My Ancestral Heritage

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This post explores my name and ancestry..

My Name

My name is Dale William Kirmse.  My first name, “Dale”, was a favorite boys name when I was born – I had a number of classmates that were named Dale.  My middle name, William, is in honor of both my paternal grandfather Wilhelm “William” Kirmse and my maternal grandfather, William Leopold Brunken. My surname, Kirmse, is though my great-grandfather, Julius Kirmse who immigrated to the USA from Fichtenhainichen, Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg which today it is combined with Rositz, a municipality of the district Altenburger Land, in Thuringia, Germany.

Our family pronounces Kirmse as “Kurmzey”  as if it rhymed with guernsey.  However, my German professor in college admonished me for mispronouncing my own name and noted thqt it should be pronounced as “Keermsa”

According to “The Kirmse’s in Altenburger Land” by Karlheinz Weidenbruch[1]: The family name Kirmse is one of the most common surnames of Altenburger Land. There is an unanimous view of its formation: Kirmse is a so-called cibername. which tells us something about the characteristics of the bearer. The Kirmse’s are people who are especially fond of celebrating,  And a Kirmes was the big festival for the Altenburger farmers after the harvest. According to the present state of knowledge, the surname of the local Kirrnse families originated in Altenburger Land itself, so it was not carried in by immigration. Weidenbruch[1] goes on to say that the oldest documented Kirmse is Caspar Kirmse who is mentioned on an 1446 invoice. And, at that time, there was also a monk named Kirmse in a local monastery. However, their origins will probably always remain unknown.

The Kirmse

In Thuringia and Saxony, the words Kirmse, Kirmes, Kerms, Kermst, Kärms, and Kärmst translate to the equivalent English words “Church Fair”, “Fair” or “Jamboree”. They are derived from the Middle High German “Kirmesse” which is a contraction of “Kirchmesse” or in English “Church Mass”. In the Middle ages, a Kirmse was the occasion of the first Mass for the consecration of a church as a sacred place as well as its annual anniversary. In addition to the day of the dedication and its anniversary there were festivals and celebrations. Over the centuries, the fair either merged or tended to be connected with the harvest festival. Today the religious context usually plays a subordinate role.

Several first hand accounts are available of the Kirmse in Thuringia near to Julius Kirmse’s ancestral home in Altenburger Land.[7]  The Kirmse is an annual festival of the German peasantry. Preparations for a Kirmse were made by a committee of young peasant lads, who were called Kirmse-boys, and an elected leader whose command was law.  The Kirmse generally took place in the Fall, during the interval between Summer and Winter work, and lasted from two to three days. However in some localities, to properly celebrate the Kirmse demanded a good eight days, from Sunday to Sunday, inclusive, and the inviolable law of the time was that eating and drinking shall not cease, and that dancing shall be made subserve the purpose of sleep.

The Kirmse was ushered in with many ceremonies. The young men and women, in holiday dress, formed in procession, and marched to the church, where an appropriate service was performed. Today, in many locations such as Rudisleben, Germany, the Kirmse is organized by a “Fair Society” which works through the previous year to support the continuation of regional and cultural customs. [5]Kirmesgesellschaft (Fair Society) in Rudisleben, Germany

Note the young men in the above picture are dressed in their finest with tall hats.  Also, note that there is only one female member of the “Fair Committee”. [6]

Kirmse Family Tree

A genealogical record of my Kirmse Family Tree has been created as the result of extensive family research along with the help from like-minded relatives.  The branches of the Kirmse Family Tree extend to my great-great-grandparents and beyond. Below is a pedigree chart showing the first four generations of these ancestors

Kirmse Family Tree
Kirmse Family Tree

The “Kirmse Family Tree” containing this genealogical information database is publically available on  There was apparently little migration of these ancestors until my great-grandparents immigrated to the USA. And in the case of the families in the Scheeßel parish, only 2% married someone from outside the parish for centuries, so it was a close community.   Because of this, some of the Meier/Meyer and Cordes ancestors were identified out to 12 generations with the guidance of a 7th cousin, Daniel Oetjen[9], who is a professional genealogist from the Scheeßel parish in Germany.

DNA Ancestry Composition

As an aid in locating and attracting distant cousins, I have had multiple DNA tests that placed me in several DNA genealogy databases.  And, I have had the opportunity to identify and communicate with several distant cousins who also participated in these tests through gene marker matching.

