The Bridge Over the River Pegnitz

I begin my search for our family history with a collection of old photographs left to me at the death of my mother and the incapacity of my father. I had only vague recollections of ever having seen many of them before and did not even know the names of these potential ancestors or relatives. One of the major goals of my first visit to Germany in 2005 was to try to identify the people, and additionally, the places where the pictures were taken. I have been more successful than I thought I could be, but there are still some wonderful photos that remained mysteries.

This is one of the most precious of the old photographs. I shows Conrad, Lena, and two of Lena's sisters, Dorothea, and Eva. The location appears to be a bridge, presumably somewhere in Nürnberg. The date is probably before the 1918 marriage of Conrad and Lena. My imagination and the estimated ages of the people suggests to me is that this is a sort of engagement photograph. My brother Michael recalls that Papa once told him that he proposed to Nana on a bridge, a painting of which hung in their home in Bloomfield New Jersey. For the past few years I have been searching, thinking that the two bridges might be one and the same. As I will argue below, the bridge in this photograph is not likely to be the same bridge that is in the painting.

In my first visits to Germany, I walked the entire length of the Pegnitz river from the northern-western old city wall of Nürnberg, to as far as Mögeldorf, well to the east of Nürnberg and Wöhrd where the old Hasselbachers and Baÿerls lived. I showed that photo to random folks along the way without a definitive identification. The most likely of several unsatisfactory guesses was the old Satzinger Mühle (#5 above) on the Pegnitz by Mögeldorf. My search was handicapped by the fact that most of Nürnberg was reduced to rubble during the bombing of the second world war, and the fact that from 1968 to 1981 there were major excavations that rerouted the Pegnitz river and created the present lake, the Wöhrder See.  Previously it had all been the Wöhrder Wiese, or meadow.

I was becoming resolved to the fact that I may never know the location of the bridge in the photo but was rescued this year by cousins Michael and Franz of Nürnberg. Michael had seen the photo during my first visit in 2005 but could make no identification. He took a second look this October and the presence of the stone wall proved to be a critical clue. Michael and I walked down Deichslerstraße where the Baÿerls lived; along Veilhofstraße, the street where my father was born, to its eastern end; past a large 19th Century building; and to a Kindergarden on whose grounds still stands part of the wall of the old bridge. The fragment of the old wall, and traces of the original course of the Pegnitz convinced us that we had found the location of the bridge in the photo.

The rest of the story is told in these links.  A more detailed description of the possible site is presented on a separate page.  I also made a Video of Bridge Site of Michael and I exploring the site of the bridge and the old course of the Pegnitz. For a the full size image (1 MB) of the map above, click here.

[Addendum, March 2013:  I took another crack at learning the orign and meaning of Veilhofstrasse.]