Episode 127 – Down the Ancestry Rabbit Hole

At this time last year, just back from Texas and isolated at home during the first wave COVID lockdown, I had time on my hands and started writing down some of my family history (Episodes 65 through 77). In the year since then, from the sheer number of green “hint” leaves that keep popping up in our tree in Ancestry.com, it seems like lots and lots of folks have used their time alone at home to research their families.

Last year, I was able to trace back 3 generations beyond each of my maternal grandfather and grandmother. In the past year, records suddenly appeared online with scans of only slightly charred church records from the two main churches (one Roman Catholic and one Hungarian Reformed) in Tolna, Hungary – the county seat for my mother’s birthplace of Nagyszekely. The records were sometimes in Hungarian, which meant that the only things I could understand were names and numeric dates (thank you Google Translate and clear dark writing!)

A Hungarian church record for my great grandmother M. (Margaret) Dorothea Becker showing her birth on 20 August 1880, and baptism on 22 August 1880. It lists her parents as Wilhelm Becker and M. Dorothea Reinhard. On the right hand page are her godparents Filip Prescher and M. Dorothea Wegman. The heading on the left hand page is the Hungarian word for christening, the right hand page heading the word for birth certificate.

Interestingly, earlier – closer to the time that the German community first came to Hungary as religious refugees – the records were in German only. I read German much more fluently than I speak it, so those records were a pleasant surprise.

The 1810 record for the birth of Magdalena Wiand, my 4th-great grandmother, born on June 10th. The page heading under the year says simply “the names” (Die Namen). Her parents’ names are shown as Ludwig Wiand and Margareta.

The unexpected surprise were the records partially written in Latin. Who knew that 3 years of high school Latin would finally come in useful? (Okay, I did use it to read old engravings in a monastery in Austria, but other than that….)

On my maternal great-great grandfather Georg Braubach’s record, notice the 1837 summary on the right hand page: the number of males, females, and still births, entered in Latin.

Last year, I was able to trace back 2 generations beyond my paternal grandfather. Clearly folks worldwide have had time on their hands, because there are now on-line records at Metryki.GenBaza.pl with reams and reams of birth, death, and marriage data for towns and cities in what is now Poland, but some of which was previously Prussia and Russia. By selecting the name of a town – and sometimes further choosing the German or Polish speaking settlement within it – alphabetical records and scanned parish and civic records can be searched. I was able to find dozens of records for the Mandau side of the family – especially once I started to recognize what the German names looked like in Polish (e.g, Georg = Jerzy), and what they looked like in Russian (Wilhelm Mandau = Вильгельм Мандау).

The index page from the Secymin 1913 birth records (left), and the actual birth record for my Aunt Irma, born Oct 20, 1913. Highlighted are her parents Wilhelm Mandau and Emilie Brokop, each with the Polish version of their name preceding the German.
1815 birth record for my great-great-grandfather Jakob August Albrecht, in Polish. I’m taking distant relatives’ word for it that his parents Jakoub and Maryann are in there somewhere.

Last year, I knew absolutely nothing about my paternal grandmother beyond her name and birthplace, but that all changed in just this past week.

My first cousin in Germany sent me a message containing the email address of a lady named Rita, who lives in Cologne, and has a common great grandmother with us: Marianne Jadischke, mother of our grandmother Emilie Brokop. Rita – our second cousin !! – had found us through a more distant cousin in Bavaria who was doing some ancestry work. COVID boredom has certainly had some unexpected consequences. By the time we’d exchanged several dozen emails, all over the course of one week (hers in beautiful nuanced German and mine in much more basic Google-translate enhanced syntax) I had added 6 further generations to my grandmother’s branch of my tree, all the way back to 1750. Sadly, all of the dates are verified only through family trees, and not – yet – supplemented with actual birth records. However, now that I’ve discovered that Polish genealogy site, hopefully it’s just a matter of time and energy. We’re back into a month of lockdown, so……

Emilie Brokop, in the red square, is the grandmother about whom I previously knew NOTHING!

One comment

  1. Wow! I have to forward this to Susan! She’s done our family tree but doesn’t share well.

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