Traut Enterlein – Journeyman Apprentice; Now You See Him, Now You Don’t – 52 Ancestors #231

We only know two things for certain about Traut Enterlein. Where he was between March 25th and April 6th, 1822 and where he wasn’t on December 21st of the same year.

These are the dates when Elisabetha Mehlheimer would have conceived the child she bore on December 21st.

Easter that year fell on April 7th, so maybe they were celebrating the end of Lent, or the beginning of spring, or maybe Traut was moving on and the local people hosted a goodbye party for him with lots of good German beer and wine.

Traut Enterlein may never have known he was a father, at least not to Barbara Mehlheimer who was born to Elisabetha Mehlheimer on December 21, 1822 in Goppmannsbuhl, Germany.

Barbara was given her mother’s surname when she was baptized, because apparently Traut was gone and the couple never married.

Truthfully, it may not have been his fault. He was an apprentice, a journeyman on his requisite walkabout.

Traut medieval apprentice.jpg

No, Traut wasn’t a baker’s apprentice as shown in this medieval print, but apprenticeships began in the middle ages in most trades and crafts. Apprenticeships still exist today in parts of Europe, particularly in Germany.

The Baptismal Record Tells a Story

My friend Chris translated Barbara’s baptismal record from 1822:

Göppmannsbühl number 64 [This must be a lot number in Göppmannsbühl.]

Barbara Melheimerin is born the 21 December 5 o` clock in the morning and was baptized the 26th of the same month.

Father: reportedly Traut Enterlein, clothier apprentice from Klein Schlaßung [?] in Saxony.

Mother: Elisabetha Margaretha Melheimerin, daughter of Johannes Melheimer, master weaver in Göppmannsbühl

Godmother: Barbara Melheimer, unmarried daughter of Johannes Melheimer, master weaver in Göpmannsbühl

Order of birth: the third child

Kind of birth: easy, fast

Midwife: none

Wow, no midwife. The baby must have been delivered by Elisabetha’s mother or maybe even Elisabetha herself.

One interesting note is that Barbara was Elisabetha’s third child, and she had apparently never been married because her surname is that that of her father. When Barbara was born, Elisabetha was 38 years old, which begs the question of Traut’s age.

We know that Traut would have been a minimum of 18, so let’s just use 20, meaning that he was born in 1802 or before. If he was Elisabetha’s age, he would have been born in 1784 which would have made him 38 as well. Typically, one doesn’t think of an apprentice in their late 30s. Apprentices began working at their trade in their teens. The best we can do is to bracket his birth between 1784 and 1802 and his death, sometime after April 7th, 1822. Not very definitive.

So Many Questions

Was Barbara a surprise to Elisabetha after enjoying a few glasses of wine at a festive dinner a few weeks earlier, perhaps? Did Elisabetha hide her pregnancy as long as possible, perhaps even up until the time she delivered? Is that why there was no midwife? In a small village, the midwife would have been easily accessible, living just a few houses away.

Was Traut already working elsewhere in his apprenticeship when Elisabetha discovered that she was pregnant? Would it have mattered, especially if there was a significant age difference between the couple?

Was Traut unable to be found? How would you find a wandering journeyman? Were there perhaps extenuating circumstances that we’ll never know about involved?

Chris wondered about the situation too, and wrote the following:

Why did the young Elisabetha Margaretha Mehlheimer, unmarried mother of your Barbara Mehlheimer born in 1822 not marry the father of Barbara, Traut Enterlein? This is a tough one.

Honestly, we will probably never know. What I can tell you is that Traut Enterlein did not marry or die in Wirbenz. There is a church book register for all baptisms, marriages and burials from 1815 onwards and the name Enterlein or Enderlein is not in there at all. My guess – but mind, only a guess! – is that Traut Enterlein had already moved on to another place when Elisabetha Margaretha Mehlheimer found out she was pregnant.

About Traut Enterlein: I searched for the name and did not find anything at all. I did find some mentionings of the name “Enderlein” (not in Wirbenz) and so assume this may have been the usual writing.

