Grantville, December 1633
"That's probably about the best we can do." Roberta Sutter looked at the stacks of paper on the table in front of her with considerable dissatisfaction.
"We've interviewed everyone in town," Sandra Prickett said. "We've made them look for family Bibles and scrapbooks and newspaper clippings and birth certificates and applications for delayed birth certificates and applications for Social Security cards and . . . Anyway, quite a few people got annoyed and said things, like, 'Don't you realize there's a war on?'"
"We've gotten a lot that we didn't have before," Mary Jo Blackwell added her bit to the Genealogy Club council meeting. Mary Jo was always spoiling someone else's desire to have a good fight. She was a nuisance that way, sometimes.
Marian Butcher nodded. "Some surprises, too, like how Rose Howell's descendants knew that some of Cyrene's great-grandkids lived here in town and that they were related, but Cyrene's had forgotten all about it."
Miriam Miller looked at Jenny Maddox. "I guess the point is—does the Bureau of Vital Statistics want us to stop the blitz? Have we done enough for the records you need?"
"More than enough, probably. We're going to put copies of everything in the public library. Marietta's fine with that. People can come look up their family trees if they're interested. Down-timers as well as up-timers."
Roberta frowned again. "The down-time stuff is still mainly oral history. It's not properly documented. When the wars stop, maybe we can write to the parishes where people told us they were born and married and get copies of their baptisms and weddings for our files."
"With your approach to genealogy, there will never be an end to it."
Roberta looked at Jenny, honestly surprised. "Of course not. Everyone who's ever been born has two parents, and lots of them have aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. And cousins. Even Jesus had cousins. The historian Josephus wrote that Roman officials interviewed them, about thirty years after the crucifixion. Oral history is an important part of the process, even though it isn't sufficient in itself." Her voice was starting to perk up again.
Sandra Prickett sighed.
"I hate to say it, Melvin, but I think they're losing their enthusiasm."
Melvin Sutter chewed his sausage. Personally, he had sort of hoped, after they adopted a couple of children after the Ring of Fire and Roberta got a full-time job, that she would lose some of hers. Not that he had anything against family trees. But their house didn't have just plain family trees. It even had family trees that Roberta had cross-stitched, framed, and put up on the walls. There was one hanging right over his head, here in the breakfast nook.
"I started to explain how we could supplement the oral history we collected for the new immigrants. I need documentation for our own children. I've already written to Gotha for Albrecht and Margaretha and to Kitzingen for Martin. Now if I could just find someone who remembers exactly where Verena was baptized, since she doesn't seem to be related to any other of the Elsisheimers who have immigrated to Grantville—not that I'm sure they're telling me the truth. They're a bit evasive, especially Magdalena Albert. She's Kunz Polheimer's wife—her first husband was an Elsisheimer, though she didn't have any children by him. If it's because Verena was born out of wedlock and her mother Maria was actually a relative somehow, then . . . "
Melvin, a veteran of such speculations, tuned it all out and continued chewing.
Until he heard the dire words, " . . . and I'm not going to put it off any longer. I'm not going to wait until it's too late."
"Uh. Put what off?"
"Melvin, you haven't been listening."
He didn't even try to defend himself.
"I know we don't have any natural children, but Marilyn has Matt and it's likely he'll marry and have children one of these days. So I really need to finish the Hooper side of the family. Before the Ring of Fire, I took it as far as the church records from Schwarzach that had been microfilmed by the Mormons would let me, but they only started in 1612. If I go to Schwarzach now, before it's too late, I can interview living ancestors. I'm sure with what they remember, I can add a couple more generations to the family tree. Huber, it was, in Germany, before the Germanna immigrants Americanized the spelling. I hope that my ancestor Georg Huber is still the mayor of Schwarzach."
"I hate to say this, but we've got four adopted children, now. Their mother can't just go haring off someplace to do genealogy."
"They're not babies. Albrecht's sixteen; Martin's fifteen. Margaretha's eleven. Even Verena's five, not a baby any more. Marilyn will help you. I'm sure she will, especially now that Matt's off in Magdeburg. It's her family tree too, after all. You can manage on your own this coming summer."
"Marilyn just got married again last fall. Baxter Harris may not want for her to be babysitting a batch of kids all next summer."
"Since she married Baxter, she's Trissie's stepmother, and Trissie's the perfect age to baby-sit Verena and Margaretha, plus she's in the same class at school with Albrecht." Roberta patted Melvin's cheek. "Don't worry. It will all work out fine."
Melvin shook his head. "It won't be that simple. Things never are."
Roberta sat quietly.
Roberta quiet was Roberta dangerous.
"Just where is this Schwarzach place, anyway? Why don't you write them?"
"After the Benedictine imperial abbey there was secularized in 1803, it became part of the Grand Duchy of Baden. That was the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in our day. I did write to the mayor, last year. And to the Catholic church, but I haven't gotten an answer. So I need to go."
"By my count, there's close to a hundred seventy-five years of politics between now and 1803. Where is it now?"
"Um. In Swabia."
"Horn has a Swedish army in Swabia."
Roberta tilted her head. "Not in the part of Swabia where Schwarzach is."
"Just what part of Swabia is Schwarzach in?"
"It's on the Rhine. And now I have a contact there, so . . . "
"You have a contact there? I thought you said that they hadn't written back."
"Well, Mayor Huber hasn't written back."
"And . . . "
"Uh, you remember that Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar offered Kamala Horton a job? And she took it and shook the dust of Grantville off her feet, so to speak? She and the kids left right after school was out in May."
"Yeah . . . "
"Well, Duke Bernhard has his military headquarters at Schwarzach. That's where Kamala and her kids are. She's going to Besançon this fall, but there's stuff they want her to do in Schwarzach first. They've been given quarters right in the abbey buildings because she's working on military sanitation first. I can stay with her while I'm doing the research, which will save a lot of money in hotel costs . . . "
"Roberta!" This time Melvin practically shrieked. "You'll be walking right into a war zone."
"But not through a war zone. I can go straight over to Frankfurt and then take a boat down the Main and up the Rhine."
"Roberta! It's fucking dangerous!"
She looked at him, honestly bewildered. "Well, that's sort of the point." She patted his cheek again. "If the war is moving that way, I need to get in and copy the records for our family tree now, before things like tax records get destroyed or someone who remembers important information gets killed or dies. Think how many courthouses got burned during the Civil War up-time. It was horrible—just horrible."
We're really sorry, but this is only available to up-to-date paid subscribers.
If you're not already a subscriber you need to know that our columns and editorials are free, along with a few other items, but almost all stories and all downloads are paid only.
- The Grantville Gazette Staff