Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Knights of Diedelsheim

I'm working my way, slowly, through the history of my Heimesdorf. I wanted to share here what I learn along the way. Considering that I'm only to page 41 and I leave for Germany in six weeks, I doubt I'll be able to finish the book.

My German isn't great, and it's a laborious process, translating page after page--especially since a lot of the vocabulary is covering obscure Medieval terms that I've never seen before.

On page 41 of Diedelsheim, I learn about the village in the 14th and 15th centuries. One of the first things that strike me are the various spellings of the village's name. In 1346, the village shows up on records as "Dydelsheim" (39), and "Dietensheim" (40). I have even found a reference to "Dyttisheim" (41) in the book.

My last name is "Dittes," a strange, Latin-sounding name that comes from this village, although the earliest ancestor I know of spelled his name "Dittiß" and moved to the Kraichgau from a village in the Black Forest, south of there. A pastor in the local church changed the spelling to "Dittes" in the 1770s, and it has stayed that way ever since.

As my dad and I have reviewed letters sent back and forth between an American Dittes and German Ditteses after the war, we have seen speculation that our surname isn't a place name, but a derivation of "son of" a name beginning with D.

Well, I found such a name on this page. Three brothers of Massenbach laid claim to parts of the village in 1334: Peter, Heinrich and Diether von Massenbach. (I'm lucky to know enough German vocabulary to look on a map for Massenbach, not in a dictionary.) These knights managed properties in the area for several decades.

The author, Otto Bickel, has found vassalage records from this era. The record passed from Heinrichh von Massenbach to Count Wilhelm von Katzenelbogen (Count William of the Cat's Elbows) includes;

  • 9.5 measures of wheat (Korn)
  • 9.5 measures of oats (Hafer)
  • 17 hens
  • 5 geese
  • 4.5 pounds of oil
  • 1/2 quarter of salt
  • (I'm not sure what "16 Schilling Heller weniger 4 Heller" would be. Candles? It seems like something to do with light.)

Besides the counts of Katzenelnbogen (still a town with a lovely castle to the north of Diedelsheim), the village also belonged to the bishops of Speyer and the counts of Hesse at various times.

A final feudal record on the page recorded the transfer of the loan on the village from Count Wilhelm von Katzenelnbogen to Hans Triegel von Öwisheim on 24 December 1363. Triegel would later purchase the land outright in 1372.

How did I do? I'll paste an image of the page below. Let me know what I missed.


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