In the 1822 baptism entry, he is called a “Tuchmachergeselle”. I translated this to “clothier apprentice”. But thinking about it again, I wonder if you are familiar with the German term “Geselle”, since I think it is not something common in the US or even the UK: In former times it was required for any craftsmen that after completion of their apprenticeship they had to move through the country and work for other masters. Read more (in English) in this Wikipedia article:

These “journeyman years” is what Traut Enterlein obviously was doing when Barbara Mehlheimer was born. So this makes me think that he worked (probably for Johannes Mehlheimer, the father of Elisabetha Margaretha) in 1821/1822 and then moved on. But this is only my hypothesis.

I am not sure at all about the place of origin of Traut Enterlein. It clearly reads “in Sachsen” = “in Saxony”, but the town name is much less clear. I have looked and tried Google searches again and again and have not found the place. It probably is not “Klein Schlaßung” either but rather it is two “e” in the middle and a “z” at the end of the word, which would make it something like “Klein Schleßenz/Schlessenz”. But I cannot find such a place name either. I am sorry, but I think I am lost here and cannot help you further.

What makes it worse: The church book records from Saxony (and the entire Eastern part of Germany) are hard to access and many of them are not even on microfilms yet. So there are less possibilities for searching.

Journeyman Years

The article Chris directed me to elaborated on something I was told in Germany a few years ago. Journeymen wore distinctive clothing as they roamed about the countryside carrying their only belongings, a parcel of clothing, and staying with families.

Given that Traut was a clothier apprentice, he could well have been working for Elisabetha’s father and moved on before he knew that Elisabetha was pregnant. This makes sense, given that Elisabetha’s father was a weaver.

In a certain tradition, the journeyman years (Wanderjahre) are a time of travel for several years after completing apprenticeship as a craftsman. The tradition dates back to medieval times and is still alive in German-speaking countries. Normally three years and one day is the minimum period of journeyman/woman. Crafts include roofing, metalworking, woodcarving, carpentry and joinery, and even millinery and musical instrument making/organ building.

In medieval times, the apprentice was bound to his master for a number of years. He lived with the master as a member of the household, receiving most or all of his compensation in the form of food and lodging; in Germany it was normal that the apprentice had to pay a fee (German: Lehrgeld) for his apprenticeship. After the years of apprenticeship (Lehrjahre) the apprentice was absolved from his obligations (this absolution was known as a Freisprechung). The guilds, however, would not allow a young craftsman without experience to be promoted to master—they could only choose to be employed, but many chose instead to roam about.

Until the craftsman became a master, they would only be paid by the day (the French word journée refers to the time span of a day). In parts of Europe, such as in later medieval Germany, spending time as a journeyman (Geselle), moving from one town to another to gain experience of different workshops, became an important part of the training of an aspirant master. Carpenters in Germany have retained the tradition of travelling journeymen even today, although only a small minority still practice it.

In the Middle Ages, the number of years spent journeying differed by the craft. Only after half of the required journeyman years (Wanderjahre) would the craftsman register with a guild for the right to be an apprentice master. After completing the journeyman years, he would settle in a workshop of the guild and after toughing it out for several more years (Mutjahre), he would be allowed to produce a “masterpiece” (German: Meisterstück) and present it to the guild. With their consent he would be promoted to guild master and as such be allowed to open his own guild workshop in town.

Some wandering years extended much beyond the 3 years and 1 day. This man’s ropemaking apprenticeship lasted for 8 years as the man worked in 112 places in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It’s a fascinating read, with a corresponding map here. This journeyman who worked 112 places in 8 years averaged 52 days in any one place. Now Traut’s absence makes much more sense. In fact, based on this, it’s very likely that by the time Elisabetha suspected that she was pregnant, Traut was already gone. This next paragraph calls into question what would have happened if Traut has discovered that Elisabetha was pregnant before he left.

The journeyman brotherhoods had established a standard to ensure that wandering journeymen are not mistaken for tramps and vagabonds. The journeyman is required to be unmarried, childless and debt-free—so that the journeyman years will not be taken as a chance to run away from social obligations.

