Write what should not be forgotten - Isabel Allande

Category: Germany


Day 9 off the 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge was to research the hometown of one of your ancestors.



Seussling (Soy-sling) Germany

Seussling was the home of my Great-Grandmother, Catherine Harrer Marschall. She was born in 1853 one of 7 children of Ignatius and Katharina Harrer.  She emigrated to the US in 1882, sailing  to New York as a single woman of 28.  She married my Great Grandfather Conrad Marschall in 1889 at the ripe old age of 36.  They were from the same area in Bavaria, but I don’t know if they knew each other prior to being in the United States.  Catherine went on to have 2 sons Frederick (1890) and Edmund (my Grandfather in 1892). At some point Fred and Ed took the more American spelling of Marshall.

Seussling was her home and is a lovely, idyllic place.  My sister and I had the opportunity to visit it while in Germany in 2014.  It is roughly 200 miles southwest of Berlin. Not far from Wurzburg and in the district of Bamberg in Bavaria. The population of Seussling is very small, around 2000.  It dates back to medieval times – the first mention of a church was in 800 – during  the reign of Charlemagne.  The Catholic church that was in existence in my GG’s time and still stands today is known as St Sigismund.  I can in fact find documentation listing the Priests that served the church back to the 1400’s.  The town of Seussling itself officially dates back to 1013! (The city I live in officially became a city in 1915). I have a hard time wrapping my head around those dates.

St Sigismund was the King of Burgundy in the 500’s. After a defeat in battle he, his wife and children were imprisoned and executed.  This story is told in graphic detail on a series of plaques in the church. At one point in its history the church housed an important shrine and relic of the deceased King.  People would come from all over to view the shrine to St. Sigismund, The relic was moved for safekeeping during a time of war but was never returned to Seussling.


Top Left: the Altar. Top Right: just one of the plaques telling St. Sigismund’s story. Bottom Left: artwork in the crypt. Bottom Middle: sign says 1470. Bottom Right: the site of the original shrine in the crypt under the Altar


We went to Seussling with a cousin who lived nearby, she called ahead and they were ready for us!  We were greeted by the Church caretaker and the town historian from a nearby town.  We had the feeling that they didn’t get very many visitors!  Our  host’s were more than gracious and generous with their time.  They gave us a tour of the church and also the crypt underground.  We weren’t exactly sure what they were doing when they started to roll up the rug and open up a hatch in the floor in front of the alter!  There were faded remnants of original artwork in the crypt – dating back to the early 1500’s. They also took us through the rectory or Das Pfarrhaus and the community building.  I can not even begin to imagine the number of gatherings that building has seen through the years.  Other than modern amenities like electricity and heat, the church probably hadn’t changed very much since the last time that my GG laid eyes on it.  There was something so powerful and emotional to stand in that place, in the place she worshiped, the place in which her loved ones, were baptized, married, and buried.  This church had been a central part of her life in Germany. This is true not only because it was her church, it was also next to her home.  


Left: The Harrer family barn. Top Right: side of the barn and side of the school. Bottom Left: The school house, the building to the right of the school is the church

Directly next to the church, was the school that Catherine attended and next to the school was where she lived.  The house has since been rebuilt, but the barn from her time was still standing.  I can’t fully explain what it felt like to see and touch the place where she lived and to know that it probably didn’t look all that different.  Our cousin knocked on the door and the owners came out and spoke with us.  When she mentioned the name of the family – they nodded and said that of course they knew the name and that the family were known for being Tailors – remember the part where I said she had left in 1882?!

We left the lovely village of Suessling with a book about its history and other memorabilia.  generously given to us. They truly treated us like family who had come to visit.   We took so many pictures and I am forever grateful for their genuine warmth and welcoming nature.  They game me a priceless opportunity to make a deeper connection to my roots.


Neudecker, A., Schubert, E., Schubert, H., & Neudecker, H. (n.d.). Seussling Geschichte der Pfarrei und des Dorfes.

Personal photos taken May 25, 2014 by author.



