Mysteries of phonetics

For a couple of years now I am desperately searching for my mother’s East Prussian ancestors.

There were various diverse reasons for me not really getting into my maternal line that intensively.

One reason was EAST PRUSSIA. Right in my early days of genealogy I came across this group of East Prussia researchers who really made it that I didn’t want to bother with that region anymore. They were so missionary and radical in their love for the home region.

They didn’t forgive a mistake in geography. And they couldn’t understand why I didn’t show the same love and passion and “homesickness” for the region that they did. I mean, for them it was home. That was 20 years ago, and most of them at least in their 70s had whatever kind of distant memory of their homes in East Prussia they had to leave behind as refugees moving west.

For me it was “just” the place my grandmother was born in.

That wasn’t my way of doing genealogy. Therefore I ignored it for years!

The other reasons were buried in my family. My Grandmother died when I was three years old and I have no memory of her at all. My grandparents got divorced when my mom was a child and the contact to my grandfather was merely sporadic, if at all. It got a bit more when we kids were younger but later on when we were teenagers it faded away again. Because of that I didn’t really have a lot of information on that family. My grandfather at least had some pictures from his childhood and from his parents, but that was it.  That is my “famous” NICOLAUS line.

But from my grandmother?? The TYLINSKI line? Almost nothing. And I always missed it to interview her brother, although the relationship with him was really close. But as a teenager I wasn’t really that much into genealogy yet. And my mother and her sisters don’t even know the name of their maternal grandmother. Except for “Oma Johanna” – granny Johanna.

I cannot recall anymore how I received the last will of my my greatgrandfather Albert TYLINSKI. He died 1974. Maybe it was following the death of the mentioned brother of my grandmother. I really don’t know anymore. But I have it! And with that I had some bits of information:

  • his full name
  • his date of birth
  • 3 marriages – the first two which could be interesting for me without the spouse’s name though, but at least I had the dates and places
  • the names of his parents (Gottfried TYLINSKI and Veronika CZASCHKOWSKI) and his father’s occupation

His father’s occupation then resolved an old family myth once and for all. As long as I can remember it was being told that my mother’s paternal line was noble and lost the title and estate while gambling – ehem.. no, my greatgreatgrandfather was a master butcher! It’s amazing how these family myths keep floating around, no matter how senseless the are.

But now we finally come to the phonetics. My greatgreatgrandmother’s name was given on the last will with Veronika CZASCHKOWSKI. And finally after endless years of neglection it was time for me to focus on that line again. But no matter how hard I looked and no matter where I looked I couldn’t find anything (!) on this TYLINSKI – CZASCHKWOSKI constellation. Not even as stand alone names.

Then there was my trip to Salt Lake City to attend the RootsTech. The first two days were blocked for the Family History Library. But even with their extensive help and resources I was unsucessful. I was about to give up and publicly whined on twitter that my TYLINSKI/CZASCHKOWSKI must have fallen directly from the skies as they just appeared out of nowhere. And what should I tell you? The next day I had four emails in my mailbox providing me with documents. One was the birth dertificate of my greatgrandfather Albert TYLINSKI (here written TILINSKI) – yes, the one with the last will. And how were his parents stated? We stick with Gottfried TYLINSKI but his mother’s name was Veronika TZRASKOWSKI.

Excuse me???

But living in today’s Europe of course there are polish friends. So I sent a quick whatsapp message up to Berlin asking a friend to read the name TRZASKOWSKI to me. And just a short while later I received the voice message. And to a German ear the polish TRZASKOWSKI sounds like a German CZASCHKOWSKI.

I can literally imagine how my greatgreatgrandmother stands in front of a German registrar following World War II stating her name and this guy behind the glass window (at least that’s how I imagine it) just put down in writing what he heard. And that is how TRZASKOWSKI turned into CZASCHKOWSKI.

And that was the first time I was the victim of the phonetics – totally changing a name, not only the spelling.

No wonder I never found anything!!

P.S. and since that discovery I didn’t only find my greatgrandfather and his parents but also three sisters and a brother, as well as an uncle including family. But that’s a different story.


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