Since there is no written family history for me to build on, I’ll have to start at the beginning. Most of you have noticed we do look a bit different from our fellow Mongols, although that difference is diminishing with intermarriage. Our ancestry is, strictly speaking, not Mongol. There never really was a tribe called the Mongols, but the Tungus tribes that coalesced into the core of what became the Mongols could be given first priority to the title. As time went on, many different tribes were taken into the Mongols even though they were not related. Some, like the Tatars, only provided women and children, but others came in fully and freely or were recruited to fill out the ranks. The Hanjen resisted joining since they always felt superior to Mongol “barbarians,” and in the end drove us out of what they called the Middle Kingdom. Our “tribe” was never in a position to choose to join or not join the Mongols, so our allegiance requires a bit more explanation.
According to my grandfather, our ancestors were, perhaps fortunately, obscure and forgettable until the first Karl wandered out of the primeval forest and into a no-longer-remembered village in an area called Schwabia far to the west. His apparent source led to his surname, Waldmann, Man of the Forest in the dialect of that place. This Karl was, not surprisingly, a woodcutter, and since he had considerable skill at carving, he was welcomed to the village. The family continued in modest obscurity until the next Karl, some few generations later, who was bored with wood but fascinated with iron and bucking the family traditions, moved to a city named Regensburg to learn the blacksmith trade. Being a perfectionist, he spent a long time working for many masters throughout what was called the Holy Roman Empire, the obscure if pretentiously titled principality that governed his “tribe.” When he was admitted to the Guild as a master blacksmith, he had become a legendary sword maker, and settled in Innsbruck, a city in the same empire which was incongruously ruled by a bishop, a type of leader of the Christian religion prevalent in the far west. His descendants remained there continuing in the trade uneventfully until the next Karl came to maturity. This Karl, my great-great-grandfather, did continue the family skill of sword making, but being the second son left Innsbruck, and began to ply his trade eastward. He happened to be at the court of King Bela of Hungary, when a certain minor Christian cleric named John came to the court on his way back from performing an embassy from the pope, the leader or high priest of the Christian religion, to the Great Khan in Karakorum, Kuyuk, the second successor of the immortal Chingis. Karl managed to talk to this cleric and his companions and was fascinated by their tale. His curiosity got the best of him, and he decided to pack up his wife and two young children and go visit this Karakorum and offer his not inconsiderable talents to the Khan.