S.A.D.D.

This morning I have discovered S.A.D.D. No, I haven’t invented it, I discovered it. It must have been around for quite a while; but this morning it suddenly became clear to me, what it was: “Senior Attention Deficit Disorder”, short S.A.D.D.

Now, don’t mistake S.A.D.D. for the ordinary garden variety of A.D.D. or A.D.H.D. abbreviations for “Attention Deficit Disorder” or “Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity  Disorder”. Those are just little boys in need of a spanking. It was so aptly described by the famous German, 19th century child psychologist Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann in his pioneering clinical study on “Jitter Philipp” (see accompanying illustration).

No, S.A.D.D. is serious. It is not about children paying insufficient attention to their homework, au contraire: it is about people not paying sufficient attention to an attention deserving senior!

Onset is typically around age 65 in men after retirement and 55 in women, when the children have left the home. A successful career can be an aggravating factor in men, a dozen children makes things worse for women. S.A.D.D. meets most of the DSM IV criteria for “Major Depressive Episode“. Hypochondriasis may provide secondary gains; for nothing brings the children home faster than the announcement of a serious illness in a parent.

But there is hope! No MAOIs, TCAs, TeCAs, SSRIs or SNRIs are needed Even ECT is unnecessary, although electricity is still required for palliative therapy. No, the prescription is for a blog a week, and more if required. Suddently the patient feels that somebody is listening, even if it is only the monitor screen. Comments are a form of attention and extended blogging can lead to finding peer support groups. Adverse effects are minor; sore fingers and mounting hydro bills among them. But one caveat has to be sounded: excessive blogging in one spouse may lead to S.A.D.D in the other.

Well, now that I have announced my discovery to the world, I can sit back and wait for my call from Stockholm. That should give me the attention I crave!

Posted in Health Care, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Journalist as Interpreter

Our daughter “me” just drew my attention to another geriatric blogger. In fact, Donald P. Irish is almost twenty years my senior. Makes me feel very junior. I was totally taken by his recent post Why Is There Terrorism? Part Three, a very powerful and profound analysis of one of the most acute threats to civilisation as we know it.

Professor Irish argues very convincingly what I have felt all along but was unable to formulate so elegantly. OK, so I agree with him, or maybe, he with me. Is that the end of it? The post isn’t easy fare. Apart from the suboptimal visual layout, the sentences tend to be complex. They deal with abstract ideas, and much of his supportive evidence is not part of the common man’s experience nor education. His prose, while elegant, is far beyond grade six reading level. In short, he talks like one academic to another.

But is this enough? He doesn’t have to convince me – I already am. To have real impact, political impact, historical impact, he has to convince people of Sarah Palin’s ilk. He has to talk to the mass of Tea Party members. He must get John Boehner to listen up and say “Yeah, halleluja”. But few of us have been educated in classical rethoric. Cicero could do it and so could George Washington. Unfortunately, rethoric hasn’t been taught in our school system for the past 100 years.

But there is one profession trained to talk to Joe Bloe, Mr. and Ms Middle America and even to Sarah Palin – journalists! When they aren’t  satisfied with feeding the plebs pulpy pablum, they can really capture people’s attention. There must be enough serious and eloquent journalists out there, who can give Donald Irish’s powerful ideas a powerful voice! Where are they?

To paraphrase Donald Irish: what we need is more mirrors and fewer gun sights!

Posted in Res Publica | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Genealogical Data Model

Sooner or later, most engaged genealogists outgrow their paper napkin diagrams, typed charts and even filing cards as preferred method of record keeping; they move on to some form of genealogical software. In my case, that step happened relatively early. I did a survey of freeware and commercially available software and was not impressed. No package offered all the features I desired, and none had adequate extension capabilities. Obviously, I had to design my own. But to tell the truth, necessity wasn’t the only reason for my DIY choice. Designing software gives me as much pleasure as watching porn movies or propagating rare orchids may give to others.

The die was cast. I would write my own. But what about context? I wanted the program for myself, to meet my needs, and I wasn’t going to commercialize it. It had to run on a PC platform; after all, real men don’t use Macs! My choice for programming language was between C++ and Visual Basic. I am too lazy to keep track of pointers. So I was pretty much limited to VB6 for the first version.

The next big issue was the basic data model for genealogical records. Obviously, my research led me to GEDCOM, version 5.5.2 . GEDCOM goes back to the 1980s, when it was developed by the LDS church for public ancestry files. It has evolved since and become the de facto standard for serialized genealogical records.  For several years there was talk of GEDCOM XLM, but it never made a mark; and why should it? GEDCOM 5.5.2 is perfect – perfect for serializing genealogic records!

And there’s the rub. Efficient software design involving large data sets requires a relational database. Yes, GEDCOM can be forced into the Procrustes bed of relational tables. But basing a genealogical program entirely on the GEDCOM structure means sacrificing execution time – big time. Drawing a kinship tree iterating through the basic GEDCOM model is like sucking treacle through a straw. On the other hand, taking a steam roller to GEDCOM to force the data into a flat table is no answer either. Resulting rows would contain hundreds of columns, most of them empty.

