A Special Record.
During my last trip to Germany, I had the opportunity to photograph many old Hasselbacher records from civil and church archives. These contain wonderful information, much of which was not available previously. There will be much to say about these records in future weeks and months as I assemble stories about these individuals. To illustrate the process, I want to show you a record from the life a special person: Paulus Hasselbacher (born 1672 in Oberrossbach – buried 1750 in Diespeck.) Paulus was the only child of Wolff Hasselbacher and Agatha Vogelsberger. He is the first of my Hasselbacher ancestors to be born in Germany. Almost all modern Hasselbachers known to me are also his descendants. (You Hazelbakers are his cousins.)
Paulus has one of the most interesting known Hasselbacher stories. He literally made the history books. Some insight that his was not just another story is suggested by his burial record in the church books of Diespeck. Here is a photo of that record together with the modern German transcription found in the Wendell archives and elsewhere. The English translation is mine. Frighteningly, I can read all but the single abbreviation following the word "Ort.".
The record is fascinating for what is said, but also for what was not said. We are told that Paulus was an old baßaftiger Separatist. He was buried anyway without the traditional bell-ringing and song (or sermon). Furthermore, the Separatist is buried in a separate part of the cemetery, by the old bone-house (or charnel-house ), presumably a non-consecrated part of the cemetery. The scribe appears to make a sarcastic or ironic point by writing that the old "Separatist" was buried in a "separate" place.
What is left out are items usually found in such records as illustrated in some of the other entries on the same page. Paulus is not mentioned by his first name. His age is not given. As an adult, there is no mention of his occupation nor place of birth or dwelling. His parents or spouse are not mentioned. There is no time or cause of death. Additionally, is there no mention of any biblical verses used at a funeral service. On this second page, I explain the significance of the astrological signs in the record and wonder why Paulus' seems incorrect.
The baßhaftig old man.
The use of the word "baßhaftiger" says a great deal, once you know what it means. The Stadarchivar of Neustadt, Herr Dietrich Keller, was correct that I would not find this word in any dictionary. (I could not!) He suggested two contemporary German words approximating this old one of the Aischgrund.
- zornig: angry, irate.
- widerspenstig: recalcitrant, refractory, unmanageable, disobedient.
I will use the translation "recalcitrant."
What could Paulus have done to deserve such an epitaph? It is as though he was buried unwillingly by the church, perhaps even with disdain. The answer lies in the word "Separatist," a religious movement to which Paulus had subscribed. I will have much more to present about this later, but suffice it to say that for standing by his religious beliefs, Paulus got into considerable trouble, including excommunication and expulsion from the church in Stübach. Diespeck was the home of his son Paulus and where Paulus the Elder was buried.
The essential point I would like to make here, is that these old church records tell stories that are much richer than a simple recitation of dates and places. These were real people, with real emotions; living lives that were at least, and probably more complicated than our own. Extrapolating what we can from these old records and the history of their times can connect us with our ancestors as human beings, and not just names.
Additionally, I wish to share the emotion of being able to see and touch the actual ancient documents. This is a significantly different experience than reviewing a transcript, or even a copy. The books themselves are contemporaries of the people who passed to us their genes and their collective labor and experiences. The books are physical proxies of the people themselves. I have trembled and wept in their presence.