Every so often on YouTube someone puts up a video from the Fränkische Schweiz, the part of Germany from which my grandparents Johann Rudroff and Eva Forster emigrated back in the 1920s.
This video is particularly informative, with excellent footage of the twisty rock formations for which this area is famous.
It even makes a stop at my grandmother’s ancestral village of Oberailsfeld (starting at 4:31). Oberailsfeld is described as a “challenging place to live,” with a climate that earned it the nickname “Franconian Siberia.”
Tough-sounding place. No wonder Grandma left …
This treasure sits at the crossroads of 1970s kitsch and family history. I have had it since the age of 14, when my parents and I acquired it on a visit to Oberailsfeld, the chief village of the district in which my German grandparents grew up. They were christened at St. Burkhard’s, the church whose tower dominates the villagescape.
One of my great-aunts gave the plaque to my mother, who said I could have it as a memento of the trip. And I have had it ever since.
My plaque has survived my many interstate moves, just barely. It was actually intact right up to my last move, the first time I switched states with a tiny child in tow. It kills me that I left it to the mercy of the movers — I knew better, believe me — but somehow my powers of concentration and organization weren’t what they used to be (imagine that!). And indeed, the plaque had a rough time. It lost some birches and a piece of the sky. But the village is still intact:
Decoupage on random bits of lumber is a faded art, I’m afraid. Once upon a time, you couldn’t graduate high school without doing a decoupage project, either by choice or force. And craft shops overflowed with them.
I don’t see a lot of decoupage around these days, except at church jumble sales, so I assume it’s fallen out of fashion. But I still love my plaque, chips and all. It started out as a connection to an ancestral village, but now that my parents have both passed away, it’s also a connection to a long-ago time shared with them.
I’ve been feeling guilty because the majority of my ramblings so far have originated with my research into the Irish side of the family. And as we know, there are two sides to every story. In my case, a German side and an Irish side.
So to balance things out a bit, I added this information about my German ancestry. If any of it rings a bell for you, feel free to get in touch!