My mother was born into a family who lived to snow ski. As early as 4 years old she would ski back and forth in front of the lodge where my grandfather taught classes. When she was 6 years old, her older siblings ratcheted her instruction up a notch; they took her to the top of a run and told to ski to the bottom. With those specific instructions, they skied off. Mom set her skis into the snowplow position and headed down. She fell often, prayed a lot and shed a few tears. She slid down a good portion of the run and eventually reached the bottom of the mountain. At which time she got on the chairlift and went for another run, and another and another. Each run became a bit easier than the last. At the end of the day she was exhausted, but she could ski – and she discovered she loved it!
This story closely parallels my beginning experiences with German research. I had skill with U.S. records and was trained in the fundamentals of good research. Through my U.S. work I was able to cross the ocean to Dinklage, Oldenburg, Germany. Unfortunately, I don’t speak fluent German! Suddenly I was confronted with the German language, German script, German record jurisdictions, and the “coup de grâce”, farm names! In the beginning I pretty much “plowed” through microfilms, handwriting guides, gazetteers, German dictionaries, atlases and historical accounts. I fell often, prayed a lot, shed a few tears and found out that I loved it! In comparison to the scanty information located in U.S. record sources, the depth and details of the German records were amazing! That was 20 years ago and since then I have been able to hone my skills to the level of a professional and Accredited Genealogist® in German research.
To those of you who may find yourself about to embark on journey similar to mine, I promise you that despite the initial obstacles, the German records are worth the effort to understand them. I also wish to provide you hope, if I can do it – you can too!