As some of you, my beloved readers, may know, especially those who follow me a bit longer, I do genealogical research in the area of Franken and its neighbourhood.
It started sometimes in the 90s when a colleague asked me whether I would like to take over a small job she could not do anymore, I think she was starting her MA thesis at the time. She had worked for a lady in Munich, who offered German genealogical research for all areas, but of course needed people on location to visit archives or parishes.
I accepted and inherited it by my colleague: Now and then I travelled to archives in the region or to villages to read church books and collect data. After some years the lady in Munich decided to change her business and go for the more lucrative work of finding heirs – a kind of lottery in my eyes. As a kind of gift, after all we had worked successfully together for some years, she pointed one of her last customers in my direction, recommending me to Mr. H.
Mr. H. send a mail and phoned me – the first phone call from overseas I ever received, I think he wanted to check if I really exist and whether our bureau was working, one can write anything on paper. And doing such research has to do a lot with trust.
I went to the archive of the protestant church in Bavaria, that was then still in Regensburg, today it is in Nürnberg, trying to find a certain entry, or better to find a starting point. Mr. H. had told me, that he wanted no “cheap solution”, he was definitely determined to get this research started. I had no idea what data he already had. He was interested in a certain individual, a direct ancestor of his.
My visit in Regensburg was short and disappointing: I found nothing, at least not what I had hoped for. Standing in the corridor of this old large house I thought about it again and again, and finally found, that the researcher before me simply had missed an entry. Counting two and two together I realised that the only chance would be to read the books of another village – and those were not in Regensburg, but still in saied village.
I told my client about this and he saied simply something like “just do it”, and we did. I visited the village and found some entries, related to a brother of the real aim of the research, and finally travelled to the nearby other village – and bamm, this was it. I had only two hours or so, but I knew that I had found them: The ancestor, his family or origin, and tons of relatives. I do not know now how often I travelled there, four times at least, it became the most successful research I have done up to now.
And the special thing about it is, that my client Mr. H., really fully appreciated what we did. He stante pede worked the results into his family history, later he sent over an exemplar of the tome of his work and we corrected it, he edited it again. It was simply a pleasure. Over the years the relation between Mr. H. and us became more friendly, less business like; nevertheless, he always was very correct and clear in what he wanted us to do, he knew that good work does not come cheap and that this important “bit more” is a result of how one treats people. It was a pleasure and privilege to work for him.
I once did research with his name and tried to find out a bit more about him, and had an idea, who he was and what he did in his professional career, but that was that.
In the beginning of this year 2011 I did a small research for him, nothing too exciting, the subject were people related to his own family, just to clear some relations.
In the summer he sent us a CD with the tome he was working on, and we enjoyed to look through it. He promised the follow-up for the end of this year. Some days (less than two weeks) ago we got a card from him, informing us that he had moved to another cottage.
Yes he died.
On the 7th of December, in the middle of it all. He had his new cottage decorated and was preparing to start his genealogical work again. This  had been put to a halt, because some months ago he had suffered from a nasty cold and pneumonia, but he had recovered.
I will miss him.
It’s ironic, I only saw a picture of him after his death, his nephew put up a video by him: Mr. H. seemingly planned some videos in which he would describe his family history and the research for it, one was finished.
May he rest in peace.

On the business site I will pay another tribute to him. With names and links and all.


Dear Readers!

Those of you, who follow my scribble a bit longer, know that I do genealogical research for a living. Business is weak and I realize that I must push my pr/marketing/advertisement departement a bit further – so handy came an offer by Google to have advertisements of my services when someone uses Google with words that fit into my description – the principle of adwords: If someone in Idaho f.e. googles “genealogical research in Franconia” right besides the results a little square with my advertisement should pop up.

I am toying with this idea. I worked already and would like to continue working for descendants of Franconian emigrants, so my potential customers do life in Canada, the USA, parts of Southern America and Russia. I know the archives, can locate source materials, can read, translate and transcribe them, and I’m good in researching: Hey, I do this for nearly twenty years now and I was pretty successful for some customers.

What I would like to know is:
If you google “Genealogical research, Franconia” or maybe “Bavaria” (Familienforschung, Franken) – what results are shown?

Google sometime ago introduced the localization of search results: That means I am shown only results related to my physical location (Standort) – Unterfranken, Lower Franconia in my case, and I can not disable this. I only can try to set the position to “Germany”, but even that is denied. I can not search and show results a person in the UK, in Canada or the US would get.

I try to understand how a potential customer would find me, and what he would see first when using Google – and because Google is the one with the adwords and offering its services to me for advertising, I gently ask for your help.  You would do a great favour to your genealogist in residence!

