Margaretha Bechtold (1646-1726), Born During the 30 Years War – 52 Ancestors #285

Margaretha’s marriage record in Heiningen, Germany provided us with the names of her parents which led us to her birth record.

Margaretha Bechtold birth

On May 1, 1646, Margaretha was born in Ebersbach, Germany to Christoph Bechtold  and Margaretha Ziegeler.

Christoph’s name was also spelled Bechtoldt when twins, Maria and Margaretha were baptized in 1640, Christophorus Bachtoldt in the baptism of Leonhardus in 1642, and Bechteles when Jacobus was baptized in 1644.

Margaretha was born in 1646, two years before the end of the 30 Years War, a time of massive heartache and depopulation in this part of Germany. Neighbor villages were sacked in 1634, with many villagers being massacred, leading to a population drop to 20% of pre-war levels. By the time Margaretha was born, the war had raged for 28 years, an entire generation, and villagers probably wondered if they would ever be safe.

Yet, life went on. People married and babies were born. According to church records, there were a total of 25 baptisms in 1646, suggesting a reproductive population of about 50 families.

Growing up, Margaretha would have heard the first-person stories about the war that shaped the lives of her parents and grandparents, literally changing the course of history in every village in Wurttemberg. Those weren’t stories passed down, but actual memories of experiences lived.

Ebersbach is a small village on the River Fils. Margaretha’s father was the village baker. We know little about her parents, other than her father was dead by July 28, 1671, when Margaretha married Michael Haag nine miles down the road, in Heiningen.

Haag Michael marriage

Marriage: Friday, the 28th of July 1671

Michael Hag, legitimate son of Hanss Hag, Koss, & Catharina Bäur(in) and Margaretha, legitimate daughter of Christoph Bechtold deceased baker in Ebersbach and Margaretha Ziegeler. Bride pregnant.

A Family of Bakers

Michael Haag was a baker too, and that fact may indeed hold clues about how he and Margaretha met and their courtship – especially given that they lived in different villages that were 9 miles distant.

Although not where she was born or where her family lived, Heiningen would have felt quite familiar to Margaretha. The villages were about the same size. The local church in Ebersbach looked eerily similar to the church in Heiningen and was likely built around the same time, in the 1200s. By the time Margaretha married in the Lutheran church in Heiningen, that church was already 400 years old, or maybe even older.

Margaretha was already comfortable with baking, growing up as a baker’s daughter – she became a baker’s wife at the age of 25. She likely helped Michael as much as she could, between taking care of their children who began arriving shortly.

Heiningen was recovering from the 30 Years War too. At the beginning of the war, the population was about 1000, and at the end, 200. Diseases including typhoid and dysentery were rampant which becomes evident in the death records, as are deaths from emaciation.

Given a total population of 200, roughly, and an average household size of perhaps 5, the total number of families probably wasn’t more than 40 or maybe 50.

Children

Margaretha and Michael had 8 children, all born and baptized in Heiningen over the next 20 years.

