Friday, April 14, 2006

Roots experience


Above from right, my stern great-grandfather Nick, with my grandfather Al as a young man, then his brother Mike, then a visiting roguish cousin. In this photo, taken outside their home, Nick is clearly annoyed to be interrupted for a photo. But... this is one of just a handful of photos to make it through 100 years in the U.S. We never do know what will be remembered.

I had a little Roots experience recently.

My grandfather said that where he was born Germans were given free land so they would come there and settle. This month I was doing some genealogy and -- sure enough -- I found his people. He was Donaschwaben. Danube German, who in the 1700s and 1800s were given free land by the Austro-Hungarian emperors and settled what is now Hungary, drained the swamps, and made the place into the breadbasket of Europe. (Until the Communists took over after WWII. They damn near destroyed the place. Natch.)

Thanks to the celebrated German propensity to keep records (and the wonderful Intenet) in like 20 seconds some genealogists traced the line back to 1750. I'm thinking we could go farther -- at least back to 1700 and maybe we will.

During the two centuries between 1700 or so and 1907, when they checked in at Ellis Island, the family settled three new towns in the Banat (the Donaschwaben lands).

Interestingly, after the empire dissolved, the area became Hungary or Serbia and the Germans were no longer in a German land. However, I note they did not demand that the rest of the people change to suit them, they just moved to a new country.

Legally, of course.

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