22 February 2012
Today's post was written by Professor Doctor Adam Jones, the project holder for EAP099 Collecting and preserving the records of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania in Moshi, Tanzania. This project successfully copied correspondence, mission station diaries, church registers, parish council minutes, files on education, cash books and photographs.
A grant from the Endangered Archives Programme in 2006-2007 enabled two of my students to bring together and digitise 20,000 pages of the records held by the Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania in its offices in Moshi. The records derived from the work of the Leipzig Mission between the 1890s and 1930s.
This project went so well that although the grant had run out, I persuaded two more students to go to Moshi at their own expense in 2007, another two in 2008 and two more in 2010. We have now digitised a total of 31,000 pages covering everything up to the early 1940s. Next week two more students will fly to Moshi and continue the work of their predecessors.
Most of the material is in German; some is in Swahili or - for the years when German missionaries were expelled and Americans took over - in English. As an example of what may be found, let us take the minutes of parish elders' meetings in the village of Mamba from 1919 to 1926. In 62 handwritten pages we find no less than:
6 meetings discussing issues relating to female circumcision
4 on paying bridewealth
2 on virginity tests
2 on rape
3 on 'immoral' behaviour
2 on widowhood (and the custom of re-marrying into the lineage of the deceased)
2 on mental illness
2 on sacrifice
2 on dancing
8 on sorcery
3 on competition between several men for one bride
10 on adultery.
Thus church records provide information on more than what one might expect. They are an invaluable source for social history at a grassroots level.
Adam Jones, University of Leipzig