Never Kill a Customer, Mungo!

Being self-employed has advantages, like for example following the own sleep-wake-rhythm or generally being able to do things the way one likes them to be done.
A down side is the fact that one depends on the payment of other people. And they pay – or not. Is it three weeks now? I finished some texts for an institution, it is the third or fourth time I read, corrected and edited these writings, now they may print them – gottbefohlen. I sent a (very friendly!) bill, but it does not work this way.
At the start of this month I got a small recherche, as you may remember I went to the Spessart to read church books; I sent over results, transcriptions, pictures, additional materials; I did it  fast to leave time for payment in time. Reaction – none.

I swear by the few things that remained holy to me: If I ever win the lottery or get a fixed position – whatever happens first – I swear that I will never ever again work for someone else, be it a private customer, a university or a company; I will never ever again make the mistake and believe in shallow words like “Yes, for money; we’ll pay you!”
The very least one could expect is that they pay the lousy hundreds dosh in time! Not even this. “Never kill a customer” … naja … not even a little bit, maybe?

Melting

When last Sunday (oh, only yesterday !) was a stroll in the park, this Monday was a walk on hot coals. It’s 22:00 and I am dripping with sweat. I left for the Spessart around midday and looked for an easy drive through the river valley, over the hills and into the forest. But it’s summer, and I forgot the gods of road construction. I thought it’s a specialty of this lovely town to schedule all major maintenance works for summer, especially when the large festivals take off (Mozartfest, Africa Festival and so on), but no – it seems to be common practice in Lower Franconia. They ripped out the surface of the major Bundesstrasse, put up a sign to keep out the heavy trucks (like 40 tons) and send the traffic (at least in one direction)  through the vineyards. So I drove behind a 20 ton truck that managed to manoeuver through ways which normally are reserved for pedestrians, bicyclists and smallish vineyard equipment – I feel deep respect for the driver.
What the administration in the valley can, the administration in the woods can do better – at least they thought so, but in the end they went for a standard solution with traffic lights. They also have a Bundesstrasse and for whatever reasons it needs reconstruction – but they have no wine there – HA! So waiting in front of a red traffic light in the middle of nowhere is what you do in the Spessart. I’ll get used to it, because (with a little luck) I’ll return tomorrow morning for additional research. Hopefully I will not feel like a baked potato again when I’ll climb out of the tin can on wheels we call the Magomobile, a trusted little treasure by the way.
The recherche itself was successful: It is the correct place, I found the family name, the books are readable – well, the last quarter of the 17th century is a bit difficult, because of the priests tiny handwriting, sometimes the ink is a bit awash, but it works; the 18th is very good, a new and good readable hand. And best of all: They allowed me to take photographs (without flash of course!), that’s the only reason I was able to work through hundred years of marriages in a little less than two hours, then the battery of the photographic apparatus gave up.  I could have stayed there for another hour reading, but I have to confess, I simply wanted out of that place! It is tiny and cramped – as my appartement you may say, but it’s different: I can put out books on a table, and I do not have to welcome visitors here on a regular basis. Frankly, I would refuse to work in that hole! The next room where the very friendly and competent secretary is working is a bit better, in the course of the conversation it surfaced that she’s only some months there and that she renovated her working area by herself, if I understood a certain hint correctly.
Now I should look at my photos and transcribe the entries, but it’s 22:30 and I am in no more mood for any work that involves concentration and heavy thinking and such. In fact all I want is a glass of cheap white and a thunderstorm. At least the cheap white is here and at a pleasant temperature.

German Genealogy – What’s in a Name?

No – I will not explain family names in the following scribble. And I’m sure there are tons of „how to“-instructions available on the net about genealogy in Germany – there is surely no need for another one. I like to speak about genealogy in Germany from the practising researcher’s point of view. And one of the most important things are names.
Let us assume that your forefathers emigrated from Germany sometimes in the 19th century. They went overseas by ship – and that means that there are good chances to find them in the passenger lists of the Auswandererhaus *. You should know a year – or at least narrow down the year of their passage, it helps with the search.
But the most important thing is the name. The 19th century did not have something like a Duden (Ger., Eng.), Konrad DUDEN published his lexicon 1880 for the first time. There were no fixed, holy, rules of orthography – strictly speaking there are none today: Outside the official use of the German language in written form I am free to write the way I like. I can follow old rules, and can set my own.
The way names were spelled can vary a lot; and names in these lists were often wrote down as they were heard. For example: “Schäfer” (shepherd) can be spelled “Schäffer”, “Sche(f)fer”, “Scho(f)fer” and “Schif(f)er”. A Franconian speciality is the difference between consonants pronounced “hard” and “soft”: For reasons unknown to me a written “B” is mostly pronounced “P”, the same goes for “G” and “K”, “D” and “T” – and of course vice versa, the written “hard” consonant is pronounced “soft”. And speaking about dialects: The emigrants from the South of Germany surely had difficulties to understand Northern Platt (Ger., Eng.), and the rich variety of Franconian dialects surely was of limited beauty to the Hamburgian or Prussian officials, who had to write down these names.

