With no father of her children on 19thc German birth records, how do we discover him?

+9 votes

Christina von Berg did not use marriage apparently as a safeguard for her children. She also did not always use the von in her name but she recorded the birth of her every child with a von Berg for her and the child. What can genealogists do to find other sorts of records for him, such as directories, licenses, whatever might be available? A DNA test in this century would not give such records with names.

Here's a record from ancestry.com

Deutschland, Tote und Beerdigungen 1582-1958 Germany, Select Deaths and Burials, 1582-1958 about Mina Von Berg
Mina Von Berg
Marital Status:
Birth Date:
Death Date:
5 Jul 1869
Death Place:
Burial Date:
7 Jul 1869
Christina Von Berg
FHL Film Number:
Reference ID:
p 76 cn 38

Christina died in the apartment of a neighbor Franz Metzger, whose apartment was near hers. What was their relationship or how to find it? To answer that may provide more information about her coupling and thereby provide access to living relatives ultimately.

more detail:

Christina Berg, “from” Hüffenhardt, in the administration district of the town Neckar-bischofsheim.   (SOURCE: email from Daniela TESTA, archivist reporting Karlsruhe city records)

Christine/Christina died in the apartment of Franz Metzger, Kaiserstraße 121, at Karlsruhe. He was a trader. Their relationship is unknown, but she was either living with or staying with Mr. Metzger.  He could have been a relative, her lover, her unmarried spouse. All that can accurately be said about Mr. Metzger is that Christine Berg died in his apartment at Kaiserstraße 121, in Karlsruhe. I infer that like so many of her relatives, they were unmarried at the time, but both or one of her children could have been fathered by him. Could a German newspaper for the weeks shortly after Jan 5, 1905, could tell us something about her death, perhaps, or more authoritative family information?

WikiTree profile: Franz Metzger
in Genealogy Help by Living Berg - Hilse G2G4 (4.5k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway

I have found the Von Berg at https://familysearch.org/

Marriage: 29 Nov 1805 Johann Carl Vomberg  TO Charlotha Franciska Sallman Born 12 Jan 1788
Grooms: Father’s Name  Johann Georg Vomberg
Spouse's Father's Name  Johann Georg Wilhelm Sallmann
Spouse’s  Mother’s Name Christina Franciscka


Father: Johann Carl Von Berg

Mother: Charlotha Franciscka Saellmann (aka.  Franziska Sallmann)

            Children:       Carl Ludwig Von Berg  Birth 11 Jan 1808

                                    Franziska Sophia Von Berg  15 May 1809

                                    Theresia Louisa Von Berg – Birth 3 Sep 1810

                                    Carolina Wilhelmina Von Berg  Birth: 05 Aug 1812  Death 04 May 1815

                                    Luisa Catharina Friederika Von Berg   Birth       06 Jul 1815

                                    Catharina Friedrika Rosina Von Berg   Birth   02 Mar 1818

                                    Luise Charlotte Von Berg  Birth   Nov 1823   Death: 15 Jan 1892

                        August Von Berg  Birth   03 Aug 1826          Death 17 June 1896

                        Wilhelmine Amalie Von Berg   Birth   12 Sep 1831       Death 20 Dec 1898


Marriage: 04 Jan 1852  at Karlsruhe, Baden, Germany

Wife:          Franziska Charlotte Sallmann  (Widowed) Born 24 Feb 1818 – Father’s Name Johann Carl Von Berg  Mothers Name:  Franziska Charlotte Sallmann                                                                                        

Husband:     Johann Carl Von Berg   Born  06 Nov 1801   - Father’s Name: Jakob Bayer  Mother’s Name Juliana Karler


Looks like you may have the mother Franziska Sallmann as a child so need to delete the mother and father off that profile.

You also need to research name variations of  Von Berg Vomberg etc.

Please check if you think this is your family you are researching. 

Your Mina Von Berg may be the daughter of one of the above sons, so I always start at what I know and then work from there.  Mina seems to have died at birth.

