Field Work III

It’s cold in the Frankenhöhe. Tiny white thingies swirled around me when I stood in front of the parish office. I had a little difficulty to find the house – I was expecting the typical baroque or at least 19th century sandstone affaire, but found myself in front of a normal two family house with front garden patch and garage at the side. That means a working heating, yay!
The most important person I have to deal with on such trips is the parish secretary, the lady who runs the business. And to make it clear – it IS a business and these people have a remarkable level of professionalism. In all those years I only once, and exactly once, met  a man in this position. The lady was friendly despite the stress, the group of volunteers for grafting these terribly necessary christmas decorations had occupied another room seemingly without warning … it would be a bit difficult to find me a place. She sat me in a small office room directly in front of the metal filing cabinet, I think I used the vicar’s desk. I was a bit late and had to start immediately, because these offices are always only part-time manned, what means that the secretary has only half of the necessary time and sometimes between 12:00 and 13:00 the fun is over.
I thank those men on my knees who made registers. After some praxis you develop a feeling whether you can trust the registers or not, sometimes they are made very careless or lax and you do better in reading through the books.  The register is a tool to safe time and to help for orientation in the paper and ink desert we call archive or church books. These were splendid. A joy: Well written, accurate, every minister dutifully kept them in order, I recognized some hands when I read the original records or entries.
My starting point was the birth of my customers Great-Grandfather 1870. Bingo. He was born there while his mother was working as maid or farmgirl; the father is known, another farmhand. I went through the birth entries (via register) from 1914 back to 1750, the first child with the family name was born in the 1780s. I checked the marriages via register until 1801 and went through the book from 1779 to 1800 – very well written, good paper, no ink munching through, a joy! – just to be sure, the earliest marriage I found is from 1804. Time was running out, so I could only check the death entries for this time (1779-1800).
The result is: The family lives in the area at least from the late 18th century (1780s) onwards. The name of one hamlet pops up over and over again; the men’s profession is given as „Bauer“ (farmer) or „Gütler”, what is less than a farmer. And one of the earliest is a dressmaker by trade, what I like.

Barbara, the mother of my client’s GGF had at least two children earlier. This indicates not an immoral lifestyle, but it means that she simply was dirt poor and was not allowed to marry. Later, in the 1890s when this son of hers will marry, a note says she is married in another village not far away. But she’s not born where I searched. As I mentioned before her name is not too common, and I found only two women with the same name throughout the century: One was born 1855 and so the GGF would be her third child at the age of fifteen – a bit over the top even for this region; the other died as child. She originates from another village not far away, where seemingly another branch of the family blossomed. This parish was – and seemingly still is, despite the fact that it actually has no vicar – independent, the office is kept open once a week for some hours by the friendly lady I already had to deal with. So in three weeks I’ll drive again into the Franconian woods to look for them, but this time I know that I am on the right way.


14 thoughts on “Field Work III

  1. xl says:

    Pleased that you had so much success … and in a warm place!

    Has the Christmas season started there? When I was in Berlin the workers were beginning to put up the decorations along the streets.

  2. Four weeks til Christmas evening, XL. Here they too started to bring up decorations. The parish office was filled with green boughs and the ladies were producing all kind of wreaths and girlands. The secretary’s calendar was filled with dates and termins so it is not possible for me to visit this place before Christmas – there’s simply no place for me to sit. And they want to have an eye on the books too. Even in the other village activity started and I am lucky to see the books there in three weeks. I think that I’ll be driving through snow then.

  3. xl says:

    I am thinking that Christmastime in Germany must be really beautiful. You guys originated many of our Christmas traditions.

    In TX it is often warm at Christmas and we have to have the air conditioner on. ):

  4. Steve says:

    Hi Mago

    “Tiny white thingies swirled around me when I stood in front of the parish office.”
    Perhaps they were little good luck angels seeing that you had such a lucky break in tracing more of this family history. The GGF’s Mother seems terribly young to have already had 2 children before his arrival. But then i guess that back then adult life expectancy was not like it is now. And that is not counting the rates of infant mortality as well. You do some facinating work. Thank you for sharing this and good luck with your continued hunting. Hopefully the next place you visit will be heated too.

    Oh Hai Xl….

  5. It can be a very nice thing, XL, if family is not too much involved. I can not imagine christmas in a warm climate, it’s inseparately connected with winter. Actually I can watch grey fog rolling in and a kind of snow-rain-mix falling. Street lanterns are switched on on 14:12 …

    I’m in stitches, dear Princess 🙂 I can not say how old the mother was when she gave birth to the GGF – the one I found with the same name is definitely too young. She surely originates from the place I will visit in three weeks. I fear that heating will be a bit of a problem there. The secretary described it as an old house and because she’s there only for three hours a week I guess the building will be cold through and through. I only hope it will be dry!

  6. Joyce says:

    Good work under not the best of circumstances. Today is Thanksgiving here and when I read your post i thought “I bet Mago is thankful for finding some info and some heat”.
    This morning I woke to the plow plowing the snow off the road and of course blocking my driveway. As far as Christmas goes decorations are on the streets and some houses. I agree sitting under a tree in shorts in Panama didn’t work.

  7. This afternoon it went from snow-rain-mix to pure snow, but it’s still too warm, it melts away fast Wanda. I like to do such research, that’s true.

    Yes you are right, Joyce, I felt thankful for the books and the heat! This year the decoration of the houses is not already blinking. I remember years when even mid November the first reindeers popped up in gardens. Not this year, maybe after the 6th of December.

    Thank you, dear Savannah – but I will bring a warm coat, just to be sure, and warm.

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