Simon Armitage’s poem on the funeral of Prince Phillip and his generation.

No introduction needed.

Cathy's real country garden

The Patriarchs – An Elegy

The weather in the window this morning
is snow, unseasonal singular flakes,
a slow winter’s final shiver. On such an occasion
to presume to eulogise one man is to pipe up
for a whole generation – that crew whose survival
was always the stuff of minor miracle,
who came ashore in orange-crate coracles,
fought ingenious wars, finagled triumphs at sea
with flaming decoy boats, and side-stepped torpedoes.

Husbands to duty, they unrolled their plans
across billiard tables and vehicle bonnets,
regrouped at breakfast. What their secrets were
was everyone’s guess and nobody’s business.
Great-grandfathers from birth, in time they became
both inner core and outer case
in a family heirloom of nesting dolls.
Like evidence of early man their boot-prints stand
in the hardened earth of rose-beds and borders.

They were sons of a zodiac out of sync
with the solar year, but turned their…

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Making Sense of Easter

Recently, I have been reading a book by NT Wright called “Surprised by Hope”. I can definitely recommend this book, but it has to be read slowly and carefully, in bite-sized pieces or all of this food for thought might give you a kind of spiritual/mental indigestion. NT Wright is a well-known theologian, and among other things a former Anglican bishop of Durham in the north-east of England. He has a lot to say about the Resurrection, and in the very last chapter he writes:

“The  forty days of the Easter season until the Ascension might be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be only able to do it for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hope, new ventures you have never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life. It might help you to wake up to a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is about.”

This idea struck me as worth trying out. What can I do to make every one of the coming 6 weeks productive, to give of myself in some beneficial way? 

Do the little amigurumi animals that I made for my great-grandchildren count? They were certainly well received, and are giving pleasure to their owners, so I’ll take that as my first contribution. I also now have several documents to translate for a good Christian cause, so that is my next “venture”. I’m sure that as the weeks progress, I shall be provided with opportunities to do something “wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving”, and I’m looking forward to recognising those opportunities. 

Yes, a much better way to celebrate Easter and all it represents than simply gorging on chocolate eggs!   

And finally – yes: the snow has returned, blotting out all the lovely spring blossom, and contrary to my prediction it is sticking. It’s still falling now. The snow plough has just been to clear our road and forecourt of our house. It is very beautiful, but such a pity for the birds, animals, flowers and fruit trees that were enjoying the warm sunny temperatures last week.


Crochet – keeping up to speed despite Corona

Time has been slipping through my fingers as fast as my yarn during these last few weeks. No time for lockdown boredom! Have yarn, will crochet.

So here’s a quick update on my various projects since the tapestry pictures I last showed here in November. Fish and butterfly were professionally stretched and framed – a vast improvement – and gratefully received by their appreciative new owners, marking 40th and 25th birthdays respectively, and now hang proudly in their new homes. My middle granddaughter celebrated her 30th birthday in January, for which I stitched a third picture based on a photo I took representing sunset as seen from our family home in Brittany. Unfortunately, Corona interfered with the stretching and framing of this, so she’s getting it as an Easter present instead (which is why this photo shows it still wrapped up). 

What else has taken shape in my hands?

Two shawls for my newest great-granddaughter, a white one in a very soft silk-alpaca mix aptly called “superkid”, which has a small granny square inside a larger one as a symbol of “great-granny made this”, and a corner-to-corner rectangular beige one that I hope will also be useful as well as nice and warm. 

Rather like Baa-Baa Black Sheep, some very kind friends delivered two bags full of vividly coloured yarns which made a gorgeous rainbow in my stash drawer.

Some of this went into two rainbow scarves – one for me and one for a friend’s little granddaughter who “commissioned” it after seeing mine – and another corner-to-corner rectangular scarf in more muted colours for my daughter who also donated a few skeins.

Then two beanie hats, a pink baby bonnet, two more granny shawls and a decorative floral wall hanging gradually reduced the number of balls and skeins in my rainbow drawer. Another granny shawl is in the making – it’s already been made up once, but was somewhat misshapen so I unravelled it and this time it’s working out as intended.

My eldest granddaughter had a birthday at the vernal equinox but not a round one – for her I crocheted a multicoloured shawl, reflecting her bright personality, and as this didn’t need framing she actually received it punctually (and gratefully!)

