Friday, December 29, 2017

Transcription of Yesterday's Diary Entry

Here's transcription from the diary entry that I posted yesterday.

27. M. Des Margs wol 18 grad warm. Des Tages so 24 grad wa: war ich in Nicopol auf den Markt
war ich auch in Apoteck waren das al vor 11 Tage reife Arbusen und Milonen gewesen.
Da hat es viele Stelen geregnet, auch in Rosefelt, und vor über 3 Wochen al Gurcke.

And now for a literal translation:

27. Monday. In the morning will 18 degrees warm. In the day about 24 degrees warm. Was I in Nikopol' on the fair.
Was I also in pharmacy. Was the for 11 days ripe watermelons and muskmelons was.
Also had is many places rained, also in Rosenfeld. And for over 3 weeks had cucumber.

And now for the polished translation:

27. Mon. Morning 18 degrees [72° F.], day 24 degrees [86° F.]. I was in Nikopol’ for the fair [Markt]. I also went to the pharmacy. Have had ripe watermelons and muskmelons for eleven days. Rained in many places, including in Rosenfeld. And had cucumbers for more than three weeks. 

Here are some comments on the translation:

a) He doesn't spell out morning and also spells it like it would be pronounced in Low German - at least the way I have heard my parents pronounce it - "maryens."
 b) To me wol seems like he's saying wollen, i.e. the temperature will be 18 degrees, but that doesn't make sense, so I dropped that word in the polished translation.
c) He abbreviates warm as wa:. He shortens lots of words.
d) I chose to translate Markt as "fair" instead of "market" because I don't think he would go to Nikopol' just for the daily or weekly market.  Most likely it was the annual fair, but I don't know for sure, so I put the original German word "Markt" in brackets so that readers could judge for themselves.
e) Apotheke is misspelled.
f) Arbus is a Low German word borrowed from Russian and not in standard German dictionaries.
g) Melone is misspelled. I chose to translate it "muskmelon" instead of "canteloupe" because Wikipedia says that muskmelon is the more general word in English, and I understood the German word Melone also to be general.
h) Stelle is misspelled, but he always spells it Stele, so I've gotten used to it.
i) The village of Rosenfeld is misspelled.
j) He frequently uses the particle or abbreviation al, and I can't figure out what that means.
k) I'm not sure who has had cucumbers for three weeks - the sellers in the fair in Nikopol', the people of Rosenfeld, or in his own garden, so I tried to leave it ambiguous.

My German, especially grammar, is at a fairly basic level; so feel free to comment if you see mistakes.

Many Lessons from One Diary Entry

I've been translating the diary of my great-great-great uncle Abraham F. Reimer #3945 (1808-1892).  He was a member of the Kleine Gemeinde and lived in Steinbach village, Borosenko colony, South Russia, in the late 1860s and early 1870s.  He kept a diary that is still extant for 1870-1874, and he wrote many interesting observations of daily life.  I ran across an entry for 27 July 1870, that illustrated several such points. 

Here is a snippet of the original text:
Abraham F. Reimer (1808-1892) diary, Steinbach, Borosenko Colony, South Russia, 1870-1874, Mennonite Heritage Centre Archive, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kleine Gemeinde collection, vol. 5907, item 4, p. 14.
And the translation for the day:

27. Mon. Morning 18 degrees [72° F.], day 24 degrees [86° F.]. I was in Nikopol’ for the fair. I also went to the pharmacy. Have had ripe watermelons and muskmelons for eleven days. Rained in many places, including in Rosenfeld. And cucumbers for more than three weeks.

Reimer was a careful observer of the weather, so he recorded the morning and daytime temperatures everyday, although he used an old European system, the Reaumur temperature scale, which had a freezing point of 0° and a boiling point of 80°.  I have added the Fahrenheit equivalent in brackets so that Americans could make sense of the temperatures (sorry, Canadians and Europeans). 

Next he describes going to the fair or market (Markt in German) in Nikopol', which was the nearest city and about 23 miles (36 kilometers) to the southeast. Reimer enjoyed adventure and having different experiences, so I'm sure the fair was a great experience for him.  The fair would have been much different than our county fairs in rural North America - it was a periodic gathering of merchants, traders, sellers, street performers, and riffraff of all types where goods were sold from far and near.

Reimer was particularly interested in the crops, so he notes that they had had watermelons and muskmelons available for eleven days already and cucumbers for three weeks.  The word he is uses for watermelon is not the standard German word, which is Wassermelone. Instead, he uses the Plautdietsch word, borrowed from Russian, of Arbus, which comes from the Russian word arbuz. This can make it difficult to translate because sometimes I have to look in a Low German dictionary to find words that are not in the dictionary of High German.