A Change in Focus




My sister and I had the opportunity to visit Germany last spring.  It was a life altering trip for me.  I learned a lot about myself, mostly that I am braver than I thought.  We stayed with a relative for several days but were on a own quite a bit too, we went from Germany to France and then to Great Britain on our own.  You know what? We did it, we navigated through foreign countries on our own and it was an amazing experience.  We stood in Medieval towns and were staggered by unbelievable age of things, built so long ago and yet still standing in front of us.

We had the good fortune to be in contact with a German relative who also had been doing genealogy for years.  She also is a tour guide – a pretty great combo!  We had met several times before our trip, she had even stayed with my mom for a few days. I am so thankful they had the opportunity to meet.

Going to Europe had been a lifelong dream for me.  When the chance came around, I grabbed it.  Sure it cost money I could have saved, and it was more difficult to plan for the kid’s schedules that it was to plan for 10 days in Europe… but it was also the trip of a lifetime and the fulfillment of a dream.  Simply put, I am so glad I did it.

We met some wonderful people while there. In Germany we were lucky enough to be introduced to several family members, most didn’t’ speak English and we only knew a tiny amount of German but somehow it worked and we really didn’t have any trouble communicating.  We were welcomed in many homes as strangers and left as family.  We even made a local newspaper, with an article and pictures!

While I fully expected to love our journey, I hadn’t fully understood  how strongly it would feel. When our cousin took us to the town that my  great grandfather came from, I was completely blown away. My great grandfather was born in the 1850’s and 1881 left for the United States by himself.  The house he was born in stood right next door to the church. Names of several young men from our family were carved into a WWI memorial at the church. The church stood nearly exactly as it had then.  As I stood in the church it all hit me, he existed, he stood in this place, he looked at the very things I was seeing.  It hit me so hard, I almost needed to sit down.  It was right in front of me, I could see my great-grandfather and his family walking next door to worship, being a part of this community in this tiny Bavarian town.  I couldn’t help but wonder what made him leave this beautiful place and how it must have felt to go from this place to New York City alone and make a completely new life for himself.  Bravery, perseverance, a bit of stubbornness? I will never know but I do know that I felt so strongly connected to him at that moment.  It was one of the most incredible, unforgettable experiences of my life.  When we went to the church and home of my great grandmother I was a little more prepared but still blown away.  Her family also lived next door to her church. The current owners of the house came out and spoke with us, amazingly they remembered the family!

So, all that being said, I am going to shift my focus to my Irish side of the family. I am by no means done with my German research but have to give some love to my Irish.  My Dad’s side of the family is Irish – McGee and McVay.  I only ever met 1 relative of my Dad’s, his uncle, my great uncle Wayne. He was ancient when I was little but very knowledgeable about our family history.  I was never very interested as a kid but man, what I would give to be able to talk to him today.  From what I have been able to find out so far the family history is rich and deep and sometimes very sad.  They took pictures and played, wrote poems, worked hard and lived with dignity sometimes in the face of tragedy.  Recently I had the great luck of finding McGee cousins.  Actual living relatives from my Dad’s side!!  They recently sent me pages and pages of handwritten family history – it was better than Christmas!!!

I am really looking forward to sharing the stories of this side of the family.  This is all leading up fulfilling another dream – to visit Ireland.  This trip is still a year off but the planning is fully underway.  My sister and I along with 2 funny, amazing women are planning, plotting and saving our pennies to make it happen.  There will be a lot of laughing on this trip!!!I don’t know that I will be able to match the personal connection of Germany but I do know that I can’t wait to see what we discover.

Henry and the Elusive Mary…


1900s-Henry Pfund family

Henry Pfundstein Circa 1915


Henry’s draft card 1917


Henry & Mary Harrer Pfundstein

Henry Pfundstein was the oldest of the Pfundstein brood.  He was born to Adam and Theresa in 1890 in Brooklyn. He lived and died in the New York area like many of his siblings. Henry followed his father into business and eventually took over the running of the tailor shop from his father.  

Henry and Mary were alive to witness some of the great growth of New York City at the turn of the century.  They literally would have watched the skyline of NYC change before their eyes with the construction of the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building.  They were likely were also affected by the sinking the General Slocum in 1904.  They would have both been teenagers at the time.  Even though the victims were not from their church, the loss of so many lives of German immigrants must have sent shockwaves through the community. Henry was 21 yrs old when his youngest sibling, Christopher was born!