This conundrum gave me quite a few sleepless nights. But my epiphany arrived just in time: I would keep the information in a GEDCOM structure in the form of a simple, three column table corresponding to the three columns of a GEDCOM record: “Level”, “Tag” and “Value”. Actually, I lied. There are four more columns to make things work: “Node”, “Parent”, “Root” and “Cheat”. Each record has a unique index number called “Node”. To maintain the hierarchical structure of GEDCOM, any record can act as a parent to child records. Child records carry the node number of their parent record in their parent field. In the context of genealogy, this terminology can be confusing. ‘Parent’ and ‘Child’ refer only to a relation between records, not people. Any record with level zero is considered a root record. Its value goes into the “Root” field of itself and all its descendants. That leaves us with the “Cheat” field. It is a boolean, usually ‘false’. I wanted to leave myself the option of cheating, i.e. to use non LDS-sanctioned tags. But I wanted to cheat honestly by signalling where a tag wasn’t ‘kosher’ with a ‘Cheat’ value of ‘true’!

The last ingredient to the data model are the two index tables, one for individuals, the other for families. But having the same data in more than one table of a relational database would probably cause Edgar Codd to turn in his grave. In fact, you can’t even call the database relational. OK, so I call it pseudo-relational. There is a price, though, I have to pay for this act of transgression: every transaction involving writing to a root record or changing a family composition must pass through a compulsory integrity check. One can also wrap this operation into an SQL transaction. But it is a small price to pay.

The program worked like a charm. It was robust, fast and could perform all the functions I wanted. Since then I have written a second version in C#. It is even faster and easier to maintain and extend. It runs on all our networked computers. My wife and I both use it simultaneously. The database runs in an MS-SQL-Express server on one of our machines. When we travel, we create a temporary copy of the database on the laptop.

Posted in Computing, Genealogy | 1 Comment

Bavarian Jews in the “Old Immigration”

American historians use several different nomenclatures to designate various immigration waves to the United States. The immigration during the period between 1820 and 1880 is often called “Old Immigration” [1]. Prominent among this wave were Jewish immigrants from Bavaria [2]. There were both ‘pull’ and ‘push’ reasons for people to undertake such a perilous and gruelling journey. In this essay, I will attempt to demonstrate that for Bavarian Jews in the first half of the 19th century, the ‘push’ motivation was pre-eminent. Jews left Bavaria for endemic reasons, such as antisemitism and poor economic prospects as well as for structural reasons – the Bavarian Jews’ Edict of 1813 [3].

Given the state of administration and technology in 19th century United States, immigration statistics have to be taken with a large grain of salt. Never the less, official figures show two peaks in the rate of German immigration: the first for the period 1841 – 1860, the second for 1881 – 1900 [4]. But these official statistics don’t allow us to single out Bavarian Jews.

Using data extracted from the Jewish ‘Family Book’ from one little Bavarian-Swabian town – Altenstadt, I will illustrate the temporal course of this immigration wave. Civil records for 19th century German Jews consisted essentially of birth, marriage and death records, as well as the so calle ‘Familienbuch’, a registry of Jewish families living (legitimately) in the community. For each family the house or house section is listed; for the head of household and dependents the names, dates of birth, sometimes dates of marriage and deaths are listed as well. The Altenstadt family book was maintained by the rabbi, as manifest by occasional Hebrew dates of birth.

Between 1800 and 1869 Altenstadt had three rabbis. Abraham Mayer, born about 1767, died in 1837. He was followed by his son Mayer (Meir) Mayer, born 1796 who died in March 1849. Both Abraham and his son Mayer were born in Altenstadt and lived there most of their lives. After Mayer’s death there was an interregnum with rabbis from neighbouring communities pinch hitting. In 1853 Emanuel Schwab, born 1812 in Heidingsfeld near Würzburg took over the position, acting also as school principal. After Schwab’s death in July 1869 the Jewish community of Altenstadt had shrunk to the point, where it no longer warranted its own rabbi. The Altenstadt family book was started after Abraham Mayer’s death, for he doesn’t feature in it. His son Mayer, though, was totally familiar with the community, having grown up in it and knowing everybody. It is likely from the entries that both he and Emanuel Schwab were the authors of the family book.

The rabbis noted important features and events for each family and individual in the last column. Showing a full page of the family book would tax the layout capability of a blog. I have, therefore, selected an illustrative excerpt, exposing just the last few columns of a page including dates of birth and comments for the family of Jacob Koppel Guggenheimer, a farmer and horse dealer, and his wife Jette Monheimer. It becomes obvious, how many of Altenstadt’s Jewish denizens undertook the journey to ‘Amerika’. Sometimes, it was just one or two family members, sometimes it involved whole families.

Plotting the actual number of live births and people emigrating according to gender and birth year results in a rather confusing picture. Actual numbers, according to the laws of statistics, are too small to provide a coherent picture. Statistical techniques have to be employed to create some clarity. The first step is to calculate summary statistics:

The table shows that more women survived than men. People, who emigrated, were considerably younger than the population in general and emigrating females were slightly younger than  males.

