The next three posts reveal an amazing story of how readers of this blog can help each other with their research.
After a January 2014 posting about the old German Cemetery of Oszurty/Opsrutai, Lithuania, and mentioning three iron crosses I had seen, one of them in memory of Jan Lingertat, I received a very excited response from two brothers in Tennessee.
About a month ago I googled Lingertat and Johann Lingertat. In both cases your site with the reference to the Johann Lingertat iron cross marker came up. I was excited because it fit our family history so well. I thought this part of our history had probably been lost forever because of the two world wars and the cold war. I located a small hardbound book belonging to my grandparents, printed in German, that provided space for recording info on a baby’s first year. It was bought in 1907, the year my aunt, Lydia Drignat, was born. I had remembered that it listed some siblings of my grandparents, Mathilda Lingertat Drignat and Peter Drignat. If the book had not been hardbound, I don’t think it would have made it through the many moves our family has made. When I found the book, I again saw that it listed my great grandfather’s name as Johann Lingertat. I was surprised to see my grandmother’s place of birth listed, and it was the same location as the cemetery with the marker for Johann Lingertat. My grandfather, Peter Drignat, listed his place of birth as Dorf: Oznugariai (this is from the present day map and is my best guess from his handwriting) and Gemeinde: Batoki (Batakiai). I’m sure my grandparents never met until they were both visiting my grandmother’s brother in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
The Germans must have stuck together in little enclaves in Lithuania because my grandmother once told my mother that her ability to speak Lithuanian was not that good until she had increased exposure to the Lithuanian language in America! German was always the language that my grandmother used at home, and I picked up my first German words from overhearing her conversations with my mother and aunt.
The only people, other than relatives, whom I assumed she knew back in Lithuania appeared to have been married after they came to America. None of their last names seem to match the names on the Marijampole church lists. Except one: Kaptain. I remember their speaking of August Kaptain. It is interesting that Johann Lingertat witnessed the birth of Wilhelmina Kaptain, who married William Spurgat. I believe that my mother and aunt referred to August Kaptain as their uncle. I suspect that he was of my grandmother’s generation and so he was called uncle. I think he lived in the New York City area when they were small. He must have been quite a guy. They adored him. I googled his name and found a farmer living in Wisconsin. That could have been after they had contact with him, if he’s the same August Kaptain.
My dad was raised in Iowa, speaking both English and German from birth. When he served as a U.S. Chaplain in WWII, the German POW’s would ask him where in Germany he hailed from. He had a wonderful feel for the language. There is a point to this. He told me one time that Drignat had a Prussian sound to him. I think he’d say the same thing about the name Spurgat.
The next post is a continuation of the correspondence from the great grandson of Johann Lingertat.