My uncle was on business in France, but arranged to depart from Frankfurt in order to spend a day visiting Karin and me. But instead of coming to Freiburg we had a special mission: track down information about the Ruppels who immigrated to the US in the 1800s. The "original" Ruppel and his wife were from different towns that are less than an hour apart, so we could visit both in one day with no problem.
Since they immigrated, the family has remained in one area right on the border of Illinois and Indiana. We have all the old church records about the actual Ruppel who came here, and some odds and ends about his wife as well. Using these records, we took a day trip to the areas to see what we could find out.
First, we went to a Ruppel Café in Frankfurt. We thought it was a good place to start the day! The owner and his wife were pretty amused with us, and he even went home to fetch a family tree he had. We found our own names and some outdated residence addresses in the book, which was from the 90s. He also showed us his family tree drawn on a large sheet of paper. But unfortunately their family didn't cross paths with ours, at least not according to the information he had.
Next, we stopped in a church in Flieden and talked to a priest. He became quite interested once we asked about a previous priest at that church from the 19th century. He took us out to the cemetery and said we were welcome to walk around, and gave us the phone number of a man who chronicles families as a hobby.
After that, we drove to Laugendorf, the alleged birthplace of our ancestor. However, no one in this tiny farming community had heard the name; it seems the Ruppels were either gone for many generations, or hadn't been there at all.
Finally, we drove to Steinbach, the hometown of our ancestor's wife. Here we actually found quite a bit of information about her side of the family. By randomly asking folks who were doing yardwork or taking walks outside, we found ourselves directed to the house of another chronicling enthusiast.
Karin explained our situation and the man very intently wrote every detail down. He explained that his mother was really organizing everything, and it would be published in a book sometime in 2017. Her information about the wife matched ours almost perfectly, which all of us very happy. We got a glimpse of our family two generations further back than anyone ever knew, and she extended one branch of that family's tree by five generations!
We've since received the book and were proud to share the info with all the stateside Ruppels. It felt good to find out more about our roots and visit the places they left in search of a life in the US, especially since I'm the first in my family to move back to Germany!