Ancestry composition/ethnic estimates are based on rather complicated models and algorithms and the following are the ancestry composition/ethnic results of the tests that I took.  As can be seen. the predicted results vary considerably.  Personally, I find ancestry composition results interesting but I view them as experimental in nature and they are evolving.

23 And Me – Ancestry Composition

  • Northwestern European 74.6%
    • Scandinavian 17.7%
    • British & Irish 16.3%
    • French & German 6.6%
    • Broadly Northwestern European 34.1%
  • Eastern European 16.3%
  • Southern European 0.8%
    • Iberian 0.8%
  • Broadly European 8.3%

Paternal Haplogroup:  R-M512 (Y-DNA 37 Marker)

Maternal Haplogroup: J1c3

Family Tree DNA – Ethnic Makeup

  • Scandinavia 46%
  • East Europe 39%
  • British Isles 14%
  • Finland < 1%

Paternal Haplogroup:  R-YP263 (Y-DNA111 Marker)

Maternal Haplogroup: J1c3


Ethnicity Estimate – Summary

  • Europe West 44%
  • Great Britain 36%
  • Europe East 10%
  • Finland/Northwest Russia 8%

Fine-Scale Ancestral Origins

Predicted Ethnic origins for 150+ regions

  • Asia East 1%
  • Europe West 14%
    • Germany & the Midwestern United States 7%
    • Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium & Luxembourg 5%
  • Great Britain 13%
    • Northern England & the Midlands 3%
    • Wales & the West Midlands 3%
    • Southern England 3%
  • Europe East 14 %
    • Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland & Lithuania 7%
    • Poland, Slovakea, Hungary & Romania 4%
  • Finland/Northwest Russia 4%
    • Finland 3%
  • Scandinavia 17%
    • Sweden 3%
    • Western Norway 4%
    • Central Norway 4%
  • Ireland/Scotland/Wales 24%
    • Ulster, Ireland 5%
    • Connacht, Ireland 5%
    • Munster, Ireland 6%
  • Scotland 4%
  • Europe South 11%
    • Southern Italy 8%
  • European Jewish 8%
    • Western & Central Europe 3%
  • Native American 30%
    • New Mexico 2%
    • Western & Central Mexico 5%
    • Chihuahau & Durango 5%
    • Northwest Mexico & the Southern California Coast 3%
Pacific Islander
  • Polynesia 1%
West Asia
  • Caucasus 1%
  • Middle East 1%

At first glance, one might think these results are in error and should show a major German ancestry. However, these DNA ancestry results can largely be explained based on the history of the ancestral areas where my great-grandparents lived before immigrating to the USA..


All of my great-grandparents immigrated to the USA from Germany and Bavaria as follows:

Ancestral Homes

The following is known about my great-grandparent’s ancestral homes.


The 1866-1871 map of Germany points to the ancestral homes of my great-grandparents.

Great-Grandparent Ancestral Homes
Great-Grandparent Ancestral Homes

One observation is that most of my great-grandparent’s ancestral homes were in the north of Germany near Scandinavia.


A review of the history of the ancestral homes of my great-grandparents shows that over the centuries they were under various state ownership and rulers.

Joldelund, Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig and Holstein have at different times belonged in part or completely to either Denmark or Germany, or have been virtually independent of both nations. The exception is that Schleswig had never been part of Germany until the Second Schleswig War in 1864. For many centuries, the King of Denmark was both a Danish Duke of Schleswig and a German Duke of Holstein. Essentially, Schleswig was either integrated into Denmark or was a Danish fief, and Holstein was a German fief and once a sovereign state long ago. Both were for several centuries ruled by the kings of Denmark. In 1721, all of Schleswig was united as a single duchy under the king of Denmark. In the church, following the reformation, German was used in the southern part of Schleswig and Danish in the northern part. The administration of both duchies was conducted in German, despite the fact that they were governed from Copenhagen.

The promulgation of a common constitution for Denmark and Schleswig in November 1863 prompted Otto von Bismarck to intervene and Prussia and Austria declared war on Denmark. This was the Second War of Schleswig, which ended in Danish defeat and Denmark lost Schleswig (Northern and Southern Schleswig), Holstein, and Lauenburg to Prussia and Austria.  After the annexation of Schleswig-Holstein by Prussia a country parish was formed from the area of ​​the parish Joldelund. It included the four villages Goldebek, Goldelund, Joldelund and Kolkerheide .

