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Revealing Traces of Our Ancestors

Sebastian Müller, a graduate of TU Chemnitz researches at the Professorship for Economic and Social History the fatalities in Rußdorf district of Limbach-Oberfrohna

  • In the Lutherkirche Chemnitz was baptized the grandmother of Sebastian Müller. Until now, he could not throw a glimpse into the parish book. Photo: Katharina Preuß

Under the working title `Demographic, economic and socio-structural transactions on the example of Rußdorf and Bräunsdorf between 1582 and 1935´, the graduate of TU Chemnitz Sebastian Müller researches as doctoral student at the Professorship for Economic and Social History the population growth in these two former villages in the administrative district of Zwickau. His goal is to find explanations for the way how the population of a municipality, including their economic and social conditions has changed through the upcoming industrialization in the 18th and 19th centuries. “I have a keen interest in the former living environment. Historians often focus on the great events and personalities. But how did actually the ordinary people live?“, asks Müller. Also his personal curiosity resonates in the task: “My family comes from the region of Limbach-Oberfrohna. For me it is interesting to know where my ancestors actually come from and how their family tree has been developed.“

For his research paper, Müller uses a variety of sources. Primarily, he looks at the church records of the villages, transfers these lists to cards, attempts to detect from the entries cross-connections and tries to acquire new knowledge. Even registry office records and land registers provide information about how people used to live. Therefore, he spends a lot of time in the city and state archives of Chemnitz, Leipzig and Dresden. Especially the archive, which was re-opened after a move to Altchemnitz district, generates the real buzz among doctoral students. ”The archive is modern and the records are extremely helpful“, says Müller.

The doctoral student, who was born in Chemnitz, has already completed most of his thesis. After the research now follows an evaluation analysis. Sebastian Müller has already entered nearly 46,000 people into his database. For example, investigated may be family constellations, common occupations as well as causes of death over several generations. The first results are intriguing, because using his findings, the young researcher can literally state that the entire population of Rußdorf descends from a restaurateur named Jakob Richter. ”The landlord was a respected figure in the community during his lifetime and had seemingly many descendants“, marvels Müller. His research paper does not go unnoticed, especially in the Limbach region. The city archivist and also an initiator of the Genealogy Regulars` Table in `Limbacher Land´ baptized Müller with a grin into `Dr. Rußdorf´.

Already during the school years, Müller began to devote himself to the genealogical research. ”In the fifth grade our task was to draw a family tree. Since then, I had caught the fever for the genealogy and it never left me“, recalls the 25-year-old student. His interest in this extensive theme did not weaken even during his studies. After a successfully completed Bachelor`s degree in the European History at TU Chemnitz, he applied for the Master`s program in the same subject and has also passed it with excellence. In January 2013, Müller began to work on his PhD doctoral thesis. He receives support in particular from his parents, who stand by Müller during his time as a graduate student. He has already covered his back financially. All further co-payments for example for the health insurance company he has saved up during his years of study by doing a number of side jobs. He worked as a student assistant at the Professorship for Europe in the Middle Ages and in the Early Modern Period and consciously put the earned money aside for his future plans. After successful completion of his Master`s degree, Müller worked for some time at the State Archive of Chemnitz. Following the advice of his supervisor Prof. Dr. Rudolf Boch, Müller additionally submitted an application for a research fellowship of the non-profit Gerda Henkel Foundation. A bit later, he has received an assurance for a twelve-month financial support with the possibility of an extension. For the period after graduation he currently has no specific plans. “In the first place, I want to bring everything to an end. Where I might turn up later, remains to be seen“, said Müller.

(Author: Katharina Preuß, Translation: Nataliia Boiko)

Katharina Thehos

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