In Feb 2009 I began to examine the old church books of Edenried, the oldest village to which I had been led to search for my Bayerl family. I found many records, but there were also some disappointments. I could not find the marriage record of my 6G Grandparents Michael and Elisabeth. This would have given their parents names and the places of their origins. Initially, I could not find the birth record of my 5G Grandfather Martin Bayerl, nor of his son (my 4G Grandfather) Johann who moved to nearby Affing. There were however enough other family records and pointers such that I felt reasonably confident I had traced the family through three generations in Edenried. (Later I found the birth record of Martin in the books of the nearby village of Haunswiess with an illegible pointer to the residence of his parents. The current consensus is that it was Frecholtzhausen, another nearby village.) This past year I have been consolidating what I learned from the microfilm and from my visit and new friends in southern Germany. My ability to extract and interpret these old manuscripts has improved. I thought it would be worthwhile to read them through again systematically to gain a more global perspective that might improve my understanding.

Additionally, as a physician I have been struck by finding whole pages of baptisms in which death as an infant was indicated. Indeed, in the single terrible month of September 1744, my 6G Grandmother Elizabeth and three of her older children died. I had read a systematic study of another southern Bavarian villages that gave useful insights by analyzing their population statistics. I wanted to look at Edenried in the same way. I wanted to try to understand what it was like to live in that corner of the world in that era. What were their lives like?

I had some additional and more specific hopes. I wanted one more look at the records to capitalize on my increased proficiency and try to find my lost Bayerls. I wanted to have a better understanding of the physical process of record keeping in Edenried to help me identify difficult entries. I wanted to look for alternate spellings of Frecholzhausen and to identify other neighboring villages from which people served as spouses, godparents, and witnesses to important family events. I am still not done.

My initial strategy was to simply count the number of yearly baptisms, marriages and deaths entered in the Edenried church books. Records were available to me on microfilm in the USA covering the period from the early 1600s to the mid-1800s. Indexes that do not list dates are also available. I planned also to count the number of deaths as indicated by the small crosses added to a baptismal entry and from the records of burials.

I made a good start, but had to modify my goals. As I worked forward from the year 1637, it became clear that the records themselves were insufficient to support my planned analysis. Simply put, I concluded that not all sacraments performed on the inhabitants of Edenried were recorded in the Church Books of Edenried. At least some, if not all the missing sacraments must have been recorded in the church books of neighboring villages!

As it became clear that there were gaps in the records, I began to pay more attention to the month of the sacrament, and to changes in the tenure of the priests as evidenced by their handwriting. Useful insights of unexpected kinds were still possible!

I initially wanted to count the number of deaths in the separate "sterbregisters" or death registers. I had to abandon this effort. For one thing, the structure or template of each individual entry was not as uniform as it was for baptisms and marriages. My weakness in Latin made it too difficult to understand the entries. Additionally, it appeared that the recording of deaths was not as systematic or uniform as the other sacraments. In the first volume of church books that was supposed to cover 1637 to 1814, there were no deaths recorded after 1665. It also appeared that some infant deaths were being recorded separately in the death registers as distinguished from annotations on the baptismal entries. I did not think I was going to be able to extract meaningful systematic information and have given up on the death registers for now.

Initial Results

I counted baptisms and marriages from 1637 to 1763. Their numbers were fewer than I expected to find. Marriages were even more infrequent (See also below).  It is likely that due to ambiguities in the records or in my brain that some records may have been assigned to the wrong year. This would not affect my overall conclusions however. The average number of yearly baptisms over this 126-year interval was 5.4 (Range 0 to 12) with a median of 5. The average number of marriages was 1.2 (Range 0 to 8) with a median of 1.

There is a long term trend towards fewer births over the interval I counted.  It was also apparent that there was more variation in baptisms from year to year than I expected. Barring social disruptions due to war, weather, disease, or famine, I expected to see relatively more stability in births than seemed apparent. (This is not to say that the effects of disaster are not also evident.) This lack of predictability caused me to look at other aspects of the individual records.

I noticed that in the opening first years, that some records were not entered sequentially by date. Pages may not have been in order. Some entries seem to have been made some time after the actual baptism. This was not entirely a function of "start-up" because non-sequential entries were also noted in 1653, 1654, and even 1741. I did not look systematically for such occurrences but one can understand how in the practical events of village life that such delayed record entry might have been anticipated. Baptisms were urgent affairs. The pressure was intense to baptize an infant as soon as possible after birth in order to protect his or her little soul. An effort was made to baptize on the day of birth if humanly possible.

Incomplete Records?
As I began to notice the yearly variation, I noticed that the months of baptism were not random. Even in years with many births, the months of birth were not distributed throughout the year so much as in consecutive blocks of months. An obvious explanation is that no baptisms were performed in the village during large portions of the year, or at least not being recorded for those months. My general impression is that more births were being recorded during the fair-weather parts of the year. If no baptisms were being performed or recorded in Edenried, where were they being done? In the home of the child? In a church or chapel? In the parsonage? Was Edenried a "summer-only village" for the peasants? Were there only fair-weather priests? Was there a shortage of priests? I do not know the reasons yet, but for at least two of the Bayerl baptisms, the answer appears to be: baptism could occur in an adjacent village!

