A few weeks before our wedding, my grandma couldn’t hold back her curiosity anymore and bombarded me with all sorts of questions. Maybe she had been holding back when Dub was around – which this time he wasn’t. But maybe there was finally an evening when my family was actually so interested in me that they didn’t get distracted by getting into loving discussions about Gott und die Welt (=anything and everything). One of the things Oma wanted to know was whether we’d get a Stammbuch. Naturally I replied with another question: ?
A Stammbuch is a book that contains all essential formalities about your wedding: transcripts of your birth certificates, when and where your parents got married, what all of your professions are and of course when and where you got married yourselves. It used to be that the husband was given an official Stammbuch at their wedding. I’m not sure how important it used to be, but nowadays it has become obsolete – they asked us whether we’d want one when we registered our marriage and we thankfully declined. Adversely, I absolutely loved turning the pages in my ancestors’ Stammbücher.
They went far beyond merely evoking nostalgia with their old-book-smell. They made us embark on a long talk about my great-grandparents, family history, about old-school hand writing and a wedding menu from 1908.
One of my favourite parts of those Stammbücher were the name sections in the end of the booklets. My great-grandparents’ Stammbuch (from the early 1930s) included an appeal to give your children „proper German names“ followed by a section of „deutsche Vornamen“ and „gebräuchlich gewordene Fremdnamen“ (= foreign names that have become commonly used). The deutsche Vornamen sounded like the cast of some Wagner opera: Kriemhild, Adelgard, Kunigunde, Sturm; while names that are actually in use today were mostly restricted to the Fremdnamen section: Sebastian, Maximilian, Magdalena.
Striking to see to what seeming subtleties the European nationalism of the first half of the 20th century led.
Oh, and the most unique name of all: Fürchtegott – Fear God. It came with the annotation „self explanatory“.