The Value of Collaboration

I do not consider myself an expert on the Hazelbaker family, at least not since they came to America in the late 1700’s. I have however, enjoyed interacting with this largest discrete branch of the Hasselbacher clan, and I know as much about the pre-American Hazelbakers as anyone. Therefore with some trepidation, I agreed to participate in a history presentation at a Hazelbaker family reunion this past August. There are so many knowledgeable Hazelbaker historians out there that I had the feeling that I would be taking coals to Newcastle. I think I held up my end of the exchange with some brand new observations at the interface of the old and new countries. I was even more pleased to see one of my basic assumptions validated again: the interaction and sharing by interested people never fails to uncover new information and extract new insights from the known. Additionally, I learned again the value of revisiting what I thought I knew in the light of what I have learned since. In my experience, a second look by yourself, or even better with someone else, rarely fails to improve understanding.

Specific examples of brand new or better understanding resulting from preparing for this one meeting alone include the following:

1. A photo of the house in Münchsteinach in which the Hasselbachers probably lived.

2. The exact date Peter Hasselbacher came to America: 1777. (Thanks to Craig Hazelbaker and his military history contacts)

3. A reconstruction of the route of the German captives of Yorktown demonstrating that Peter was in the right place, at the right time, and under the right circumstances to have met and married Elisabeth Shively. Thanks to help from Jill Foley and Imogene Davis).

4. Independent confirmation from a scholar in Gresten, Austria of how the Hasselbachers got their name. (Thanks to the late Leopold Schöberl.)

On the other side of the coin, revisiting old material with a fresh perspective and appropriate critical skepticism sometimes places previous assumptions in doubt. For example, my recent review could not find a single piece of definitive evidence that the Peter Hasselbacher of Münchsteinach was the same person that came to America in 1777. I still think he was, but I will discuss this elsewhere.

I put my slides from the talk on the website with necessarily brief explanation. I will also expand on the discussion above. Keep an eye on the “What’s New?” button on the site home page, or on this blog.

Peter. 7 Oct 2009

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