Monday, October 31, 2016

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

WARNING: THIS POST HAS SPOILERS
My Ántonia is a book that is often read in American High School English classes, but fortunately not mine; they allowed me to discover one of the best books when I can actually appreciate it.

I listened to this book on Librivox while working on household chores. The readers were good, if not fully professional. You can also read it online here. I wrote this post as I listened to it. It took about four days; it's not very long. It's a great choice for an audio book because the style is very much focused on setting rather than plot.

Book One: The Shimerdas
Today I started bawling when I was listening to this book. It took me by surprise, that I would react so emotionally. But it was just so sad. The main character, ~12 year old Jim Burden was with his grandparents bringing some food to the Shimerda family, who was nearly starving to death. It was such a horribly sad image. The part that really made me cry was to hear how the Czech mother just broke down, how the family (but especially the mother) was so embarrassed that their visitors came without warning and saw their feet were wrapped in rags, how their house was nothing more than a shabby little hole in the ground, and it was freezing cold. It was like I could see it very clearly, and I could imagine my own ancestors feeling some of these same things; even if they didn’t suffer quite to that extreme being south in Texas where it never snows; they would have shared some of these feelings of despair and anguish and loneliness, missing their native land. Then, the dad, who I think suffers from depression, stands up and has his young 12-ish year old daughter Ántonia translate to the American neighbors that they weren’t beggars in the old country, that he is an educated, respectable craftsman, that they came across the Atlantic with over $1,000 but were conned somehow in New York with the exchange rates, and that they were basically cheated into some bad deals for house/property buying because of the language barrier. What a painful scene. I wish I could be there to help this poor family – my poor family – to settle into life in America. The Shimerda mom tries to thank the family by giving them some of her precious cooking ingredient brought from the old country, and explains that all food tastes better in Bohemia. The American grandma takes it, but doesn’t know what to do with it. The little American boy, who is the main character, sneaks one of the strange things and tastes it; it was only much later in his life that he learned it was a mushroom. Which yes, mushroom gathering and cooking is a huge part of Czech culture, even to this day.

There was an interesting and poetic reference to Mormons in this book, which of course I thought interesting:

All the years that have passed have not dimmed my memory of that first glorious autumn. The new country lay open before me: there were no fences in those days, and I could choose my own way over the grass uplands,trusting the pony to get me home again.Sometimes I followed the sunflower-bordered roads. Fuchs told me that the sunflowers were introduced into that country by the Mormons;that at the time of the persecution, when they left Missouri and struck out into the wilderness to find a place where they could worship God in their own way, the members of the first exploring party, crossing the plains to Utah, scattered sunflower seed as they went.The next summer, when the long trains of wagons came through with all the women and children, they had the sunflower trail to follow.I believe that botanists do not confirm Jake’s story, but insist that the sunflower was native to those plains. Nevertheless, that legend has stuck in my mind, and sunflower bordered roads always seem to me the roads to freedom.

Later, while making dinner, I started bawling again and had to turn off the book. My husband looked at me funny, “what?” I said, “Didn’t you hear what just happened?” “uh...no…”

It’s true; Cather talks in circles around the serious topics. She doesn’t say things directly, which adds to the charm of the book. You feel like you are experiencing the story with the characters.

But it is also extremely obvious to me that the author is a woman trying to write from the point of view of a boy (as opposed Škvorečky writing from the point of view of his alter-ego Danny Smiričky). This, along with some very subtle references and of course reading this as a 21st century American, adds a theme of homosexuality that may or may not have been the author’s original intention.

Later:
Mr. Shimerda kills himself. I thought it was just an accident, but Cather lets you find out the same way Jim Burden finds out: by listening to the adults talk about it. It was when one of them says, “Did you see the gun?” that I just started bawling. It was really emotional for me, much, much sadder than I was prepared for.

And this theme of suicide continues through the book. It is really quite dark in some ways.

It was also really sad when Ántonia is crying about not being able to go to school, but Jim is totally oblivious to that.

Book Two: The Hired Girls
Cather also explores the class issues that the Czech immigrants had to deal with, and that certainly were also a part of my ancestors’ lives. She vaguely alludes to pregnancy outside of marriage, but it is never broached directly.

