Here it is one year later and this is my 52nd post close to May 31, 2013! I have met my goal although admittedly, not week by week. Although each of the last twelve months has resulted in at least one post, more than a few have been clumped together.
May: I received a response to an e-mail I had sent from an address from “Lutherans Online.” A researcher in Connecticut told me his family was from Mehlkekmen (aka Birkenmuhle), Kreis Stallupoonen, East Prussia. I located it on a map but it seemed a bit far away from Eydtkuhnen, my only East Prussian clue. (See blog posting.) In retrospect, I may be wrong.
July: I e-mailed a linguistics professor re: an article in which the first several paragraphs had some history about Germans in Lithuania. I explained that the purpose of my blog was to establish a common ground for researchers to explore their origins in East Prussia or other locations in Suwalki Province. She replied that she had “seen some metrical records that name East Prussian villages as birthplaces for some German Lutherans in Suwalki, but hadn’t kept track of them.” She recommended that I try “looking for mentions of East Prussia in microfilms of metrical records for various individuals with Germanicized Lithuanian names ending in -at, from the early or mid 19th century.”
September: A researcher in Lithuania found my blog and wanted to buy my book. After receiving a check from the Lithuanian Embassy, I e-mailed him the pertinent chapters.
November: I received an e-mail from a researcher whose initials are AFS. He had found my blog and was grateful for the information and the maps on the blog!
He also informed another researcher, AH, about my blog. He is a Salzburg descendant and a fluent reader, writer, and speaker of the German and Lithuanian languages. AH was born in Lithuania of German speaking parents in April 1944 at the height of the WWII battles between Germans and Russians. His family came to the US in 1952.
December: A trip to the Baltic countries was announced on a popular website. Additionally, I sent an e-mail as a response to an ad in Lithuanian Heritage, for Lithuanian Family History tours.
The owner and family history tour guide replied that he would be interested in conducting a family history tour. I sent him a list of 15 villages from which I had records. After he sent me an online map of Lithuania, I located 12 of 15 villages on a modern map of Lithuania! Later he gave me the information on the other 3!
January: At his request I e-mailed the family history tour guide pertinent chapters and appendices from my book.
He outlined a possible visit:
Museum in Sudava/Didvyziai located in the building of Didvyziai manor; a local guide familiar with the area should help to find needed places. The curator “is advised to concentrate on Lutheran history of the area.”
Marijampole Lutheran church (discussion with the Pastor or church community).
Meeting with people with my surname.
Meeting with any descendants (if we’ll search for them and we find them).
Searching for gravestones in old cemeteries (most of them might be in poor shape).
Rumsiskes Open Air Museum
He also referred me to an article about Kristijonas Donelaitis which provided a great deal of information about the Lithuanian-Prussians who became absorbed into the German culture.
I concluded that I found a very knowledgeable person.
I told AH our plans to work with the above family history tour guide. He replied: “We met him in Vilnius last summer for dinner. Good guy. He is a former journalist!” Is this a small world of German Lutherans in Suwalki Province or what?
AH and his sister have translated several historical documents from German. AH has put them on his website. They provide invaluable background information not available any other way.
In late January I e-mailed BE, a researcher I had been in contact with since June 1996, to seek permission to use one of his photographs on my blog. He has traveled extensively in Lithuania and in the Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia.
By the end of the month, we had a 13 day guided tour to the Baltics (most of it in Lithuania) and a 5 day trip family history tour booked.
February: BE revealed he had met our family history tour guide in June of 2011 in Vilnius! He also provided me with a picture he took of a statue of Kristijonas Donelaitis! Small world?
BE also recommended visiting the official historian of the Lutheran Church in Lithuania.
March: AS wrote me that a linguistics professor had written about the “Multiple language and cultural self-identities of the German-speaking Lutheran minorities in ‘Russian Poland (Mazowsze and Suvalkija) in the 19th century.”… I am sure AFS was surprised when I told him I had contacted the same person last July! Small world?
AH also wrote: I have corresponded with a relative in Connecticut who is mentioned in the Acknowledgements of the above article. This is the same researcher whom I had e-mailed in May 2012! Small world?
April: Using online tools, I located villages in Lithuania, Russia, and Poland, the land of the former East Prussia, in which people with my same –at last name lived. I also used online sources to organize research about East Prussia in German language genealogical periodicals. I have copied some of these articles and have found a “volunteer” expert translator.
As I examined my previous research, I found a 9 page handwritten document I had received in the mid 1990s, a listing of the Evangelical Lithuanian Church. It was signed and dated 1992. The name seemed a bit familiar. When I checked, it was the same name as the person BE mentioned above! Twenty years after receiving these hand-written sheets, I will be meeting the compiler this summer! Small world?
May: This is the story thus far. I thank AS in Lithuania, the linguistics professor, AFS, AH, our family history tour guide, and BE for all the information they have shared with me.
Plans for Year 2
Several people who indicated they were looking for their German Lutheran ancestors in Suwalki Province inspired me to start this blog. Hopefully, additional responses from those who posted queries on Lutherans Online at Thrivent.com will contact me in the next 12 months.
More links on the website.
Continued information from the chapters of my book that I believe will help other researchers.
Books I have read and can recommend.
Information from “our trip of a lifetime” that would aid other researchers.
There must be a way to connect us all together at the same time. Our ancestors were connected to a small area of land under various governments more than 100 years ago. The Age of Information via the Internet has connected their descendants, one to another. All of the above people are connected to each other in groups of two or more. Let’s find a way to connect all of us even more.
Hopes for Year 3:
Research others and I have done to find more about the specific origin, perhaps in East Prussia, i. e. villages, of German Lutherans in Suwalki Province, including those with the –at name.