Christoph Bechtold (<1619 - <1671), Baker in Ebersbach – 52 Ancestors #313

Christoph Bechtold’s daughter, Margaretha, married on July 28th, 1671 to Michael Hag in the village of Ebersbach. That marriage record led us to her parents and her birth record.

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.

Christoph’s Children

Margaretha wasn’t Christoph’s firstborn child.

Christoph’s name was 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 on May 1, 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.

It’s certainly possible that Christoph had absolutely no memory of life without warfare.

Yet, life, to some extent, 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.

Village Life

Christoph and his family attended the Lutheran church in Ebersbach, By the time they lived there, that church was already old, having been built in the 1200s.

Church in a German village was the center of life and generally the center of the village as well. People were married there, attended services on Sundays, baptized their babies, celebrated confirmations, attended funerals, and buried their family in the churchyard outside. Birth to death, life revolved around the church.

The Protestant religion was extremely important to villagers – worth fighting and dying for. The 30 Years’ War was a religious war between Catholics and Protestants, beginning in 1618 and not ending until 1648.

Christoph lived much of his adult life, perhaps most of his entire life, as this war raged around him. We’ll never know how this affected him, but I’d wager that a baker suffered significantly because the grain crop had to be planted, allowed to grow without being trampled or burned, harvested, dried, and then ground into meal or flour before a baker begins the actual baking process. No flour or ingredients? No baking.

The military approach to the 30 Years’ War was to destroy everything in the German countryside, including the fields. I wonder how enough grain managed to make it through the entire growing season – how any did, actually. We know that much of the population starved.

In a way, I’m actually amazed that this family was able to survive at all. For all we know, Christoph didn’t. We don’t know when he was born, or died, nor when his wife died. They could have been war casualties.

Other than Margaretha, the only thing we know for sure about his children is that the twin named Margaretha born in 1640 died. Otherwise, the daughter born in 1646 would not have been named Margaretha.

When Was Christoph Born?

We don’t know when Christoph was born, or where, but it was most likely in this same village or at least nearby.

Christoph would have had to apprentice as a baker to learn the trade, and the most likely place to have done that was in his own home. In a small village, there would have been only one baker.

If Christoph’s first child was born in 1640, Christoph would have been born about 1619 or earlier. Of course, there’s no way to know if the child or children, twins actually, born in 1640 was his first, or if that’s just the first child we have a record for.

If that birth was the first, then Christoph likely married about 1639 which means he would have been born before 1619.

I have found mention of a Christof (Stofel) Bechtold born August 3, 1615, in Esslingen, not far away, but I don’t have that record and I can’t confirm that it’s him.

Of course, Christoph could have been substantially older. If Margaretha born in 1646 was his youngest child, and his wife was the same age, Christoph could have been born about 1600.

A Baker

I keep hearing the refrain, “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.” These were the all-important trades that any village required. Christoph’s daughter, Margaretha married a baker as well, so it’s certainly possible that Christoph had an apprentice who caught his daughter’s eye.

This medieval baker is working with his apprentice.

You can learn about reconstructing medieval bread, here. After reading that article, I had a MUCH greater appreciation for what Christoph did – every single day.

The Bechtold home would have incorporated the large oven required to bake bread and other pastries such as savory meat pies and treats such as gingerbread, daily.

Gingerbread, from a manuscript dating about 1520, being lovingly baked by a barefoot medieval baker. Ok, I give, why was the baker barefoot?

Gingerbread in medieval Germany was so popular it was regulated by a gingerbread guild!

By Wolfgang Sauber – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12749977

The tops of gingerbreads were decorated with designs from molds.

Next, my research revealed an AMAZING thing. Gingerbread + dark chocolate. Oh yea!

There was both “regular” gingerbread and dark chocolate Lebkuchen as well, an assortment shown today. That combines two of my very favorite things.

By SElefant – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3235229

I actually sampled some of these when I was in Germany from a tin just like this, and never realized the connection. I need a dark chocolate gingerbread recipe!!!

I clearly have the gingerbread gene and so did my mother. My son still asks for gingerbread as his birthday cake every year!.

Apparently, lots of other people love gingerbread too. I’d wager Christoph was a VERY popular man at the local market! In fact, this might explain a lot.

Ebersbach, first mentioned in 1170, was an old market town, located on the oft-traveled Roman road between Italy and the Netherlands, nestled at the feet of the Swabian Alps.

Of course, the only people traveling that road during the 30 Year’s War were likely refugees and soldiers. Soldiers, like it or not, had to eat too, and perhaps the fact that bakers were essential and ovens weren’t transportable played a part in Christoph’s family’s survival. Maybe gingerbread, and chocolate, literally saved the day for my ancestors.

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7 thoughts on “Christoph Bechtold (<1619 - <1671), Baker in Ebersbach – 52 Ancestors #313

  1. Roberta,
    This post is particularly apropos to my research. Two weeks ago I discovered that my 4th great grandparents were born in Bergun, Graubunden, Switzerland. I am reading up on the history of that entire area and it is so much to learn. Your post is very inspirational! I don’t know how you have the time to keep up with your DNA research posts and your 52Ancestors at the same time! I admire you!

    • Sometimes I don’t. That’s why no ancestor story last week. But I just love bringing them to life this way.

  2. Dear Roberta,
    My grandmother, Bertha Corson, from Cape May, New Jersey, put coffee in her ginger cakes, which deepens the flavor. I am sure a little chocolate would do the same.
    If anyone has such a recipe, I would love to see it as well.
    Cathy in MI

  3. This is so nice to find today. I am deeply into reading the triology The Hugenot Chronicles, by Paul C.R. Monk. I just finished the part where the immigrants passed through many of the burned towns in Germany. I sure many of the ones you have researched suffered the same fate. I’ve enjoyed reading of the Hugenots as many of my ancestors were of that group. It is interesting to me to know that so many of my ancestors were fervent Christians, both Anabaptists and Hugenots. In Fact many of the Anabaptists were from the Palatinates and the Hugenots took refuge there because of the shared beliefs.

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