Credit Where Credit Is Due

Without the help of my dear friend Martina Leitermann, I would not have been able to unlock the vast wealth of family information contained in these letters. I have had these letters for well over 20 years, having found them in an open wooden box with many old photographs, all virtually disintegrating in our parents’ attic. As soon as I found them, I sat down with Dad and had him tell me whatever he knew about each picture. I also made him promise to keep them in a better part of the house. With his blessings, I took the letters back home with me in the hopes of finding a way to decipher them. Old German handwriting, referred to as Sütterlin, is nearly impossible to decipher, even for most Germans living today. So the letters continued their slumber, this time in boxes under our bed.

Then we adopted our dog, Diego, a Galgo Español. Walking the dog every morning at the same time, you start to meet the same people walking their dogs as well. Sometimes you strike up a conversation and end up walking your dogs together. Such was the case with an older woman with a very friendly face, named Martina, and her dog Lizzy. It turned out that Martina had grown up in a village very near our condo in the Bavarian Forest, and she was very excited to meet someone who knew and loved her Heimat, or hometown. At one point during our regular morning chats, I mentioned the letters and my frustration at being unable to read them. She blinked at me and smiled. It turned out that she had learned to read and write Sütterlin in school and would be more than happy to take a look at the letters. Thus began our joint project of deciphering the letters.

At first Martina simply read and typed out the letters for me. I felt bad because of the amount of work she was doing. And, with the sheer volume of letters, literally hundreds, it meant that at that rate, it would be years before we got finished. So I began to try to my hand at reading them too. Martina, in addition to what she was transcribing, bravely corrected my crude attempts at deciphering. In spite of all the hours she was putting into this, she flat out refused to take any money for her efforts. However, she and her life partner, Hansi, love honey, and in particular honey from the Bavarian Forest. (He’s from there, as well.) I had once brought them honey after we had stayed at our condo and they were overjoyed. We then reached an agreement that I would bring honey from their neck of the woods whenever we were there. They were happy and I felt better about accepting so much help from her.

In time, however, Martina’s eyes needed surgery and afterwards reading and typing became just too strenuous. So now I transcribe them and she corrects them. We are currently about two-thirds of the way through. But don’t worry, the honey is still flowing.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Martina.

My interest in the family history was renewed when Herr Joachim von Roy, a renowned genealogist in Germany, approached Dad in 2004 about updating the family history in a registry of ancient noble German families. (The last time the family was entered in a registry was 1917.) Dad readily agreed as the family had died out in Germany and was officially considered extinct. In the course of his research, Herr von Roy was able to establish the whereabouts of many family members throughout the ages and was kind enough to include them all in a map, as well as examples of similar family crests of other families, which were bestowed around the same time. Herr von Roy was also kind enough to explain extensively the various medals and decorations, the meanings of which had long been forgotten. The colorful crest shown on the home page was designed and executed by Herr von Roy to appear as a new version of the family crest in the chapter on our family. It was a pleasure to work with Herr von Roy and I am grateful for all that I learned from him.

I would like to thank my dear husband, Thomas, whose great idea it was to create this website. He has spent countless hours not only designing and setting it up, also restoring many of the old faded photos in the process, he has also proofread everything on it, making sure that my 21st century mind has understood 19th century German. Not an easy task I can assure you. Words cannot express how thankful I am for his love and support.

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