I did not count the monthly baptisms with sufficient rigor to demonstrate statistically that there are regular or seasonal gaps in the record. However, it is clear that alternative mechanisms to provide baptisms must have been in place. This is illustrated best when there was a change in priests. Examples of gaps in recorded baptisms before the appearance of a new priest appear to occur in the following years: 1691, 1695, 1699, 1703, 1704, 1713, and 1724. Because I was able to identify changes in the priest only by a change in his handwriting, I must assume that there were other instances. For example, between April 1699 and Jan of the following year, there were no baptisms. Similarly, between Aug 1703 and Sep 1704 there were none. (This was also a time or destructive war in the region.) The scientist in me acknowledges that I that I need to go back and formally extract the data by month and present it in a graphical manner. In my own mind, there are too many examples that forced themselves on me not to conclude that the assembly of records in Edenried was neither consistent nor continuous. An important relevant consequence of this discovery is that not finding all the records I hoped to in Edenried does not mean they did not happen, nor that the people were not there.

Bayerls in other churches.
My delayed finding of two Bayerl records in the Haunswiess church books is consistent with the above hypothesis. My 6G Uncle Andreas Bayerl was baptized in Haunswiess in April 1717. The first of 5 baptisms that year in Edenried was in May. My 5G Grandfather Martin was baptized in Haunswiess in Nov 1718. The last of 3 baptisms that year in Edenried was in September. If it is the case that the parishioner sought the priest and not the church for a baptism, than by correlating the two sets of church books it should be possible to find other examples. There were a few enough families living in Edenried, that it should not be too difficult to identify them. (Of course, it is possible that Michael and Elisabeth lived in a different part of the area in 1718.)

This is not an idle exercise. I was already asking the question about what it meant to appear in the church book of one of these villages. In the 1718 baptismal entry for Martin Bayerl, there was a notation appearing to indicate that he was from a place other than Haunswiess. Many experienced people looked at that record for me. The custodians of the physical church book in Augsburg brought it out for us to look at. (Apparently an uncommon occurrence!) The uniform conclusion is that the reference was to Frecholtshausen (but probably spelled differently.) Are we to conclude that Michael and Elisabeth lived in that tiny place at that time? Was it considered part of greater Edenried? Did they attend more than one church? Was a larger church used in the winter? I am hopeful that better understanding of the practical aspects of baptism in Edenried in the 17th and 18th centuries will help me to further trace the Bayerl family in Germany.

Dry Spells.
There were some stretches where there were not very many baptisms or marriages. Things were slow to get going after 1637 although there was a burst of activity between 1641 and 1644. Following that it was not until 1652 that a slow increase began again. The area around Augsburg was much destroyed during the 30 Years War. Aichach itself was burned in 1634. Augsburg never regained its former prosperity. If the story in Franconia following the devastation of that war is any measure, it would have taken decades to fully recover in the small villages. I do not yet know the dates of specific activity around the district of Aichach.

A prominent dry spell of baptisms began around 1704. This was another devastating time for the region. The war of Spanish Succession was being fought on the Danube just to the north. The French commanders pursued a policy of despoliation to force their opponents’ hands. This meant burning and otherwise destroying villages in the area.

Another 8 or 9-year period of relatively few baptisms began around 1740. I do not know is this represents incomplete record keeping, or some social disruption. We should be able to find out!


There were not many marriages, even in a good year.  Of course, the population of the village was not very large. The Aichach website states that in 1750 there were only 25 properties in the village.  In the mid-1800s there were still only 29 houses in the family registers of Edenried proper. Indeed, it is fair to ask where the newlyweds would live!

I wondered if following a cluster of marriages that we would see a burst of births.  One can select parts of the graph above and try to make such a point.  However, the postulated incomplete data and the relatively low numbers make any such connection speculative.

Infant Deaths.
As mentioned above, I was stimulated to look at the mortality rates in the village because of the terrible experience of my family in 1744. It was immediately clear that I was not going to be as initially successful as I hoped. The death registers were beyond my skills, and the priests were inconsistent about annotating the baptismal records. The small crosses that began to appear about 1667, were used irregularly in the late 1680s and not at all for a while after 1693. Beginning around 1754, the annotation was again used in what appears to be a consistent way.

Based on other studies in the literature, I anticipated an infant mortality somewhere below 50%. At the end of the interval for which I abstracted records, there was a terrible stretch from 1754 to 1763 in which 33 of the total 52 baptisms, (63%) were marked as having died. For the last five years of that interval, 71% of the 35 births were marked as deaths. For the last two years of 1762 and 1763, only two of 13 births survived (15% survival). Those grim statistics indicate that something was very wrong in the village of Edenried. I do not yet know what that was.

I did not do an exhaustive tally, but it appeared that all the children baptized were assumed to have come from Edenried. Their godparents however came from all the little villages in the area. For marriages, one or both of the bridal couple were from Edenried with witnesses from the same cluster of villages. I did not specifically look for, but found at least one record in which neither the bride nor groom were from Edenried.

Spelling Variation of Villages
It was apparent that like peoples names, there was some modest variation in the spelling of the names of the villages. I found several variant spellings of Frecholzhausen in the later 1600s. The spellings looked like: Frehelzhausen, Frechentshausen, or Frechetshausen. Similarly Haunswies was generally spelled differently than its modern version. Some phonetic or other variation entered the records. This is relevant due to the difficulty I had identifying the village of origin of Michael and Elizabeth Bayerl.

Concluding remarks.
It is clear that to better understand why my family name appears in the church registers of Edenried, or for that matter why it might not, I need to learn more about church history and practices. I will try. Help me if you can. This is not the first time that one discovery has led to multiple new unanswered questions. I am not alone in believing that is a good thing!

I have not yet extended the analysis of baptisms and marriages beyond 1763. That is a task for another time and an improved strategy.