial generation of persons that were born before 1605 can occasionally only be concluded from entries of godparents son of or daughter of . Therefore when someone was godfather or godmother Ive mentioned it in the history of that person in the first decades. Until 1753 the name of the mother is hardly ever mentioned, it appears from 1754 onwards, at least in most cases.

In Behrungen the Julian Calendar was adapted to the Gregorian Calendar in 1700. In that year February 28th was followed by March 1st.
The second church register of Behrungen covers the period from 1769 to January / February 1853. It is in a better condition than the first; as a rule the entries include all important details, so that for this period dates, persons and families can reliably be assigned to each other. It is noticeable that for a longer period smaller schoolchildren were named as godfathers or godmothers, who, during the baptism ceremony, were represented by their fathers or mothers respectively. In the record of family descend, however, it is always the godfathers or godmothers themselves (and not the representatives) who are mentioned. Included are all the proper entries of births, marriages and deaths even of those not originally from Behrungen. Not recorded are only some pages with death entries that refer to inhabitants of Rappershausen, who had stayed in Behrungen while they were in flight during the Thirty Years War.

Whoever has tried to find out about their ancestors knows how laborious it can be to search for the place a spouse came from when he or she was not from the same village; very often the church register gives no hint. In some cases the families were found among those who had come from places in the neighbourhood of Behrungen (e.g. from Berkach). I have included these families although strictly speaking they dont belong to the Behrungen families. The additional dates concerning minister Wolfgang Weißheit I found in the internet.

A rather tricky question is the different spelling of some surnames, such as Hornung, Hörnung, Hörning, , or Hähner, Hener, Hehner, Heyner, , or Seifert, Seyfarth, Seyfriedt, , etc. demonstrate what I mean. In these cases I generally decided on one version and I entered into the program as an Aliasname a frequently used second spelling. (This is a weak point of the genealogy program GES-2000.e, which, to my mind, otherwise is quite easy to handle.)

Although it is commonly understood that besides the church registers almost all the other sources available should be referred to for a comprehensive record of family descent, this has not been done in this case and therefore the record is incomplete in this respect. Besides, the chronological records by the respective ministers, which are to be found in the oldest church register, are only exceptionally taken into account. On its final pages the oldest church register also contains a list of descendants of the family of Stumpf and a list of ancestors of the family of Wölfing (full of mistakes) as well as a table of a 'Waffenmusterung' 1577 (Inspection of Arms) and one of the 'Erbhuldigung' 1606. (Homage to the Heir). These last two tables might be quite interesting from a genealogical point of view. They are therefore sorted after surnames provided as RTF-data for downloading.

As I mentioned at the beginning this record of family descent was originally intended for my own use only. But after it has been completed I think it might be useful for others as well, who want to trace their family descent in Behrungen. One should never forget, though, that such a record of family descent always includes a large amount of interpretation, which can lead to wrong results even if the work is done most scrupulously. However, I hope that I succeeded in keeping the number of mistakes within limits. Again, Mrs. Doris Günther kindly helped me to realize some mistakes and to correct them. I am also very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Rinecker, who were ministers in Queienfeld until the autumn of 2000. It was their generous cooperation that enabled me to begin this work in the first place.

Braunschweig, October 2002
Hartwig Quabeck

:: More links
Pfeil Deutschland
Pfeil Federal State Thuringia
Pfeil County Schmalkalden-Meiningen
Pfeil Behrungen in the Genealogical Place Register GOV
Pfeil Genealogical Literature Behrungen
Pfeil Official Homepage
Pfeil Behrungen in Wikipedia
Pfeil Geographical Location, City map Behrungen
Pfeil Meine Stadt: Behrungen
:: Contact
For further information concerning these data and, if you have additions, corrections or questions, please contact:
Karl-Rudolf Höhn