Monday, January 6, 2014

The Secrets of the Notebook by Eve Haas

"[I]f you like history and enjoy finding out how difficult it actually is to discover the truth about your past, this is a good book to read." from a review posted by a reader on the Goodreads website

When Eve Jaretzki Haas and her family, Jewish refugees from Germany, were living in England during World War II, her father showed her a small, very old book that had been in the possession of her great-great grandmother. He told her that her great-great grandmother, Emilie Gottschalk, had been married to a Prussian prince. He also told her that she would inherit the book, but it didn’t actually come into her possession until many years later after both of her parents had died.

This memoir is about a very interesting family history that the author uncovered after many years of research and travel. The first problem, when she started her serious inquiries in the early 1970’s, was that she was told that the records relating to the Prussian Hohenzollern family would be in the East German archives where it was dangerous to travel and she was advised that bureaucrats there would stand in the way of her research. She was persistent and gained entry, but many other problems familiar to genealogists surfaced. She found information that did not fit into the vague outlines of the family story she had been told by family members, and often information she uncovered didn’t seem to fit with other facts she came across. The story became more and more puzzling.

After many years of searching she succeeded in putting the pieces together and coming up with a more than plausible family narrative for many reasons: she was persistent, she got more and more knowledgeable and experienced as the search progressed, she kept studying the documents she had - looking for more clues, she kept going back to family members with new questions, and she won over archivists who were intrigued with her story and became eager to help her. It also didn’t hurt that both she and her husband spoke and read German so that she was able to scrutinize primary sources.

All in all, this memoir can serve as an inspiration to amateur genealogists. The author had a daunting task ahead of her and could have easily given up. It is interesting to follow both her progress and lack of progress – the brick walls she encountered and how she worked around them and through them which included constructing theories that did not always bear fruit. But because of all her work eventually she succeeded in uncovering lots of information and reconstructing her lineage and a narrative that explains the documents she found.

Click here to read about the history of the Kingdom of Prussia.

Emilie von Ostrowska – married to Prince August (Hohenzollern) of Prussia
     Charlotte von Ostrowska (Gottschalk) – daughter of Emilie and Prince August; married Sigmund Baumann
           Anna Baumann – married Samuel Jaretzki
                Hans Jaretzki - son of Anna and Samuel; married to Margarethe Jacoby
                      Claude Jaretzki – son of Hans and Margarethe; married to Inge
                      Eve Jaretzki – daughter of Hans and Margarethe; married to Ken Haas; author
                             Anthony, Timothy, and David Haas – sons of Eve and Ken
                Freddy Jaretzki – son of Anna and Samuel; married to Lotte ; second marriage to Alice
                     Marlies Jaretzki – daughter of Freddy

Frank Jarett (Jaretzki) – relative of author; exact relationship not clear
       Norman Jarett – son of Frank
Thomas Jarrett – married to Doris; cousin - exact relationship not clear
Alex Jarret – married to Pat; cousin – exact relationship not clear
Fridl Jacoby – sister of Margarethe

Friends and Acquaintances
Meno Burg
Isadore Gottschalk

Berlin, Germany
Wannslee, Berlin, Germany
Charlottenburg, Germany
Breslau, Poland
Prague, Czechoslovakia
Reichenberg, Czechoslovakia

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