Field Work

Yesterday I visited a small village North of Nürnberg. I was greeted by the local archivist, a white-haired friendly man who helped my out of my coat (!). He had already put the book on the table – and I’m sure he had glanced in – and after half an hour it was clear that my customer’s forefather was not born here – again the wrong place.

So I drove home and shortly before midday called the last possible location – there are only three villages (one smaller than the other) carrying the name in Franconia, and somewhere great-grandfather Joe must be born. The first two villages were autonomous worldly and ecclesiastical communities before 1914. I was there and read the books, the family name, that is not too common around here,  is nowhere to find. In the time of his birth there is no illegal child with his first name. And because the administrators in those day – last third of the 19th century – had nothing else to do, they scrupulously noted when a name changed, f.e. when a lady re-married or when a former illegal child became legalized. No such name. They simply had not lived in the places I already visited, one in Lower Franconia, the other in the North. The last one is in Middle Franconia.

I explained the silent man on the other end of the phone line what I am searching for and asked, whether I could come the next morning (today, Tuesday) and have a look into the books, because as written on the webpage Tuesday the office would be open from 08:00 to 11:30. His answer was an arsey (sorry) “No. We do not allow anybody to look into our books.” On my surprised “Oh. And why do you do this?” he deigned to jabber about cultural heritage and identity. If some stranger would have the nerve to use them holy books, said creature would have to ask the keeper of the holy archive Mr. B. who would don a sacred cloak and after the prayers would dare to open saied holy books and finally come up with an answer to the derogatory questions of saied wormlike being.
I was a bit upset. The Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern has clear ideas about the use of the parish books. Basically they should be usable for everybody with an adequate interest and genealogical research is a sufficient reason to use them. This local Bonze is not as bad as his fellow minister in Upper Franconia from some years ago who insisted on a written enquiry and seriously expected a horrendous amount of money paid – “because his people [sic!] would check the books”. The arrogance could have been grasped.
I phoned Mr. B. He seemed to be very old or ill – I got the impression of talking to a frail man. He promised to have a look  – “when I come over”. At least he asked for my telephone number by himself.

I seriously start to hate Middle Franconia. And after such experiences I cherish the Catholic system: One bishop, one archive. Clear terms of use, clear costs, a good library at hand and full-time archivists for difficult questions.

But now it’s waitin’ for the man … if he makes it.

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11 thoughts on “Field Work

  1. Good Luck. I am hoping you will get the information you need. With all the work you have done I am amazed that someone would refuse you the right to check old records. You are not some young whippersnapper that is just being nosy.

  2. They forget that the church is to serve the people and the information that they keep is not the churches’ but that of the people they serve ……. like your client for instance. I wonder if it will get even worse if someone takes over from Mr. B in the future. In Malaysia, we sometimes see this with scientists too. They boast about their work but won’t share their results with anyone. If everyone behaved like that, we’d still be in the DArk Ages. Good luck with your research, my friend.

  3. Tiny bureacrats with their tiny ability to say ‘no’ will hang on to that micron of power with the grip of a rottweiler. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve run into that mentality here. I’ve often found that showing up in person can work wonders on this kind of person. Many of them only have enough gumption to say ‘no’ to a voice on the phone. Confronting a real person is another matter!
    Particularly if that person is a dangeous lunatic and is carrying a large carp dressed like an infant in their arms.

  4. Thank you Lone Grey Squirrel. Scientists sitting on their results grinning is also a phaenomenon here. But sooner or later they must publish. Even if they do only out of vanity. Sad, but true.

    Bless you Roses.

    Would not work in Middle Franconia, First Nations, they ARE dangerous lunatics carrying carps dressed like infants in their arms – it’s the carp raising area, “Aischgründer Karpfen” goes as delicacy.

  5. One can only love what ones knows, or at least has heared of, MJ … “Kanada” pronounced in the local dialect means “keiner da”, “nobody here” … so pointing at my belly mumbling “kana da” would bring me a sandwich or a rude remark.

    NEA, Uffenheim, Erlbach, the heart of darkness … nice to see you once again here, Amanda!

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