Carol Sanderson, Editor
Charles Hansen, Technical Advisor
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Although I was told November weather in Salt Lake City is usually mild, it was a cold, rainy Sunday when we arrived on November 2nd. Nineteen members of Palatines to America came from all parts of the U.S. (four of us from Ohio) to do research. Some I knew from my trip to Germany in 2001, and some I met at the National Conference earlier this year. Others became new friends after our get-acquainted dinner Sunday evening.
We had cold weather throughout the week we were there, with rain and snow the first three days. Since we stayed at the hotel next to the library and had packed appropriately, we survived our first taste of winter 2003.
This was our daily routine: up early, breakfast at the hotel restaurant, to the library shortly after its opening at 8 AM, a break for lunch, back to the library until dinner time, and then to our room to sort out the results of our research that day. The only change in this was when we took time out to attend the Tabernacle Choir rehearsal. They rehearse on Thursday evening for their Sunday TV program and it is open to the public. Temple Square is just across the street from the library and hotel and this provided a nice respite from our daily routine.
I spent the whole week in German research and was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to find and replace the microfilm we viewed on the many readers there. Prior to the trip, I had prepared a binder containing information on the ten surnames I intended to work on. Two a day, I said, with the last day to tie up loose ends. Since I placed them alphabetically in my book, with film numbers already obtained from the FHL catalog online, I started with AUGST (my husband's grandfather's name). I was looking for a birth record for George in 1866 in Alsace. I didn't know exactly where. I had information that there were Augsts in Woerth, Bitschhoffen, Niederbronn, Mertzwiller, Weitbruch and Schweighausen, so I started viewing film from those places. No luck with the first four, but in Weitbruch I found a George Augst born in October 1866, whose father was also George. I ended my first day of research wondering if I found the right one. His 1927 death record in Cincinnati said his birthday was in January 1866.
So much for two names a day. On Tuesday I continued my search for George. This time in Schweighausen and I found him born on January 27, 1866. I also found his parents, George and Madeleine; his grandparents, Philippe and Christina; and his great grandparents, Philippe and Anna Maria. I also have new surnames to add GRUSS, BALD, WIDEMANN, MERCKER, FREYTAG, FISHER and BRICKER.
I spent Wednesday and Thursday looking for emigration records for BAREITER, LEITZ and WASSMANN, to see if I could find places of origin for them, with no luck. I also looked for records for DIETRICH in Wolferding, but I néeded earlier records than 1663, which are not available. I had the same situation with HUBER in Wolfertschwenden, whose records go back to 1666. I was able to make copies of THOMA marriage records that I looked for in Kirchheim.
A distant cousin of my husband, who accompanied me on this trip, worked with me on the DUCHSCHER line. We spent Friday and Saturday making many copies of birth, marriage and death records from Echternach. We had prior knowledge of the village and film numbers at hand, and had help from the staff in translating what we found.
In addition to having the films readily available, the help with translating is a great advantage to researching in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My surnames MEISER and VELTEN will have to wait for another trip.
A few years ago I sent out a questionnaire to our cousins, and one question was: "How do you celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas"? I was somewhat surprised by how many of the cousins celebrated in almost the same way. Nearly all of them had a big turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, and a goose for Christmas. I did not ever remember having a goose for Christmas, so I asked my mom why we never had a goose. She said that when I was very young, she tried cooking a goose for Christmas dinner, and it turned out so badly, she never tried again.
About a month before Christmas we would go to see my dad's parents. They lived on a farm about 30 miles from us and we usually picked a nice weekend day to go, and we took them presents and had a nice lunch there before going to look for a Christmas tree and then heading home. My dad's father had died when I was five, so I have little memory of him, but grandma lived almost thirty years longer, and lived close by, so we spent a lot of Christmas holidays with her. On Christmas Eve we always went to her house to open presents. Then we went home to try to sleep before morning when we opened the presents Santa had brought.
After opening all the presents, we then went to grandma's for dinner. Pop and I would pull out the table and put in all the leaves so the table would be large enough for all of us and all the food. We also gathered the chairs for everyone. Mom and my sister would help grandma with the food and set the table with the good china and silverware. After dinner we would sit and talk and try to digest all the food. Then mom and grandma would divide the left-overs and pop and I returned the chairs to their rightful places and folded the table back to its usual size.
How did your parents or grandparents celebrate the holidays? Is this a good time to ask? How do you ask? Can you record the answers? Did they take any pictures? Interviewing is sometimes difficult, and few people like being interviewed, so you néed to work your interview into the conversation. Ask when they first celebrated Christmas? First Christmas with children? Worst disaster on Christmas? Favorite Christmas meal?
Tips for collecting oral history are easy to find on the internet. I went to Cyndi's List and found several in a few minutes.1 All give great advice, but remember to keep the questions short, and remember the real meaning of Christmas; it is not to gather genealogy information.