When we took a brief visit to Sibiu (Hermannstadt to the Germans), we marveled at the massive wall surrounding the city, its combination of thirty-nine towers and four bastions a bulwark against invading Ottoman Turks.
But while Sibiu defended the city in the past against those bent on its destruction, it is now dedicated to protect its Saxon German heritage for future generations. Although few ethnic Germans still live in Sibiu (a combination of mass deportations after World War II, brutalization under Ceausescu’s rule, the 1989 Revolution, and other factors, coupled with Germany’s generous immigration policy for ethnic Germans), it is still a major cultural center and home to a wealth of Siebenbürgen German history. (Click to get an overview).
After visiting Grandpa Josef Gärtz’s church in Neppendorf, we drive a scant two miles to Hermannstadt/Sibiu to visit the Friedrich Teutschhaus, a repository of Saxon German history. It’s aptly named for a long-time Evangelische Lutheran bishop, Friedrich Teutsch, who worked tirelessly to preserve Transylvania’s German culture. At Teutschhaus we hope to track down the home in which Grandma Lisi Ebner was raised, called the “Ebner Hof.” The Ebner family lived in the nearby town of Grosspold, about 15 miles from Hermannstadt/Sibiu.
Cousin Maria had arranged for us to meet the venerable Teutschhaus researcher, Herr Rehner, to help us with our quest to find the Ebner Hof. Over six feet tall, with a shock of white hair and gentle gaze, Herr Rehner leads us to a back room where ancient Saxon records line the shelves.
Using my great grandfather’s name, research assistants efficiently stride to a back room and within ten minutes bring out a worn ledger of former Grosspold residents. Herr Rehner turns the pages to “E” and finds my great grandfather’s house number. “Ebner, Samuel—365.” The town was small enough so that every house had its own number, rather than a number and street name as we’re accustomed to.
Next stop—Grosspold. We meet Pfarrer Meitert, present pastor of my grandmother’s church. Using the house number, he pages through a two-hundred-year old “Familien Buch” in which the birth, death, and marriage dates of each family member are recorded. I initially wrote about this discovery in more detail in an earlier post: Life and Death Abbreviated and the sad truth the Family Book revealed: three of my grandmother’s siblings had died as mere babies. The book recorded the exact death date of my grandmother’s mother, also named Elisabetha Ebner, born Eder. She had died of pneumonia at the age of thirty-four, when my grandmother, (nicknamed) Lisi, was only ten years old.
But the book took us even further back into the past. Cross-referencing, we found the page recording the information for my grandmother’s mother’s siblings and parents: the Eders. Johann Eder and his wife, Maria (born and 1835 and 1841, respectively, and married in 1859) were my great-great grandparents. They had seven children, all of whom survived the most vulnerable infant and childhood years, but still, death came relatively early for two of the children: Elisabetha at thirty-four and Samuel, the second youngest, died at eighteen.
After gathering this information, what happens next is extraordinary. Pastor Meitert carefully removes the Ebner pages from the centuries-old Family Book, folds them under his arm, and declares we’re going door-to-door in Grosspold until someone can tell us just where House Number 365, the Ebner Hof, is located!
In my next Travel Tuesday Post, we’ll find out what we discovered in our quest, and the century-old connection this visit made to my grandfather’s objection to naming me “Linda.”