Among my prized possessions of people long gone are two newspapers. To be exact, they are several assembled pieces of paper. One set was given to my grandparents, the other to my parents on the day they were married. Poems, songs, and quips, as well as pictures and drawings which loving relatives and friends composed for the occasion, together with good advice, incessant humor, and little-known secrets, are revealed in these pages. What a treasure to possess! Not only do we get dates and names, but we get to know habits, interests, quirks, and traits of two people who are at the start of a most life changing adventure. The “Hochzeitszeitung,” as this paper is called in German, is of great importance, not just at the time of celebration but also for posterity. The custom was around at least in the form of poems “(Hochzeitsgedicht”) 500 years ago and is still alive and well today. If such documents have survived, they will be housed in archives, key word “Personalschriften.”
Other occasions for honoring people were recognitions. In this case, a “Festschrift” was created, revealing details about a person’s life achievements. This was also true for a person’s eulogy. Friends and families created poems and, together with a picture, a song, and other information about the deceased such as relationships, the information was compiled and printed. Such printed sheets were collected and archived. They are known as “Leichenpredigten.” These documents came into existence in the 1500s and lasted for at least 200 years. They were first published for influential men, then for women of wealthy families, and finally the general public picked up the custom. Both Catholics and Protestants participated. More information about these documents can be retrieved through university libraries and archives, under “Personalschriften.”
These personal documents, including “Hochzeitsgedichte” and “–zeitungen,” “Festschriften,” and “Leichenpredigten,” are yet another source to document one’s German ancestors.