Understanding Danube Swabian Research & Discoveries




"...helping birds find their nest in the Batschka: Apatin, Bacsalmas, Batschsentivan, Bukin, Csavoly, Gakowa, Gara, Hodschag, Katymar, Kruschiwl, Kernei, Kolut, Nemesnadudvar, Neudorf (Novo Selo), Parabutsch, Stanischitsch, Tscheb, Weprowatz, and miscellaneous villages outside the Batschka."

Alice Spande

  German Spellings (D and T, etc.)

Spelling Accuracy & Variations

Using Perspective & Thinking Grey

Social/Political Problems of Danube Swabians Early 20th Century

History of Europe in general and the "Eastern" or "Central" Europe in specific

Cousins marrying each other among the DS

Note: The following observations (culled from responses to past DVHH-Lister messages) represent some general statements I have found to be true in my genealogical research, and are the result of 40 years of researching Danube Swabians primarily in the Northeastern Batschka area, and generally in all of Bacs Bodrog County of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the old Kingdom of Hungary, pre 1918. These observations are based on considerable time and effort expanded into becoming familiar with the history and people of that area (through reading, oral interviews, and surname research beyond my own family), and as such, may or may not apply to any specific individual or group of individuals in your research. These opinions should be used to help direct you into more research on your own, regarding those subjects mentioned, of which you have the most desire to learn. I do not pretend to be an authority on these subjects, but am still a traveler on the quest for further knowledge of my Danube Swabian ancestors. - Alice in Michigan

If you have a question or need assistance, please join the DVHH-L mail list and post your inquiry to the list for all to benefit from.

Genealogy 101: German Spellings (D and T, etc.)

Sent/List: Friday, Mar 23, 2007 9:16 PM
Subject: Re: [DVHH-L] Genealogy 101: German Spellings (D and T, etc.)

Regarding Danube Swabian Genealogy and Spellings:
This subject has been addressed before, but perhaps we should review it at this time. It is one that all of need to remember and refresh our memories on from time to time.
There are several factors to consider when doing genealogical research with the German dialects. Some of these are addressed under "spelling" at this DVHH page: www.dvhh.org/batschka/spande.htm
It is also important to remember that certain German letters are interchangeable, even today, depending on where you are and who is doing the spelling. Depending on the village, certain villages used certain spellings  whereas in the next nearby village the same family surname was spelled with the other variant letter. Watch out for the following letters which can be found used interchangeably:
B for  P
C for  K
D for  T
F for  V
G for K
I for  J
J for  I
K for  C
K for  G
P for  B
V for  F
V for  W
W for  V
I'm sure there are other letters which should be listed here, but these are what come to immediate mind. Perhaps other listers will chime in and help make this list more complete --especially in regards to the vowel variants, with  and without the umlaut.
Also, it might be helpful to post the above list somewhere close to  where you can see it easily when looking for people in the transcription records found in the Ortssippenbucher and Familienbucher. It is so easy to think of a name spelled only the way we are used to spelling it.
One hint I can suggest, also, is take time to to write out your  surnames using all the variant letter possibilities. This does not  account for all the possible 'other' spellings you might find , but at least it  is helpful since it is difficult to remember what all the variant spellings  might look like.  I spent years trying to clarify the spellings of my paternal grandmother's HINGL, HINGLE, HINGEL, HINKL, HENKL, HENKEL, HENGL, HENGEL, and  several other variants. Even a relatively simple spelling like my maternal  grandmother's name KREM, KREMM, KREMP, KRAM, KRAMM can give problems when you  find GREM, GRAM, GRAMP.
Hope this is helpful in your future research.
Alice in Michigan
"Anneliese Connections"

Spelling Accuracy & Variations

Sent/List: Saturday, Jan 19, 2007 8:59 AM
Subject: Re: [DVHH-L]

Re: Katherine / Catherina

Dear Allison,

Perhaps it would be helpful if I mentioned something about names and spelling that may at first seem more confusing to beginning genealogical researchers, but later will make things simpler.