The northernmost part and west coast of the province saw a wave of emigration to America, while some Danes of North Schleswig emigrated to Denmark.  It was at this time that Carsten Petersen immigrated to the USA. According to family lore, Carsten always considered himself to be Danish.

(Derived from Wikipedia at


Oldenburg is an independent city in the district of Oldenburg and became the capital of the County of Oldenburg (later DuchyGrand Duchy, and Free State), a small state in the shadow of the much more powerful Hanseatic city of Bremen.  The earliest recorded inhabitants of the region now called Oldenburg were a Teutonic people – the Chauci. The genealogy of the counts of Oldenburg can be traced to the Saxon hero Widukind (opponent of Charlemagne).  The Free Hanseatic City of Bremen and the bishop of Münster frequently warred with the counts of Oldenburg. In 1448, the son and heir of Count Dietrich (died 1440), named Christian but called Fortunatus, became king of Denmark as Christian I. In 1450, Christian became king of Norway and in 1457 king of Sweden; In 1773 Danish rule ended and, in 1774, the Oldenburg region became a duchy. During the French annexation (1811–1813) in the wake of the Napoleonic war against Britain, it was also known as Le Vieux-Bourg.

(Derived from Wikipedia at

Westerstede, Oldenburg

Westerstede was an administrative district of the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg and the later Free State of Oldenburg . Finds of hand axesstone axes and scrapers prove that today’s Westerstedes was settled early. In the 15th and 16th centuries Westerstede and the surrounding villages often suffered from the warlike feuds between the Oldenburg counts and the East Frisian chieftains for supremacy in Nord Oldenburg.  During the Thirty Years’ War, the county Oldenburg and thus Westerstede were largely spared, as the ruler, Count Anton Günther, by wise policy and gifts of noble horses from his famous breed to the generals, the fighting and plundering armies were outside the borders of his country. In 1811, the French occupied the Duchy of Oldenburg, and Westerstede had Napoleon as sovereign. In 1813, this foreign rule ended: 

(Derived from Wikipedia at

Ratzebuhr, Pommern

The Duke Barnim IX. von Pommern-Stettin gave the order in 1554 to settle in the extreme southeast of his territory on the border with Poland. After Pomerania had come under Brandenburg rule in 1653, Ratzebuhr was administratively subordinate to the Neustettinschen circle.In 1656, Poland invaded the region, but were repulsed. During the Seven Years’ War in 1758 Russian troops marched, plundering through the city  Ratzebuhr is now Okonek, Poland. After World War II the region was placed under Polish administration by the Potsdam Agreement under territorial changes demanded by the Soviet Union. Most Germans fled or were expelled and replaced with Poles expelled from the Polish areas annexed by the Soviet Union.

(Derived from Wikipedia at


Scheeßel is in the district of Rotenburg, in Lower Saxony, Germany approximately 45 km east of Bremen, and 70 km southwest of Hamburg. The Scheeßel Parish was located in the Diocese of Verden. Stone Age tombs in the village testify to a settlement in prehistory. With the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the duchies of Bremen and Verden and thus Scheeßel went to Sweden until they fell after the Nordic War.  And, after a brief Danish rule they became part of the Electorate of Hanover in 1719. The Seven Years War affected the region. marauding French troops were responsible. In the French period Scheeßel belonged to France. After the Congress of Vienna in 1814/15 Scheeßel belonged to the Kingdom of Hanover.  In 1866, the Kingdom of Hanover became the Prussian province of Hanover .

(Derived from Wikipedia at

(See also: Land of Scheeßel Ancestors


Wenkeloh is a small village in the Scheeßel Parish in the district of Rotenburg in Lower Saxony, Germany. (See  Scheeßel above.)

(See Also: Peter Meier Ancestors at


Fichtenhainichen, Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg is a small village in present day Altenburger Land, Thungeria.   Fichtenhainichen is located northwest of Altenburg and is now administratively combined with Rositz: This is likely a source of my east european ancestry as will be discussed further in a following section on SNP Analysis.

