Less than two kilometers from the small town of Bakum, Germany, near a slightly larger city of Vechta, in Lower Saxony, or north-west Germany, sometimes referred to as Oldenburg, lies an even smaller village of Elmelage.
By today’s standards, I’m not entirely sure Elmelage would classify as a village, more of a gathering of a few farms punctuated by farm-houses, most of which retain the character of the schuunhuus (Low German term for barn-house), or niedersachenhaus.(1) But in earlier days in Germany, communities were organized by church parishes, in this case the parish of St. John the Baptist in Bakum, (Sankt Johannes Baptist). The parish of St. John the Baptist included several villages including Elmelage.
We knew from church records transcribed by the Church of Latter Day Saints that Mark’s family was from St. John the Baptist Church in Bakum, Germany. We later found out from Das Mittelalterliche Kirchspiel Bakum by Prof. Dr. Clemens Arkenstette, that at one time, Mark’s Grote ancestors likely owned and farmed land in Elmelage.
This September, we traveled to Germany in search of it. And with the help of a friendly priest who spoke English, an archivist generous with his time, and a school teacher in St. John the Baptist’s school, we were able to find it.
(1) North Germany to North America – 19th Century Migration,PlattSuutsch Press, Alto, Mich., 2003