Mary Harrer was born to Frederick and Katherine Harrer in 1889. Unlike Henry, Mary’s parents were born in Germany.  The Harrer family comes from a tiny town in Bavaria called Seussling (Soy-sling).  It is the most beautiful town in the heart of Bavaria.  It is very quaint and has probably not changed all the much since the family left.  It was one of my very favorite stops when my sister and I visited Germany this past spring.  In 2013 Seussling celebrated its 1000th anniversary!  Our cousin had called ahead and when we arrived we had a welcoming party to meet us. The town historian met us along with the historian from 2 towns over, and the church caretaker were there to greet us!  They couldn’t have been nicer and and told us the entire history of the town and bits and pieces about the Harrer’s.  They were also tailors!  We were able to tour the church and crypt.  The Harrer home was next door to the church, the house had been re-built but the original barn was still standing.  I have so much information on Mary’s family but I haven’t even been able to find a single picture of  the elusive Mary – I’m working on that one!

When we visited Germany we stayed with a cousin related to us on our Grandfather’s side (we are related to the Pfundstein’s on our grandmother’s side).  The Harrer’s are very interesting to us because Mary Harrer and my Grandfather were 1st cousins.  Mary’s father, Frederick was the brother of my grandmother Catherine Harrer Marschall.  So my grandfather Edmund Marshall and his cousin Mary Harrer both married into the Pfundstein family.  Henry and Mary were married in 1914 and Ed and Ida were married in 1917.  We are already know that my grandmother Catherine Marshall took in the Pfundstein’s laundry – that somehow led to 2 marriages between the families.  It was probably not all that uncommon for the time.

Henry and Mary were married Sept. 17, 1914 at St. Leonard’s Church in NY.  In 1917 Henry filled out his draft card for World War 1.  He listed his occupation as a clothing cutter and his address as 1705 Myrtle Ave.  That is the address of the Pfundstein tailor shop, the shop had apartments above the the store.  He was described as medium height, slender build, with blue eyes and blond hair. (I love finding all of these blue eyed relatives!) They went on to have 3 children. Henrietta, Louis, and Eleanor.

I haven’t been able to track down much information on the children. The little bit I have found is as follows. Henrietta was born in 1917, She graduated from Bishop McDonnell high school – where one of her Aunt’s taught.  In 1940 she married Joseph Fitzgerald. There were married by Fr. Adam, Fr. Edward, and another Uncle, Rev. Frederick Harrer. Henrietta died in 1998 in NJ. Louis was born in 1919, he graduated from Cathedral High School and joined the Air Force in 1943.  He graduated from Advanced Navigational School in the 1945 and shortly after that married Irene Lawrence Adams.  Louis and Irene were also married by the 3 Uncle’s. At some point (before joining the Air Force) Louis legally changed his last name to Funsten.  I haven’t been able to find any more information on this – but I would really like to!!  Maybe he didn’t want such a German sounding name with the war going on? The youngest daughter Eleanor was born in 1922, she married a James Mcmahon.

Henry died at the young age of 47 in June of 1938.  His obituary states that he died at his home on Lefferts Blvd in Richmond Hill.  His funeral was held at Holy Child Jesus R.C. church.  He was buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village.  

I am not done searching for information on this branch of Pfundstein’s – especially Great Aunt Mary.  I can’t wait to find more…



                   The beautiful St. Sigismund R.C. Church                           Seussling, Bamburg Germany


Detail Registration State: New York; Registration County: Queens; Roll: 1787167; Draft Board: 179 Source Information Title U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 Publisher Date 2005 Publisher Location Provo, UT, USA
Web Address Source Information Title Brooklyn Daily Eagle Publisher Date June 25, 1938
Transcript Groom: Pfundstein, Henry Joseph Bride: Mary Catherine Harrer, Marriage date: 1914-Sept 17, St. Leonard’s of Port Maurice-R.C. Detail Vol#3, Page#24, Entry#71 Web Address Source Information Title St Leonard’s of Port Maurice – R.C Church Author Church Database Publisher German Genealogy Publisher Date 2015 Publisher Location Kings Park, NY Repository Information Name St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church Web Address 185 Suydam St, Brooklyn, NY 11221


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