|portion of my Grandfather's letter to view cryptic cursive|
Cryptic cursive was the number one barrier that held a century of letters hostage. The second, less daunting, but still real barrier, was the language, German.
|Postcard of Frauenkirche |
from my Scrapbook 1969-70
"Ein Jahr im München"
My first son, Evan, was six, and I thought, “What a fun way to spend quality time with my boy, introduce his pliable brain to a foreign language, and indulge in a little refresher for myself.” The class was tiny -- about 4-6 couples of parent and child. The teacher, Antje, a native of Germany, delightful. She filled the class with games and activities through which vocabulary was painlessly introduced and learned. I couldn’t have pulled most of those basic words from my quarter-century-old studies, but I was amazed at how simple reviews reignited long dormant brain cells. It was the start of my German language revitalization!
|Family members at funeral of Lillian Gartz, 8/1994|
|Visiting Gärtz family in Crailsheim Germany. 2nd from left|
is Hans Gärtz, whose grandfather, Michael Gärtz, was my
grandfather's half brother. Far right Hans Jr., my generation.
|Left: me; right: my 2nd cousin twice removed, Maria Gärtz,|
visiting Würzburg, June, 1995
Fast forward to 2009. That summer is when I received the email from Uli, the German Professor we had met on our roots-finding trip to Romania, asking me if we had any letters. Realizing he might be able to help a bit with illegible German, Uli’s email was the spur I needed to look at the letters more closely.
|Approximately 35 old letters were found bunched together|
in a second Missler Wallet in Box #14 "Correspondence"
So how to begin? On September 9, 2009, I hauled out box #14 and began looking through the piles of letters. One group stood out--folded inside yet another Missler Wallet.
(Remember the one in which I found my grandfather’s diary? Well, one of the ubiquitous Missler wallets came to America with my Grandmother too, and she used it to store some of her most precious letters).
Stuffed inside, folded together into thirds were a fat bunch of missives. Amazingly, most were not brittle or yellowed. I can only assume the paper back then was far more acid-free than today.
In grease pencil, she had written across the bottom of the one enfolding the bunch:
“From Jickeli, Lisbeth, Mutter Gärtz (Josef’s mother) and Father Ebner (her dad). All very good”
This seemed a fine place to start. At least I knew what signatures to look for. I found more than I had ever dreamed existed, but plenty of unknowns remained. In the near future, I’ll share my first stab at unravelling the mystery of the authors.
But first, I'm starting a regular weekly post, "Traveling Tuesday," to share the discoveries of our roots-finding mission to my grandparents' native land as well as to introduce the beauty and historical sites of Transylvania to anyone who loves travel. Read about it on the introductory post next Tuesday, 1/18/11.