International Germanic Genealogy Partnership Conference
From its inception at the end of May 2015 to the end of July 2017, the former American Germanic Genealogy Partnership quickly became the International Germanic Genealogy Partnership conference. Much credit must be given to the efforts of Kent Cutcomp and Kim Ashford of the Germanic Genealogy Society and Dirk Weisslader of the Deutsch Arbeitsgemeinschaft genealogischer Verbände e. V. (DAVG) of Germany.
Almost 700 German researchers from four continents, several Canadian provinces, and 41 states met for three days in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for over 70 presentations on a variety of topics, selecting one session from four or five topics six times a day.
I was privileged to be accepted as a speaker for Genealogical Research in West Prussia, East Prussia, and Lithuania. My topic centered around the interconnected relationships of Political, Social, and Family History though artifacts, examples, experience, and records. Between 60 and 70 researchers attended my presentation early Saturday morning. More than 50% came to learn about West Prussia, about 25% East Prussia, and 15% Lithuania. Many hands went up when I asked about both East and West Prussia. As researchers in Lithuania, we know we represent a smaller number.
The conference subtitle was Connections: International, Cultural, and Personal so I organized this post around those topics.
Dirk Weisslader’s inspirational opening remarks made us all realize the significance of this first ever event. His goal of connecting American and German researchers had moved from possibility to reality. For example, in May 2015, he gave me the e-mail of a German researcher who helped me with my Suwalki Province ancestors who lived in Essen, Germany, for five years before they immigrated to America. In July 2017, when I reminded Dirk of this connection, he asked to take my picture so that he could relay my satisfaction to his friend in Germany.
Timo Kracke of genealogy.net, the largest open access database for German speaking records, includes city directories, a genealogical wiki, the GOV, user-contributed GEDCOM files, heritage books, and the meta search at http://compgen.de/. A separate presentation concentrated on GOV, the 1 million plus gazetteer of Europe and beyond. I have used this website many times.
A biergarten Thursday evening at the German-American Institute in St. Paul provided German beer and wine, sausage, and music.
More than one visit to the vendor area, although enticing, did not add to my German genealogical library.
The Germanic Genealogy Journal published a special issue for all conference attendees: Stories of Connections between America and Europe. I was pleased to see my submission “Discovering Our Hutop Cousins” as one of several articles. It was an abbreviated form of the e-mails Benjamin Hutop and I exchanged from August to November 2014 as we discovered our relationship after contracting our Family History Tour Guide who found fifteen connecting records in the Lithuanian State Historical Archives.
I introduced myself to Shirley Reimer, author of The German Research Companion, who received an IGGP Lifetime Achievement Award and Ernest Thode, author of Address Book for German Genealogy and reintroduced myself to Dr. Roger Meinert, author of German Census Records.
On Friday afternoon I attended “Cyrillic Parish Records: A Guide to Documents by Sigrid Pohl Perry, Ph.D.“ in the same amphitheatre I would give my own presentation the next morning. As many times as I have attended sessions on this topic, this one inspired me to try harder. After the conference Sigrid translated a few words in three documents for me and is now following this blog!
Her work with the SGGEE Lublin project became the subject of a luncheon speech for which I had registered that focused on her search to find her family “tribe” by researching people who immigrated together by careful examination of ships’ manifests, census records, witnesses on documents, etc. Examples were from Lublin, Poland, in the southern part of the Kingdom of Poland.
Nathan Machula spoke on a similar topic that I did: Researching Former German Provinces in the East. My conversation with him afterwards centered on DNAs from this area and the -is suffix of his name.
Three books he recommended may become topics of future blogs: The Polish -German Borderlands: An Annotated Bibliography; Potatoes and Psalms; and The Heritage.
The introduction to the presentation “48er Democratic Revolutionaries and the German Mass Migration to the Midwest” by Yogi Reppmann brought another personal connection. Reppmann mentioned how Karl Mays’s books about the American West influenced him as a young reader in Germany. I knew he was talking about Winetou, the majestic “Indian” chief. I have a treasured photograph of Leo and Helga Spurgat’s re-creation of this scene in their body contortionist act. Although I did not get an opportunity to tell him this personally, I attached the image to an e-mail after the conference.
His reply was “GREAT mail – vielen DANK, liebe Cynthia. YOU made my day.“ He kindly attached a pdf of two of his latest books, but his gracious response resulted in my ordering them both—Crossing the Ocean: German American Friendships and The Holocaust Boxcar: A Powerful Admonition against Anti-Semitism. I have read both books and have a better understanding of the German view of the National Socialism response in the 1930s. This is no way lessens the sacrifice and the vital role the United States played in World War II and our country’s commitment to democratic principles which we treasure above all else.
ALL OF THE ABOVE:
The first ever IGGP conference was successful in many ways for many reasons. It meant an opportunity to hear nationally known speakers and to attend sessions of those who are not professional genealogists but who are dedicated family researchers. Sessions on the borderlands, Luxembourg in the west and East Prussia/Lithuania on the east were well-received. The dream of connecting researchers with German Genealogical Societies and American-German Genealogical Societies has been met.