This begs the question of what would have happened to an apprentice that fathered a child during their wandering years. What would have happened to Traut and his apprenticeship? Was it possible that Elisabetha didn’t search for Traut, on purpose?

In modern times the brotherhoods often require a police clearance. Additionally, journeymen are required to wear a specific uniform (Kluft) and to present themselves in a clean and friendly manner in public. This helps them to find shelter for the night and a ride to the next town.

A travelling book (Wanderbuch) was given to the journeyman and in each new town, he would go to the town office asking for a stamp. This qualifies both as a record of his journey and also replaces the residence registration that would otherwise be required. In contemporary brotherhoods the “Walz” is required to last at least three years and one day (sometimes two years and one day). During the journeyman years the wanderer is not allowed to return within a perimeter of 50 km of his home town, except in specific emergency situations, such as the impending death of an immediate relative.

How could apprentices be informed that a relative was ill or even had died before the days of modern technology? How was the wanderer tracked? It seems to me that when you returned at the end of your journey, it’s entirely possible that you could find your entire family deceased or having moved. At least others could tell you where they had gone, but if it was to America, the apprentice would clearly never see them again unless he too emigrated and attempted to find his family. After many years of being on their own, that seems unlikely. Skills they would assuredly have learned are self-reliance and adaptability.

At the beginning of the journey, the wanderer takes only a small, fixed sum of money with him (exactly five Deutschmarks was common, now five Euros); at its end, he should come home with exactly the same sum of money in his pocket. Thus, he is supposed neither to squander money nor to store up any riches during the journey, which should be undertaken only for the experience.

There are secret signs, such as specific, involved handshakes, that German carpenters traditionally use to identify each other. They are taught to the beginning journeyman before he leaves. This is another traditional method to protect the trade against impostors. While less necessary in an age of telephones, identity cards and official diplomas, the signs are still retained as a tradition. Teaching them to anybody who has not successfully completed a carpenter apprenticeship is still considered very wrong, even though it is no longer a punishable crime today.

Traut journeyman's traveling book.jpg

This traveling book, from 1818 in Bremen would be similar to the book that Traut probably carried with him. That book, if we could find it, probably carries the signature of Elisabetha Mehlheimer’s father, Johannes, vouching that Traut had indeed spent time in his workshop. Johannes was called a “master weaver” in the baptismal record, which also tells us that Johannes likely served an apprenticeship in the same way as well.

Journeymen can be easily recognized on the street by their clothing.

The carpenter’s black hat has a broad brim; some professions use a black stovepipe hat or a cocked hat. The carpenters wear black bell-bottoms and a waistcoat and carry the Stenz, which is a traditional curled hiking pole. Since many professions have since converted to the uniform of the carpenters, many people in Germany believe that only carpenters go journeying, which is untrue – since the carpenter’s uniform is best known and well received, it simply eases the journey.

The uniform is completed with a golden earring and golden bracelets—which could be sold in hard times and in the Middle Ages could be used to pay the gravedigger if any wanderer should die on his journey. The journeyman carries his belongings in a leather backpack called the Felleisen, but some medieval towns banned those (for the fleas in them) so that many journeyman used a coarse cloth to wrap up their belongings.

Clearly many records are missing today in Germany, but it does make me wonder if Traut died. No marriage, later births of children or death is found for anyone with any similar name, anyplace. Or, perhaps the minister in Goppmansbuhl recorded Traut’s surname as it sounded to him, which may not have been how it was recorded elsewhere.

I would think, however, given that his journeyman’s book was issued from a specific place that we would find records of him there, either before or after his apprenticeship, or both.

Or maybe Traut never made it home. A person traveling on foot throughout the country, known to probably be wearing a gold earring and bracelet might be a target for those very items meant to keep them safe.

Perhaps Traut literally did just disappear, paying for his own funeral with his golden jewelry.

Traut’s Story

My own year spent abroad opened my eyes – widely. I can only imagine what many years would do for a young person, teaching them self-reliance, resiliency, resourcefulness and of course a trade.