Jim gets extremely angry with Tony when that incident happens at Mr. Cutter’s house.  Mr. Cutter,  Tony's employer, acts really strange and Tony asks for Jim to sleep there overnight while she stays with his grandma. Mr. Cutter,  who is supposed to be away, secretly comes back and jumps on the bed,  who is supposed to have Tony in it,  but really has Jim. Apparently he was planning to rape her. Mr. Cutter, on finding out it is Jim, beats him and accuses him of sleeping around with Tony. Jim is angry, but weirdly his anger is partially directed at Tony, which is really confusing; shouldn't he have been happy that apparently he rescued her from rape, instead of being angry that now he’s going to be accused of fooling around with her?

Jim is totally oblivious that both Tony and Lena are in love with him, and that Lena is super jealous of Tony. I don’t really like Jim that much.

Book Three: Lena Lingard
In this book, Lena (A Swedish working girl who was friends with Ántonia) basically starts dating Jim with zero intentions of becoming serious, or anything more than friends. She's a likable enough character,  but she has some really sad thoughts about marriage and motherhood :

“The Colonel would marry you in a minute. I hope you won’t marry some old fellow; not even a rich one.”

Lena shifted her pillows and looked up at me in surprise. “Why, I’m not going to marry anybody. Didn’t you know that?”

“Nonsense, Lena. That’s what girls say,but you know better. Every handsome girl like you marries, of course.”

She shook her head. “Not me.”

“But why not? What makes you say that?” I persisted.

Lena laughed. “Well, it’s mainly because I don’t want a husband. Men are all right for friends, but as soon as you marry them they turn into cranky old fathers, even the wild ones. They begin to tell you what’s sensible and what’s foolish, and want you to stick at home all the time. I prefer to be foolish when I feel like it, and be accountable to nobody.”

“But you’ll be lonesome. You’ll get tired of this sort of life, and you’ll want a family.”

“Not me. I like to be lonesome. When I went to work for Mrs. Thomas I was nineteen years old, and I had never slept a night in my life when there weren’t three in the bed. I never had a minute to myself except when I was off with the cattle.”

Usually, when Lena referred to her life in the country at all, she dismissed it with a single remark, humorous or mildly cynical. But to-night her mind seemed to dwell on those early years. She told me she couldn’t remember a time when she was so little that she wasn’t lugging a heavy baby about, helping to wash for babies, trying to keep their little chapped hands and faces clean. She remembered home as a place where there were always too many children, a cross man, and work piling up around a sick woman.

“It wasn’t mother’s fault. She would have made us comfortable if she could. But that was no life for a girl! After I began to herd and milk I could never get the smell of the cattle off me. The few underclothes I had I kept in a cracker box. On Saturday nights, after everybody was in bed, then I could take a bath if I wasn’t too tired. I could make two trips to the windmill to carry water, and heat it in the wash-boiler on the stove. While the water was heating, I could bring in a washtub out of the cave, and take my bath in the kitchen. Then I could put on a clean nightgown and get into bed with two others, who likely hadn’t had a bath unless I’d given it to them. You can’t tell me anything about family life. I’ve had plenty to last me.”

“But it’s not all like that,” I objected.

“Near enough. It’s all being under somebody’s thumb. What’s on your mind, Jim? Are you afraid I’ll want you to marry me some day?”

If we all thought like this, there would be no more humanity. It is good that we have a powerful innate desire to share our lives with another human, and also a drive to create new human life together. This is the ultimate level of trust: trusting them enough to give them everything. It is very sad that Lena's circumstances led her to the disillusioned idea that celibacy is a satisfactory substitution. But I say this as a married person, of course. I was never nearly as happy before I was married.

I wonder if part of me thinks that everyone *should* marry. I feel like everyone should have the chance to feel the kind of happiness I have in my marriage, otherwise life would be utterly unfair. But it clearly is just that: utterly unfair. So I don't know.

Book Four: The Pioneer Woman
Of course here my heart broke again to find my beloved Czech heroine ruined by a selfish jerk who promised to marry her, but kept delaying until she couldn't stand it any more and she went off with him, with both her head and hope chest full. He used her for a month and then abandoned her, pregnant (though she didn't know it yet I'm sure.) She had to return to her mother's house in shame and disgrace and deal with the fallout alone. It was so sad. She was not deserving of such a miserable outcome.

Yet through it all, she continued to work hard and be true to her family. When the baby was born, she made it her sole purpose to provide a better life for her child.

Jim Burden goes to see her and stupidly tells her how he wishes that he could marry her, or be her brother etc. He can't, which is so frustratingly weak. Why can't he just suck up his pride and marry her, like he has always wanted? She made some terrible choices with lasting consequences, and they are not in the same social class, but they are definitely intellectual equals and he is completely crazy in love with her. I don't like invisible class barriers. They are so sad. They should not prevent an otherwise perfect match. I really don't like Jim very much anymore. He's likable, but so, so weak.