He also misspells the German word for muskmelon, which is Melone, and spells it Milone instead. In fact, his spelling throughout the diary is rather suspect.

I also stumbled across a picture in the Wikipedia article about Nikopol' of the Bazaar Square in Nikopol' in the early 1900s.  I can imagine it filled traders, stalls, carts, and thousands of customers jostling and pushing and bargaining to get the best deals.  The market probably looked something like this in 1870 when Abraham Reimer visited it on that warm July day.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Why was he born THERE?

Sometimes you come across a surprising fact, a fact that doesn't fit anything else you know; and then you start to wonder what it means.  When I started researching genealogy, I assumed my great-grandfather Gerhard T. Siemens #6463 (1834-1908) was born in Rosenort, Molotschna, South Russia.  His grandfather Klaas Johann Siemens #46557 had settled farm #14 in Rosenort when it was founded in 1803, and the 1835 census recorded little Gerhard as living there as a one-year-old child with his parents, grandmother, and other family members.  It only made sense that the family had lived there continuously from 1803 to 1835, so of course my great-grandfather was born there in 1834.

Here's the 1835 census of Rosenort farm #14 so that you can see for yourself how logical my assumption was:
Katerina Simens" household, 4 February 1835, 8th Revision of Census of Russian Empire, Rosenort village, Molochanskii Mennonistskii Okrug, Melitopol'skii Uezd, Tavricheskaia Guberniia, household #14.  Found in Odessa Region State Archives, Odessa, Ukraine, Peter J. Braun Collection, Fond 89, Inventory 1, File 357, p. 263R-264.  Accessed on microfilm from California Mennonite Historical Society, Fresno, California.
I underlined the one-year-old Gerhard T. Siemens in red, his 29-year-old father Gerhard Klaas Siemens is listed just above him, and his late grandfather Klaas Johann Siemens is on the first line.

So I was very surprised when I found his obituary, and it said that he was born in Neuendorf, Khortitsa, South Russia.  But the obituary was written by my great-uncle Abraham K. Siemens, and I have come to recognize him as an interested and careful genealogist, so I trusted his information.  Here is a snippet from the obituary:

Letter to editor from A. R. Siemens [Abraham K. Siemens], Die Mennonitische Rundschau, Scottsdale, Pennsylvania, 9 December 1908, p. 12 from microfilm at Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas.
The phrase I underlined translates as, "was born in Neuendorf, the Old Colony, South Russia."  Khortitsa was called the "Old Colony" because it was settled first.

I have searched all the online records for Khortitsa, trying to find a connection, but I found no Siemens there who were related.  I don't know where his mother, Gertruda Thiessen, comes from; so I searched for her in Khortitsa without success.  I didn't know what else to try, but this has really bugged me for a long time.  Why would a boy be born in Khortitsa when his parents and grandparents always lived in Molotschna and even had a farm there?

I still don't have the answer, but I noticed a new bit of information today.  The online version of Grandma says that his aunt Helena Siemens #3759 was married in Einlage, Khortitsa, on 19 August 1830, to Abraham Johann Friesen #3751.  Since Mennonites were traditionally married in the home of the bride's parents, this would mean that little Gerhard's grandparents were living there in 1830.  Did they live in Khortitsa from at least 1830 to 1834?

I've looked for Gerhard's parents and grandfather Siemens in Khortitsa without success, but what if it was his grandmother Katharina (Friesen) Siemens #46558 who had relatives in Khortitsa?  What if they moved to Khortitsa to live with relatives when they retired from farming?  They could have still been officially registered at their farm in Rosenort, Molotschna, but actually been living in Khortitsa.  There are three Friesen families listed in the May 1814 census of Khortitsa, so I wonder if they might have been relatives of little Gerhard's grandmother Katharina (Friesen) Siemens.  And one of them, Cornelius Friesen #198463 came from the same Heubuden church in West Prussia that Katharina Friesen came from. It's an avenue for further research.

Is it Mr., Mrs., or the whole family?

When you're translating Mennonite German text, there is an important but subtle distinction between the ways the husband, the wife, and the whole family are named.

If the word refers to the husband, it will say, for example, "Abraham Reimer."

If it refers to the wife, it will say, for example, "Abraham Reimersche."  Married women are almost always called by their husbands' name with the -sche suffix added, except in formal records.  Sometimes even in formal records, such as church books, the wife will be called "Abraham Reimersche," especially if scribe doesn't know her actual first name.  This might occur if the wife in question is an older woman and the scribe is a younger man who has never heard her called by her first name.  It was considered disrespectful in the extreme to refer to a married woman by her first name.

