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↑  The upheavals of World War II and the archaic Eastern Bloc record keeping policies
make genealogical research difficult. 


↑  This map shows the entire USSR, most of which is in Asia.  In the USSR's southwestern part were Kazakh, UzbekTurkmen, and Kirgiz.  These four Asian countries were in the Eastern Bloc and, along with Asian Russia, come under European Emigrant Heritage purview. 


Old Documents from Clients

Whether you're an unknown heir or someone trying to learn something about deceased relative(s), 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.  Example:  If your deceased grandfather's name is common, such as Alexander 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's brother 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 or town of birth matches the Joseph in question.

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 1950 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 date of birth or an 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 the first and last bill for each address.  We need her addresses to identify others living at the same address who may be related.  Old handwritten letters are also helpful.

↑  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 pre-1989 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


Bundle Old Letters On Wooden Background Stock Photo (Edit Now) 362031068
↑ Many people kept old letters because they were dear to them, and required little space to keep.  Old letters can be a treasure trove of genealogical information and proofs.


↑ This postcard was saved because the writer soon perished in the War.  His sister kept it in her dresser drawer for over 50 years until her death.  Written from German occupied Poland from a son to his father, the first half of the address is in German and the rest of the card is in Ukrainian.  Found under a toaster in an old storage box, this little card meant the difference between obtaining the inheritance and not obtaining it, for it was the only evidence showing the name of the son's father.  


Please find out which of Grandma's grandchildren has her old papers, passports, address books, bibles, and letters.




Deutsche Demokratische Republik [DDR]
[East Germany]


Undivided Germany, 1945:  


DDR (Communist East Germany), 1949 - 1989: 


       In the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, or GDR, German Democratic Republic), the names for Communist East Germany, the State owned all land, factories, shops, houses, etc.  The people of East Germany hadn't much money and gadgets; this brought them together and they helped each other in ever so many ways.  

Above stamps:  "Working Class Fighters" -and- "National Rebuilding" [WW II damage]

Two families and
the house in Schönwalde
by Vanessa Stella Johnston

When Germany was reunified in 1990, many West Germans reclaimed properties they had lost under the GDR (German Democratic Republic, A.K.A. Communist East Germany). In 2006, my mother, Silke Sonntag, received a mysterious call saying that there was a property east of Berlin in Schönwalde, which might be claimed for her. "I thought there must have been some mistake," she later told me. My mother had only ever been in West Germany, where she emigrated from 23 years ago. East Germany had been like a foreign world that she knew existed, but barely thought about. 

It was later explained to us that the property was purchased by my great-grand-parents in 1933. Twenty years later, as a Communist country, the GDR nationalized all property, which means they took it for "the People." This is how private ownership was abolished in the GDR. In 1953 the GDR assigned the house to Ernst Hartmann, and five generations of the Hartmann family occupied it for the next 55 years. No one in the GDR ever had to pay anything for their housing. In 1992, the German government begin looking for the owners of the property but was unable to find us. 

The reunification of East and West Germany in 1990 was sudden and unexpected. Not long after, the newly formed German government received 2.3 million applications for the restitution of real estate that the GDR had nationalized. The re-unified government announced several deadlines to file claims over the years, but each of them was extended. Many properties are unclaimed because of the millions of owners who perished during World War II, the millions more who moved within the GDR and Soviet Bloc during the 43 years of GDR rule, and the millions who departed the GDR after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. 

At the end of our claim process in 2008 we went to have a meeting with the Hartmanns at our family's house in Schönwalde, where they have resided all these years. As we walked up to the house from the train station I asked my mother whether she felt sorry for the Hartmann family having to give up the house. "No, not at all," she replied, "they never paid a penny for it and they've had fifty years of free rent!"  The Hartmanns were waiting for us at the gate. 

              Erhard Hartmann and Vanessa Johnston at the house in Schönwalde   

 European Emigrant Heritage  
Europäische Auswanderer Erbe  

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
ć, Kosovo


[Section under construction]


The 1917 Russian Revolution against the Tsar ended centuries of oppression by the wealthy nobility.  Those who had spoken out against the Tsar had been exiled to Siberia.  The poet Pushkin was one such, resulting in his 19___ poem:

 Во глубине сибирских руд              Deep in the Siberian mines

      Храните гордое терпенье,     Keep your patience proud:     

Не пропадет ваш скорбный труд     The bitter toil shall not be lost,

И дум высокое стремленье.            The rebel thought unbowed.   

Оковы тяжкие падут,       The heavy hanging chains shall fall,

Темницы рухнут - и свобода       The walls crumble at a word

Вас примет радостно у входа,   freedom greet you in the light,

И братья меч вам отдадут!   brothers give you back the sword!

                     --Пушкин                                          -- Pushkin






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

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