Book Five: Cuzak’s Boys
Ántonia meets Jim twenty years later,  after she marries a poor Bohemian named Cuzak. I last left them in her house, where she is showing Jim her twelve children. They are poor (so poor they pickle the watermelon rinds!  Ugh!) but happy. Jim has graduated from Harvard and is still a bachelor, so I'm guessing he's about 44. So who really ended up ruining their life,  Jim who has apparently so far made no lasting meaningful interpersonal human connections, or Ántonia who made the best of her life despite the really difficult circumstances?

Reading this in the  21st century, I can see an obvious homosexual reading of the story. That Jim had been the lover of his school teacher in Omaha, and that this, more than anything, was the main obstacle to his marrying Ántonie. I can just imagine discussing this issue for hours and hours in my high school English class. Well, it is a really sad theme if that is the main obstacle, and I feel sad for him. I still think he's weak though; not my most admired protagonist.

Reflections at the end of the book:
Cather makes a claim with which I do not agree with: that the entire fates of Jim and Ántonia were predetermined when they were country children, essentially by other people. I don't agree with the idea that we are basically powerless over our destinies. Our circumstances surely shape our identities, but they don't control our choices. Maybe the setting determines what we are, but it doesn't determine who we become.

I wonder if Ántonia is a little bit of a Mary Sue. I don't think so exactly, but I do think that Jim Burden is head over heals in love with her without being able to admit it to himself. Personally, I relate to Ántonia a thousand times more than to Jim: if I lived in that world, I would be a lot like her both in her outgoing character and in her Czech heritage.

Background historical knowledge gained from this book:
  • Loneliness, homesickness and depression definitely affected Czech immigrants to the United States, which I understand a lot more now.
  • Suicide as a theme. This happens at least three times in this book.
  • Early Czech immigrants sacrificed a lot more than leaving their home country. Ántonia sacrificed her entire education, which surely factored into her desperation, her “ruin”, but then later her choice to marry a Bohemian
  • Czech immigrants might not have been prepared for the rural conditions/lifestyle they would have to face in America. Mr. Shimerda was a highly skilled craftsman, and a musician - not a farmer.
  • Evil people take advantage of immigrants, and this still happens today.
  • Class prejudice as a theme.
  • Early Czech immigrants probably had more solidarity with other European immigrants than the later ones who came after their communities were established. Community was hugely, hugely important to Czechs. It would have been easier to immigrate after the first wave.
  • Later Czechs might have clung more fiercely to their communities. Towards the end of the book, everybody is astonished that Jim knew what kolačes were, and had seen that famous Czech singer, even though he had grown up with Ántonia and knew all about her culture and life.  
  • Rural life was really difficult and a lot of work.
  • But a lot of things back then were the same as now. People dealt with mental illness, awkwardness, homesickness, unrequited "impossible" love, etc.
  • Dreams of returning to the old country were real. I wonder if my ancestors ever dreamed of returning, or if they ever did manage to return just to visit.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

sprostý prostý voják - was the soldier indecent, common, or both?

Here's a contribution I made on a Czech genealogy forum that made me laugh.

https://digi.ceskearchivy.cz/DA?menu=3&id=5647&page=124&lang=cs


Adalbert Ssanda [Šanda) sprostý vojak zahradky od K.K. E H? C: Rainer ++ Linirr Infanterie Regimentu, 8 Compagnie
syn Vacslava ssandy [šandy] chalupnika ze zahradký panství Vožickeho matky Marie dcery Vaclava Bednaře sedlaka z Bzový N 8 panství Vožick

It turns out that the word "sprostý" means vulgar.

And it really is just like old English, where vulgar can mean commonplace or ordinary. But in modern speech, it means indecent, scurrilous, foul, dirty, immoral, etc. 

In this case, it means he was a common, ordinary soldier. But it's funny because, assuming soldiers of the past are somewhat similar to soldiers of the present, maybe he was both. ;-)


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"The Swell Season: A Text on the Most Important Things in Life" by Josef Škvorecký

I love my ancestors, and have always wished that I could go back in time, observe their world, and really know them. The second best thing to a time machine is a good novel. Actually, in some ways, the novel is better; you can usually get inside the head of the characters and really understand their motivations and character. If you want to understand the facts, read original source material, including parish registers, land records, deeds, wills, censuses, etc. But if you want to also understand the soul, read literature.
I just finished a hilarious book of short stories called "The Swell Season: A Text on the Most Important Things in Life” by Josef Škvorecký. I loved it, and it was also very sad, and left me feeling melancholy for the past few days. 
SPOILER ALERT!!!! I warned you!!!


