Our tour guide Carol Saint-Clair met us at the Remarque Hotel in Osnabrück at 9 am on Friday, May 25, 2012 and drove us north and east to Theler territory — several hamlets straddling the borders of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsesn) and North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westphalen). Our first stop was Alswede, a village of about 1,000 people which is located about 25 miles (40 Km) northeast of Osnabrück.
Alswede is split in half these days. The north side belongs to the town of Espelkamp and the portion south of the Mittellandkanal is now part of the town of Lubbecke. All of these places are in the district of Minden-Lubbecke. Minden, the district’s capital, is a town on the Weser River about 13 miles (20 km) to the east of Alswede.
My Thelers belonged to the Evangelical-Lutheran religion and worshiped at St Andrew’s Church (St Andreaskirche) in Alswede for more than 300 years and I have looked at church records for more than 200 of those years, from the 1650s to the 1880s. For a portion of this period Alswede was part of the Kingdom of Hannover. The city of Hannover is about 50 miles (80 km) east of Alswede. Napoleon conquered this area in the early 1800s and for a brief time Alswede was part of the French state of Westphalia. In 1815 Westphalia became part of Prussia. The present German state of North Rhine-Westphalia was created after World War II.
There were several churches built over the centuries on the land where St Andrew’s now sits. The first building, a small chapel, was built in the 12th century. Then in the 13th century the counts of Tecklenburg built their own private chapel. The church was also part of a Cistercian monastery for a time. The Reformation came to this part of Germany in the 1500s and today about 70% of the population of Alswede is Evangelical-Lutheran. The present church was built in 1563 and is of the common Gothic Hall design found all over Westphalia. A third aisle was added in 1893. The tower was completed in 1868 but the first two stories of the tower are the oldest part of the church, dating back to the 14th century. There was a major remodeling of the church in the 1990s and a new tiled roof was installed a couple of years ago.
We toured the church’s interior and discovered many ancient gravestones hanging on the back wall near the main entrance. Most of the old stone inscriptions were in German but we found one in Latin accompanied by a document that translates the inscription into German. The gravestone memorializes an esteemed pastor (Johann Schlichthaber) and his wife (Magdalena Crausen) who were married in 1658.
Several years ago I received a copy of an LDS report on the Thelers who worshiped here from one of the Cincinnati Thelers who is most likely a distant cousin. This report was commissioned by a Mormon branch of the family and published in 1971. Since then the Mormons have microfilmed most of the records in this part of Germany and most of these can be found on their familysearch.org website. Unfortunately, there are some gaps in these records and I have not been able to identify all of my direct ancestors. The LDS report of 1971 contains records that go back to 1723 for the following surname variations: Theler, Tegeler, Tehler, Taegeler, Tegler, Tailer, and Teiler. I have been able to go back as far as 1654 with records I have found on the Internet and have discovered these additional surname variations: Thegeler(s), Teieler(s), Telers, and Teyeler(s). I even found a record from 1747 for a Tailers Von Dem Buchholtze and a few from 1695 -99 for Teyelers Vom Bucholtz.
St Andrew’s is located on Hedemer Strasse and after visiting the church we drove about a mile west to the small farming community of Hedem and then turned north, crossed the Mittellandkanal and found the even smaller farming community of Hedemer Buchholtz. These two places will be the topic of my next posting.