Field Work V

If you read the last post about this research (Field Work IV) you may remember that I ended with a certain John, who should be born around 1790. And he was.  He descends out of his father Frederick’s first marriage, has at least one brother and two sisters. I only could find these entries because of the excellent registers made by the pastor, who held the office from the 1820s. His handwriting is very clear and he works with attention to detail, dating the lifespans of persons even by hours. I  already saw the lifespan of a deceased person given in years, months weeks and days (“his age 79 years, 4 months, three weeks and two days”), but not in hours (10½ hours!).
The value of this pastor’s work can not be underestimated: All the dates and persons I found in my short three-hour stay – the bureau is not longer open – could have been reached only because he put them down in a readable and reliable alphabetical-historical list, a register, you may call it an index. I have not found a written history of the parish, but I believe he came there sometimes in the 1820 and kept the office for some decennia. The index is dated with 1827. He was able to work himself through the then youngest book reaching back to 1789/1790.
So Frederick’s first marriage must be before 1790. And because the pastor noticed Frederick’s death I could easily find his birth entry 1754. His father is called Tobias, with him we should easily reach the beginning of the 18th century. Going through the death entries I found a lady of  the family, who died 1799 in her eighties. John had died in his forties, his father Frederick in his sixties, both were married two times – giving birth was an extremely dangerous thing for the women and dying in child bed was nothing uncommon. I wonder whether those born in the first half of the 18th century lived longer.
Because the indexes do not reach further than 1790 it is “sit down and read”: I think I will carry a desk light with me coming Thursday. I will have to snap any entry I can find, transcription will be done at home, so I can not deal with blurry takes because of long shutter time: More light!


14 thoughts on “Field Work V

  1. are these books in good condition? Are you looking at microfilm or real books? If real books, it must be amazing to see the handwriting/etc. Nothing is this old in my part of the U.S. and I really enjoy reading about your research. I’ve said this before, I love walking through cemetaries, reading the dates/etc on the headstones. And you’re right about the number of women who died in childbirth. It’s still a dangerous thing in third world countries.

  2. Often women died from infections following childbirth prior to the 20th century because their attendants at birth didn’t wash their hands. Such a simple thing, really, but such an important one.

  3. Can’t imagine why any woman would want to get married then. Here, get married my dear and start a family with a high chance of dying young from childbirth……..but the wedding would be pretty. Eeeep!

    But while reading old handwritten tomes may induce sleep, I am sure it is exciting to learn every new fact about someone who died so long ago. Or perhaps to use the imagination to fill the blanks.

  4. This is proper history you’re teaching us. Research as it’s done about real people who lived, loved and died. I know that historical figures are important because of their contribution, but for me, it’s the stories of the people who lived in that time that hold so much power.

  5. Real books, Boxer. Microfilms are handed out in the central archives of the church in Bavaria. They are in good condition, good paper, no acidic ink. Sadly the last bookbinder cut sometimes right into the text. I read the names on the Kriegerdenkmal the last time, my client’s family was not mentioned. Coming Thursday I will visit the cemetery too.

    That’s a good link, a good idea, thank you XL. She is close to delivery – I cross my fingers.

    Washing hands, changing clothes, sterilize tools – I think it was Semmelweis who introduced all that, Rose LeMort.

    And wait for the funeral! It’s the imaginationLGS, a play. Besides this it’s research, work. The dates give only the structure, the skeleton.

    It’s sometimes like a puzzle, Roses.

  6. Amanda says:

    The fact that he kept such good records says as much about him as it does about the people. And yes – cleanliness and a little luck can go a long way.

    Squirrel: Even today many women in this world get married because of economic reasons and/or because their parents told them to do it. Then there’s the instinct combined with lack of reliable birth control which manages to override most women’s fears quite well. (And lets not forget the priests who still preach about the sins of birth control in an insanely overpopulated world…)

    But the list of countries who complain about decreased births is growing longer, which tells me that almost any woman who has a choice in the matter is going to use it.

  7. She died 1799 nearly 81 years of age simply of weakness / Altersschwäche, Scarlet. She simply was always there. She could have had active memories from 1725 onwards. I am eagerly looking for the next visit, I want to know whether they immigrated or not.

    The seven billion mark / sieben Milliarden (!) will be reached in the middle of this year, Amanda. While some societies are greying (Japan, Western Europe) others are bursting from youth. We will see a lot of people moving over the next fifty years.
    I wonder what the forseeable developments will bring – are there modells who connect the diverse areas like wheather, age in continents or regions, water supply, industrialization? It seems to be human geography / Humangeography I guess. I am very convinced that the main focus of Europe will shift back from the North to the South again, round the Mediterranean Sea. This area will again be of high importance, similar as it was in the old time / Antike. In those days women already put citrons to good use.

    Off topic
    Today’s (18.01.11) NonSequitur is not bad.

  8. Good evening Mago,

    Perhaps a camera preset for low light with the stand will help clear the pictures for transcription. I’m a bit envious that you have books to look into for the information. I have an aunt, she has written several volumes on the family history. Unfortunately there are no written records for the Native American portions of my family and it is left large holes in her narration. It has really been quite frustrating for her.

  9. Hello Karl, I just copied the pictures from the camera onto the hard drive, some seventy: The light I used did all the job, I am very glad that no blurred pictures came up – at least the first look showed none. The material in part was terribly readable, with the ink faded away and at least one of the shepherds was very careless, not to say neglient with the books.
    It’s always a kind of lottery, one never knows how far back the books will reach – and of course one never knows where people moved to or came from. I can understand your aunt’s frustration very well. Sad to think about what is lost.

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