The upheavals of World War II and the archaic Soviet record keeping policies make genealogical research difficult.
Old Documents from Clients
Whether you're an unknown heir or someone trying to learn something about a deceased relative, you never pay EEH any money, regardless of the outcome of the case. But there is one thing we do sometimes need from our clients. For example, if your grandfather's name is common, such as Edmund JOHNSON or Joseph LEVY, and the genealogical documents we have found do not satisfy the ministry official, bank, or magistrate that said Joseph LEVY is the same Joseph LEVY who owned the assets, then we may ask you if your family has additional documents to help prove it. These could be documents showing that Joseph's date of birth matches, or that Joseph was born in the same town as the Joseph who owned the assets.
Please note that we never request current documents, such as your driver's license or bank cards. These are confidential to you, and they wouldn't help us anyway because what we want is the old information. Your grandfather's address in 1930 may help us find where he divorced, and the divorce file will have the names and ages of his children, proving to the magistrate that he was indeed the father of your mother.
If such old proofs are needed, we may ask you to please go through all your family's attics, basements, garages, etc. Don't forget to check places owned by in-laws and step-relatives. For example, if you had a widowed aunt who never had children and is now deceased , her old papers may have gone to her step-children and are sitting in a storage unit. Please believe we have lost a number of cases because magistrates etc would not accept our proof packets because proofs for certain of the family links were insufficient.
We don't need most typical "hoarder" items, such as old newspapers and magazines, but look for anything that is signed, anything with a name or address, and anything with a rubber stamp, or paper tax stamps (they look like postage stamps). I'm sure you can distinguish the papers having information from the junk mail, old crossword puzzles, etc. If the aunt saved old utility bills, we need only one bill per address she lived at. (We need her addresses.)
↑ Bundesrepublik Deutschland Personalausweis Buch
Republic of Germany Personal Identification Book (West Germany)
↑ Deutsche Demokratische Republik Ausweiss Buch
German Democratic Republic Identification Book (East Germany)
Pictured above are examples of old German passports. Most people keep their expired passports as mementos of their travels. Be sure not to let them slide inside or between all those old newspapers and be lost!
Also do not miss small things such as calendar books, address books, and pocket note-books; most people always carried these in their pockets or purses, in the days prior to cell phones. The names & contact information of their friends & relatives etc. were not recorded electronically, but with pen & paper.
↑ Old address book -- Everybody had one,
and maybe even kept a couple old ones from prior years containing outdated addresses & information on deceased persons.
Being a "packrat" or a "hoarder" can be quite useful!
If your grandfather lived in East Germany prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, he would have had an Ausweis (ID) with the sexton's symbol of the E. Ger. government (2nd photo above). Inside this little blue book would be his photo, date & town of birth, etc. Not just his country of birth, but the town. This is very important information for us, so please look carefully for such documents!
One of the best finds is a family bible, for it was quite common in the past to keep a record of births, marriages, and deaths in designated pages at the front of bibles. In modern times, births are announced on Facebook, with colour photos, but in past decades the information was written in family bibles. These were permanent records; people didn't throw things out because they were a little shabby or outdated, as they do today. This was the age before consumerism and over-consumption. Small money was important to people. They passed the old bibles down to their children and grandchildren, reverently. If necessary they glued a strip of cloth on the binding.
Here is a typical page of births from an American family bible:
↑ EEH often uses bibles as legally accepted
proofs of family relationships
Letter from an Heir Client
Lieber Herr James Hannum: 20. Dez 2017
Ich hoffe, daß Sie in Ordnung sind. Ich schreibe Ihnen von unsern ganzen Familie, um Euch sehr zu Danken, für den Erhalt dieser unerwartete Erbschaft! Wir sind gestern gerade nach Hause angekommen von unserer grossen Reise. Anbei ein Foto von meiner Eltern in Hawaii. Ich und meine Schwester Liesel und ihr Mann sind im Hintergrund unter den großen Regenschirm. Das war unser Lieblingsanschlag, es war fur eine woche! Unsere Eltern erfreuten sich lieber an Australien.
Ich schreibe Ihnen auf Deutsch, weil mein Englisch schrecklich ist, u. ich weiß, Sie haben keine Serbokroatisch. Bitte entschuldigen Sie meine Fehler, Ich lernte es nur von meiner Großeltern als
kinder. Meine Mutter bat mir zu erzahlen: sie bedauert, daß sie ungern zu glauben Euch im Anfang war, als du ins unsern Haus
besuchten; dann Ihre Geduld war sehr geschätzt. Als Sie wissen, wir waren die einzigen Linie der Familie in Jugoslawien nach dem zweiten Weltkrieg verbleibend.
Es war schwierig für Sie uns zu finden, und als mein Vater meinen Mutter den Vertrag zu unterzeichnen verbot, könnten Sie leicht uns aus von dem Erbschaft verlassen haben. (Später machte Vater viele Trinksprüche an euch, in Kneipen rund um die Welt!)
Wir hatten uns nie zu träumen erlaubten, daß so etwas könnte in unserer Familie geschehen. Es hat uns erlaubt, die Gleichgewicht von dem Haus-Hypothek meiner Eltern auszahlen, und diesen großen Dampferreise rund um die Welt zu machen, dass von Mama u. Vati ihren großen Ziel seit vielen Jahren zu machen war.
Danke, wunderbaren Menschen der Gesellschaft Europäische Auswanderer Erbe!
Ursula Schäfer, für die ganze Familie Schäfer
Head pioneer of a pioneer unit reports to the pioneer leader of the school, Russia, USSR, 1950
EEH dedicates this website to the memory of past lives and past times