Hedem is a sleepy village of about 500 people on the south side of the Mittellandkanal immediately to the west of Alswede. Hedemer Buchholtz is an even smaller farming community on the north side of the canal and is usually considered a part of Hedem. My Thelers lived on # 12 Hedemer Buchholz for more than 300 years.
In the 1970s this area of North Rhine-Westphalia was redistricted and both Hedem and Hedemer Buchholtz are now part of the town of Preussisch Oldendorf.
It is commonly believed that the first settlers of this part of the Northern German Plain came by in the 3rd or 4th century and there have been some archeological discoveries of ancient tools and structures around Hedem. The name Hedem is a Frankish word (“em” or “eim” means “home”) and probably has been around since the 800s when Charlemagne conquered the Saxons of Lower Saxony and Westphalia, converted them to Christianity and built churches to ensure that they stay Christian.
“Buchholz” means Beech Forest in German. Immediately to the west of Hedem is a village named Lashorst and north of the canal west of Hedemer Buchholz is Lashorst Buchholz. So I guess at one time the area north of the canal was all beech trees. The canal, by the way, was built about a hundred years ago, long after our Thelers first came to the area. Some of my ancestors appended the name of von Buchholtz to their Theler name. Maybe they were among the first people to come along and cut down the trees for farmland. East of Hedem there is a forested area called Hollwinkel where a noble family lived in a castle which was beseiged by the Swedish army during the Thirty Years War. Immediately east of Hedemer Buchholz is a nature preserve called Ellerburger Meadows that is also heavily forested. Otherwise the only trees you see on the farmlands are those that provide shade to the farmhouses.
The Thirty Years War devastated Westphalia and about a third of all Germans perished, if not from battles and sieges then from the plague that usually folllowed in the wake of an army’s advance or retreat. But the war was over in 1648 and the church in Alswede was rebuilt in 1653 and a family by the name of Tegeder appeared in the church records in 1654. They were followed by Telers in 1664, Teiler in 1658 and Teyeler in 1681. By 1695 the family was called Teyelers Vom Buchholtz. The most common spelling in the 1700s was Tehler and Theler with a sprinkling of Tegeler. Tailers showed up in 1732 and by 1747 they were calling themselves Tailers Von Dem Buchholtze. The Alswede priest was probably the only literate person in the community and so the spelling of one’s surname depended on the particular priest who recorded a marriage, baptism or death.
There only are a couple of roads in Hedemer Buchholtz. We drove down one of them that was close to the canal and stopped at a small country store among a few farm houses and started up a conversation with the store owner and a few neighbors. None of the locals knew any English. We were lucky to have Carol around to lead the conversation! They told us that the old Theler Hof at # 12 had burned down about fifteen years ago and that the last male Theler was killed during World War II. There was a woman named Theler who lived in a cottage house down the road a bit but she died a few years ago. As was the custom, a young couple took care of her in her old age and when she died her house became theirs.
I started my ancestor quest in 2002 when we visited Ireland and met several distant cousins on my mother’s side of the family. I struck out in my attempt to find my father’s Irish relatives, however, and had hoped to find some distant relatives on my father’s side of the family here in Germany and so was disappointed when I heard this news. We also heard that the people of Westphalia had a hard time (more on this in my next posting) during the mid 1800s and a large portion of the population moved elsewhere, including the US. About 17% of all present-day Americans are of German descent and there are probably more Thelers living in America nowadays than in Germany! I watched a baseball game the other day between Boston and Tampa Bay and the pitcher for the Red Sox was a fellow named Buchholz. He may be a distant cousin!
In my next posting I will be discussing some of the peculiarities I have come across regarding German genealogy in my search for my great great grandfather and his family.