By the way, besides Bing exist other interesting search engines as alternatives to Google, like blekko, Duck Duck Go, and (my favourite) ixquick.

Das Morgengrauen

The German word has a nice double entendre as it a) describes the grey light of the morning, when the blue morning hour which still belongs to the night fades away and the pale grey daylight seepingly trickles in, hopefully ending in the victorious rays of sol invictus chasing away cobwebs and devils. It’s b) das Grauen, the dreadful horror in the morning when one has to get up, ripped out of the womblike warm secureness of the cavernous bed tossed into the grey (!) coldness of the existence we call live.
I had to get up early.
It was a nice drive over the country following some Bundesstrassen (Ger., Eng.) – I avoid the Autobahn and today it would have been pointless to use it anyway – and smaller roads because of some redirections. I roughly followed the river Aisch (Ger.) and sometimes wide prospects opened up with the sun fighting her way through grey clouds – she finally won, it’s sol invictus for a reason. The minister was friendly and directed me to a small hall: It is a very small village and so it’s one room for all as one could conclude from the handmade posters, the piano and all the things necessary for the successful  community work. And because they are ecosensitive they use green cleaner vinegar based, when I was alone I first opened a window.
The pastor brought me a handful of books: I had to start with a birth entry and then going back; my customer is only interested in the main line of his family, his direct antecessors. His great-grandfather should be there. I read some years up, some down, the family name is nowhere.
The result is clear: It’s the wrong location.
So I drove back on another route at the foot of the Steigerwald and came home at midday. Just right to see the sofa and have a siesta!


Today I had only a few hours in the late morning – and tonight I do not have to work: Jausa! I spent the afternoon in the sunny city walking and windowshopping. I should work on some transscriptions, but I do enjoy more to have to do nothing, idling along. And the copies of the documents are of bad quality, too.
Actually they are no copies of the originals. One should handle original materials very careful – and slamming it on a copy-machine does not describe the careful attitude. Organizations always had a problem with records – the material grows too much, takes too much space! So miniaturizing was an idea and the microfiches – which slowly get out of fashion in the digitized world – were invented. Early as the 1940s by the way, Goebbel’s diaries (he had at least two, an official and a semi-private) were micro’d and survived on glass plates. After all it is a photographic kind of process. Later the glass plates were changed to plastic sheets, but basically its all based on silver. Sometimes in the fifties I guess the Americans started to film European medieval sources, manuscripts etc. to have the texts available without moving the books, and the European libraries got copies of these films – it was the 36mm “Kleinbildfilm”.
I have to deal with church books mainly. And because of the interest in genealogy the churches deceided to collect their books in a central archive and give the users films or microfiches. So one uses usually a reader-printer-machine; that’s nothing else but a kind of screen with an optic, different lenses and a simple printing device, where the choosen part drops out after having pushed the button. In some archives the user is allowed to do it himself, in others not.
The quality of the print depends of the quality of the film – it’s the copy of a copy. The material I have to work with now is really bad, because the film is bad: They did not put it plain when they made the photograph. That means that it is only possible to have a part of the sheet sharp and readable, other parts become diffus, blurred.
Normally one puts a kind of unreflective glassplate over a kind of written source. But here they did not. Obviously the bound volume was too large and there must have been a kind of damage, water I guess. Old paper, before 1820, is very strong and stands a lot of impacts. Only the ink can do real harm, if they used a cheap or selfmade one that over time gets acidic. New paper becomes acidid in itself and dissolves over time, a big problem for the archives of any kind. For churchbooks normally good quality was used, but if the volume drowned, there is not much to do about it.
Digitization is another game. Modern scanners work without contact to the object and modern programs can minimize such flaws as mentioned above – even in the middle of a very large book they get very good results without braking the book’s back. But this is a development of the last ten years or so, and it’s used by the libraries for the exceptional manuscripts, books and cimelia. The average run-of-the-mill-church-book-film-copy you get is made in the seventies or eighties by a Netherlandish company without too much care and you are happy when the registers work and you find what you need. After that it is looking glass and patience. And hopefully the handwriting is good and the priest was not too drunk, ill, tired, careless …
By the way it is interesting to see the development of the handwritings. I find that the older ones from the 18th century or 17th are far more individual than the modern ones. And in the 19th you find a kind of unification. That helps a lot regarding the readability and for the registers, but it’s a kind of miss too.
The registers are another capitel. Some are absolutely reliable, others are a waste of time. Best are the Protestant from the 1930s, well … there are family-sheets / trees too. What I very much like to find in a church or parish – if the books are still on location – is the 1930s family-register on cards. That’s a great tool. In the parish always the “Durchschrift”, the copy, was kept. The originals – as I remember from some article about it – went to Berlin. Wonder where they ended.