Monday, December 26, 2011

Primary and Secondary Information

Life returns to normal and I return to my genealogy world with time to breathe, think and write!

My last post of December 16, 2011, focused on my Uncle Robert Meyer. I am always struck by coincidences. December 16  marked my uncle’s birth date, the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge and his participation in that battle. December 16 was most certainly a significant date of his life!

Family lore can be very interesting. My uncle was present during the Battle of the Bulge and was a credible witness to the event. He told his story to the males of our family. In turn, I heard the stories from my father, my brother and my husband. Unfortunately, my uncle passed away and I lost my primary informant.

This presented a problem. Initially, I wrote the post by telling the story I had heard from my father, brother and husband. It was a good story! Just prior to posting I gave my cousin, Robbin, a call asking him for details of his father’s war experience.

Robbin became my secondary informant. While he was not present during his father’s war experiences, he did hear the war stories from his father. My secondary informant supplied me with details of his father’s battalion, battles he fought in and the story of the birthday cake. He told the personal side of his father’s war experiences.

Here is the story I heard from my father, my brother and my husband.

On December 16, 1944 my uncle slept on the second floor of a German farmhouse located in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium. There was a knock on the farmhouse door. The sleeping soldiers knew Germans were at the door as no American would ever knock. They immediately rose, grabbed their gear and jumped out the second floor window. They ran for their truck, and sped away throwing grenades at the Germans. The Germans had come in the front door as my uncle jumped out the window!

Uncle Bob’s battalion was missing in action. At the end of the war, my uncle was in Austria busy cleaning up pocket of resistance. He continued fighting until someone informed him that the war was over. There was no need to fight any longer.

With his whereabouts unknown my grandmother began writing letters to newspapers and Congressmen asking for help in locating her son. He eventually returned home due to her letter writing campaign!

Please compare this story with my December 16 post. Genealogical research strives to find accurate information from informants who were as close to the event as possible. My cousin, Robbin, provided greater detail of his father’s war experience.

Robbin does not know exactly where his father was sleeping that morning of December 16. While possible, he could not confirm that he slept in a German farmhouse.  The Ardennes Forest is a thick forest and this suggests that he most likely slept in trenches.

My version comes from stories told by my uncle to my father. My father told my brothers and my husband. I heard them but did not pay close attention. With each retelling and my poor listening skills, details may have changed.

My grandmother most likely wrote letters looking for her son’s safe return though I doubt her letters were the sole reason for his return. To my knowledge no letters exist.  Most likely a combination of events occurred both here and in Europe.

With the desire to provide accurate information, I rewrote my post.

1 comment:

  1. It was nice to here the story again even if it is from a secondary source.