'Correct' spelling did not become established in most families or areas of Europe until the mid to late 1800s. Even Shakespeare signed documents with 3 different spellings of his name at different times, so education was not the main factor in spelling variations.

The German dialect spoken by the village accounted for some of the variance in the way the surnames were pronounced, and therefore in how they were spelled.

The earliest Roman Catholic Church records were written in Danube Swabian church Latin (a variation in itself from that which was used in Rome and a variant form of the Latin taught in American schools).

Later Church records were written in German, and still later they are written in Hungarian and/or Serbian, Romanian, or Croatian. As just a quick example, here are just a few variant forms of the given name Catharine:

Catharine,  Catharina = Latin
Katharina = German
Katalin = Hungarian
Kati = Hungarian diminutive form of Katalin
Katica = "
Katinka = "
Kató  =  "
Katóka = "
Katus = English form of Cathie, Katie, Kitty

I have also seen "Katya" = language?  Maybe someone else will enlighten us on the Serbian and Croatian forms of Catherine.

Now add into the mixture, the fact that priests did not always ask the family how to spell the name but just wrote it by how he heard it, which produced new variations; and even if he did ask, in some situations the education of the persons involved did not give what we would call 'accurate' results.

Then, too, occasionally, certain individuals within a family chose to spell their names differently from the rest of the family; and even went by entirely different names in different villages (that, thankfully, did not happen often!).

From this, you can see how there would be several spellings for the same name.

Although it does not have to do with variant spellings of names, you should also consider that some individuals Hungarianized (i.e., Magyarized) there names which means they took on new surnames that showed their Hungarian loyalty, either in cases where this was politically 'correct' and expedient to their lives, or because they actually felt this connection. This began already in the early 18th century but occurred most frequently in the later half of the 19th and first half of the 20th century. When dealing with the question of accuracy of a name, if you come across a Hungarian surname in your German family, or you lose connections when trying to track individuals who are known to have remained in Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, or Romania after the WW2, consider this factor. Budapest Archives have this information, and Radix website will provide a reference page for a fee.

These are the primary reasons you find so many variations in spelling in Danube Swabian research. Because of this, it is recommended that you try to get a handle on all the variant spellings which could possibly be used for a name you are researching, before you begin your search for a person. This is a good rule to remember when researching Danube Swabians in any part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire or in the area called the greater Kingdom of Hungary prior to the coalition with Austria.

As I said, at first this may seem to confuse things even more, but gradually you will catch on; in the meantime, the DVHH listers are great at helping answer questions.

Alice in Michigan
"Anneliese Connections"
...helping birds find their nest in the Batschka...

In an excerpt of a follow-up message dated 20 Jan 2007, Hans Kopp wrote:

  "To the subject spelling:

For those who have access to the volumes of Stefan Stauder or an Ortsippenbuch may have noticed that many names are spelled differently and often are placed in pertinences. For example Ergh (Erck, Erg, Erk) or when I was surching for one of my ancestors Eckstein and Oswald I found their spelling as Eckhstein and Oschwaldt. One of my friends whose name is “Bangert” and who can trace his name back some 500 years or so found that his actual name was “Baumgartner”. In slang it contracted to Bomgart some 200-300 years ago and now it is Bangert.

Then there were the Hungarian scribes who did their own butchering of names, not intentionally but they use Hungarian letter for German sounds like cz or sz lin Ziegler - Cziegler, Tauser – Tauszer. These are only simple spellings and I have seen a lot worse.

How do we know who is who? We also can find names, spelling verifications of persons, from other documents and dates, such as wedding dates and witnesses to a wedding. From such documents we also may learn from where the people originate. One of my ancestors married in Ulm and it is from that document we found that they came from Venningen, the Palatinate. But this research cannot be accomplished by you and needs often professional help. ...I do believe only a lucky stumble in the dark can find the information... The only other recourse we have is patience and persistence and hope that someone can help us."