  1. Catharina Haag, born September 18, 1671; married Michael Sattler on January 26, 1692, in Heiningen; died September 20, 1745, in Heiningen. Catharina had three children, two sons that reached adulthood and one daughter who died of typhus in 1710, just before her 18th birthday. Margaretha would have known these children, and attended the funeral of Magdalena when she was 64 years old.
  2. Michael Haag, born September 3, 1673; married Barbara Widmann on  February 2, 1723, in Heiningen; died April 4, 1745, in Heiningen of decrepit senility. He was a baker by occupation and had 3 children, one who was born in 1727, but no further information is available. Generally that means the child died. One child was born and died in 1733 and a daughter, Anna Catharina lived to adulthood. These children were all born after Margaretha’s death, so she wouldn’t have known them. I do wonder if the records are complete, because it’s odd that this young couple didn’t have children for the first 4 years of their marriage.
  3. Margaretha Haag, born July 21, 1677; married Ulrich Traub on November 3, 1705, in Heiningen; died May 29, 1724 of typhoid fever and dysentery when her mother was 78 years old. It must have been extremely difficult on elderly Margaretha to bury her adult daughter. That’s not how the cycle of life is supposed to work. Margaretha had 6 children, but left 4 living, the eldest being 18. She had 3 sons and 1 daughter who lived to adulthood. Two daughters died, one in 1717 of dysentery at the age of 2, and one born in 1720 with no further information. Margareta Traub, the daughter who lived, married Georg Haag and had one daughter who lived to adulthood, had children and passed Margaretha Bechtold’s mitochondrial DNA on to future generations. Margaretha would have known all 6 of these grandchildren and buried two of them.
  4. Johann Georg Haag, born April 22, 1682; married Anna Hofschneider on February 2, 1706, in Heiningen; died June 4, 1762, in Heiningen of “weakness of old age.” His occupation was a baker. Johann George had 8 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter was born in 1797 with no further information and one in 1716, one died in 1715 at one year of age and a son died in 1722, just a year old. Margaretha would have known all of these children as well and buried the last 3 in her 70s.
  5. Anna Haag, born December 15, 1684; died July 4, 1685, when Margaretha was 39. Twin births are very unusual, and either twin surviving is even more so. Unfortunately, this twin died a few months later. It’s interesting that Margaretha’s mother also had twins that died.
  6. Maria Haag, born December 15, 1684 when her mother was 38 and died the next day, December 16, 1684. This must have been a miserable Christmas with one twin gone and the other struggling. Twins are often born prematurely and underweight.
  7. Jacob Haag, born June 26, 1687; married Margareta Stolz on May 12, 1711, in Heiningen; died January 17, 1755, in Heiningen of fever and stroke(?). He had 6 children, all born before Margaretha’s death, and 4 of whom lived to adulthood. A daughter was born in 1713 with no further information and a son the following year who died in 1715 wen Margaretha would have been 69 years old.
  8. Anna Maria Haag, born March 4, 1691; married Peter Horn on November 15, 1712, in Heiningen; died December 15, 1768, in Heiningen. She had 5 children, 4 of whom lived to adulthood. One daughter, born in 1718 has no further information. Three daughters married and had children, 2 having daughters who survived to pass on their mitochondrial DNA to future generations. Margaretha would have known all of these children. Her namesake granddaughter Margareta married Lorenz Widmann and Anne Marie Horn married Johann Georg Kummel, both having daughters who had children whose descendants might carry Margaretha Bechtold’s mitochondrial DNA today.

Mitochondrial DNA

Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA is carried by anyone, male or female in the current generation, descended from Margaretha through all females. Her mitochondrial DNA can give us a view into the past to understand more about her ancestors, where they came from, and when.

The females whose names are bolded, above, had daughters who produced daughters – candidates for having descendants who carry Margaretha’s mitochondrial DNA. You can read more about that, here.

I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone descending directly from Margaretha through all females. I’d love to hear from you.

Funerals – So Many Funerals

By the time Margaretha passed on, she had borne 8 children, 6 of whom graced her with 31 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. One of her great-grandchildren died in 1725, but the other lived and Margaretha likely enjoyed that baby, born in 1723, and named for her.

Margaretha buried her husband, the twin girls, and then her daughter Margaretha in 1724 who died of dysentery at the age of 47. It’s likely that Margaretha helped raise her name-sake daughter’s children after her daughter’s death. Margaretha also buried 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Life was tough and grief was always nearby. I expect there were always freshly dug graves in the churchyard. Looking at just the recorded deaths for 1712, and I suspect that not all babies/childrens deaths were entered into the books, there were 22 burials. Given that the entire village knew each other well and were probably related, the entire village population would have attended every funeral, one every couple of weeks.

Then, it was Margaretha’s turn. Margaretha (Bechtold) Haag died on the 27th of June 1726, in Heiningen.

