I am German, but I'm not German. Some of my ancestors came from there a very long time ago and I enjoy researching their stories and learning about the places where they lived. Until a few years ago I thought this was impossible. This is the story.
25 years ago I knew that my Germans, who had an uncommon surname, had lived in a small town in Ohio. I was able to track them through the census, and learned that they ended their lives in Texas.
A few years ago I decided to put more effort toward finding out more about this family. My ancestor's tombstone mentioned his birthdate and the place, Freiberg, Saxony. Could I somehow learn more about his connection with Freiberg? I did more digging on the American side. He was a soldier in the Mexican War. He had land. He applied for a passport once, and traveled back to Germany.
The breakthrough came via Google Book. There was an obituary for a guy with the same surname. Then I hired a German researcher to figure out whether this could be the father. Over the last few years she and I have worked together to unearth records about the family. She finds specific things for me (like birth records or marriage records), then I do more research using what she's found. I've ended up learning about the Enlightenment in Leipzig, the lives of portrait painters, and about the Sorbs, the smallest Slavic minority.
It's been a blast. In two weeks we're visiting Saxony to visit places and see things that have been uncovered in the research. I cannot wait.