Oh, the stories that Traut must have had. How I would love to hear those and all about his journey. The good and the bad. Those years surely shaped him. What did he do? Where did he go? Were there a few special relationships, or was there a different girlfriend in every village? How many children does he actually have? Of course, as we’ve demonstrated, maybe Traut didn’t even know the answer to that question. It’s very unlikely that he knew about Barbara.

Even if we did find Traut in the records, unless we also miraculously found an existing journal or at least his travel book, we would never share a glimpse into those years except for this one very important record in which one single word, “Tuchmachergeselle,” revealed so much.

Traut’s Staff?

As I researched for this article, I remembered a “staff” that has descended in my mother’s family and went digging in the umbrella stand to find it.

No one knew where the staff originally came from. It just kept being passed on, generation to generation. Many of the family heirlooms that my mother owned came from the “Kirsch House,” which means they descended through Barbara Drechsel Kirsch.

Traut Pedigree.png

My mother cherished heirlooms, even if she didn’t know their provenance. The fact that they had been passed down within the family was enough.

Traut staff.png

This staff descended along with a beer stein and plates from the Kirsch House, owned by Jacob Kirsch and Barbara Drechsel. Did this belong to them, or did this staff arrive through Nora Kirsch and Curtis Benjamin Lore in the next generation? Was this staff something cherished by Elisabetha Mehlheimer and brought to America by her daughter, Barbara Mehlheimer who married George Drechsel?

In Mom’s later years, she “spruced” this staff up a bit with a new coat of shellac or something similar, and I know she added the rubber foot so she could use it as a cane. She received lots of compliments, questions and comments and when asked about the source, she simply replied that it was a family piece.

Ironically, I think the reason it descended to Mom was that it was deemed “just an old stick” and “not worth anything” to others who were looking for sales value and not family value.

Wouldn’t it be the greatest of ironies that I inherited this “homely” cane because no one else wanted it and it actually was Traut’s stenz used during his journeying? It had to come from someplace and it was clearly treated as an heirloom for generations even though we don’t know why or where it came from today.

Is this even remotely possible?



I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

12 thoughts on “Traut Enterlein – Journeyman Apprentice; Now You See Him, Now You Don’t – 52 Ancestors #231

  1. What a cool story. I enjoyed reading about the journeymen in Germany. I consider myself my family’s curator, even though I was not able to gather as many artifacts as I would have liked, I still care very delicately the few items I have in my possession. If I could go back in time that would be very different, but not speaking up as well as being afraid others would get their feelings hurt has cost me. I cannot turn back time, unfortunately.

  2. Or could the staff / cane / stenz have belonged to the father of Elisabetha, Johannes Melheimer. As you pointed out he would have also been a journyman.

  3. Wow, I did not know that about Journeymen. I have been searching for my 3X g grandfather, who seems to have disappeared from Aberdeen, Scotland around 1834. By his children’s marriage records, he was a Tinsmith Journeyman. I never thought of the significance of that word before, but perhaps it was the same in the UK and he was gone from the area when something happened to him. I wonder if any records were kept of their journeys??? Fascinating story. Thank you!

  4. Roberta,

    An interesting story with challenging documentation. While Traut may have been born in Saxony, Elizabeth and Barbara were born in Bayern, so that may be why you are having difficulty finding more information.
    Also the number at the top of the record could be the 64th entry in the church book, or a house number, but not likely to be a lot number.
    If you can send a copy of the baptismal record, I’d be glad to look at it. Have been reading the Old German script for more than 30 years.
    As best I can tell, our common lines run from Claiborne down to Hill.

    keep up the good work!

  5. Thank you for such a wonderful fact filled story about apprentices – never knew there were so many rules – which are certainly good. My family is mainly from England and there were many apprentices, but I never knew the different stages before.

  6. Hi ; This is unrelated question ..I have been trying to access the DNA-Newbies enquiry page mail keeps being deleted …I have one small question …thank you ,B.J.Blakely

    • I don’t manage the DNA-Newbies group, so you’ll have to find the administrator and contact that person.

Leave a Reply