This post was written by Elisabeth Zetland, researcher at MyHeritage. It was originally posted on our French blog.
I have long hoped to reconnect with the German family that had such a great impact on my grandfather’s life. I never met my maternal grandfather, Roger Dubuc. He passed away when I was only four months old. I don’t remember when I first heard his story but it quickly became a mystery that intrigued me, and I decided that I had to solve it.
Roger’s story began like that of many other French soldiers, but it suddenly took an abrupt turn. At the age of 20, on June 22, 1940, he was captured in Vannes without ever having fought in the war. When he left French soil, he didn't imagine that it would be five long years before he would return home again. His father Léon had also been a prisoner of war in Germany at the end of WWI, but had returned home after seven months.
We have often discussed the importance of building family trees and how genealogy can be used to make exciting family discoveries.
Gilad Japhet, MyHeritage's Founder & CEO, read an article a few months ago concerning the compensation for Jewish-owned German property that had been confiscated by the Nazis during World War II.
The article linked to a list compiled by the Claims Conference of around 40,000 properties (homes, buildings, stores and factories) located in former East Germany. The descendants of these property owners are entitled to compensation.
Recently, Mark Rigg (Stockport, UK) was going through his attic, when he found a treasure he never knew existed.
His great-aunt, Annie Droege, was a British woman living in Germany during WWI. What Mark didn't know was that Annie had kept a diary of her experiences.
She recounts her emotions of spending the war in Germany, and having German friends fighting against her British friends and family.
At one point, Annie and her family were under siege in their own home, as a mob from the nearby village descended upon them.
Mark was excited by the discovery, and decided to publish the diary to demonstrate the hardships of life during the Great War. He dedicated the book to the 16.5 million people who lost their lives.
No other artifact or family heirloom - other than personal diaries - helps us understand the lives and emotions of the previous generations.
Have you inherited a family diary or journal? What did you learn from it?
At an age when most young men tend to look at the world outside instead of their own family roots, David Krueger, 15, from Germany, is already working on his family history at MyHeritage. He began his research at age 13.
In 2010, he “Googled” his own name, just for fun. He looked at the results and saw a family tree with many branches.
Under the picture was written: "My ancestors, determined by a genealogist." "It looks interesting," I thought, and clicked on it. I discovered more and more fascinating information about genealogy.
David went to his mother and asked about his grandparents, writing down their birth and death dates. When he asked about his great-grandparents, there was no room on the paper.
I quickly turned on my computer and looked for a way to represent this piece of information online, so that I had a clear view in a way I could understand (I was then 13).
We're delighted to welcome Karen Hägele to our German team. She replaces Silvia da Silva, who recently went on maternity leave. We wish Silvia much health and happiness and look forward to her return next year. Karen now shares her family story, to which many of us can relate.
Back to my roots: from Brazil to Germany
As a small child, I remember using certain words that my friends didn’t know. For example I called my grandmother Oma and my grandfather Opa. I could count from eins to zehn and my favorite nursery rhyme was Backe, backe Kuchen. At night, I wished my parents Gute Nacht, and at Christmas we ate Stollen (a kind of fruit cake), baked, of course, by my grandmother.
We were the only ones in our neighborhood to have a real Christmas tree with real candles instead of "blinking stuff," as my Granddaddy used to say.
All of that would have been quite normal had I not been born in Brazil.
This post appeared last week in our German blog. We've translated it to help Gudrun Giesemann find her father.
We're now hoping to help Gudrun, who's been searching for her biological father for over 30 years. She's tried everything, without success. Now we're asking our readers for help. Each bit of information could be vitally important for Gudrun.
Here's her story:
For over 30 years, I've been searching for my biological father whom I've never met. When my mother died in 1989, she told me that his name was SIDNEY or SYDNEY SMITH. Unfortunately, there are a lot of spellings of this common name.
This week's news includes a new online database for the names of Virginia slaves, an exhibit on Germans in Chicago, two sources for information on digital preservation, a Massachusetts conference, a display of memorabilia for the Canadian Women's Army Corp (CWAC), and a New York City seminar on cutting-edge genealogy.
The MyHeritage genealogy team is back from Springfield, Illinois, where we attended the 2011 Federation of Genealogical Societies conference.
Read about the conference here in an article from the local paper. The event claimed some 2,000 attendees, offered 198 presentations, and attracted conference-goers from as far away as India.
Read on for more.
This is an English translation of Interview mit Torkel S. Wächter written by Silvia.
Torkel S. Wächter was born in 1961 in Stockholm, Sweden. He studied at the universities of Lund, Melbourne and Leipzig, and at Paideia - The European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden and at the Royal Academy in Stockholm. Between 1986 and 1999 he worked as a pilot for SAS. Wächter’s first novel, Roman Samson was published in 1997 by Verlag Natur och Kultur; his second novel, Roman Ciona, an autobiography that appeared in AlfabetaAnamma, was published in 2002 and was nominated for a major Swedish literary award, Augustpreis. Since 2006 he has both Swedish and German citizenship. Torkel is the founder of the website, 32postkarten.com, where you will be able to read 32 authentic postcards sent from Hamburg during 1940 and 1941.