Finally, a flash of inspiration (“What can I make with just one skein?”) and some amigurumi appeared instead of Easter Bunnies for my other 4 great-grandchildren: a llama for the oldest boy who loves these funny beasts, a Steinbock (or ibex) for his little brother, who is a fan of the two who advertise for the canton of Graubunden, a unicorn for their four-year-old sister and – conceived but not yet formed – a Haflinger pony for the horse-mad older sister. These of course required stuffing but that wasn’t a problem: I simply cannibalised a spare cushion. One cushion goes a long way in terms of crocheted menageries!

The winter passed away peacefully while I was busy with all this, and I was even able to sit outside in the sunshine to make my little animals. Sunshine and blue skies, with temperatures above 20°C this week – though tonight is cold again and the weather forecast says we are going to get some more snow tomorrow. I’m not bothered about that, though – it won’t stick and spring is definitely here. There are lambkins in the fields, catkins on the hazels and willows, the “lawn” around our house (it’s more of a meadow) is dotted with violets, primroses, cowslips and daisies, and the purple-leaved tree outside my bedroom window has suddenly burst into a mass of delicately scented pink blossom and is abuzz with bees.

Daffodils and crocuses are giving way to grape hyacinths and tulips in our flowerbeds. My neighbour’s old pear tree has clumps of ivory blossom on its gnarled branches where the blackbirds are serenading one another, and the forsythia is aflame in the hedge of another neighbour. I can’t help but sing with Pippa as she passes

“The year’s at the spring,
And the day’s at the morn,
Morning’s at seven,
The hillside’s dew-pearled,
The lark’s on the wing,
The snail’s on the thorn,
God’s in His Heaven,
All’s right with the world!”

 A blessed Easter to you all.

Freedom For and From Religion — Laughter: Carbonated Grace

This post was in my WordPress feed this afternoon, and I really feel that I should share it with you all. Eileen writes so movingly about something that she knows about from her own life experience, and she puts her case with dignity and empathy.

Another post that was in the same feed – on a different topic – has a reference to Galatians 3;28: There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For Christians, surely that should sum up our attitude towards any kind of racism, sexism, ageism, or other kind of discrimination on the basis of inherent characteristics, and warn us against prejudice.

Freedom for and from religion are the same thing. It is important for all of us to protect that freedom. As a “born-again” Christian and mother of two gay sons and with a grandchild who is transgender, I appeal to you to not foster the misunderstanding, prejudice, and persecution of future generations by ignoring that […]

Freedom For and From Religion — Laughter: Carbonated Grace

From Rags to Riches

This week I have been allowed to borrow some very precious old documents with the family trees of my son-in-law, including a particularly ingenious arrangement of heirs in 1886 showing their consanguinity. This brought me back to the Eggs, who occupied my attention for a while a year ago, and it has finally allowed us to fill in some vital missing links as well as solving a few mysteries where several people shared the same name.

Digging around online in the roots of the tree, I came across the story of one of the earliest forebears, a man known as Pierre Arbensen  or d’Albenson – until he arrived in Zurich, at which point he became Peter Arbenz. 

I have mentioned before that many people in the olden days had a very cavalier attitude towards names, maybe because most of them couldn’t read and write so it was all phonetic. Pronouncing your name in a certain way probably created a more positive impact on the group you wanted to impress, or if your name sounded foreign to them they would translate it or say it as they perceived it. Clerks would then write down what they thought they heard.

Pierre Arbensen/d’Albenson aka Peter Arbenz was  born in 1543 in Torgnon in Châtillon, a French-patois speaking village high up in the Aosta Valley on the Italian side of the Matterhorn. The name seems to come from their pasture, called Albenson (which seems strange for a French-speaking area of Italy, but that’s another investigation!). 

The family scraped a living, with Pierre and his father selling satin, silk and coral, and his two brothers trading ironware, but life for this family was very hard in their desolate alpine village, especially in winter. After his father died in the mid 1500’s Pierre packed up his wares, crossed the Alps and made his way to the canton of Zurich to seek his fortune.

On 23 August 1567 “Peter Arbensen” appears as godfather at a baptism in Zurich cathedral (Grossmünster) and on 24 October 1567 he is “Petrus Arbesun” as godfather to another child in Winterthur. Eventually he arrived at the town of Elgg near Winterthur, where on 10 May 1570 he married Ursula, the daughter of a successful cloth merchant in the Vordergasse (High Street) who sported the splendid name of Pantaleon Mantel. This man – locally known as Pantli – was also from Torgnon but had been a citizen of Elgg since 1538. He may have been a friend of Peter Arbenz’s father, or simply a business acquaintance.

