“Are you German?”
That’s a question I get a lot. It must be the “Friederich” that triggers it.
“American. But half-German by blood. My family moved to the USA a couple generations ago, but they stayed in German communities and my dad is the first one not to marry a German.”
I live in Germany. I moved here in September 2016 and am studying for my Bachelor’s in Heidelberg. It’s a charming university city in the state of Baden-Württemburg, about one hour south of Frankfurt. For me, it is a perfect mix of city with a small-town flavor, abundant history with modern life, and geographically located where the industrial flatlands intersects with the mountainous forests. Heidelberg is highly transitional with tourists and students everywhere, but I live in a more residential part of town with young kids and grandparents and recognize people who take the same bus at the same time. It is a city full of life, art, bikes, cafés, and beauty from every window. No, I’m not getting paid to advertise Heidelberg, but I highly recommend you visit.
It’s been a super easy transition for me to move here. There are various reasons for that. One is that I clearly knew that this was the right place for me to be, which just added a huge layer of peace to the transition. Another is the I adapt fairly easily in transition and have already lived overseas. A third is that it just felt so homey to me, which I’m going to attribute to the fact that my dad’s family is the German-American type of American. Germans have asked me what it is that reminds me of home, and that’s actually hard to place my finger on. But first time I was in Germany in Christmas 2014, my friend’s house so reminded me of my grandparents’ house and the food reminded me of my grandma’s food. Family interactions and values also feel familiar to me. Not the same, but usually familiar.
Familiar. My family came from here. And if you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re a Friederich or related to one. So our family came from here. Since we have that connection, I’m going to share some interesting family history.
In July 2015 I was in Germany to attend a conference and visit friends (which is also when the plan to move here started taking shape). I was visiting one friend who’s from a small town near Schwäbisch Hall, which I knew was where great-great-grandpa Johann had come from. I casually mentioned that to her, not thinking anything of it, and she told her step-dad who was also from Schwäbisch Hall. He loves history and got really excited and called the town archives and arranged a meeting for us to see if they could find out any information about the Friederichs. He also told us a reporter was going to meet us there, but we thought he was joking. We show up at the archives the next day and a woman is waiting there who introduces herself as being from the local paper and starts taking notes and snapping photos. Oh my. (Embarrassing.)
To consolidate a lot of details, the archivist hadn’t been able to find anything until literally minutes before we walked in the door. Looking for a Johann Friederich is like looking for a John Smith, apparently. But he found a letter and some other documents about Johann that he proceeded to explain to us. Johann was a traveling preacher who visited different towns. In one of these towns he met a girl who he then proceeded to marry in 1880. The problem was that she was Methodist and he married her in the Methodist church, but he was not Methodist. This did not go over so well with his denominational leaders, so the letter the archivist found was an official letter basically shunning him from the denomination. A couple years later they immigrated to the USA.
Fascinating! I knew that I came from a line of Methodist pastors, but it was so interesting to learn some of the when and why and drama of the story. Also, fun fact: Friederich is the original spelling. I was curious about that because most of the time I see it spelled Friedrich (with only one ‘e’) here. But in the documents it was spelled Friederich. So now you know. Voilà!