Next week I was planning to travel to Boizenburg to visit the Registrar and look through the records to find some information about my father's family. Because of something that my mother had told me many years ago I was doubtful that I would find anything recording my father's birth but I hoped that I may find a marriage certificate for my grandparents or a death certificate for my grandfather.
Yesterday I decided to email the Registrar to check that it would be okay to visit because, after all, this is Germany and they are German civil servants. German civil servants have a reputation for being both uncivil and discinclined to serve and coupled with the fact that Boizenburg is in the old DDR where there is a tendency to cling to the Stalin school of customer service I worried that I may not get very far without a prior appointment. Frau Pommer, the assistant registrar, is someone who has bucked this trend and I'm now going to defend German civil servants to my dying breath.
She has replied to my email to confirm that my father's birth is registered although his forename is the german spelling Georg rather than the spelling he used which was Jerzy. However, he was brought up in Poland where they wouldn't have been big on using German names. She's gone further than confirming the birth records for my father and she has found that he had a sister, Anna, whose birth was registered in 1921. What is a surprise is that my grandmother was unmarried and the father's name is unknown or certainly, unrecorded. The only place I had ever seen a name for my grandfather was on my father's marriage certificate so whether my father knew who his father was or just made it up, I don't know. The interesting thing about the marriage certificate is that it records his father's name and his mother's maiden name – both names are the same. I had wondered when I read that if my father's english had meant that he hadn't understood what a maiden name was.
I feel a bit excited about this but there's a lingering sense of unease because my mother told me a massive lie. She didn't just say that the records had been destroyed in the war, perhaps repeating a lie that my father told to her to disguise the fact that he was illegitimate, she claimed to have been in contact with the registrar to see if there was any way they could produce a birth certificate and that this was impossible. This was supposedly because dad needed a birth certificate to apply for a passport and this was why dad couldn't get a passport; a great family story busted. I wonder if there will be more.
Given that I have a name for my grandfather I will ask Frau Pommer to check the deaths for the years 1919 – 1921 because my understanding is that my grandmother was forced out of Germany because of the death of her 'husband'. According to my father's marriage certificate his father had been a major in the german army so there's another possible contact.