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.
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
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