Good luck with your research

Please pardon my delay, Debra. It was unavoidable, Not my choice at all

During a long correspondence several years ago with one of the men regulating the Sallman/Sallmanhausen genealogy from Germany, I found some of the items you have so generously contributed now from familysearch.Your findings helped me to see that indeed I should not focus on the pair of people at the bottom of the Sallman genealogy that haven't been assigned an ID number, but look further up in his listing to find an item for a woman with a similar name. The details are too tangley (and I am still in the midst of what delayed me), but I am nudged by your answer to rethink the situation and problem. I have a bias that got in my way when I ignore the familysearch site.  If you'd like to see the real source: http://www.sallmann-genealogy.de/html/neuenstadt.htm.  Then go to this listing: (note, there's no DOD, only DOB)


Charlotta Franziska



Maienfels b. Neuhütten

and at the bottom of the page, two items (accidentally) placed together, making them seem my couple. But Christine here in this grand list is b. about 100 yrs before my Christine von Berg (1843-1905), who is the mother of Wilhelmina and Paulina, who died early but whose family names they carry and were carried on, but she omitted the father of her children listed on their deliberately stated "von Berg" birth records. * "of mountain" is of course the translation of von Berg, and is shown as "of mountain" in this Sallmann genealogy (one of 4 parts).


Johann Carl

of mountain*






Christine Franziska

of Olnhausen


Finster Roth



 An Archivist in Karlsruhe first gave me "Carl von Berg" as Christine's father, but he does not seem to be the fairly famous forest scientist (Karl) of that area.

I'm very grateful for this information you offered Debra, amazing though apparently easy to find without a bias. Shame on me.


A new part of the process: the entire section of that grand tree is found under the link for it above, but it is in "micro" format. One may enlarge it to read it to work backward historically to the progenitor of the line Burkhardt (ck sp) Sallmann (ck for accuracy):  the following link is readable:


So the family seems to know/agree that Georg Wilhelm (b. 4-12-1737 Maienfels; d 5/4/1792 Maienfels was the biological father and they have taken as his wife: (as above; without ID)








Christine Franziska

of Olnhausen


Finster Roth



BEYOND that, the line is unclear with this Christine's father unknown, and a mother listed for Georg Wilhelm ID'd as 1CDJd (Susanna Maria, b. 1701).

3 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer


One does one's best, but at the end of the day a genealogy is more of a socio/cultural history than a biological one. The truth is that when one adds up all of the sexual assaults, infidelities, unacknowledged &/or informal adoptions, etc, the biological paternity is not the documented one in about 10% of all births (controversial, estimates vary from as low as 4% to over 20%).

This means that for the 7 births represented by myself, my parents, and their parents, there is only about a 50% chance that at least one of them is not as presented on paper. Add the great-grandparents and the chance drops to 20%.  The chances that all of the records I have entered here on WikiTree reflect biological reality is 1.873927703884821e-14 ... less than my chance of winning the PowerBall.

Even that is misleading because once the true biological history diverges from the recorded one, all of the relationships prior to the glitch are negated. For the purposes of that genealogy they are all false.

Now, add on to that bureaucratic and clerical errors. For eg, at a wedding where I was Best Man the Priest entered my name as the Groom. In our culture such a mistake is easily caught and corrected. Even 200 yrs ago when literacy was far less common and the Parish record was often the only record, how much less likely for such an error to be discovered?

So yes, we do our best and the tapestry we weave is an amazing, and largely correct one, but we know for a fact that it is not a true representation of the actual biological history no matter how meticulous we are. However, it is a fascinating and beautiful socio/cultural history, and well worth doing for that reason alone. Enjoy :-)

by Mike Kaulbars G2G4 (4.5k points)
selected by Living Hilse
Mike, hi, and your answer was rich and enlightening.  I dread making errors on my tree, and thus I've been much slower and have tried to "get it right." That, according to your powerball and ff., is impossible. Of course. What's a record anyway? It makes sense to the one who keeps the records, unless, like a pharmacist, the person is distracted. Yes I have learned so much in this research--about the defensive myths my German Gma Anna Berg dispensed to her son and his half-sister, given the social pressures to conform to the norms and to tow the line, as the Germanic "tribes" avow, making the citizenry crazy with shame and willing subscription to Das Ordnung (Towing the line, wherever it is).

I will want to look at your tree in the near future, and thank you so much for providing your enlightened responses below.
Thank you, you are too kind.

Yes, of course we must be meticulous and do our very best not to add to the confusion. Let's just not kid ourselves about what is possible and enjoy the art for what it is. :-)
+5 votes

I have a similar situation for a dutch ancestor of mine (Hendrikje.)  She had three children out of wedlock before marrying a man, who recognized two of the three existing children, and then had two more children, presumably with this man.  Although the birth records for the first two children were annotated at the time of the marriage to list Husband as their father and these two children started using Husband's surname, it is highly unlikely that he was their biological father.