(See Also:Julius Kirmse – Permission to Emigrate at


Hutschdorf  is a small village in the district of Kulmbach, Bayern and is located in the middle of the Bavarian province of Upper Franconia.  The term Franconians refers to the ethnic group, which is mainly to be found in this region. They are to be distinguished from the Germanic tribe of the Franks, and historically formed their easternmost settlement area. The origins of Franconia lie in the settlement of the Franks from the 6th century in the area probably populated until then mainly by the Elbe Germanic people in the Main river area. Kulmbach is the capital of the district of Kulmbach in Bavaria in Germany and is famous for its beers and sausages, or Bratwürste.  In the course of the restructuring of the south German states by Napoleon after the demise of the Holy Roman Empire, most of Franconia was awarded to Bavaria.

(Derived from Wikipedia History of Franconia at

(See Also: Hutschdorf at

SNP Analysis

Further detailed SNP testing and analysis of my R1a group determined that my Kirmse parental line is probably of Slavic origin. At first this was a bit surprising.  My great-grandfather Julius Kirmse was born in Fichtenhainichen, Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg and a review of the history of the area found the following:


Altenburg was first mentioned in 976 and later became one of the first German cities within the former Slavic area east of the Saale river (as part of the medieval Ostsiedlung movement). The town of Altenburg was probably founded by Slavs, judging from the remains of a Slavic castle on Schloßberg (“Castle Hill”).  And, as shown by place names, the surrounding area (Osterland) was mainly settled by Slavs. The castle later became an imperial palatinate and played an important part in the German takeover and settlement of the area between the Harz-mountains and the Elbe river. Since the 17th century, Altenburg was the residence of several Ernestine duchies, of which the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg persisted until the end of monarchy in Germany in 1918.


Gerstenberg is a small village located about four miles to the north of Altenburg and less than 4 miles from Fichtenhainichen. Long before the first documented account of the village in 1227 a little Slav settlement existed.  A striking natural feature of Gerstenberg is the Kirchberg, a little mountain “peak” which is visible from far away and once served as a Slavic lookout/signal post. On the Kirchberg now sits a little chapel called Michaeliskapelle that is the landmark of the village,

Church overlooking the town of Gerstenberg.
Chapel on the Kirchberg

Below the Kirchberg and nearly as old as the chapel is an inn that for over 400 years was owned and operated by a Kirmse family.[2][3]

Church in Gerstenberg overlooking the former Kirmse Inn - 24 May 2008
Chapel on the Kirchberg overlooking the former Kirmse Inn – 24 May 2008

In 1920, the Kirmse family who owned the Inn in Gerstenberg possessed a Kirmse coat of arms


The description of the coat of arms was: The color of the shield is golden; in it, the white church with red roof, black doorways and apertures stands on green ground; two windows of the tower are each decorated with a white pendant (flag). Two horns are on the helmet, the right is golden, the left red; on the golden horn are five red pennants (streamers, flags), on the red horn are five golden pennants. The model of the building on the shield was the little chapel that overlooks the town of Gerstenberg as is shown above.[4]

Gerstenberg is less than 4 miles away from Julius Kirmse’s ancestral home, Fichtenhainichen. And, according to Karlheinz Weidenbruch[1],.most of the living Kirmses in Altenburger Land can trace their origin back to the Kirmse host family in Gerstenberg.  However, I as yet, have not found any Fichtenhainichen Kirmse family connections to the Kirmse family who owned this coat of arms.

Ancestral Migration

Haplogroups can be used to determine where direct Paternal and Maternal ancestors came from, their locations in historic times and how they migrated throughout the world. Much of Europe was buried under miles of ice ten thousand years ago. As the glaciers receded over millennia, Neolithic farmers from the Near East joined Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to settle Europe. As our ancestors ventured out of eastern Africa (ADAM and EVE), they branched off in diverse groups that crossed and recrossed the globe over tens of thousands of years.

Origin and Migrations of Paternal Haplogroup R-M512

My paternal line stems from a branch of R-M420 called R-M512. From the Middle East, men bearing R-M420 likely passed through the Caucasus mountains to the steppes above the Black and Caspian Seas. The people of the steppes were the first to domesticate horses nearly 6,000 years ago, and their southern neighbors in the Caucasus developed the earliest bronze tools and weaponry. Equipped with these technologies and seeking new grazing land and natural resources, the people of the steppes swept west into northern Europe (R1a and R1b) and east through Central Asia (R2).