The other very important name is the one of the place of origin. Normally the name of the location the emigrants come from is recorded in the passenger lists, but sometimes a vague description or only the name of the province is given. Family lore and tradition may have preserved and passed down the place of origin over the generations – but with all due respect, I have to say that this is not always a reliable source of information. You may be lucky and letters of the emigrants’ family in the old Heimat and a written name of the place survived. If you are in doubt about the spelling, please let someone have a look on it: A single letter does make a difference! It is a difference whether a place is for example called “Unterregenbach” or “Unterengenbach” – they belong to different administrative bodies, different church parishes – and hence the records are kept in different places.
A further complication arises from the fact, that many names are not unique: A place called “Haslach” can be found at least more than eight times in different parts of Franconia.
Since the middle of the 19th century a lot changed in the public administration and in the administration of the two large christian churches too. From the kingdom of Bavaria – with some Franconian specialties – via the Deutsche Reich from 1871, through the whole brutal 20th century up to now, places changed names, were incorporated into larger administrative entities or even stopped existing. The dreadful Gebietsreform of the 1970s brought the last major change in this respect. The religious administration changed too: Parishes and Dekanate were changed, reformed, united and separated again.
But the 19th century knew such reforms too: Between the newly formed kingdoms of Bayern and Baden the frontier was corrected in the 1850s. This let to the fact that church records of places originally belonging to Bavarian/Franconian parishes for quite a time, today are kept in Karlsruhe in the Badisches Kirchenarchiv.

All I want to say is, that the time used to identify the place or origin of the family – which is the starting place for a genealogical research and important for finding the records – is well used time: Finding the right place of origin saves a lot of fruitless, frustrating and expensive research.
If one has the correct family name and knows the right place of origin a research can be started – let’s look for the records.

* Strangely enough one has to go via the German page (“Migration/Recherche” on the left) to find the button “Rechercheauftrag”; it’s a pdf-application, they charge 40 Euro. And btw – you can turn the sound off down left.

I’m sure there are tons of „how to“-instructions available on the net about genealogy in Germany – there is surely no need for another one. I would like to speak about genealogy in Germany from the practising researcher’s point of view.
Let us assume that your forefathers emigrated from Germany sometimes in the 19th century. They went overseas by ship – and that means that there are good chances to find them in the passenger lists of the Auswandererhaus. You should know a year – or at least narrow down the year of their passage, it helps with the search. (Strangely enough the Rechercheauftrag is only reachable from the German page (under “Migration/Recherche”), it is not linked on the English page.)
But the most important thing is the name. The 19th century did not have something like a Duden (Ger., Eng.), there were no fixed, holy, rules of orthography. The way names were spelled can vary a lot; and names in these lists were often wrote down as they were heard. For example: “Schäfer” (shepherd) can be spelled “Schäffer”, “Sche(f)fer”, “Scho(f)fer”, even “Schif(f)er”.
A Franconian speciality is the difference between consonants pronounced “hard” and “soft”: For reasons unknown to me a written “B” is mostly pronounced “P”, the same goes for “G” and “K”, “D” and “T” – and of course vice versa, the written “hard” consonant is pronounced “soft”. And speaking about dialects: The emigrants from the South of Germany surely had difficulties to understand Northern Platt (correctly Niederdeutsch (Ger., Eng.)), and the variation rich Franconian dialects surely were of limited beauty to the Hamburgian officials, who had to write down these names.

Another very important name is the one of the place of origin. Normally in the passenger lists the name of the location the emigrants come from is recorded, but sometimes only a vague description or just the name of a province is given (“Ostpreussen”). Family lore and tradition may have preserved and passed down of the place of origin’s name over the generations – but from my experience I have to say, that this is not always a reliable source of information. You may be lucky and letters of the emigrants’ family in the old Heimat survived and there may be a written name of a place.
If you are in doubt about it, let someone who knows the old handwritings have a look on it: A single letter can make a huge difference! It is a difference whether a place is for example called “Unterregenbach” or “Unterengenbach” – they belong to different administrative bodies, different church parishes – and hence the records are kept in different places.
A further complication arises from the fact, that some names are not unique: A place called “Haslach” can be found at least more than eight times in different parts of Franconia. It is very important to find the right place of origin, this saves a lot of fruitless, frustrating and expensive research. Since the middle of the 19th century a lot changed in the public administration and in the administration of the two large churches here too. From the kingdom of Bavaria – with some Franconian specialties – via the Deutsche Reich from 1871, through the whole brutal 20th century up to now, places changed names, were incorporated into larger administrative entities or even stopped existing. The Gebietsreform of the 1970s brought the last major change in this respect. Parishes and Dekanate were changed, reformed, united and separated again. But the 19th century knew these reforms too: Between the newly formed kingdoms of Bavaria and Baden the frontier was corrected in the 1850s. This let to the fact that church records of places originally belonging to Bavarian/Franconian parishes today are kept in Karlsruhe in the Landeskirchliche Archiv.

All I want to say is, that the time used to identify the place or origin of the family – which is the starting place for a genealogical research and important for finding the records – is well used time.
If one has the correct family name and knows the right place of origin a research can be started – let’s look for the records.