Monday, November 19, 2012

Bittner's Bavarians in the September NGSQ

F. Warren Bittner was co-winner of the National Genealogical Society's 2011 Family History Writing Contest, and his article leads off the September issue of the NGS's Quarterly. His paternal-line great-grandfather and two brothers are pictured on the cover.

Most "Q" articles are proof arguments of one sort or another, highlighting surprises, methodological innovations, or usually reliable records shown to be unreliable in particular cases. Contest winners are usually different.

The story of the Büttner family has many lessons for researchers of German families on both sides of the Atlantic, but the main lesson here is how different times and places make different ways. The main fact in their lives was Bavarian law, which "forbade 'frivolous marriage' between 'slovenly people who will breed only beggars and idlers.'" Legal marriage required substantial property holdings, "adequate" savings, and the consent of the village council.

As is often the case when such accusations are made, the Büttners were neither beggars nor idlers, they were oppressed by rich insiders. They had children out of wedlock because there was no other way. It took ten years for Leonhard Büttner and Margaretha Weiss to get permission to marry. No wonder three of their sons left for America.

The author also has several lectures based on this family's experiences. Don't miss a chance to hear the story in person!

F. Warren Bittner, "Without Land, Occupation, Rights, or Marriage Privilege: The Büttner Family from Bavaria to New York," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 100 (September 2012): 165-187.

Harold Henderson, "Bittner's Bavarians in the September NGSQ," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 16 November 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

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