I came to this conclusion based on a number of other available information (luckily for my research, these two individuals were not average citizens and their various exploits were recorded):  My first clue as to the biological father of children #2 and #3 was from newspaper records in the city where Hendrikje lived.  She had a boyfriend living with her and her mother who got in trouble with the law and his initials were published in the newspaper story along with the full names of Hendrikje and her mother.  This led me to looking for names in the police records for men with the same initials for the same time period. Once I discovered his name I found him in the civil registers / census records living with Hendrikje and her mother during the period when children #2 and #3 were conceived and born.  One more clue for child #2 came from divorce records for Hendrikje's live-in boyfriend.  Boyfriend was married at the time that child #2 was conceived and born but the legal proceedings for the divorce specifically named Hendrikje as the partner in Boyfriend's adultery, which was the reason given for the divorce.  The legal proceedings also stated that Hendrikje had given birth to Boyfriend's child and the Boyfriend had already moved out of the house where his wife lived and was living with Hendrikje and her mother.

Besides newspapers, civil registration (who's living where,) and divorce proceedings, you may also be able to find links between your ancestor and her children's fathers in business contracts, wills, military records listing beneficiaries, or telephone books (if this occurred recently enough.) 

by Erik Oosterwal G2G6 Mach 5 (51.1k points)
Eric, Thank you very much for this "exciting" narrative and successful search information! Because I'm in the USA, I' not sure I could find these European records or understand them (Though I did read in German decades ago). In the Area of Baden or of Frankfurt, or of Karlsruhe, I will need to research this from a position of ignorance, I fear. I will do this search over  months or years, I suppose, because it is not obvious how to begin.

Roberta,  I am also in the US and can only access records easily if they are available on the internet.  For my Dutch lines this is made very easy because most of my relatives are Frisian and the province of Friesland has been very proactive about scanning, indexing, cataloging all the old records and making them available online for free.

Here are some external links that may help you, assuming you weren't already aware of them:

Try searching the newspapers for Christina von Berg's name during her lifetime.  I imagine that von Berg is a common enough name that you will end up with a lot of false hits, but it's worth a shot.  I'll be offline for about a week but will do some searching for you when I get back.
Please pardon my delay, Erik.

Such deep research in German feels now an insurmountable sheer rock climb. Another time it may be approachable. Christina used no von in her records, but only on the birth record of her children, as far as I know.

I'll start looking at each of your links as soon as I get well, perhaps a couple of weeks.

Thank you again.
+2 votes
I would first of all get the microfilm that your extract is from. Comb through the BMD records (or get someone who can read the script to do so). The extracts don't give all the details. After that you could see what other information is available about life in that area at that time, and if Christina was likely to have received an obituary. My guess is that if she had several children out of wedlock, she was too poor to marry, but marriage rules varied in different localities.

Among my Germans in the Posen region, most fathers of illegitimate children were not listed in the baptismal record. Since one or two were, perhaps those men acknowledged their children. However, I don't know enough of the social history of the area yet to be sure. The women were poor and we haven't seen later documentation of parentage.
by Karla Huebner G2G6 Mach 1 (12.0k points)
Thanks for your kind directions, Karla. To follow up, please say what BMD means. (I hope it's not birth, marriage, and divorce. Would you mean in Family Search, which I looked into a bit this morning, but can't do more now. (That site is amazing, truly.) Yes the script is difficult, and I do not know those who can read it. I can manage through a bit of it, and so Perhaps I can manage.
Birth, Marriage, Death. I doubt you would find many divorces.

Through Family Search you can order microfilms of the actual parish records (at least, those that have been filmed). Very little of what has been microfilmed has been digitized, so the online information is just a start.

Some of the volunteers at the Family History Centers (where you would receive the microfilms) can read old German script. Members of your local genealogy society can probably also help you find someone who can read it. The script is very different than our cursive and definitely requires study. Sometimes the pastor put the names in our style of cursive but wrote everything else in German script. This might be a situation where you would be best off hiring a German-specialist genealogist--but give it a try yourself first.
Yes of course, I meant divorce. Sometimes the fingers dominate the brain. Sigh.

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