Every now and again you meet someone who absolutely changes your life. Roger Minert is one of those people to me. This week I attended his Last Lecture at BYU as he prepares for retirement. This is the man who taught me to read the old German records and do German family history research. He is one of my dearest friends and mentors.
Roger spoke to his fellow professors and friends, reviewing the interesting path his life has taken, which led him to BYU (and to me). I honestly can’t imagine my family history life now without knowing all the things he taught me. He opened a huge world to me, a world that includes my German ancestors, and the records of their lives. Because of Roger, I can read records like these:
He talked about his German Immigrants in American Church Records books. I got to help do the research for the early volumes and John & I continue to support this project.Knowing Roger Minert has been a life-changer for me. I’ve taken every class he teaches, and then did some independent study with him. He taught me how to find the histories and stories of people. One class project was an immigrant case study. We were given the name of a person, their birth date and place in Germany, and their death date and place in America. We had one semester to find and write their life story.
You can read my research here: http://pikecoilgenweb.org/image/adams_county/pdf/bastertfamily.pdf
The other day I was looking for something in my file of letters, and I found this letter about Roger, written to BYU President, Cecil Samuelson in 2005, shortly after I first met Roger.
5 January 2005
Dear President Samuelson,
I saw you zipping across campus Tuesday morning as I was on my way to class and I wanted to flag you down and say Hi, but I was too far away, and you were too fast on that little cart.
Then today I received the birthday card you sent and I wanted to thank you for the kind thoughts. I’m sure you get a lot of mail from students, so I hesitate to take your valuable time, but I just wanted to tell you of the wonderful experience I have had.
When I graduated 20 years ago, I had a feeling that someday I’d be back. But then my life went other directions, and once John and I finally met, family life took over and I was content. That changed last August when I was visiting with some friends who were in town attending the BYU Family History Conference. When I asked them which classes had been the most valuable, they immediately told me of a German teacher who alone made the whole trip worthwhile. Their comment was, “I can’t believe you live right here and could just take classes from him.” That’s all it took. I went right to John’s office and found Dr. Roger Minert and enrolled in one of his classes.
The class I took was a German Research class (Hist. 422) where we learned to decipher and read old German and Latin documents. It was hard, but I loved every minute of it. I now have skills that will be invaluable to me in my own family history work.
I want to tell you a bit about Roger Minert. I think he’s pretty new here at BYU. I don’t know how he came to be here, but what a blessing it is to have such an outstanding professor here on campus. I’ve known a lot of professors here, but I have known few who have the vision he has for the work that can be accomplished in his field. He is a man driven to teach and share skills that will prepare us to really make a difference in the world with the things that really matter. As I sat in his classes, I felt the Spirit very strongly that that was exactly where I needed to be, learning from exactly the right person.
Bro. Minert is humble and Good, and is quietly making a very big difference in the world of German Family History Research. It almost scares me to think that I could have missed learning of his classes. I hope you have a chance to meet him if you haven’t yet and hear about some of the many projects he has involved his students in. As part of our 422 class last semester, the students in my class extracted thousands of names from documents that few people are able to read. These records will be published and made available to people desperate to read them or understand them. It was a wonderful experience, and John and I will do all we can to help support his work.
Anyway, I just wanted to check in and let you know I’m a happy student having a great BYU experience. I’m taking two more classes from Bro. Minert this semester, and I’m really looking forward to learning the things he’ll be teaching us.
Thanks again for the birthday greetings and for all you and Sharon do to make us so happy to be involved with the University.
In 2009 John and I traveled with Roger and his wife, Jeanne to Germany and Poland to do some research there. It was a fabulous trip. We started in Berlin, then made our way through Germany, to Poland, and then to my ancestral hometown, Leingarten in southern Germany. I’ll write more about that trip on another day. Here are just a few pictures of what we did:
Visiting a Latter-day Saint church building built in Poland in 1922, and a cemetery where members of the church were buried:
Auschwitz Concentration Camp:
Visiting churches in Cainsdorf and Zwickau where John’s ancestors are from:
Visiting Leingarten and the farms of my ancestors and relatives:
Meeting with the Burgermeister and Pfarrer of Leingarten to present my research:Roger and Jeanne:
I have often thought that my ancestors had something to do with aligning my life with Roger’s. They knew that in order for me to have access to them, I would need to study with one of the few individuals in this entire country who could teach me to find and read their documents. Knowing and learning from Roger has been a remarkable gift!