Their first child, Jacobea, was born on 21 October 1571 in Elgg but they soon moved to the town of Rapperswil where in 1571 Peter Arbenz paid 200 guilders to obtain citizenship. This wouldn’t be Swiss nationality, by the way, or even cantonal citizenship, but only that of the town of Rapperswil, allowing him to settle there and have the same rights and obligations as the native-born citizens. Their second child, Pantaleon, was born there in 1572. Also during their time in Rapperswil, Pantaleon Mantel died. In those days a wife’s property belonged to her husband, so on his father-in-law’s death Peter Arbenz inherited 3,200 pounds of which he had to render 300 pounds as inheritance tax to the canton of Zurich. 

In 1577 the young family moved to Andelfingen, a village in the centre of the canton, where Peter was charged 160 pounds as an “admission fee” and 80 pounds “Schirmgeld” or “protection fee” giving him the right of citizenship with permission to settle there and buy land. At first they lived in the “Kloster” which means monastery, but was in fact a farm later known as Felsenhof, and then they  bought the upper mill in Andelfingen. Peter and Ursula Arbenz had three more sons, Peter (1577), Martin (1580) and Antoine (1582) all born in Andelfingen. 

Peter Arbenz had at least two brothers back in Châtillon. Perhaps his success inspired his younger brother Petitpierre (Little Peter), who had been selling ironware in the Aosta Valley. In 1580 this young man also arrived in Andelfingen and set up as a merchant in the nearby village of Dorf. He married a local girl but had no children. However, in 1589, Antoine (Anton) the son of the third brother, another Panthaleon, also joined his uncle in Dorf bei Andelfingen where he married and fathered the Arbenz dynasty in Dorf.

I have to say that I was a bit confused by the name of Dorf, which means village, until I consulted a map and realised that there is actually a village called Village. This is also a family that likes to use the same names over and over again, so that has also been challenging. However, I think I’ve got it right now and have spouses and offspring, mills and farms, all correctly assigned.

Peter Arbenz’s son Pantaleon inherited the Kloster farm and the mill, but died in 1629 of the plague, which was ravaging the country at the time. Millers were especially vulnerable, as many rats were brought in with the sacks of grain, and it was the rats that spread the disease. In another branch of the Egg family tree, one miller lost his wife and five children to the plague in that same year.

However, on the whole the family was prospering.  Pantaleon’s eldest son, another Pantaleon or Pantli (1594-1645), is recorded as “Obermüller, Bärenwirt, Klosterbesitzer” (Miller of the Upper Mill, Innkeeper of the Bear Inn, Owner of Kloster farm) on his death record. When the farmers brought their grain to the mill, they would sit around waiting for it to be ground and during this time the miller would sell them a glass or two of beer or wine. Opening an inn was thus a logical progression and an opportunity to expand the miller’s business. It was also an chance for the miller and his family to glean all the local gossip and various insider tips, which gave them an advantage over the rest of the village.

Prosperity led to social rank and importance: mills were a lucrative business, millers married their sons and daughters into other millers’ families, and so the Arbenz family advanced, acquiring farms, mills and inns in Andelfingen. Not to mention wealth and status.

Pantaleon’s two sons, Pantli III and Hans Jakob, each had a farm and a mill, and seem to have kept the Bear Inn together. The records get a bit tricky at this point, as each of these brothers and most of their descendants kept using the names Pantaleon, Hans Jakob and Ursula in every generation of their families – quite discombobulating! After hours of comparing names and dates in various records and family trees – plus a lot of head-scratching! – I have figured out who’s who, and have managed to trace the descendance of Hans Jakob down to Ursula Arbenz who married Hans Caspar Egg in 1763, and was the daughter of Hans Conrad Arbenz, miller of the Halden Mill in Andelfingen. 

In more recent times, Jacobo Arbenz turned up as President of Guatamala in the early 1950’s, ousted in a coup organised by the CIA in 1954. Is the name a coincidence? No: he was the son of a Swiss immigrant, and also a descendant of Pantaleon and “our” Hans Jakob Arbenz from Andelfingen.

Return of the Native

I’m still on a genealogy roll, this time targeting my daughter’s paternal line. We were surprised a few years ago to discover that one strain we had considered to be solidly German, rooted firmly in the Rhineland-Palatinate, was in fact predominantly Swiss. How strange that we had come to live in Switzerland in the early 1970’s without any idea at all of “returning to native soil”. 

