Long Line

When I first started my family tree, my grandparents were all dead, but some of their siblings were still living. Luckily, my grandmother’s (Victoria Barbara Schweiger Haws) younger brother, Sylvester Joseph Schweiger, was living nearby. Age 74, he was the last of the Schweiger siblings.

So Mom made a phone call to arrange a visit to their house in Oak Lawn one weekend day. Uncle Syl and Aunt Stacia were wonderful to talk to, and he gifted me with photocopies of the letter from Fr. Sylvester Hartman[n] (in later years, he drops the 2nd ‘n’), and the Schweiger family tree, typed up in German.

4 April 1936, letter from Sylevester Joseph Hartman[n] to Stacia Cooney Schweiger (Uncle Syl’s wife), referencing the tree, below.
Schweiger family tree (in German) obtained from Anna Schweiger Alf. She was the daughter of Sigmund Schweiger (at the top), oldest brother of my great-grandfather, Ignatz. The siblings are all listed (with Sigmund repeated) to the right of their father, Alois. “Confirmed by the parish office of Steingaden; Anton Börmann, chaplain” is the only sourcing for the entire page.

The tree showed my great grandfather, Ignatz, at the top right, listed with his siblings. Then it had their parents to the left, his father’s parents, grandfather’s parents, and so on. The earliest person was born in 1711. I was suitably impressed! It wasn’t particularly well-sourced, but it was from 1936—that wasn’t too surprising. It was my longest genealogy line until the Meintzer wall came down in the mid-1980s.

An English transcription got into my hands in 1980, clearly taken from the first document. I’m not sure who typed it—Fr. Hartman[n], Uncle Syl, or Leslie Larson (husband of my 2nd cousin, once removed, on the Harry line), who sent it to me.

English transcription of the previous page. Someone’s typwriter keys needed cleaning. Plus, it’s probably a copy of a copy, so a little degradation happens each time. I could retype it, but that runs the risk of introducing errors from making that copy. As I continue to go through my do-over, I probably will create a cleaner transcription in a digital format for better preservation, with VERY CAREFUL proof reading.

On all my other lines, I was lucky to have great grandparents’ names and birth dates (off their tombstones), and “Germany.” No village names, ships’ names, immigration dates. Nothing to help me search for them in the old country. In pre-internet days, I’d have been throwing darts at a map, trying to guess which LDS microfilm to order and crank through. At $3.25 each, the dollars and time spent would add up quickly, with possibly nothing to show for it.

But the Schweiger line? It was practically handed to me on a silver platter. The drawback was the tendency to be complacent about it. I might have been able to order microfilm records from their villages (if the church records had been filmed), but it would have cost me money for information I “already knew.” Since it was coming from German relatives in the family, I tended to believe the information, despite its lack of sourcing.

Then of course, I had kids, and genealogy screeched to a halt. When I resumed, I learned about the laws passed in April 1933, in Nazi Germany, requiring Germans to put together a family tree, demonstrating there was no Jewish blood in their ancestry. While I knew I still had Schweigers living in Germany then, who could have been impacted, I had no idea if that document still existed, or who might have it.

Imagine my surprise when Dad’s cousin Fred mailed me the document created because of those laws. It measured 10.5″ x 21.5″. It took 4 sheets of legal paper, taped together, but trimmed down to 14″ x 23.75″. Fred obtained it from a granddaughter of Anna Alf, the woman referred to in the 1936 letter.

Lower left corner: “Before the completion of the pedigree, to be considered” followed by instructions. I suggest opening this image in a new window, to do it justice. It’s dated 20 December 1939, so 3½ years after Fr. Hartman[n]’s letter. So while Anna had to research her ancestors earlier, she apparently didn’t have to file something formally, until 1939—or had to present it a second time, for some reason.

It appears to be the source of the information contained on the pages I obtained from Uncle Syl. His note penciled in the left margin explains this document’s provenance. Of course, it also includes additional information about the women’s lines, not included in the chart from Fr. Hartman[n]. The Schweiger ancestors are on the left half of the page. Anna had to provide information back to her great-great grandparents. Presumably her job as a stenographer for the German Labor Front (a civil service position) required her compliance.

The small circles, looking like chicken pox? It’s a rubber stamp, difficult to read (it could have used a cleaning, and more frequent re-inking), stamped on each block (person). In the center is “Geprüft!” (“checked!”). The circle part is much harder, with partial letters, or letters over other printing. At the bottom it has “Ahnen____,” which might actually be “Ahnennachweis.” It’s not one of the terms mentioned in the Wikipedia article above, but seems to be a merging of “Ahnenpass” and “Ariernachweis.” You know how they like to make up compound words in German by just adding words together. “Nachweis” means “evidence,” so that would fit. The next word might be “Augsburg” (which would also make sense). The very last section almost looks like “Haupt” (head), but I can’t make out what’s inbetween. My guess is that it’s a department name—so something like, “Augsburg [department] head/office.”

If anyone can interpret the stamp better, please let me know! I have a feeling the stamp and even the form itself varies from place to place. While the information required was probably the same, there may not have been a standard format. Did Anna have to produce actual documents for each person? Is that what constituted proof? I don’t know.

This document is one of those serendipitous things that sometimes drop into our laps. It’s something that could have easily been discarded, due to disinterest or its connotations. Fortunately, it wasn’t. It remains proof of a time it may be easier to forget than to remember.

So . . . do I actually have something to be thankful to Adolph Hitler for? That’s a really scary thought. Nevertheless, it may be true.

I’m grateful, though, to the distant family members who decided to keep it, rather than discarding it, because of the reasons the information was gathered. Since more records are now online, I definitely need go back to verify the dates and places stated there.

#52Ancestors

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