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!)
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 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….)
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).
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……