I touched a little on the situation in the Palatinate in the seventeenth century in two posts a few years ago (here and here) and in my last post about the Huguenots I mentioned the Thirty Years War and the invasions of Louis XIV that had caused devastation in the area west of the Rhine. As the turmoil slowed down, Swiss and Tyroleans came in to repopulate the area and of course  they intermarried with the remaining inhabitants as well as among themselves. 

As I dived further and further back into our family history, I found more and more well-documented Swiss ancestors. There’s a minor challenge in sorting out who’s who, because not only are names spelled phonetically (Gut – Guth – Gutt – Guttan – Good is all the same) and quite often diminutives are used, so you need to know that in Swiss German Joggeli is Jakob and Welti is Walter, for instance. Women also sometimes have the suffix -in added to their surname (Guthin, wife or daughter of Mr Guth). 

Following some of these individuals back even further brought me to a single village in the canton of Zurich, not really far from our present homes, and eventually all the lines converged into just two couples who lived in the second half of the sixteenth century. 

Fridli Wydler – what a wonderful name! – (1566-1648) married at nineteen and fathered nineteen children that we know of. Eighteen of them were legitimate. His first wife died in 1604 giving birth to her tenth child, his mistress bore him a child in July 1605, and he then married another woman who gave birth to his twelfth child in December 1605. This was followed by another seven. There’s an age gap of thirty-six years between the youngest and the oldest. Presumably, he must have had income from somewhere, but apart from siring children I can find no record of his occupation. I think he was probably a farmer. Most of his children survived, married, and had children of their own so it isn’t surprising that so many lines lead back to Fridli Wydler.

The other gentleman whose name keeps popping up among the great-great-grandfathers is Hans Gut. We know quite a lot more about him, so first a little background.

Tax records have been kept scrupulously in Switzerland for many centuries and provide a surprising amount of information, so we know that a certain Rudi Guttan (Rudolf Gut), born in 1370 in Obfelden/ZH, had at least six children and was paying taxes on his farm, called the Meyerhof, in the village of Ottenbach in 1412. Rudi’s son Welti (Walter) and his grandson Klaus (Niklaus) continued to pay taxes on the same farm from 1450 to 1493. Klaus had two sons, Hans (Johannes) and Heini (Heinrich), who paid the taxes between 1505 and 1517. 

It would seem that Heini stayed at home and ran the farm while Hans went off to find adventure in the Swiss army. In 1513 he was a sergeant in the military march and siege of Dijon, Burgundy, by the troops of the Old Swiss Confederation, and in 1515 went to fight in the historic battle at Marignan in Italy where the Swiss were routed by the French (this was the last battle the Swiss ever fought on foreign territory, though there were a few internal skirmishes over the next few centuries). 

Hans survived all his battles and obviously did well as a consequence of his military exploits, as on his return he bought the large Jauch farm at Knonau in 1517, as well as paying tax jointly on the Meyerhof. 

He lost his second son, Junghans Gutt in 1531 in the religious battle at Kappel am Albis under the leadership of the Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, against the Catholics. Zwingli was also killed in this battle. 

Hans figures in the records as “Military Hans”, and died between 1536 and 1544. I can find no information about his brother Heini, who seems to have died without issue, so the Meyerhof farm remained in the hands of soldier Hans’ two remaining sons – another Hans born in 1495 and Heinrich born in 1500. 

This is the Hans Gut– often referred to as Judge Hans Gut, because he served as a provincial judge in Maschwanden bei Ottenbach for the district of Knonau – to whom all lines lead back. Either his wife or his mother had the unusual name of Marignons.

Judge Hans Gut had eight sons and three of these – Peter, Andreas and Paul – turn out to be ancestors of my daughter, as their descendants inter-wed. Untangling the births, marriages and deaths during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was something like those puzzles we used to get where you have several anglers with their lines tangled and you have to sort out who has caught which fish. The surnames Gut, Wydler, Meier, and one or two others, constantly recur: families were very large, and the village wasn’t. The same Christian names are also used over and over again, but fortunately there are some clever people on the internet genealogy sites who have figured it all out, so as they quoted their sources I’m pretty sure I have finally got it sorted.

Once again, during the process I learnt a lot of history. 