I could not have phrased it better than this Amazon reviewer, who actually wrote this in regards to a different book in this series called, “The Cowards.”
This semi-autobiographical novel is the first in a series by Czech-cum-Canadian author Josef Skvorecky that charts the life of Danny Smiricky, a Czech sometimes-saxophonist and full-time womanizer. The story opens during WWII in German-occupied Kostelec, a town not far from Prague. The way Smiricky tells it, the war and the occupation are minor hardships and major bores; what really matters is the pursuit of his two true loves: jazz and women. Like most egotistical men, Danny is most charming in his youth, and this novel displays him at his finest. His exchanges with friends and musings on the unattainable Irena are entertaining, and his rhapsodies on a solo with his jazz band and the fit of the ever-tantalizing Mitza's uniform go even further to make up for long stretches of disaffected self-indulgence. As a portrait of everyday life during wartime, the novel is excellent. Skvorecky captures the sort of daily details that bring a historical event to life in an intimate and personal way. One just wishes that the main character didn't block the view quite so often.
I have to say, though I truly thought the main character was a perverted would-be date-rapist with zero self respect and in desperate need of cold shower about every five minutes, I actually appreciated him in the end.
And I think Škvorecký was purposefully using some hyperbole as a literary device; he tries to get you inside the brain of a teenage guy, so of course he is going to sound like a horny self-centered jerk-off. But the truth is that we’ve all experienced extreme loneliness, which is Danny’s real problem.
In the end of the book, we discover the truth: that the girls he is trying to get with, they basically use him just as much as he uses them (though IMO it’s a lot stupider for a girl to use sex as a tool than for a guy but whatevs), and in the end he’s not really after sex, but finding some kind of meaningful connection in his very messed up world of Nazi Protectorate Czechoslovakia. It was actually really nice that the book didn’t focus on that part of the setting as the main “theme”; too often World War II books are tragedies about the setting of war. Well, this one was still sort of a trago-comedy, and the setting was definitely World War II, but it was not really about the war. The surface conflict was that Danny couldn’t seem to ever win with the ladies, but the deeper theme was that even had he succeeded, he would still be searching for love, for which he was starving.
Škvorecký is a great author, and Paul Wilson was also a fantastic translator. The book is full of hilarious scenes and funny dialogue (I laughed out loud many times.) There’s a lot of humor ranging from witty, to sarcastic/dry, and also slapstick/situational. I definitely blushed at some parts, but skimmed those. He did a great job of showing instead of telling, and the stories are all self-contained. I want to read more of this guy’s works.
My favorite story was, “A Family Hotel,” in which Danny and his crush’s little sister (a self identified “consolation prize”) try to sneak off to a hotel in the next town over. The hotel manager plays along with their plot, but actually calls Alena’s dad, who comes and rescues both of them (to both of their extreme embarrassment and relief). I loved this story because it was so brutally honest; it did a really great job of showing how painful it is to be a teenager longing for attention and love, both from the guy’s and the girl’s perspective. They were both horribly nervous and did not really want to go through with it. They both felt really guilty. But they both obviously felt really excited and too prideful to walk away from the plan once it was in action. I found this story very emotionally relatable, and it made Danny seem extra pitiable/pathetic, and therefore more likable.
Some things I learned from the “background” of the book:
-          mountain climbing is a hobby in the Czech lands
-          a passive resistance by Czechs against the Reich. There were all kinds of references to the policeman watching at the high schoolers’ forbidden dances for the German soldiers, and giving a signal if they should stop. Or the train inspector who is supposed to watch for contraband doing his job, “as if he were blind,” etc. Also, everybody seemed to agree that they hated the occupation, but they were powerless to stop it. Kind of how high schoolers are powerless against the machine of High School. It was really interesting to read about this kind of collective passive resistance.
-          Magic as a theme
-          Religious guilt as a theme
-          American Jazz as an influence
-          German language interacting with the Czech language
-          Pollution as a backdrop. There were references to “half the town” being sick from bronchitis. The smell of sulfur drifting through the town – of course this makes me think of concentration camps and gives me the shivers.
-          Parish Registers mattered a lot. There was one story where the parish priest, Danny, and another student stay up all night recopying a parish register in order to change one entry so that a girl they know will not be recorded as a Jew in the first degree, or whatever degree it was dangerous. I had no idea before I read this book that there were different “degrees” of Jewishness. How terrifying.
Anyway, I am sad this book is over, but glad because there are more in the series to enjoy. If only they were audio books. Nah, scratch that, then I couldn’t skip the extra racy parts. My only hope is that Danny never is successful in his meaningless conquests, so that the theme can stay focused on his tragic/hilarious (very relatable) loneliness. At least, until he becomes mature enough to actually care about somebody else more than he cares about himself, which I don’t foresee anytime soon.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Šnajberk Genealogy Saga: PART TWO

