A year or so ago I found a webpage called the Archiv der Franckeschen Stiftungen zu Halle. I didn't know quite what to make of it at the time. But I did find it curious as there were several people listed with my surname. Those people are still listed there and, in point of fact, one more person with my surname has been added to the list.
If you click on the link you should get a long list of German surnames that start with the letter 'L'. My surname is near the bottom of the list, filed alphabetically. I won't bore you with the details of my personal concerns. The question is, what in the world is this list all about? A year ago I found it quite confusing. But the site has been updated a little in the interim and now every name on the list is a link to personal details about each of the names on the list. All of them were dead by the time America's constitution was ratified.
Halle is a city near Leipzig in the state of Saxony Anhalt, one of half a dozen or so new states established as part of the recently reunified Germany. It used to be part of East Germany and for almost half a century the information on that list would probably have been accessible to STAASI, the East German secret police.
If I had gone to East Germany when I finished graduate school during the last days of the Reagan era, someone in the state police there would probably have been obliged to consult this list. My surname is fairly unique. Simply by finding my surname on this list they would have known more about me than I know about myself.