The three Gut brothers in our tree appear to have been Anabaptists, especially Andreas who was the leader of the local Anabaptist community. This is interesting because their grandfather had fought with Zwingli, who was strongly opposed to the Anabaptists and even persecuted and executed them (by drowning – ironically and cruelly referred to as “their last baptism”). And as the idea of a division between religion and state was unheard of at the time, I don’t think their father would have been allowed to be a Judge if he had been an Anabaptist.

I was saddened to read the accounts of how badly the Anabaptists were treated by their countrymen who claimed to be Christians but it’s nothing new – nowadays this ugly face of intolerance wears the mask of identity politics. My first impression had been that the Swiss who emigrated to the Palatinate had done so chiefly for economic reasons, but as I looked at the events during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries I realised that religion must also have played its part. Some of those who travelled up the Rhine stopped and settled on the way, and these include some of my daughter’s forebears. Others continued, spreading out as far as Russia and the Ukraine to the east, or undertaking the perilous journey to the New World to the west. 

The following was posted by Axel Gut (Canada) in 2011:

“During a cantonal census of Zurich in 1634, seventeen GUT families were recorded, all of them from Ottenbach parish and the five surrounding villages. When the Anabaptists or Dunkards appeared in the Zurich cantonal area, many GUT families were involved from the beginning as they were during the uprising in the Zurich lowlands around 1550.

At that time, a Melchior GUT was recorded as a Dunkard and under pressure of opposition, emigrated from the Zurich area to the village of Finsterthuelen. From this Melchior GUT probably originate all the Mennonite GUTs/GOODs in Germany and America.

The persecution of the Anabaptists in Switzerland resulted in large emigration out of the country. A great grandson of this Melchior GUT by the name of Jakob GUT [born 1639] was arrested as a Dunkard in 1660, taken to prison in Bern Canton, and together with ten comrades, shipped down the Rhine River and out of Switzerland. Jakob with his wife Barbli settled in Kraichgau in northwest Wuerttenberg, Germany.

Many GUT families also emigrated to the Alsace and the Rheinpfalz/Palatinate [Southwest Germany], where the Thirty Years War [1618-1648] devastated the area. After the war, settlers from other parts of Germany and Switzerland were attracted to help repopulate the area. Then in 1674 and 1675 the French invaded the area. Again from 1688 to 1689 the War of the Palatinate occurred, and the French General Melac laid waste to the whole area, making it almost uninhabitable. People were driven from their homes in the dead of winter. In addition the people were taxed excessively, so that the German Princes could emulate the French court by building palaces and gardens. The religious persecutions took many forms. The Electors-Rulers of the Palatinate changed their religions four times in as many reigns. With each change the people were expected to follow the lead of their rulers. An extremely cold winter in 1709 brought much suffering and was the last straw for many.

Did the GUT/GUTHs arrive from Switzerland as settlers in the Palatinate and did they, as did many others, find life there unbearable, and left?”  

(This last sentence links with my post From the Welsh Border to the Palatinate. 

From Metz to Berlin in 9 Generations

The genealogy bug has begun inflicting its irresistible itch again, this time as a result of my investigations into the family background of my son-in-law. A year ago, I was following up the Swiss side of his family, but in the last week I’ve turned my attention to another aspect of his ancestry, his Huguenot lineage; in particular, those ancestors who made the remarkable trek from Metz and the “pays messin” in eastern France to Brandenburg, and settled in Berlin. Taking the various obligatory detours into account, that’s about a thousand kilometres. Usually on foot, sometimes on horseback or with a cart drawn by a donkey, ox or even a cow.

I didn’t know a lot about the Huguenots, just that they were French protestants who were persecuted under the Sun King Louis XIV and fled into exile. One of the positive side effects of genealogy is that it makes you aware of history and geography in a very personal manner. Why would more than 400 families, amounting to about 1600 individuals, undertake such a journey? Metz is close enough to the river Rhine and the German border: why didn’t they just settle in the neighbouring province of the Palatinate, which was tolerant towards protestants? Maybe some did, but French troops invaded the Palatinate with a scorched earth policy in 1688 so that wasn’t such a good idea.

Caravans of destitute refugees, desperately looking for a new home, aren’t a new phenomenon. 