Guest Post by Lukáš Svoboda
Translated by Kate Challis and Lukáš Svoboda

Original Post found here

Actually, I’m not sure exactly what I was hoping to find in SOA Prague when I went there to look up Martin’s marriage record; of course there was not going to be anything that wouldn’t be in any ordinary marriage record, which was merely the name of Martin’s father, and perhaps his father’s residence. Maybe at the time I was just regretting that I could not connect him to any Šnajberks from the tolerance applications. I had no choice but to start the hunt for Jiří.


Ex Nosin
From marriage entry, which I photographed at that time (now available online), I discovered that Martin was the son of the late George Šnajberk and that he was, “ex Nosin”, aka from  Nosin. The key was to locate “Nosin.”  In the marriage entry  there followed other words  which,I have honestly not yet read in entirety, but it was obvious that there was a connection between “Nosin” and the word Wlasimensi (the adjective vlašimský, meaning relating to town of Vlašim). Like a dog hot on the trail, I quickly worked out that Nosín is now known as Znosim, a village west of Vlašimi falling into the parish of Domašín.

Obviously, the Domašín parish registers have not yet been digitized, but I eagerly started to go through the register Vlašim 6 (which contained baptisms, weddings, and burials of Znosím before 1755). Right at the beginning I found the baptism of František Světnička, on 31 June, 1749, who had Jiří Šnajberk, shepherd of Pomněnice as a godfather,. It looked promising, but as I continued to pore through more and more useless pages, my hope faded until it disappeared completely. I was disappointed, but I thought that maybe Martin was born in 1755 and was already baptized in Domašín. I insisted on believing the delusion that 15-year old marriages were possible. Domašin just had to wait.


Reformation Proceedings
While waiting for the digitization of the registers that I needed, I returned to the report of that retired tax administrator, the Honorable  František Šnajberk and I tried to focus on what was actually written about the Šnajberks in the “Reformation Proceedings”. Published every year since the late 1920’s, these “Reformation Proceedings” mostly contain articles about the Reformed churches and their history. On the internet, I stumbled across the 1929 Volume and in two days I had already ordered it from the antique shop on Dlážděná [street]. Because I was in a hurry, I just paid and put the book into the bag, and rushed for my train. On the train I immediately took the book out and eagerly ruffled through the pages, looking for any mention of Šnajberks. I leafed through everything from front to back and then back to front again, but found nothing that could be any hint. At the time, I silently cursed the tax administrator, until I looked and read on the cover that the volume was for the year 1930! Relieved, I apologized to Prešov sent new curses down Dážděná street! I spent the rest of the day in a questionable state of mind; it was a relief that the trail had not yet run cold, and I was really frustrated that they had sold me the wrong book, but mostly I was worried that the year 1929 would sell out. In my exasperated state of mind I envisioned hosts of customers lined up to buy the “Reformation Proceedings: Volume 29.”

The next day, I followed the path to the used bookstore, explained my problem, the staff apologized and to my great relief, found the correct year. I can not describe how relieved I felt with the book in tow, running to catch my train again, though I had of course checked the accuracy of the year on the cover first. Again, I eagerly flipped through the pages of the book on the moving train in blissful anticipation. And again, I lived through the same disappointment. Nowhere in this book was there any trace of any Šnajberks. New curses to Prešov.


But a true genealogist never gives up. Never, under any circumstances. I continued my search. So I tried to look in the register of Benešov 6 (N 1737-1757), to see if I couldn’t find a clue in Poměnice. Fortunately the register had an index. But even though there were 14 references to baptisms of children with surname Šnajberk, none of them was named Martin. Still, I traced all 14 entries and made sure that the scribe didn’t make a mistake when he compiled the index. No mistakes, all the names in the records matched the index.

Then I noticed that between 1740 and 1747 there were no baptisms in the index for Šnajberk. That was suspicious; of course my Martin must have been overlooked. So I went through the register page by page through the baptism records from Jan (1740) to Vaclav (1747), but even still I found no Martin. So where is this blasted guy?


