Saturday, June 1, 2019

Sitting on a goldmine

A few years ago, my grandma Blossom's DNA test at 23andMe led to one of the hugest genealogical discoveries since I started my research back in 2000. Her grandmother, Maria (Zitzmann) Hoffman, had said nothing about her background, where they were from, or who her ancestors were. Grandma's test helped me find a match who lives in Germany, who was intimately familiar with our common ancestors in Bohemia, and helped me find literally hundreds of years of my family history in that area. Being able to share that with my grandma before she passed away still stands as one of the genealogical accomplishments I am most satisfied with and happy about.

One of the challenges with all those records, though, is getting all the info out of all of them. I have somewhere between 50 and 60 individual records - baptisms, marriages, burials - that tell me about these ancestors, all written in German. I don't speak or read German much at all, though I have come to learn a few words, like baptism, day laborer, born, died, etc. so I can get the gist of who the record is about. But anything beyond that is beyond my level to get into, without a lot of time spent to read the handwriting (I did take a German genealogy course or two through BYU, but a few months' exposure isn't enough to make me proficient at the level I need to be to read these records). So, for the most part, they've been sitting in my hard drive, untranslated, waiting for the day when I have the time or funds to get them translated.

I decided to reach out to a genealogist I'm acquainted with, and asked her to translate one of the records for me - the marriage record of Lenhard Zitzmann and Maria Elizabeth Hüttl in 1810. This one is important to me, as it's the earliest record of the earliest Zitzmann ancestor that I know of. Lenhard was likely born sometime around 1785, and Maria was born in 1788. I really want to know the origins of the Zitzmann surname in my family, where it originally came from, so if any record could help me go back further than 1810, this one could. What she found startled me.

Marriage record of Lenhard Zitzmann and Maria Elizabeth Hüttl.
She said that Lenhard's info (the section on the left in the image above) said his mother's name was Katharina Weiman, the daughter of a herder, who lived in Hagendorf in the Palatinate. I'd heard of Palatine Germans, but only in the context of those who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the late 1700s. Suddenly I found I was also a descendant of Palatine Germans, but who went east instead of west. What's really interesting is that Hagendorf is almost right on the border between Bavaria and Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), and really isn't far from Rosshaupt, where the Zitzmanns lived for many years. But that short little trip is across a border, which helps explain why Lenhard just appears in the records at this time. This means I could try reaching out to churches and archives in and near Hagendorf and might be able to learn more about the Zitzmanns and Katharina Weiman. The prospect of learning about more of my ancestors is just thrilling, and the key to that all has been sitting in my own computer for years!!

Hagendorf, Bavaria. Image from Wikipedia. 
This means that I might be sitting on a veritable gold mine of information about my family, and I don't even know it. I'd like to dig in a little more, see if I can get some more of these records translated. I might need to reach out to other professionals for some help with the handwriting, but I think it's worth it. Who knows what other gold nuggets are just waiting to be discovered?

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