This one was triggered in 1685 by Louis XIV revoking the edict of Nantes, which had allowed a certain religious tolerance to Protestants after the horrendous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572. Under the new Edict of Fontainebleau all Protestant ministers were given two weeks to leave the country unless they converted to Catholicism and all other Protestants were prohibited from leaving the country. Recollections of the massacre in the previous century inspired dread. In spite of the prohibition, the renewed persecution – including many examples of torture – caused as many as 400,000 to flee France at risk of their lives. About 20,000 of them relocated to Brandenburg.

The protestant community of the city of Metz and its surrounding area (the Messin) were invited by Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I to settle in Brandenburg which had been devastated by the 30 years war. In fact, most of what is now modern Germany had been laid waste by that war plus various other skirmishes in the first three-quarters of the 17th century. Friedrich Wilhelm offered all kinds of incentives to the Messin people and they were relieved to take him up on these. Fleeing with only what they could carry, but armed with plenty of skills and experience in their various trades and professions, the protestants of Metz made their way to Berlin. This was no holiday trip: various accounts of the hardships endured – especially vicious rejection, violence, imprisonment and persecution in the towns they passed through – are plentiful. Refugees are seldom welcome but Friedrich Wilhelm was happy to swell the numbers in his army and repopulate his ravaged lands.

The earliest forebear with the same surname as my son-in-law is first recorded in  Rauschenberg by Marburg, where he married on 21 October 1688. I haven’t been able to trace any antecedents either for him or his wife so I’m not sure which part of France they came from. The entry simply says they were refugees there. (NB: Correction – I have since found the names of his parents, so know that they came from Picardie.

However, once in Berlin the Huguenots formed a very close knit community and kept detailed BMD records in the church registers, which are written for the most part in clearly legible handwriting using the Latin script rather than the beautiful but hard to read old German script. After spending several hours reading the facsimiles of these on line, I discovered that some kind soul had transcribed the baptismal pages from 1685 to 1708, confirming much of what I had deciphered. 

These records are wonderful for their time: they give not only the names of bride and groom at weddings, but also their parents’ names and the men’s occupations, and death records often also show the time and cause of death, for instance: 

“Le 12° octobre à onze heures et demi du soir est mort d’hydropsie Guillaume Clavel âgé de 56 ans natif d’Orange. Il a été enterré le 16° au cimetière de la Fridericstadt.”

Baptisms include date of birth and mother’s maiden name as well as godparents’ names, such as:

“Mr Bancelin (père) a baptisé au temple de la Dorotheestadt Anne, fille de Pierre Claudeboulanger et de Judith Robert tous deux natifs de Metz. Parrain: Paul Thiriotbrasseur et Anne Claude, sa femme.”

The details in the entry above are useful to my research as there was another couple called Pierre Claude and Judith Robert, but he was a watchmaker. Both couples had a lot of children, so the father’s trade was decisive. In fact, I had a little difficulty sorting out Judith Robert, as there appear to be at least three women of this name and two of them appear in our family tree. Cross-referencing also confirmed that Anne Thiriot née Claude was the sister of the baker Pierre Claude. 

From these archives I was able to trace back other lines to three couples all born around 1650, who were the 8th great-grandparents of my son-in-law. Two of them are from Metz, but the third couple comes from Champagne: the husband from Dampierre and the wife from Château-Thierry in La Brie, which may go some way to explaining my dear SIL’s appreciation of fine wines and cheese.  

Later generations continued to use a mixture of French and German in their names, and if they had more than two Christian names they didn’t always list them in the same order. This complicates research, as Charles Frédéric Guillaume on his marriage certificate turns up as Karl Friedrich Wilhelm on his death certificate and Anne Marie Sophie Ernestine on her marriage certificate becomes Maria Anna Hedwig Ernestine on her death certificate.

One lady in particular caused me a headache. She was the first wife of a great-great-grandfather, and died in 1861. She was listed on the marriage certificate as Henriette Mathilde Büttner, daughter of Carl Büttner, born in 1822. The birth certificates of her children have both Henriette Mathilde née Büttner and Henriette Mathilde née Zuber. On her death certificate she is named as Agnes Mathilde née Zueber. Was this all the same woman, or were there two wives who coincidentally shared the name Mathilde, married and died in rapid succession? Then I found a baptismal certificate for Mathilde Henriette Felcke or Zuber, mother Felcke, father Zuber. Was she illegitimate? In the end, it turned out that her father Carl Büttner had died either just before or just after her birth, and her mother had remarried when she was 9 months old, so she was using the surnames of both her biological father and her stepfather. Where did the Agnes come from? No idea! Interestingly, after her death, her husband remarried: his second wife was Henriette Mathilde’s youngest sister who became my SIL’s  great-great-grandmother. 