Using Perspective & Thinking Grey

Sent/List: Thu, 11 Jan 2007 13:26:58 EST
Subject: Re: [DVHH-L] Alsace Lorraine


Your observation about time and history is a good one to remember. True answers all depend on perspective and orientation to time, place, and history.

Although this is very important to remember, genealogists (especially when they begin) sometimes find it difficult to open their minds to the idea that a question can have more than one answer and all may be somehow true. Names, dates, places --there are often no definitive answers, and all the variant answers may be true in some way. This is hard to wrap ones mind around, especially when the question is a birth date. How can more than one answer be true? But if you think about it, you can come up with reasons why different records might give different days, months or years for the same person's birth, and depending on the view of the statement, they could all be true in some way.

I often think about children ages 7-8 years old who, for the first time in their lives, become aware that not everything is black or white. For most children, grey areas do not exist prior to that age. One of the things they must learn is how to think "out of the box" for more possible answers.

For beginning genealogists, it is the same --they expect only one answer and no grey areas. As we become more familiar with research, we begin to see (even though we still want to cling to the idea there can be only one answer) that genealogy is full of grey areas. Once we open our mind to this possibility, we can move on to making breakthroughs in our research. But every once in a while we need to step back and remember that grey areas do exist and we need to "re-think" our view to see if we can find other answers.

Thanks again, Anne, for helping all of us remember this golden rule of genealogy --all is not black and white; look for the grey possibilities.

Alice in Michigan
"Anneliese Connections"
...helping birds find their nest in the Batschka...

History of Europe in general and "Eastern" or "Central" Europe in specific

Sent/List: Saturday, March 04, 2006 8:18 PM
Subject: Re: [DVHH-L] Question about Records

For those of you with little experience understanding the history of Europe in general, and "Eastern" or "Central" Europe in specific, this may help. [The current trend by historians is to refer to what used to be called "Eastern Europe" as "Central Europe" today; geographically, perhaps, a little more correct, but it is a terminology not readily accepted by some of the countries involved.] I recommend reading Peter Stearns' ENCYCLOPEDIA OF WORLD HISTORY; Paul Robert Magocsi's HISTORICAL ATLAS OF CENTRAL EUROPE; Lonnie R. Johnson's CENTRAL EUROPE: ENEMIES, NEIGHBORS, FRIENDS; Laslo Kontler's "A HISTORY OF HUNGARY;" and J.B. Bury's "THE INVASION OF EUROPE BY THE BARBARIANS."  I have tried to give you authors of different nationalities in order that you get a more rounded picture of the history [history is like a sphere in that if you only see/hear/read from the outside you only see one side of the issue, and you never can see the complete picture as from looking out from the inside of the sphere--or in our case, reading
authors from various views.]

Once again, I re-emphasize that when our ancestors emigrated down the Danube, there was no country called Germany; only a number of pacts between various nobility who created alliances to protect and better themselves. [Their 'servants' were still much cared for as under the feudal system --including 'selling" males who were under their control, to British forces to help fight the rebellious colonists in the early days here in America (research the Hessian soldiers for more on this subject). This use/misuse of manpower was one of the reasons many men sought the trip down the Danube rather than try to come to the Colonies in the 1700s, because they were not welcomed there, and were discouraged from immigrating into the Colonies (although a few soldiers went awol in order that they might stay in the colonies.)]

Consequently, it is more correct to label the DS by their tribal name, rather than by the term 'German' as that term did not come into use until years later. In using the term German we mis-lead our listers who think we are referring to the country which came later in history.

The books listed above, are excellent resources and give much assistance in understanding something few of us have had the chance to study in our schooling here in America.

Cousins marrying each other among the DS

Sent/List: Saturday, March 04, 2006 8:18 PM
Subject: Re: [DVHH-L] Question about Records

Comment << ... if there were "inbreeding" within a family, say by cousins who I believe often married back then, would that be in church records? >>

If you are talking about Roman Catholic church records, you will find a notation by the priest, stating the Vatican's permission granted for the marriage. I have only found these for first cousin marriages and they are very infrequent, especially in later years.

