Kim Wolterman's journey in writing, publishing and marketing books.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 20
The writing prompt for this week, Another Language, stumped me for a bit. I don’t speak another language, and outside of a few German words carelessly thrown out by my father, no other language was ever spoken in our house. I don’t remember any of my grandparents speaking anything besides English.
truck of one of my Swiss cousins
However, when I traveled on my genealogy trip to Germany and Switzerland, language became a huge issue for me. Luckily most of the people I encountered spoke English. In both of the small hometowns I visited I was provided with a translator. The new relatives I met, with the exception of a couple of teenage girls, could only talk to me through the interpreter. That worked out pretty well, until the evening I spent alone with two cousins. They spoke no English and I spoke no German, and we went out to dinner together. Have you ever spent a few hours with someone and been unable to communicate? It was frustrating, for me as well as them, I’m sure. Not for the first time, I regretted not taking a German for Travelers class before I embarked on this journey. We resorted to drawing pictures on napkins, creating our own form of communication.
But most discouraging was the fact that all the records were in German, and in an old script to boot. I got to the point where I could at least recognize the name, and we took photos of the entries in each book. But there was no time to process how the people fit into my family tree. Between my photos and those taken by the man who was assisting me in looking for my family, I have hundreds of new names. Some I have been able to plug into my genealogy program, but many are stored on CDs that were given to me. I just don’t know what to do with them, short of hiring a German genealogist to make sense of all of them.
It is, indeed, another language. But it is all Greek to me.