Margaretha Bechtold death

Burial: the 27th of June 1726 died between 5 and 6 a.m. of a preceding half stroke, Margaretha, legitimate wife of Michael Haag aka Coß, baker and oldest judge here and was buried on the feast of Peter & Paul.  Age 80 years. Offering?

I’m not sure what a half stroke is, exactly. Perhaps she was only half paralyzed? Regardless, it’s well known today that people who have experienced one stroke are at risk for complications and additional strokes. Reaching the age of 80 was a remarkable feat in a time of tainted water, minimal medical care, and no antibiotics.

After her death, Margaretha’s body would have been taken to the sacristy in the church after being washed, dressed, and prepared for her funeral.

Margaretha Bechtold sacristy

After the funeral service, her body would have been carried out the door in the sacristy, directly into the churchyard for burial.

A chameleon guards the doorway lintel. The pastor tells us:

During church tours, we declare the small creature to be a chameleon, which traditionally symbolizes change, the change of life transitions: being born, growing up, learning to think, becoming an adult, building trust, also in one’s own abilities. Taking responsibility for doing and not doing. Accepting change, dealing with illness, decrepitude and death. This is sometimes exhausting. The chameleon admonishes to accept change and to keep the ability to change alive.

A hidden ossuary beneath the sacristy, sealed long in the past and only rediscovered in the 1990s, may indeed have been the final resting place of Margaretha’s bones some years later.

Margaretha’s funeral was on the Feast Day of Peter and Paul.

Feast of Peter and Paul

Margaretha Bechtold Peter and Paul

This painting from 1564 shows Jesus being resurrected, surrounded by Peter and Paul, two of his apostles, and two angels.

The Feast of Peter and Paul, Christian martyrs, is always celebrated on June 29th, that date either being the date of their deaths or the translation of their relics. Relics in this sense generally meant a venerated body part and translation means the relic was moved from one location to another.

Some traditions hold that they were both martyred on June 29 in 67 AD, but others state that it was on that day in 258 that their remains were moved to the catacombs.

For centuries, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul was treated as a Holy Day equal to Christmas or Easter. Three masses were celebrated, one for St. Peter, one for St. Paul, and one for the Apostles.

It’s unclear exactly how the Lutheran Church in Heiningen would have celebrated this Holy Feast Day in 1726, but someplace during this feast day, Margaretha’s funeral was held. A sermon was preached and an offering taken.

I would expect that the scriptures typically used on this feast day, telling the story of Peter’s imprisonment and rescue, here, and Christ’s instructions to go and preach before ascending into Heaven, here, were woven into Margaretha’s service.

Then, Margaretha joined her family members someplace outside in the churchyard.

Margaretha Bechtold Heiningen church south side

The sacristy on the south side of the church is the extended portion of the building, at right, behind the flowering tree.

Margaertha Bechtold Heiningen church north side

Burials surrounded the church, on both the north and south sides. The north side is marked by the tower, at far right, the top hidden behind the tree.

No graves remain in the churchyard today, having been removed many years ago. Given that an ossuary is speculated to be buried beneath the sacristy, the parishoners likely removed bones from older graves to make room for new burials for hundreds of years. In other words, the ossuary practice is nothing new in Europe and extended into antiquity.

Three stones in the churchyard, one from the 1600s, are all that is left to remind us of those early burials.

Margaretha Bechtold churchyard

Margaretha was buried here, someplace between the church and the surrounding wall. Remnants of her bones, long ago turned to dust, still remain in this churchyard.

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2 thoughts on “Margaretha Bechtold (1646-1726), Born During the 30 Years War – 52 Ancestors #285

  1. I love your family history stories. You always give ”life” to your ancestors and I read them all. You are able to weave history of the times in a way that adds depth to your characters. Though we don’t share any surnames… You have me hooked! Donna

    • I hope you’ll do the same thing with your ancestors. I find these so fulfilling. And thank you.

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