The situation becomes only obvious, after we calculate running averages over a period of ten years, centered at an index year and form the percentage of emigrating individuals to total individuals for each index birth year and gender. We now see that emigration involved a relatively narrow birth cohort, namely people born between 1820 and 1850. At its peak, almost 60% of males and 30% of females emigrated to America. By 1861 the Bavarian Jews’ Edict was repealed. Shortly afterwards, Jews were free to move into cities and to earn their livelihood as they saw fit. The ‘push’ component in the motivation to emigrate had disappeared.

Maybe it is appropriate to sound some methodological caveats. Altenstadt is but one of many small and midsized Jewish communities in Bavaria. It would be unwise to extrapolate the model uncritically to all of Bavaria or even Germany. With the repeal of the Jews’ Edict in 1861, the requirement to keep a family book for the Jewish community ceased, and consequently, the records were no longer updated. This might make the trailing edge of the emigration wave appear more precipitous than it actually was. Never the less, the emigration spike of Bavarian Jews is striking and of interest to many American genealogists with Jewish ancestors in Bavaria.

  1. RACE AND ETHNIC RELATIONS: AMERICAN AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES, Cengage Learning, 2008; ISBN: 0-495-50436-X. pp. 117 -8 []
  2. Hasia R. Diner. The Jews of the United States, 1654 to 2000. Univ. of California Press 2004; ISBN: 0-520-24848-I. p83 []
  3. James F. Harris. The people speak!: anti-Semitism and emancipation in nineteenth-century Bavaria. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1994; ISBN: 0-472-10437-3. pp209-37 & 241-45 []
  4. US Dept. of Justice. 2001 Statistical Yearbook of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Table 2. []
Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

The Labyrinthine Trails of the Gatermann Films

An important data source for Jewish genealogists with roots in 19th century Germany are the Jewish civil records or “Personenstandsregister” extant in many German state archives, the Family History Center and the CAHIP archives in Jerusalem. The final common pathways, how the records came to these repositories, are the so called Gatermann films. The history of these films is shrouded in mystery that still has not been fully solved. To date, no authoritative catalogue exists in German archives of the roughly 3’400 filmed documents.

No systematic records of birth, marriage or death existed for Jews in Germany prior to 1784. In 1875 universal civil records were introduced for all Germans. During the 110 intervening years, distinct Jewish civil records were kept at a community level for Jews in parallel to the church books for gentiles. Most often, these records were maintained by the rabbi or by a Hebrew school teacher; but commonly, duplicates were kept by the local evangelical pastor or catholic priest. Subsequently, the Jewish civil records were variously stored in synagogues, municipal offices or archives. They suffered from neglect, mold, water and fire, some were mislaid, others disposed off.

The Gatermann Fims
The history of the Gatermann films

But in April 1933, less than 3 months after the Nazis coming to power, the Reichstag passed a law that made Aryan ancestry a prerequisite for a public service job. As part of its implementation, an office was created to pronounce authoritatively who was and who was not an Aryan [1]. To assist in this endeavour, 19th century Jewish civil records were systematically collected from synagogues, municipalities and archives and brought to Berlin.

The Nazi agency in charge of this process successively changed its name from “Expert for Racial Research” to “State Agency for Kinship Research” to finally “State Kinship Office” or “RSA”. Early in 1945, when the end of the ‘Thousand Year Reich’ was in sight, the documents were moved to Schloss Rathsfeld in Thuringia, and the Gatermann company from Duisburg was charged with the task of microfilming the complete cache of documents. A previous attempt at copying the films was already made in 1940, while still in Berlin [2].

But now, things start to become nebulous. Somehow, the films disappeared from Schloss Rathsfeld during spring of 1945, to magically reappear 1948 in the hands of the Gatermann company, which sold the films to the German authorities at a State and Federal level. These documents were distributed further to regional archives. A complete set of documents, in the form of small paper contact copies, were given to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People (CAHJP) in Jerusalem in 1954. LDS reports that they filmed their copies in the respective state archives.

The two remaining questions are: what happened to the the original documents at the end of the war and how did the films end up again in the hands of the Gatermann company in 1948? Most experts assume that the original documents got lost during the final Russian assault. They might have drowned in a flood or they might have been taken back to Russia, hidden away in some arcane archives. 

At least two possible scenarios are considered for the fate of the films between 1945 and 1948. The more plausible is that they had been stashed away by the Gaterman company all along until the political climate allowed recouping the investment. The other theory, purported by LDS, claims that the films got into the hands of the US occupational forces, who generously restored them to the Gatermann company.

Maybe the answers to these mysteries lie hidden away in some Wahington and Moscow archives.

  1. Schulle, Diana. Das Reichssippenamt : eine Institution nationalsozialistischer Rassenpolitik. Berlin : Logos Verlag Berlin (2001), 2001. ISBN 3-89722-672-3 []
  2. Jude R. Die jüdischen Personenstandsunterlagen in der Deutschen Zentralstelle für Genealogie in Leipzig. Genealogie vol 1-2/1998: 4 – 18 and vol 3-4/1998: 106 -120 []
Posted in Genealogy | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments