Popular history in the view of Estonian folkloristics

From the question 'true or false' to the question 'what kind of truth'

Tiiu Jaago

This article has stemmed from the research of family tradition, to be more exact, of a branch of it - oral family history - in Estonia.

On the one hand, family tradition does not seem to belong to folkloristics: this material is often too concrete compared to other accepted areas of folklore, it is directly connected with actual facts and concerns a very small group only, being limited to the members of the family, nuclear or extended. (1) On the other hand, the narrated family stories do not belong entirely to genealogy either - for that purpose the narratives (although based on facts) are too much removed from historical facts. Thus, in the three quarters of the 20th century, oral family history as a field of research remains in an interdisciplinary area. At the same time it is clear that family tradition runs as a separate phenomenon in parallel with amateur genealogy - one cannot replace the other. The reason lies in the fact that oral family history has its own specific role in the (popular) treatment of history. And proceeding from that, the valuation of family history as a discipline of folkloristics is justified.

Popular history (2) in Estonia forms into a field of study through the collation of historical facts and heritage data. First the truth-value of a certain source is questioned (this is the true or false question). In this case the folklore data tend to be considered fiction, rumour or downright lie - i.e. data that are not grounded. After that the empirical truth is reached that different sources have their own exceptional characteristics and in each of them there is truth (question: what kind of truth). Such approach is gaining more serious attention in the era when science is characterised by its trend towards interdisciplinarity. The following article aims to provide an overview of the results obtained in comparing different sources.


Boundaries between fields of science

Quite recently, narratives concerning family history remained in the intermediate area between disciplines. In the period when the walls between fields of science were relatively inflexible because of specialisation, these narratives were too poetic for historians and the data in the narratives could not be used because they were not as reliable as church registers, inspection reports and other traditional historical sources. For folklorists these stories were too information-centred, factual. These narratives lacked the characteristic features of folklore. The dominating opinion in family history research was that the only true evidence of an event was a written historical document. When oral data did not coincide with what was found in written sources (which is by far not a rare case), they were left aside. Narratives were interpreted as fantasy, which gave rise to questions that could not be answered. (3) Folklorists more readily accepted news-like realistic stories called urban legends, sensational events, etc. (4) These differ from the narratives studied here in that they concentrate on extraordinary events, not on concrete people and daily or historical events.

The question whether the heard story is based on truth or not is predictable and natural. For an academic dispute, however, a suitable method had to be found for interpreting the realistic narratives enriched with opinions-judgements. How, then, can narratives speaking of historical facts and daily reality be turned into an object of research? The analysis has to take the genre-specific features into consideration. The central feature of the genre classification of the narratives is the relationship between the narrative and the reality it is based on. To analyse information-centred narratives specific methods of transfering reality have to be found. These have been discovered by means of comparing historical sources and tradition data, and will be dealt with more closely below.

In order to understand texts/different sources it is not sufficient to collate the facts in them. From the point of analysing tradition a third aspect has to be taken into account: how the narrative truth is influenced by the time and environment of narrating (see an example of this in Jaago 1995). Anniki Kaivola-Bregenh¸j (in Estonian 2001: 45), concentrating on the study of narrator's memory and narrational technique, explains the folkloristic aspect of her work as follows:

The question is not whether the narrator remembers 'correctly' or not, but rather what he wants to remember and how. [---] A folklore researcher does not look for the one and only truth in personality stories, but tries to find out what is the importance of memory for the narrator and what the narrator wants to say with his story.

So in tradition it is not only the actual fact that is important, but also the narrator and his/her audience, and in particular, what meaning they give to the real events. For the researcher of tradition the question of truth or falsehood cannot remain barely on the level of a fact presented from real life: how the past times and facts are remembered and interpreted is also a reflection of truth, although on a different level.

The 'partition walls' between the above-mentioned disciplines in Estonian science became significantly more flexible in the 1990s and this enabled to elicit the discussed area more powerfully than before. Speaking of the changes that folkloristics underwent in the 1990s, we must take a look at the end of the 1920s and 1930s. In that period several ideas and objectives, which became fruitful later, were identified and studies were published, all in agreement with the searches of the 1990s. The declarations of that time sound quite similar to the moods of the beginning of the 1990s. The following example dates back to 1938.

We have to admit that one side in our modern historical research has developed quite poorly - this is the close contact with these fields of science that correspond to history. Each of these fields has achieved great results in the last decade, but the results have found relatively limited use. Fields of science are specialising, which is normal, but they must be united by a general goal. There are many problems where the method of historical research has to be associated with the research methods dominating in other areas, where abundant material must be taken from other areas in order to see and solve the object of study better. The same situation - the results of historical research being relatively rarely used - is also predominant in other fields of science. (Liiv 1938: 2-3)

To prove his statement, the historian Otto Liiv provides an example of the necessity to combine the reseach of history and folkloristics. (5)

From the aspect of folkloristics and this topic the article by Oskar Loorits Vägilase prototüüpe (Prototypes of heroes) (1927) may be regarded as significant. Firstly, because this article has had a considerable influence on merging real-life biographical and everyday narratives into classical types of folklore in Estonian fokloristics (Laugaste 1957; Hiiemäe 1978). Secondly, because in this article Oskar Loorits outlines the way a real character becomes a folk tale hero. Although the concentrated portrait of a folk tale hero that he has sketched belongs to peasant ideals (physically extraordinarily strong and big, mentally average or even foolish, does his feats mainly in the tavern or elsewhere outside home: on his way from the tavern, in caravan, at a fair, working together; the starting point of these stories is connected with challenge and bet, they do not spring from quick-temperedness: the main character is a wanderer, thresher-man, simple peasant) (Loorits 1927: 69-70), but it stems from the informant group. (6) In this case what is important is that Loorits shows how the creation of popular tales that are based on real life is influenced by the narrator's memory, impressions and imagination to supernatural fantasy figures, who do not seem to have any logical or realistic base (idem: 71).

Regardless of articles or even lengthier treatment, the study of family tradition did not emerge in folkloristics in this period. For that purpose it was necessary to get used to new themes and points of view. It was more necessary than before to delve into the interrelation of the narrative, storytelling and the underlying reality, to formulate the rules that are applied for transferring the life events into narratives. (7)

The studies treating the truth-value of family tradition remained marginal, yet not nonexistent in the Soviet period. This was owing to Eva Krüdener's case, studied by Aleksander Loorits (1987) (this story is also familiar from Jaan Kross's novel Keisri hull published in 1978). Tradition speaks of a rare case, in which a Baltic-German manor lord marries a poor Estonian girl Eeva. This example story was recorded in 1925 from a 75-year-old local villager:

At the time of the grandfather of today's Puiatu baron the Puiatu windmill was built. All the unmarried mothers from Vastemõisa parish were brought as a penalty to this building site to hand material. Among these women there had been Eeva, the daughter of a blind cripple. She had been a beautiful being and the baron had liked her very much and at last she had become the lady of the manor. [---] Eeva's son was the father of our baron, then. (Loorits 1987: 145)

The problem is turned more exciting but also more complicated by the baron and Eeva's nine children, who were born before the official marriage of their parents. Loorits (1987: 152-153) notes that Eeva went a long way to become the lady of the manor, the case became the classic example of forging and breaking the law at that time.

Aleksander Loorits has based his treatment on the collation of data of different origin: tradition data (in addition to memoirs heard in his childhood also the data from the collection Historical tradition compiled in 1920s-1930s) and data from church registers stored in Historical Arcives. From the excursus comparing different data Loorits draws the conclusion: There can be only one conclusion to this story: folk tradition must not be underestimated, they contain much truth, you only have to find it, not give up "Pah, folk tale!" (Loorits 1987: 155).


From the periphery of science to the centre of attention

In the 1990s comparative studies of historical and tradition data were published, in which the regularities of narrating of historical events were formulated. All the following, quite different examples converge to the understanding that the whole truth is not contained in a certain source, the sources together participate in creating a more complete picture.

The historian Priit Pirsko (1995) analyses buying and selling farms for perpetuity in Estonia in the 19th century. He does not proceed from traditional historical research methods (which would be based on sales documents). Pirsko is more interested in the mental attitudes of the social groups involved in the process. The opinions of three social groups are observed:

  1. local press in the German language (landholders, sellers),
  2. newspapers in Estonian (which were targeted at peasants, potential buyers),
  3. tradition (the peasant's point of view as a buyer).

The press both in German and Estonian reflects this process from the aspect of the respective social group. Pirsko calls these aspects "The German mirror" and "The Estonian mirror", respectively. The narratives were, however, collected three fourths of a century later than the selling process and are therefore the reflection of a reflection of the onetime events and attitudes, or as Pirsko puts it, "a trick mirror".

Pirsko's study reveals that the tradition dealing with the past is important for evaluating the past, but these evaluations are not a driving force in the new situation: a person behaves for practical considerations according to the current situation and not because of the direct effect of the stories.

We have to agree with Pirsko: while in the "trick mirror" - in the1930s - the positive attitude to buying and owning a farm became natural and due to that the opinions of older people were similar in the Soviet time, it was not the case during the time when the process was implemented. From Jõhvi, one of the parishes in northeastern Estonia, comes one of the brightest examples of the peasants' hesitations in deciding whether to buy a farm. Namely, the sales of farms coincided with mass emigration to Russia (the hordes of emigrants moved through Jõhvi). People did not trust the local manor lords and left the farms they had rented without buying them for perpetuity and migrated to Russia in hope that the government would help them when they arrived in St Petersburg. In the 1930s, of course, also the post-emigration painful experiences and disappointment in the choice were described (EKLA 17: 1, pp. 128-137).

Stories of the past are not direct. The main goal of these stories cannot be reporting of the events or an instruction for being oriented in a new or unknown situation. But through the stories the past can be interpreted and the experience evaluated in this way. This is what forces old stories to be told anew and from a topical standpoint, but this also adds layers of different times into the narrative.

The settlement historian Ülle Tarkiainen compares the village foundation narratives stored in Estonian Folklore Archives with historical documents recorded in Historical Archives. She concludes from this comparative study that due to certain reasons (for example if situations are similar), the narratives of different periods merge into one. For instance, she analyses a story in which the deserting of a village is associated with the plague during the Great Northern War (in 1710). Historical sources would rather refer these data to the time of the Polish-Swedish war at the beginning of the 17th century (Tarkiainen 2000: 121).

The historian Enn Tarvel reached an analogical result a few years earlier in a publication in which he gave an overview of the history of Viinistu, a village on the northern coast of Estonia and in which he also dealt with the traditional history of the settlement (Tarvel 1983: 65-66).

The tradition in Viinistu says that the village was founded by two Finnish men Heiki and Aadu, who came from Suursaare and who had worn white shirts and long trousers. Heiki had built his house to the north, Aadu to the south. Between the houses there had been such a thick brush of willows that no one could pass through. [---] From these men the ends of the village had got their names.
The northern end is called Heikiots
[Heiki's end] [---], the southern Aaduots [Aadu's end] (sometimes also after Aadu's wife Sohvi - Sohvi's end).

Enn Tarvel looks for people called Heiki and Aadu, and the wife of the latter, Sohvi, from written historical sources. What comes out is that they do not live in Viinistu village at the same time. Heiki and Sohvi are in the list of inhabitants in the 17th century, whereas Sohvi seems to be a masculine name at the time; Aadu is first recorded in the register of villagers after the Great Northern War in the second quarter of the 18th century. At that time there are five Heikis in the village, and none of them can be a founder of the village. So it can be supposed that in tradition different times and different people of the same name have merged.

Aadu Must (2000), having compared historical documents and tradition, have drawn three conclusions, of which more important here are those that concern the characters of a narrative and events associated with them. Conclusion 1: as a rule, the secondary characters in extraordinary events are replaced by principal characters. Conclusion 2: the brightest details of events that are disappearing from memory merge with later events. (8) The latter coincides with the above conclusions of both Ülle Tarkiainen and Enn Tarvel. The topic of the relationship between a historical character and a narrative hero was discussed in connection with Oskar Loorits and his prototypes of strongman. In the materials from the second half of the 20th century it emerges in the study by Aigi Rahi (2001), which also shows that colourful heroes are created in the course of storytelling. Aigi Rahi compares the facts of the historical documents concerning the mass repressions of 1941 and 1949 and the knowledge based on memory. She concludes that the memory-based knowledge is characterised by the intensification of some aspects and fading of others - both are reactions to fear and/or extreme situation. In this framework such people are spoken of as heroes, who for example, at the time were regarded simply as participants in the event.


Oral family narratives

Oral family narratives belonged to the knowledge that circulated within the family and were appreciated within nearly all of the 20th century by genealogists as 'homework': from the spoken and heard stories a base of knowledge was created. On this basis they could start looking for written sources either from literature, church archives or the Historical Archives. In 1996 the book by historian Kalev Jaago and the author "See olevat olnud…" Rahvaluulekeskne uurimus esivanemate lugudest ("It is said to have been…" A folklore-centred study of ancestors' stories) was published, in which the oral and written data of the family history of eight families are compared.

Principally the same as above applied for data found in oral tradition and historical sources. I have referred to the intertwining of events that have happened in different times as "the confluence of times" (Jaago 1995; Jaago & Jaago 1996: 69-71, 128-129). The 'beginning' of the oral family narratives in modern Estonian tradition dates back to the beginning of the 18th century. The ancestors' coming 'here' (in the 18th century) and the use of family names, which started in 1820s-1830s, are markedly interrelated in tradition. Between these events there were three-four generations, which guaranteed the continuity of memory by means of existing contacts. According to tradition, in some places the choice of a family name was related to the earlier home place of the ancestors, for example a family living in Vigala in western Estonia was called Halliste after a place in southern Estonia, because an ancestor had been brought from there to Vigala by the will of the manor lords. (9) (The relationship between the first inhabitants and the names in tradition was also exposed in the above example of the settlement history of Viinistu village.) Generally these events (the origin of the ancestor of the 18th century and the choice of the family name at the beginning of the 19th century) were also interrelated in historical reality.

In the rural community the line of ancestors connected with the common home farm is known, and even there, largely the male line is known. Of the eight studied family narratives four came from western Estonia (Läänemaa) and four from the coastal area of northern Estonia (Virumaa). The narratives of the Läänemaa families had a much shorter sense of time and they were more weakly structured than those from northern Estonia, despite the fact that also their ancestors had been local. Closer analysis and placing the problem in a wider context (the social and regional differences - who has family trees at all) showed that those who came from a farm family had better knowledge of family history. It can be stated that first these were schemes based on social status, upon which the later relation-based schemes were founded. (10) In such differences of family tree diagrams the core of the family identity and its changes are hidden (either from social to national or an individual-centred scheme that emphasises kinship).
In the peasant family tree diagram the line of 18-century ancestors is 'shorter' than in the genealogical scheme - some people 'drop out' of the line, which reveals that the capacity of memory is limited and the memory-based narrative has made choices by what one should inevitably know and what not (Jaago 1995). But the narrator does not sense it: again the rule of confluence of times applies.

It is characteristic of the narratives that earlier events are described according to the perceptions of the narrator's time. For example, the time preceding family names is not reflected in the narratives - the ancestors from the 18th century are still called by family names, although they had not got these names yet. Also the narrators are surprised at three crosses instead of a signature on a 19th-century farm purchase document: was it really illiteracy or a prejudiced attitude to the written word even in the second half of the 19th century.

The problem of the effect of the time of narrating on the tradition is associated with the meaning: what kind of meaning is ascribed to storytelling as an activity, to the narrative and the events and people of which and whom the person narrates. The earlier Estonian folkloristics has not recorded much data about this.

The collections of Estonian life stories and tradition from the 1990s (11) leave the conclusions for the researcher to make. The directed questions are oriented on the subject, not the narrator's or the group's decisions on the meanings of these matters. The instructions use the following words: 'describe', 'recall', etc.

A life story is a narrative that a person speaks about his/her life, about what has actually happened. A life story is an attempt to present one's life in a realistic way. A good life story is one, which presents real life directly without literary, psychological, sociological etc. reflections, it speaks of what has happened and it is spoken by an experienced storyteller. (Folder: Elulood Eesti Kultuuriloolises Arhiivis - Life Stories in Estonian Cultural-Historical Archives.)

Nevertheless, the authors build up their story on estimative comparisons - this is just one of the most universal patterns of narrating of real life events. Yet the questions - what the narrator him/herself thinks of the meaning of his/her story, why and for whom it is interesting - are avoided. Only allusions to interest in estimates can be noticed in the Kodu ja pere (Home and Family) questionnaire (Sheet No. 185 of Estonian National Museum):

How long did it take you to settle in your new home before it became really 'your own'? Were there differences between the family members? [---] If you had more than one childhood home, which of these was the 'one' for you. Why?

We see that only in single cases assessment is asked for, but the aspect of meaning is not pointed out, it will be for the researcher to find.

In the instructing questionnaire of the competition of collecting family tradition, organised by the Finnish Literature Society in 1997, the questions about the meaning are much more direct (topic: family history and its meaning, incl questions: what meaning do these stories have for you, what do you want to hand on to the following generations, why do you consider it important; topic: the stories of different generations, incl questions what kind of feelings have these stories aroused in you; topic: family and places of living, incl questions of the feelings that the narrator has when visiting places connected with ancestors or earlier homes, etc., etc. (Folder: Suvun suuri kertomus. Kerukilpailu sukuun ja perheeseen liittyvästä muistitiedoista itsenäisessä Suomessa. 1.3.-31.8.1997 - The Great Narrative of the Family. Competition of collecting family tradition in Finland 1.3.-31.8.1997).

We might be scared that such directives would make the narrator too self-centred. In some respects it is so but through this we will learn why these stories are important (incidentally, people answer quite rationally and clearly). For the researcher, however, a new perspective is opened, one, which the subject-based collection is devoid of: what the narrators themselves think.


In summary

One of the important obstacles that had to be overcome to study family history from the folkloristic aspect is connected with the topic of truth and falsehood and the problem of the specificity of research sources. By comparing the oral and written data it is proved that by combining the classical sources of different fields of science new perspectives and interpretations of the past can be found. The acceptance of methods of transferring the underlying reality into information-centred narrative tradition has gradually improved.

Position in the area between disciplines was the reason why the earlier (in the 1980s - beginning of 1990s) academic speeches on this subject were marginal and circumspect: it had to be proved that this was folklore and that these texts were valuable as sources of research.

The other aspect that is considered of importance in this perspective is that the presence of the narrator, the group of similar tradition and the storytelling situation and their effect on the recorded text has to be taken into consideration much more purposefully. In this way the processional qualities of tradition become more noticeable.

Translated by Ann Kuslap




Estonian Cultural Historical Archives in the Estonian Literary Museum (Tartu):

Eesti elulood (Estonian Life Stories). Manuscript collection
Ajaloolist traditsiooni [x] kihelkonnast (Historical tradition from [x] parish). Manuscript collection.

Estonian National Museum (Tartu):

KV - Materials sent by correspondents. Manuscript collection.

Folklore Archives of the Finnish Literature Society (Helsinki):

Suvun suuri kertomus (The Great Narrative of the Family). Manuscript collection.

Alver, Martin 1986. Alverite suguvõsa kroonika II.

Alwer, Juhan 1939. Alwer´ite suguvõsa kroonika [I].

Hiiemäe, Mall 1978. Kodavere pajatused. Kujunemine ja koht rahvajututraditsioonis. Eesti NSV TA Fr. R. Kreutzwaldi nim. Kirjandusmuuseum. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.

Holbek, Bengt 1990. The Family anecdote: event and narrative. - Rörich, Lutz & Wienker-Piepho (eds.). Storytelling in Contemporary Societies. Tübingen: Gunter Narr Verlag, pp. 103-112.

Jaago, Tiiu 1995. Peculiarities of oral Tradition in intellectual Culture. - Pärdi, Heiki (ed.). Pro Ethnologia No. 3, Eesti Rahva Muuseumi üllitised. Tartu: Eesti Rahva Muuseum, pp. 116-121. http://www.erm.ee/pro/pro3.

Jaago, Tiiu & Jaago, Kalev 1996. "See olevat olnud…" Rahvaluulekeskne uurimus esivanemate lugudest. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus.

Kaivola-Bregenhøj, Anniki 2001. Miks me mäletame nii nagu me mäletame? - Kõiva, Mare & Kuperjanov, Andres (toim.). Mäetagused nr. 15. Tartu: EKM folkloristika osakond, lk. 35-46. http://haldjas.folklore.ee/tagused/nr15.

Kõiva, Mare (ed.) 1996. Contemporary Folklore: Changing World View and Tradition. Tartu: Institute of Estonian Language & Estonian Museum of Literature.

Laugaste, Eduard 1957. Kalevipoja-muistendite tüpologiseerimise küsimusi. Tartu Riikliku Ülikooli toimetised nr. 53. Tartu: TRÜ Kirjastus.

Liiv, Otto 1938. Eesti ajaloouurimise mõningaist ülesandeist. - Ajalooline Ajakiri, nr. 1, lk. 1-4.

Lipp, Martin 1909. Eesti suguvõsade uurimine. - Eesti Kirjandus, nr. 1-2, lk. 3-15, 66-73.

Loorits, Aleksander 1987. Rahvapärimus ja tõelus. - Ingrid Sarv (koost.) Rahvaluulest. Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia Emakeele Seltsi Toimetised 21. Tallinn: Eesti NSV Teaduste Akadeemia, lk. 142-158.

Loorits, Oskar 1927. Vägilase prototüüpe. - Album M. J. Eiseni 70. sünnipäevaks. Tartu: Eesti Kirjanduse Seltsi ja Eesti Rahva Muuseumi Kirjastus, lk. 37-71.

Must, Aadu 2000. Arhiividokument ja pärimus: konflikt, harmoonia või sünergia? - Konverents "Kultuur ja mälu" Tartu 6.-7.10.2000. Ettekannete annotatsioonid. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli etnoloogia õppetool, lk. 16-17.

Pirsko, Priit 1995. Talud päriseks: protsessi algus müüjate ja ostjate pilgu läbi. - Jansen, Ea & Arukaevu, Jaanus (toim.). Seltsid ja ühiskonna muutumine. Talupojaühiskonnast rahvusriigini. Tartu-Tallinn: Eesti Ajalooarhiiv, TA Ajaloo Instituut, lk. 97-117.

Rahi, Aigi 2001. Sündmus eri allikate valguses (küüditatute näite varal). - Anepaio, Terje & Kõresaar, Ene (toim.). Kultuur ja mälu. Konverentsi materjale. Studia Ethnologica Tartuensia nr. 4. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli etnoloogia õppetool, lk. 216-226.

Rootsmäe, Leeming 1977. Jakob Hurda esivanematest. - Keel ja Kirjandus, nr. 4, lk. 230-233.

Tarkiainen, Ülle 2000. Külad ja hajatalud eesti rahvatraditsioonis. - Küng, Ene jt. (toim.). Kultuuriloolised ekskursid. Eesti Ajalooarhiivi Toimetised. Acta et commentationes Archivi Historici Estoniae. 6 (13). Tartu: Eesti Ajalooarhiiv, lk. 119-134.

Tarvel, Enn 1983. Lahemaa ajalugu. Tallinn: Eesti Raamat.

Voolaid, Kalle 1996. Nägemusi Lurichist. Final thesis. Manuscript in the department of folklore in the University of Tartu.

Voolaid, Kalle 2001. Jõumehe fenomen. Georg Lurich ajaloolisest tegelasest rahvajutu kangelaseks. - Tiiu Jaago (koost.). Pärimuslik ajalugu. Tartu: Tartu Ülikooli Kirjastus, lk. 183-194.


References from text:

(1) Cf. e.g.. Holbek 1990. Back

(2) Estonian folkloristics has dealt with historical tradition, but this method of research focuses rather on the themes and motifs of the text, not on the treatment of history in the group who share similar tradition. Back

(3) See e.g. the judgements of the classic of Estonian genealogy M. Lipp or his followers (Lipp 1909; Rootsmäe 1977). Back

(4) See e.g. Kõiva 1996. Back

(5) The efficiency of the parallel research of history and folklore in the 1930s is characterised by few articles by Hendrik Sepp and Oskar Loorits, for instance. In the collections of that time in Estonian Folklore Archives quite diverse material can be found in manuscripts about village life and about narrating of it. A more compact collection Historical tradition is in the Cultural Historical Archives of Estonian Literary Museum. These manuscripts became an important base of study in the 1990s. Among the collections, which had rarely been known of and used so far, several others have become of interest to ethnology , for example at the end of the 1990s Heiki Pärdi made a speech in the Learned Estonia Society on the topic of cleanliness-dirtiness based on a survey conducted in Estonian villages in the thirties. Back

(6) It becomes evident in family tradition that in the descriptions of farmers-ancestors of earlier generations height and strength are highly appreciated qualities. These are often the only stories that can be told in connection with ancestors. I have called such stories about one's ancestors 'visiting card stories'. The primary qualities of ancestors started to change at the beginning of the 20th century, in connection with urbanisation and the spread of education (Jaago & Jaago 1996: 84-86, 97).

Kalle Voolaid (1996; 2001, also see in this collection), having studied Georg Lurich, the top 19th century, beginning of the 20th century athlete as a folk tale hero, also admits that in that period a strongman had an advantage in becoming a hero over characters with other qualities. Back

(7) The main problem why scientists did not reach the treatment synthesising tradition data and historical sources in the 1920s-1930s seems to be the fact that the specificity of sources of different types was not taken into consideration. For example, in the chapter on the end of the Ancient Period in the History of Estonian Nation published in 1932, both the chronicles of the 12th century and the oral tradition collected in the 19th century are combined in one. It is possible that the disappointment in the efficiency of such treatment drove studies to the other extremity: each field of science may use only certain sources. Back

(8) The third conclusion concerns the acknowledgement of the diversity of different sources and methods in modern Estonian historical research. Back

(9) KV 745, p. 479; Jaago & Jaago 1996: 78-84. Back

(10) Cf. e.g. the Alver family chronicle, part I and II, in which the first deals with the farm family diagram and the second, made in the 1980s, the diagram that follows family relationships (Alwer 1939; Alver 1986). Back

(11) I refer to the two large collections Eesti elulood (Estonian Life Stories) and Kodu ja pere (Home and Family). Back