Another amazing circumstance

My previous post recounted how I was gifted Martha (Focht) Rahm’s personal copy of Ruhe, a history of the immediate family of her parents, George and Anna (Arnold) Focht. Long story short: two sisters contacted me after their mother passed away because they wanted to place Martha’s family history volume (which Martha had given to the sisters’ mother) with someone related to the Focht family (I am Martha’s first cousin, once removed). They found me because of Arnold/Focht entries I’ve made at

I anxiously awaited the book’s arrival and, when it was finally delivered, I spent the entire evening reading its contents. It was an engaging read that offered a glimpse into the lifetimes of George and Anna as well as the childhood and adolescent years of their 12 children. Despite the many hardships and sorrows George and Anna endured, I found the story to be a cheerful, uplifting account of a family who loved and respected one another and who seemed determined to find joy in the simple entertainments of the time.

An important find in the book was a copy of the baptism certificate for Johann Arnold, the great-grandfather of the (Peter Ernest) Arnold cousins as well as the Focht children. A cousin and I used Google Translate to achieve a reasonable translation of the front of the document, but the automated translation of the reverse of the document was much less successful. I then submitted the document to a genealogical translation group on Facebook but did not receive a response.

In the meantime, I attended the monthly meeting of a local genealogical group I’m a member of and, during a pre-meeting “brick wall” session, described how I received the book and about waiting for a possible translation of the baptismal document. I tried to keep my description brief (because I didn’t want to monopolize the conversation) and did not mention that Johann Arnold was born and died in Hungary, but supplied that information in response to another member’s follow-up question.

What happened next was as amazing as receiving the book in the first place!

The man sitting directly behind me, who was a first-time visitor at our meeting, tapped me on the shoulder during a break and asked me where in Hungary my great grandfather was born. After a bit of further discussion, he told me that his father immigrated from Hungary to the U.S. in the 1950s, that his father speaks and reads Hungarian fluently, and would likely be willing to translate the document for me.

I didn’t need any further encouragement and e-mailed the certificate to the gentleman shortly after I got home that day. Less than 24 hours later, I received the following translation (presented with a reprise of original document):

Baptismal Memento (certificate, front)

Johann Arnold baptized in the Parish Church of Csávos; on the 19th day of February in the year of 1856; by Josef Brafsovány. God-father-mother Johann Petri…Elizabetha Rinche.


Renewal of Sacred Baptismal Vows (certificate, back)

O God! I as a helpless child, through Thy boundless love I was cleansed of all sins in Baptism, and was recreated in Your image. Sanctified by Thy holy grace, I was accepted to your only redeeming church.

O Father, I gladly profess my faith in You, Your holy Son, and Holy Spirit, and I only wish to live and die in accordance with this single faith in your holy-apostolic church.

I again will reject all sins, the Satan and his every deeds and pride. Again I will strongly resolve to steadfastly keep all your commandments. I will above all, love You, my neighbors, and myself.

Please revive and renew in me your holy grace that I received in my holy baptism, through our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.


The translator also volunteered his opinion that, although the baptismal certificate was printed in Hungarian, it was completed by a German. He came to that conclusion because the word “Feber,” which confounded the initial attempt to translate the document, turns out to be an old German version of the word “February.” And, of course, it makes perfect sense that a German-speaking community, especially of that time and place, would be served by a German-speaking priest and/or staff.

So, our family now has a few details (i.e., the officiant/priest’s name and the names of the godparents) that might eventually help us learn who Johann’s parents were and may even lead us to similar information for Anna Oberding, Johann’s wife and our family’s great grandmother. Another key inquiry will be Johann Arnold’s actual birth date (though I’m guessing it is fairly close to when he was baptized because of Catholic church traditions encouraging early baptism of infants in case of an early death). Wish us luck!


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