Because of several factors, it was common for the DS to marry their cousins. Some of these were: 
*   1. the prohibition of marrying outside the church without special dispensation from the Vatican, and the small numbers of their own religion within a given area among the 18th and early 19th
century immigrants;
*   2. the desire of the DS to marry within their own people and cultural background;
*   3. the lack of eligible mates of the correct age, religion, DS, unmarried, in an area of proximity to the home village (we have to remember, they did not travel too far from home very often);
*   4. the occasions when they most often saw someone who was available was at religious and family functions (like weddings) where they often were together with eligible cousins (this is why you find so many granddaughters/grandsons marrying cousins of their grandmother, brothers-in-law marrying deceased wives' sisters, father's marrying mother's of son-in-laws and frequent marriage of
two siblings marrying two siblings in a joint marriage ceremony!);
*   5. the necessity of men finding a new wife to help raise his family encouraged quickly marrying someone who fit the qualifications;
*   6. the earliest settlers were required to be married in order to be given a house and land under the terms of the contract with the Hapsburgs;
*   7. the men were not allowed to marry back in their homeland until they had saved the designated amount of money and/or land; therefore many settlers married on the way to the new homestead (sometimes others from home, sometimes strangers they met along the way, certainly as soon as they arrived) in order to qualify for #6 above;
*   8. the need for children to help lighten the work load in a society that was so heavily dependent upon manual labor in order to provide for daily living.

Webster's dictionary defines inbreeding as "the interbreeding of closely related individuals esp. to preserve and fix desirable characters of and to eliminate unfavorable characters from a stock; confinement to a narrow range or a local or limited field of choice." Any marriages closer than third cousins therefore have been considered inbreeding and discouraged, going back many years (I don't recall exactly when inbreeding became illegal in Europe). Marriage of second cousins was also discouraged in some countries, especially in more modern times, but is still practiced in some places. When you consider the above factors, it is easy to understand the number of cousins marrying, and you do see a pattern of confinement to certain limitations, but the intermarriages over the years were between so many different lines they do not qualify as "illegal" inbreeding [This interweaving of families is often extremely complex and thus frustrating, but it is very important for genealogists to study because it often gives clues about the original family being researched that you might not have found otherwise!]. You will, however, find several hereditary health issues passed on from family to family because of the relative closeness of some of these lines and the issue of twins pops up often among them. (Most church death records will mention the cause of death, and some OSB/FB list these causes. Even if you don't understand what the cause translates to, you always
should notate it because of these hereditary diseases, and their influence even on your life).

Hope this gives more insight into cousins marrying each other among the DS.

Social/Political Problems of Danube Swabians Early 20th Century

Sent/Private: Monday, October 17, 2005 11:52 PM
Subject: [DVHH-L] Social/Political Problems of Danube Swabians Early 20th Century

Always searching for more information on what life was like for relatives living in Hungary (also Romania) in modern times? I came across two books that may be of interest to some of you. If, like me, you are interested in reading/understanding more about the social/political relationships of Danube Swabians during the period between WW1 and WW2, here are two books by Professor Thomas Spira written while at the History Dept. of University of Prince Edward Island. The books are part of the East European Monographs, distributed by Columbia University Press. They are probably available on inter-library loan, but if you don't mind the cost, they occasionally are found through used book dealers.

THE GERMAN-HUNGARIAN-SWABIAN TRIANGLE 1936-1939: THE ROAD TO DISCORD, published 1990. [ISBN 0-88033-182-8; Library of Congress # 90-80364]

GERMAN-HUNGARIAN RELATIONS AND THE SWABIAN PROBLEM 1919-1936, published 1997.  [ISBN 0-914710-18-4; Library of Congress #76-47790]

For anyone whose ancestors came to North America during the first quarter of the 20th century, these books (though not light reading) will give a feel for some of the social unrest that the DS were living through at that time.


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