Years ago my Uncle Fritz stated, “I’ve always wondered what my father’s middle name was?” “Anthony.” I responded. “Now, how do you know that? Let’s write down everything we know about our family.” I was hooked. My lifelong interest in family history and genealogy was launched.
Periodically I pull out my “clues to be researched” file. In 2012 it was time to resolve the debate: where in Germany did my maternal grandfather originate…? My aunt and cousin were adamant – south of Berlin. I sided with mom – east of Berlin. The clue was a story my aunts told about visiting their aunt Julianna. My first thought was to contact the Archivist of the Religious Order she belonged to.
The joys of researching via the internet! I simply sent off an email. Two days later I had mail that contained the key to the puzzle. The name of the village had undergone many changes over the centuries. No wonder we couldn’t find it! My grandfather called the West Prussian village Tietz, a name originating in 1783. Julianna’s birthplace was listed as Tütz, the most recent German name of the village until the end of WWII. I typed Tutz into the search engine and once again was amazed by the results. I found my great grandparent’s marriage record and my grandfather’s baptismal record. I also discovered the exact location and present day name of our ancestral village: Tuczno, Poland.
That summer I flew to Germany then traveled by train to Poland. A mixture of excitement and nostalgia accompanied me. There were so many memories, so many years of hoping to find this very village. How I wish Mom could have accompanied me yet in many respects she did. For without the stories, without the love and longing she passed on to me I would not have searched.
Imagine my joy as I walked on the cobblestone street from the site of the family home to the village Church. Walking upon the very cobblestones that my great grandmother Julia had walked gave me a glimpse into her life and a deeper appreciation of our family’s heritage.
Family stories have led me to the Mosel River region in Germany where my maternal grandmother was born. In 1999 I journeyed to Poland to take a walking pilgrimage to see my paternal grandmother’s homeland. This trip included the beautiful city of Krakow and the nearby mountains. At that time, I was aware that she came from ‘near Krakow’. Now, thanks to a cousin who has been researching the Polish side of the family, we know the birthplaces of her parents.
While he explored our Polish roots, I chased down the clues that led from a dairy farm in Michigan to village churches in Quebec to a name, a place and a time in France… Jean Migneau dit La Brie, born in 1597 in Saint-Germain-de-Laxis. This is the ancestor that journeyed to New France.
The journey that is drawing me, and that I would like to share with my sister who has yet to travel outside of North America, would be called a “circle tour”. A tour that would begin in Germany, take us to Poland, wind its way to France then return to Germany. A circle that would take us to the origins of all the branches of our family and to experience the landscapes connecting us with the generations that came before.
I have discovered that journeying into the past has deepened my gratitude for life in the present. In embarking on a journey to Europe, I, as an amateur genealogist, would be heading into new territory. The research on one continent has yielded its clues and its secrets. The family lines have all led to Continental Europe. There, awaiting discovery, are long hidden clues and stories waiting to unfold.