Maria Ebner/Sonnleitner, seated, my grandmother's sister and her family. Andreas far left, Maria Roth's father.

Maria Ebner/Sonnleitner, seated, my grandmother’s sister and her family. Andreas far left, Maria Roth’s father.

Travel Tuesday

In our quest to find our family’s roots in Transylvania, my two brothers and I scored a number of heartening successes, often filled with surprise: discovering copies of prized family photos in the Neppendorf church museum, 5000 miles from home (See “Spilling Secrets”), visiting my grandfather’s home in Neppendorf, and retrieving my great-grandfather’s house number at the archives for the Siebenbürgen Germans in Sibiu. (See “Searching for Home”)

But we still hadn’t found his actual home in Grosspold, where he had raised his family, including my paternal grandmother, Lisi. After making several inquiries as to the whereabouts of the Ebner Hof with no success, the pastor of my grandmother’s former church, told us he’d ask around further and we should call him the next day, Wednesday.

Early Wednesday afternoon, we called Pastor Meitert, and he had good news. He’d found the house–and something more! We all piled into the van and drove to Grosspold.

When we arrived at the church, Pastor Meitert brought us to the home of a relative we never even knew we had, Frau Elisabeth Kirschlager. After a bit of struggle with the language we realized that her grandmother and my grandmother had been step-sisters (see “Blended Family Breakthrough”)! I recognized the photo she showed me, but had never know who it was. Now we did–it was her grandmother Agnetha’s wedding.

It was getting late on a September afternoon, and the daylight was beginning to dim, so Pastor Meitert hurried us along on a five minute walk to the Ebner Hof. There, a group of several people were awaiting us. Two men, who were the new owners of my great-grandfather’s former Hof welcomed us warmly.

Maria Roth, our second cousin, sharing our 1961 family photo, below:

Maria Roth, our second cousin, sharing our 1961 family photo, below:

But Pastor Meitert had done wonders in bringing us, once again, together with a relative, this time tied directly to my grandmother—Maria Roth. We were puzzled about the connection at first, but Maria came bearing a plastic bag full of photos, one of which made our relationship clear. It was a family photo of my grandmother’s sister’s family.

Lisi’s older sister was also named Maria (Ebner). She married and became Sonnleitner and had six children (see photo above-the oldest had already left for America), one of whom, far left in the photo, was Andreas. Maria Roth, who stood before us, is one of Andreas’s children, and therefore, our second cousin. 


Like Mary Poppins digging into her carpet bag, Maria began extracting wonders–but hers were wonders from our past–photographs my grandmother had sent to Romania over the years. Out came my wedding photo, my grandparents’ family photos from the 1920s, a postcard my grandmother had written in 1926.
But one picture stood out – our most hideous family photo—one that we all hated and never wanted to see again. After traveling 5,000 miles we not only found our grandparent’s past, but even our own personal past was emerging in the form of that unfortunate family photo. My parents and we three kids look so stiffly formal. We all agreed that Paul looked like a mafioso with his pompadour hairstyle. I had the worst hair day ever, and Mom was in a bad mood, barely trying to buck up for the camera. The oldest people in the photo—my grandparents—look the best—relaxed and happy! 
Standing: Dad, Paul, Uncle Bill. Seated: Grandpa (Josef), me, Mom Billy Grandma (Lisi)

Standing: Dad, Paul, Uncle Bill. Seated: Grandpa (Josef), me, Mom Billy Grandma (Lisi)

Despite our keeping that photo hidden away, we couldn’t have stopped Grandma from proudly sending her most recent “family photo” to her relatives back in Romania. When Maria pulled it out, we all erupted in laughter!


We entered the Ebner Hof, and realized that despite the terrible losses my grandmother had endured (her mother and several siblings had died when she was quite young), they’d had a pretty good life–a home and expansive Hof, with land to grow vegetables and raise animals to eat. My grandmother had acquired a good job with a prominent family i n the big city of Hermannstadt (Sibiu) nearby, and had a loving relationship with her father, siblings, step-mother and step-sisters.

Grosspold Ebner Hof, L-R: Paul, second cousin Maria Roth, Bill and Me kneeling

Grosspold Ebner Hof, L-R: Paul, second cousin Maria Roth, Bill and Me kneeling

But the call of America was still strong, especially when one’s sweetheart is beckoning. In the next post, my grandfather, Josef, sends a special 1911 Easter greeting, to Lisi Ebner,  to remind her she’s still his best gal. Find out more about why he wants to “spray her” in this unusual Easter tradition. Check in on Good Friday.

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