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