Saalman Family Website by todd saalman
Ballenstedt Castle, 1837

Ballenstedt Castle, Sachsen-Anhalt, 1837

Pfarrer Schröter of Ballenstedt

To me, the most important memory preserved by Marion's branch of the family was the name of the village where our ancestors lived prior to their journey to the New World: Hoym, in Sachsen-Anhalt, which was, in the time of our ancestor Christian's young life, a state in The German Confederation, der Deutscher Bund, and occupied by Prussia.

It was in late 1992, before I'd yet to meet Marion in person that, in association with a genealogically-minded cousin to whom Marion had introduced me, I wrote letters of inquiry to public offices and churches in Hoym and in larger towns nearby Hoym, hoping to find someone who might have knowledge of Saalman family records.

Finally, in mid-January, 1993, the bet paid off. A parson at the Evangelisches Pfarramt Schloßkirchengemeinde [the Evangelical Vicarage of the Castle Church congregation], in the town of Ballenstedt, wrote a key letter in this search of the past, identifying four earlier generations of Saalmans previously unknown to any Saalmans of the New World.

January 10, 1993

I manage the Vicarage office in Hoym. That's why I'm answering you. I have found the birth certificates of Reinhard Saalmann and the death certificate of his mother. His father, Johann Christian, was born January 8, 1797 in Hoym.

His father, named Christoph Heinrich, was born August 16, 1772 in Hoym, died 1836, his wife was named Dorothea Eleanore Drehkopf. They were married in 1793. He was a master linen weaver by trade.

The father of Christoph Heinrich, is named Johann Christoph, born November 12, 1732 in Hoym. He was a mason. He married Catharina Margarete Sperling in 1757.

His father is named Tobias, born March 18, 1677, died April 30, 1755. The son Johann Christoph comes from the second marriage to an Anna Maria, the widow Westphal (married October 15, 1730).

Tobias was the son of Hans. The family name was at that time written Salomon. Hans married Elisabeth Röder in 1662. His home town is given as Danzig! [Danzig, in Poland, is now called Gdansk].

I hope this information pleases you. If you wish, I can also copy the records. The family Salomon-Saalmann was wide-spread in Hoym. Unfortunately, there are no eulogies or other personal records.

With friendly greetings,

C. Schröter, Parson"

The original Schröter letter (German)

Although I wrote back to the Parson several times to thank him and to ask for further information, he never responded to those inquiries, and I feared he had passed away. While this was a great disappointment, not to mention how Pfarrer Schröter's family and friends must have felt, much had been been learned. Many avenues of inquiry still lay ahead for future Saalman genealogists; the Castle Church records in Ballenstedt await further study.

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In September, 2009, after years of inaction, then years of failed attempts to locate Parson Schröter through the growing ubiquity of the Internet's reach, I finally found a reference to him, but which I thought suggested that my earlier surmise about his death had been all too true.

On the German website for the city of Ballenstedt, was a reference to a memorial service honoring several church officials, one of whom was named Christof Engels Schröter. I wrote email messages to two addresses I found on the website, but they were not answered.

Then, while searching the Ballenstedt website once again in early December, 2009, I found that the Schröter announcement had been removed, but a contact email address for the church had been added, which I used to send an inquiry to whomever answered the mail at the Evangelische Kirchengemeinden in Ballenstedt, where I knew Parson Schröter had once worked.

I was immediately answered:

Dear Mr. Saalman, thank you for your E-Mail! Let me try to answer you: I can tell you, that Pfarrer Schröter is still working on inquiries in familiy records. You can still corresponds to him in Quedlinburg or you send me an E-Mail with your inquiry and I will pass it on him. With friendly greetings, Theodor Hering.

Fortunately, my surmise about his death had been in error, no doubt to my fading fluency in German. So, I'm waiting once again to hear from Pfarrer Schröter!

Name Games

The origin of the Saalmann name, pronounced "zahl-mon" in German, is unknown to me. The earliest spelling of Saalmann in our known lineage, per the parson Schröter, is 'Salomon', belonging to one Hans, from Danzig, Prussia (now, Gdansk, Poland). This surname appears in Jewish genealogies from the region, too, and could imply that Hans Salomon was Jewish.

The spelling change from Salomon to Saalmann shown in the Ballenstedt records could have been a deliberate one, a attempt to blend in as a Jew in a Christian country. But spelling was not well-codified in the 17th century, either; it seems plausable that the record keeper merely wrote into the record what he'd heard Hans pronounce, with whatever spelling he chose.

Historically, immigrants to the United States routinely accepted the re-spelling of their name as conceived by immigration officials, or even themselves instigated the anglicization of their names during the immgration process for whatever reason. Typically, Germans whose name ended in 'mann' dropped the final 'n', as did my ancestors during the 1850s.

There are some German words resembling the two syllables of the Saalman name. 'Saal' means 'hall', in the sense of a large, perhaps prestigious or ceremonial hall such as a banquet or meeting hall. 'Mann' translates as 'man'; thus, 'Saalmann' might be a keeper or employee of such a hall.

Another word association might be made with the river Saale, passing just east of Hoym through Bernberg, to join the Elbe, which in turn flows into the North Sea through Hamburg, gateway to the Atlantic. Locations and professions were important sources for surnames in post-Renaissance Europe.

Finally, a German genealogy book obtained recently (2008) by a correspondent of mine (and distant cousin, presumably), George Saalmann of Queensland, Australia, promotes this explanation:

"The name, written Salman, Sahlman, Saalmann comes from 'Sala' or 'Salunga', gothic 'Saljan' – meaning, interpreting the ceremonious, the handing over of the 'mia-culpa' contract. 'Salman' is, according to old German law, a man whose mission is to hand over to a third party through 'Sala', a precious belonging, once a certain event has taken place, usually the death of the owner of the belonging. The 'Salman' therefore was the keeper and executor and representative of a last will."

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