Welcome to the first post for “Travel Tuesday.” I plan to use Tuesdays to highlight the roots-finding trip my brothers and I made to Transylvania, Romania, in September, 2007. I’ve suggested this topic to Genea-bloggers as another possible prompt to which others may wish to contribute about genealogy research trips they have taken, and/or to highlight the lands of their ancestors.
A Breathtaking Land
The theme of Travel Tuesday is two-fold. One is to introduce my wonderful readers to the not-yet-fully discovered, gorgeous region of Transylvania in Romania. Some of the places we visited are as beautiful, historic, and fascinating as any destination in Europe. Romania is caught in a bit of a time-warp. We saw scenes every day that one would have to go back forty to sixty years to see in Western Europe: ubiquitous horse-drawn carts hauling harvests on the secondary highways, men actually cutting grass with scythes in the fields, cone-shaped haystacks out of another time, parents and youngsters working side-by-side to harvest potatoes. Breath-taking mountains and valleys, dotted with farms and grazing animals, created an unfolding panorama, a new view around each bend.
Gleaning Genealogical Treasures on a Roots-finding Journey
The second theme is to share the genealogical discoveries such a trip afforded us, which I hope will encourage others to travel to their ancestors’ native lands, if for no other reason than to breathe the air, and be part of the geography in which previous generations lived. In some places, this is no longer possible, so much was destroyed in the wars or built up with 20th century sprawl. But some vestige of the past probably remains that your imagination can latch onto as we all love to envision the reality of our ancestors’ lives.
So I’ve used up most of my words today just introducing this idea, but will begin next week where my my journey to Romania began: in Crailsheim, Germany, where the present-day Gärtz family, my cousins, settled after leaving Romania.
In my previous post, I wrote about my 1995 trip to meet these relatives for the first time in my life. The goal of my most recent visit in 2007, twelve years after the first, was to visit again with a part of the family that had actually lived and grown up in interview the elder Gärtz, Hans, and find out what I could about my grandfather and life in Romania.
I was struck, as Hans spoke to me, how much his gestures resembled those of my grandfather, Josef. Just like Josef, Hans used his hands, often spreading the fingers wide, palms down, to emphasize a point, leaning back, then forward in his chair, as he shared stories from Neppendorf, the little town he and my grandfather’s called home.
Like Josef, Hans laughed easily and had a quick sense of humor, Hans didn’t know Josef, who had emigrated before he was born, but Hans’s father, knew him. “Josef was always full of silliness,” his father had recalled. Same guy I knew—always sticking his false teeth out at us grandkids to get a laugh.
Critical Family History Details Revealed in Interview
Hans’s interview, two years before I found Josef’s diary, was the first time I had heard that Josef had left Romania on Christmas Eve, and that he didn’t have the proper papers to leave. “He just wanted to go,” Hans said, “and didn’t want to wait.” When I found the diary, corroborating the Christmas Eve departure, combined with Hans’s story about missing papers (not mentioned in the diary) it was like the click of a lock. I knew I had important details, which explained why Josef had to escape detection at the borders. Without the Hans interview, I would have been left wondering what that was all about.
Lesson: interview your relatives!
So, dear readers, in order to keep these posts brief and readable in everyone’s limited time, I’ll continue the Romania story on Travel Tuesdays over the next several months.