But if I couldn’t find his birth and baptism, at least I could find his death record. That was, at least, my next plan. And since there were more protestant registers in Soběhrdy, I looked there because Martin was, after all, a protestant!


Up to 1849 protestants church registers were not recognised as "official". All birth, marriages and burials had to be registered and entered into the Catholic registers by parish priests. The pastors were supposed to send a report to the Catholic priest which was then copied into the Catholic book.
Protestants church books were viewed as unofficial. As a result, you can find your protestants in both Catholic and Protestant church registers, sometimes even with varying degrees of detail.


I had not found Martin in the Catholic registers of Divišov,  which had jurisdiction over Měchnov, but still I assured myself that I would find him in the Soběhrdy registers, and that he was just forgotten in the Catholic registers.

Again, I went through the website for death records. My scrolling didn’t last long because Martin Šnajberk of Brtnice 12 died on 10 March 1789 after a long ailment. With a knowing nod, I patiently smiled at the Catholic registrar’s mistake. My patient amusement lasted only a moment until I typed my newfound data into my database. It showed that Martin definitely would have given birth to three more children after his death. “Herdek fix,” was at the time the mildest term that I used. He was not my Martin and it was not even Martin’s eponymous son born in 1781, because he was alive in 1808, married in Močovice. Redoing the search in the register of Soběhrdy 5 brought a wide range of deceased and buried Šnajberks and other relatives, but Martin was still nowhere. Apparently, Martin was not only still alive  in 1808, but also in 1811.


In June 2014, I could no longer endure [the wait] and so I again ordered registers in SOA Prague, among  which was Domašín 1. Of course Martin would be there. But he was not. Habitual optimism fouled once again.


Praxis pietatis haereticorum
I occasionally would try to compensate my ongoing disappointments in the search for the elusive Martin by searching the internet. I kept getting all the same familiar results with [search terms of] the Šnajberk name variants like Schneiberk or Schneiberg. But then, suddenly a new result popped out. I will not even describe the surge of hope with which I clicked on this new, previously unseen link.
The link took me to the excellent dissertation of Ondřej Macek, subtitled, “Sketch of the inner life of Czech heretics before issuing the Patent of Toleration and the first decade of tolerance of the Church.” I found several well-known events captured in the tolerance applications, but most of them were brand new.


In year 1756 in the parish of Benešov, the shepherd Josef Skrčený and his wife Magdalena, Jiří and František Šnajberk and Jiří’s wife Anna, were convicted of concealing heretical books, and in the case of Anna, it was actually a  repeated offence. Jiří Šnajberk allegedly had a centenarian father Jan, who prayed the Lord’s Prayer with a “Lutheran ending” which he taught the whole family.

On top of that, the Šnajberks gave a shelter to a traveling vendor of heretical books named Čoudil, who taught doctrinal heresy. The following books were found: a book by Václav Kleych, a postil [Bible commentary] by Jan Spangenberg and Dvanáctero přemyšlování [Twelve reflections] by Filip Kegelius.  



So after all, there was a Jiří Šnajberk, whose existence I had begun to doubt. Again, I hoped that it could be my Jiří Šnajberk, father of Martin. How I would love to have a centenarian father who prays the Lord’s Prayer in the Lutheran way among my ancestors! Though, I did not want to attach much to the idea, having had so many disappointments thus far.

This work was published later in the book Po vzoru berojských [Following the Example of the Bereans: The Life and Faith of Czech and Moravian Protestants] which contained a wide range of other interesting articles. Originally I did not want to buy it, as I had already read Ondřej Macek’s dissertation, the article most relevant to me, but finally after a year and a half I could not resist. Only later did this prove its true value.



If it’s not in the parish records, it will be in the land records
In December of the same year (2014), I decided to try a different tack. For a change, I ordered the land record book of the estate of Česky Šternberk from the archives. I was hoping to find some clues in the entries of Brtnice and later for Měchnov. Lucky me, once again I had the good fortune to find entries that interested me. Martin buys from his mother in law the cottage in Brtnice, later he bought a pub in Měchnov. He sells the pub and buys the farm land which he later leaves to his son Josef. As a result, I mapped the financial situation of Martin, Martin’s son Josef, and his son Martin, the guy from the beginning of my quest, but about old Martin I learned nothing new.


And I still did not know who Jiří was. Was he the guy who was convicted for possession of banned books? Was he the son of the centenarian?


That left nothing but my last desperate move.

To Be Continued...