If it refers to the the whole family (or to the couple, depending on the context), it will say, for example, "Abraham Reimers."  Also, there are a few surnames that take the -en suffix, for example, "Johann Koopen" would refer to the whole Johann Koop family (or to the couple, depending on the context).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sun Dogs (Parhelia)

Here's an image that is perhaps similar to the parhelia (sun dogs) that I described in Abraham F. Reimer's diary entry from yesterday's blog post.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

New West Prussian Church Books Digitized has posted some newly-digitized church books for West Prussia that might interest researchers.  These are early (i.e. pre-1800) Lutheran church books for Neuheide and Zeyer in Kreis Elbing and Graudenz in Kreis Graudenz.

Adding Context from a Diary

I am editing a very rough draft translation of Abraham F. Reimer's #3945 (1808-1892) diary for 1870-1874.  It's been tough to get going because it's been hard to figure out his handwriting and because he shortens words and uses some Low German words.  But I'm finally figuring it out and finding some interesting things.

I'm interested in this diary for several related reasons.  Abraham F. Reimer was my great-great-great-uncle, so he has interesting information about my Reimer ancestors.  He was also good friends with my maternal great-great-grandfather Gerhard Klaas Siemens #6461 (1805-1877), so he mentions him frequently in his diary.  Since he was a member of the Kleine Gemeinde, he knew almost all my maternal ancestors.  And he was a keen observer of people and natural phenomena.  He was called Foala Reimer (Fool Reimer) because he was much more interested in breeding flowers, astronomy, and many other intellectual pursuits than in farming.  But that is exactly what makes him a good diarist.

In just the first two pages of the diary, I've come across a couple interesting observations.  First, he faithfully records the temperature morning, noon, and night using the Reaumur scale that was common in Russia.  (The Reaumur scale uses 0º as the freezing point of water and 80º as the boiling point.)  From 17-29 January 1870, the weather was extremely cold, and the lowest temperature he recorded was -25º Re., which was -24º F., on 27 January 1870.  The official low temperature for Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, the nearest large city is -20º F., so clearly this was a run of extraordinarily low temperature for the area. 

I'm sure this was a memorable event for all my ancestors, who lived in that part of Russia.  Think of the difficulty of feeding animals, breaking ice in the stock tanks, burning enough wood to keep the house warm, doing laundry, and many other daily tasks.  The worship service was even cancelled.

Abraham F. Reimer (1808-1892) diary, Steinbach, Borosenko Colony, South Russia, 1870-1874, Mennonite Heritage Centre Archive, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Kleine Gemeinde collection, vol. 5907, item 4, p. 2.
And here is the translation for that date:
27. Tues. –25 degrees [-24º F.] in the morning and  –14 degrees [0º F.] at noon, in the evening –22 degrees [-18º F.].  The junior Penner from Rosenfeld was here and also at the Toewses. The Russian came again.
The previous day, the 26th, Abraham Reimer witnessed a spectacular display of parhelia, or sun dogs.  They are caused by refraction and reflection within ice crystals in the atmosphere.  They occur most often when there are high, thin cirrus clouds; low temperatures; and dry air and when the sun is low in the sky.  To see one or two sun dogs is fairly common, but Reimer saw six large and four small sun dogs as well as half of the parhelic arc that can extend all the way around the horizon at the level of the sun.  The additional sun dogs are visible when the arcs created by various internal refractions and reflections in the ice crystals intersect in the sky.  I myself have seen left and right sun dogs, the upper tangential arc, and the 22º circle around the sun.  But he saw ten total sun dogs plus half the parhelic arc, which is amazing!  I'm sure he and many others remembered this display all their lives.

Here is the translation for the 26th:

26. Mon. –19 degrees [-11º F.] in the morning. -15 [-2º F.] at noon, and –20 degrees [-13º F.] in the evening.   In the morning we had six[?] large sun dogs also with four small sun dogs and a ring over half the horizon.

I had a terrible time trying to figure out what he saw.  In the text, the word looked like "Neben Sonen," but I couldn't find that in any dictionary.  "Neben" means "secondary" in German, but I couldn't think what a secondary sun might be.  And how would he see ten secondary suns?  Then it hit me that the weather conditions he described were perfect for sun dogs, so I looked that up, but I couldn't find "sun dog" in my English-German dictionaries either.  Then in an English-Low German dictionary, I found the translation of sun dog as "Biesonen" or "beside-sun" which actually describes it quite well.  But that wasn't the word that Reimer used.  Finally I decided to read a little about sun dogs in Wikipedia and learned that the technical term for a sun dog in English is parhelion.  When I looked "parhelion" up in my English-German dictionary, I found the translation "Nebensonne," which is the singular of the word that Reimer used.  Mystery solved!