Thursday, June 18, 2009

Exploring German Ancestries

For those just beginning to explore their ancestral roots in another county, Alan Smith's recent article, "Exploring German Ancestries," takes a look at some of the first steps. The more general principles discussed would apply to research in any foreign country, beginning with an exploration of the political, geographical, and cultural history. Determining who was in power at any given time and how areas were divided and records maintained is the key to successful research abroad and at home.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

"Warts-and-all journey into the past"

The old adage, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your family certainly holds true for genealogy. We often find ancestors with less than admirable traits or behaviors, and yet, as hard as it may be to confront the issues, we may come to a greater understanding as we view our ancestors within a historical context. While this does not excuse them, it may help us come to terms with that part of our history. An interesting article on EUX.TV, "Family history TV digs up German past including Nazis, takes a look at the popular British family history TV series when it is transported to Germany:

The BBC programme, Who Do You Think You Are?, premiered in 2004 and gained such big audiences that a fourth series is set to air this September. In each programme, a famous actor or TV personality discovers what their ancestors did in two World Wars, then explores places where forebears lived in the 19th century and meets up with previously unknown cousins. Transposing the programme to Germany creates a problem. Discovering a rabid Nazi in the family tree is often enough to put people off any further inquiries. "Still, there were no inhibitions on the two shows which were aired this month by public channel ZDF. . . . [as] 1.26 million people or 8 per cent of the viewers watched his warts-and-all journey into the past."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Berlin's many cemeteries a popular attraction

Of interest to those who might be planning travel to Germany this summer is an article in Jurnalo, "Tourists flock to see Berlin's historical cemeteries," which provides an interesting summary on the many cemeteries in and around Berlin. As stated in the article, some Berlin cemeteries were devastated during World War II and a few in the border area during the city's post-war division were sealed by the communists and spiked with watch towers and border installations after the Wall went up in 1961. These problems apart, Berlin's collection of cemeteries currently look in remarkably good shape, having been handsomely restored, often by volunteer working groups.

"The city's cemeteries are something of a magnet for tourists nowadays," says Pohren-Hartmann. "Especially for visiting ex- Berliners who have moved abroad. They make guided tours of the more famous burial places, feeling they are reliving history when doing so," he says.

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