Welcome to the
Sourwine Family History


Two German born Sourwines and their two American born half brothers are the nucleus of the Iowa Sourwine family that once met annually and nearly filled the shelter house at Perkins Park in Burlington. George and Valentine were the German immigrants. Bernard and William came along some years later. What follows is an attempt to link the four branches of the family to their common ancestry in the principality of Hesse in what is now Germany.

Recording only this brief history of the Sourwine family was some 43 years in its accomplishment. It was in 1952 that this compiler began to scribble down notes of what her father, Clarence Sourwine, recalled of the family and its origins. As curiosity grew, the search expanded to include long visits with other relatives for their recollections or to examine family bibles and related written records. Cemeteries were searched for the revealing names and dates carved into gravestones.

Sourwine Family Reunion

Moving from Iowa to California slowed the research but correspondence with Eunice Shaw and Ethel Miller and then---later---Harry Sourwine kept the quest alive. Over the years, Harry had collected a treasure trove of family records and pictures which has added significantly to the history. Census records, pored over almost to the point of blindness, helped place ancestors in a particular place and time.

My late brother, Lyman Sourwine, upon his retirement, became an enthusiastic partner in the research. Lyman even traveled to Germany and visited the tiny village from which the Sourwine family migrated. Separately following leads, we each "arrived" in Germany at the same time.

Throughout most of the search---and blocking attempts to link the family with its German ancestors---a mystery persisted. Four brothers were the basis of the Des Moines county Sourwine clan, two of them born in Germany, two of them in this country. Who was their father? Family legend related that he came to the Burlington area from near Belleville, Ill. but died shortly later in a cholera epidemic. No written record of him was known to exist and his name had long been forgotten. Some thought that it was Wendel. Others thought Valentine. The death certificate for William Sourwine, youngest of the four brothers, listed his father's name as George.

Tracing the family back to Germany proved elusive until Charles Roscum furnished a newspaper obituary of George Sourwine, his great grandfather, identifying his birthplace as Spitzersheim in Germany. Later, other records spelled the name as Spitzaltheim. This was the greatest news in years---except that no town of this name could be found.

Through happenstance I was referred to Norma Broniszewski of St. Louis, Mo., who was also searching a Sourwine family in the Belleville, Ill., area. She in turn referred me to Pastor Helmut Walter, retired pastor of the Lutheran church in Altheim. Altheim, he told us, was the modern name for Spitzaltheim. Using what information we possessed, Pastor Walter quickly identified the head of the Iowa Sourwines (spelled Sauerwein in the old country) as Johann Wendel Sauerwein 2. As it turned out, Pastor Walter's former church was the very one that the family attended as early as the 1600's perhaps even earlier. Pastor Walter was one of the few modern churchmen who could read the old German script in which the family history in church documents was recorded.

Since Pastor Walter could neither read nor write English, the services of Kurt Schultze were enlisted to translate. Kurt is a German genealogical researcher who helped to unravel our family history. Later he located the birth place of Philipp Sauer, so much a part of the Sourwine story.

Considerable effort has been devoted to assuring the accuracy of names, dates and places in this history. This is, however, no guarantee. Some records were found to be in error or in disagreement with other records. Many family members were interviewed or contacted in their advanced years when memories sometimes play tricks. In other cases the information furnished was incomplete. All that we can say at this point is that we have done our best. After all, no one is perfect. If you do find errors, let us know so that master records can be corrected.

This little book is dedicated to the Sourwine family here and abroad and especially to my late brother Lyman.

Juanita (Sourwine) Gregg & Donald Gregg

Don & Juanita Gregg

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