Today, the men who share haplogroup R-M512 are most common in Eastern Europe, Russia and Ukraine. The lineage is also quite common in Poland, but decreases in frequency toward the Mediterranean countries. Farther to the west, about one-third of Norwegian men and a quarter of men from the far northern British Isles carry R-M512. Their ancestors arrived with various groups over the past 2,000 years, including with the Anglo-Saxons from central Europe in the 5th century and the Vikings who came from Scandinavia beginning about 800 CE.[8]

Additionally, this haplogroup is still relatively common in the Middle East, as well as in Central and South Asia where it reaches levels of up to 60% among the Kyrgyz and the Tajiks.

Origin and Migrations of Maternal Haplogroup J1c3

The mitochondrial haplogroup J contains several sub-lineages. The original haplogroup J originated in the Near East approximately 50,000 years ago.  Haplogroup J1 is found distributed throughout Europe, from Britain to Iberia and along the Mediterranean coast. This widespread distribution strongly suggests that haplogroup J1 was part of the Neolithic spread of agriculture into Europe from the Near East beginning approximately 10,000 years ago.

My maternal line stems from a branch of haplogroup J called J1c3. Haplogroup J1c3 is a relatively young branch of J that traces back to a woman who lived approximately 9,000 years ago. Her ancestors migrated into Europe from the Middle East as the Ice Age receded between 14,000 and 11,000 years ago. While J1c3 already existed in the west before the spread of agriculture, it likely expanded along with the farming populations as they moved west across the continent.

 mtDNA - Migration Map
mtDNA – Migration Map

Today, J1c3 is found almost exclusively within Europe, and researchers speculate that the traces of J1c3 in the Middle East are due to eastward migrations of people much later in human history.


The following summarizes likely explanations of my DNA results.

  • Northwestern European 
    • Scandinavia – From the ancestral home map, most of my great-grandparent’s ancestral homes were in the north of Germany near Scandinavia. And,as noted in their histories, these areas of Germany were for long periods of time variously under Danish, Swedish and Norwegian rulers.
    • British IslesGermanic tribes, Saxons (with Angles and Jutes), migrated to the island of Great Britain beginning in the 5th century from continental Europe. They founded the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Kent, Wessex (West-Saxony), Essex (East-Saxony), Sussex (South-Saxony) and England (Land of the Angles). The Saxon land in Germany was called Old Saxony in this period. (See Land of Scheeßel Ancestors at
    • French & German – DNA markers that are common to French and Germans.  Also, during the Napoleonic era many states were owned by France.
    • Finland – A trace that Family Tree DNA suggests are probably noise in the results.
    • Broadly Northwestern European – DNA markers common to all Northwestern Europeans
  • Eastern European – Probably from my parental Slavic heritage.
  • Southern European
    • Iberian – Also known as the Iberian Peninsula located in the southwest corner of Europe.  23 And Me says that if the results are not noise,  I “most likely had a third great-grandparent, fourth great-grandparent, fifth great-grandparent, sixth great-grandparent, or seventh great (or greater) grandparent who was 100% Iberian. This person was likely born between 1670 and 1790.”
  • Broadly European – DNA markers that are common to all Europeans.
  • The ethnic/ancestral composition results are interesting and suggest possibilities but I do not put much faith in them, in particular the Native American results.


  1. Weldenbruch, Kadheinz; “Die Kirmse’s im Altenburger Land” Familenforschung in Mitteldeutschland Volume:42.2001 Issue: 3, Pages: 122-125.
  2. See: The Kirmse Family of the Inn at Gerstenberg in Altenburg (S.-A.)
  3. Also See: More than 420 Years of the Kirmse Inn at Gerstenberg
  4. See: Kirmse Coat of Arms
  5. See for example: Die Kirmes in Rudisleben at
  6. If you are looking for a Kirmse to attend, the Mauersberger family of Haarhausen, Germany maintains a website that includes a listing/calendar of Kirmses and other events in Thuringia. See
  7. See: The Kirmse at
  8. See: Land of Scheeßel Ancestors
  9. See: Our Cordes Family Connection
  10. Further detailed STR/SNP DNA tests were made the results of which placed me in the R1a group.  Using these test results, Joyce Veasey applied various software tools with several ancestral models indicating that my Kirmse parental line is probably of Slavic origin.