Finally, I have to say that the nineteenth century German records are not only highly informative but that the clerks who filled in the forms usually had exquisite writing. My only problem is that the old German script is so elaborate that I can’t read it. Luckily, names are often written by the same hand in Latin script. Here’s an easy one:

Thanks for the Snow

Like a child, my first response on waking to a world dusted (or disappearing) in fresh snow is a cry of joy and gratitude. It’s so beautiful, this white duvet world, and I can feast my eyes on it. And I don’t need to go out in it, except to my letterbox, a little trot around the house in normal weather, a cautious step-by-step adventure in snow. And yes, I did manage to slip on some ice underneath the deceptive fresh layer this morning (no harm done, and the letterbox was empty). But for the rest of the time, I can stay snugly in my nice warm nest and just watch the snowflakes drifting down through the window. Mesmerising.

Raili at Soul Gifts introduced me to the gorgeous old Scots expression “hurkle-durkle” on Saturday – a nice international flavour here, Raiili is Finnish living in Australia and I’m English/German living in Switzerland – and as I have been putting this hurkle-durkling into practice, I decided to google it. That brought me to this blog which I tried to re-blog here, but WordPress is being very recalcitrant these days and won’t allow me to do that. Or maybe it’s just my out-of-date browser. Anyway, I’m sorry about that – but do please go and have a browse in evesleep blog. You might find even more reasons for hurkle-durkling and snoodling. And a cwtch.

So here I am, tummy full of a particularly spicy chilli con carne (I found a jar of dried cayenne pods skulking at the back of the top spice shelf, probably been there 15 years, so on the assumption that they had probably lost much of their flavour and needed using up – because i never throw food away if I can help it – I deposited a good handful of them into my stew. They hadn’t lost any of their heat) – watching the snow fall. (Grammarians, please don’t criticise my punctuation in that last sentence – I know what I’m doing! It parses perfectly well.)

Yes, a full tummy and all my sinuses cleared out as well thanks to vintage cayenne pods. And enough left over to feed me for two more days. My repleteness is complete thanks to a glass of blanc de noir from a vineyard just across the Rhine from my home – a very nice dessert wine that I got on the off-chance and will definitely buy again. I don’t usually like sweet wines, but this is like honey.

And did I mention that at the end of November I inherited yet another rainbow of yarn? From a friend at church who thought I might be able to make use of it – thanks again, it’s keeping me well out of mischief. And that’s another post.

Just to update you, and put a smile on your face, here is my new little great-granddaughter.


The road runs to meet you
Eager as a hungry mouth
Swallows and spits you out
At the tunnel’s end
Races headlong towards you
Until the turning
There it slows
And pours you into the lane
That tips you into the house
Your journey’s end
And the road retreats
Back into the hills.

The Stork Made It Through The Snow …

Sorry for the hiatus: things have been happening in the past month, most of them positive, keeping me busy so that blogging went on the back burner.

However, today I have an important announcement to spread all over the Internet: congratulations to my Dear Middle Granddaughter and her husband, who have just taken delivery of their first child, a little girl, making me a great-grandmother all over again. Three cheers for the valiant stork battling the blizzards!

She made her début at 21h 01 m 12 sec on 12.1.21 – numerologists take note! – a palindromic date and incredibly fine timing! The new grandparents are all very thrilled, of course, and my Dear Eldest Granddaughter (DMG’s sister) is overjoyed to be an Auntie at last, while her four kids are excited to have a cousin.

What a pity we can’t have a big fat family party to celebrate! This little mademoiselle (yes, born in Geneva so French is appropriate) has not only two parents and four grandparents, but also six great-grandparents, three aunts, four uncles and three great-uncles – plus all the aunts and uncles by marriage – so a gathering of the clan is certainly called for.

Well, maybe we’ll be able to have some kind of virtual get-together, and once Mama and Papa have recovered from the ordeal of the birth, and have got into their new routine they might venture on a tour of eager family members so we can all ooh and aah from behind our masks and hand over the all the presents that have been accumulating in my Dear Daughter’s spare room (quite a treasure chest full).

Meanwhile, I thank the Lord for the safe delivery, raise a glass in Baby’s honour and look forward to seeing a photo of her sweet little face so we can all start the eternal debate of whom does she look like most.

Welcome, little one!