Monday, February 27, 2006

Up in smoke

Juliana Smith's column in today's Ancestry Daily News (Seeking Out Images for Your Family History) reminded me of a family story about photo disposal.

It was probably in the early 1950s, when one of my great-grandmothers decided she wanted to get rid of numerous old photos, reasoning that she had no use for photos of people she couldn't identify. While other family was barbecuing, great-grandma put two and two together and proceeded to get a box of photos from the house. Despite one of her daughters pleading not to burn the photos, that's exactly what happened.

There's no telling who was in the photos. I suspect that since she didn't know who the people were, it was likely the photos were either very old -- she was born in 1883 -- or had belonged to her husband's family and, naturally, she probably wouldn't have been able to identify all of his family members. (No one has mentioned anything about Alzheimer's-like behavior, so I assume she really did not know who the photos were of.)


Who/Where is next?

I may not be done with the current batch of film for several more weeks, so it won't be until then that I decide where to next focus my attention. Wherever that is, it will likely be after a break from FHL film that I've been wanting to take for a while. A break then will work out well because I'm ahead of schedule ordering films this year.

The path of least resistance is preferable and at the moment that looks to be the families who attended church in Werther, Westfalen (DEPPERMANN, HOLZ, KINDERMANN, VOSSIEK, etc.). I might as well take care of the easy stuff and since the IGI shows info (extracted, not submitted) for at least two or three generations of these families, I think this qualifies as relatively easy. But without even seeing them I'm a bit worried about the Werther records. Lutheran records from nearby Bockhorst, Borgholzhausen and Rödinghausen are similarly formatted and not especially detailed. I'm running into the same issue with some records from Horn, which is somewhat in the same neighborhood, generally speaking.

After Werther, I guess the goal for this year and perhaps next year is to finish off all of the films where I know I'll find information. Without looking, I'd guess there are several films from assorted German places that I need to get in order to take the next step. Once those are finished, it'll be decision time: Do I start semi-blindly ordering films on a regular basis hoping to hit the jackpot, or do I go to Salt Lake City to research broader areas more quickly than ordering a few rolls of film each month?



I don't know if it's the format of the church records -- light on details -- or that his name varies in the records, but Jürgen Heinrich (a.k.a. Johann Jürgen) GEINER is kind of mysterious to me. Jürgen was probably born between 1727 and 1733, dates gleaned from the ages that were listed in records many years after the fact. Jürgen was said to be 47 when he remarried in 1780, but was listed as 72 when he died in 1799. Although many of the church records from the Borgholzhausen area are already indexed, where and when Jürgen was baptized and his first marriage are unknown.

[, ]

New theory

As reported by Discovery News, here's a new theory that's not at all depressing: Early Humans Were Often Eaten.


Friday, February 24, 2006

NARA on Google Video

National Archives and Google Launch Pilot Project to Digitize and Offer Historic Films Online.

National Archives via Google Video.


African American Lives

Cemetery Special and Destination America, the last couple of PBS programs that had at least a little to do with genealogy (or so I thought), were not all that interesting. So, despite the seemingly increased blog chatter in the days leading up to the airing of the latest program, I didn't plan on watching African American Lives no matter how often it was mentioned. From conversations I suspect that some people may have thought this show didn't have anything to offer them and as someone who probably won't ever have to research slaves, this also crossed my mind. Just before heading out the night it first aired, though, I decided to record it because I was curious about the DNA research.

It was a wise decision on my part.

African American Lives was well produced, did a fantastic job of digging up family stories, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was a very good host. The two-hour program (parts one, "Listening to our Past," and two, "The Promise of Freedom") flew by -- always a sign of good TV or filmmaking -- and I couldn't wait for parts three ("Searching for Our Names") and four ("Beyond the Middle Passage"). I would heartily recommend African American Lives to anyone already researching their ancestors or someone who might be a little curious and hasn't yet started research.

For a program that does so much right, there were a few things worth nitpicking:
  • Nine different subjects may make for a collection of diverse stories, but I felt that had the number been pared down more time could have been spent telling the stories of each family or focusing a bit more on the research.

  • I recognize that television programs are edited quite a bit, there is limited time to explain some topics and some details may not lend themselves to keeping the audience interested, but I was a little surprised at how much the census records were trusted. Maybe it's just me, but when I see dates of birth that consist of a month and a year, I immediately think that the 1900 census was the source of such information. The program did not indicate where the birth dates came from, but considering how easily Gates seemed to accept what other census forms showed, it would not surprise me if the 1900 census was in fact the source. It should have been explained that census records are useful, but they have their limitations. [Personally, I am on a bit of a mini-mission to edit all entries in my database to make sure any dates of birth sourced from the 1900 census have "abt" (about) preceding the date. I have found many of the dates from the 1900 census are correct, but I have also found numerous instances of the month or year being just a little off.]

  • Similar to my issue with dates from census records, I'm a little skeptical of how literacy was addressed in the censuses. Just taking a quick look at the records I've used, I found one individual who supposedly could read and write in 1850, 1860 and 1880. In 1870, apparently he could not. Another example shows that a man in his mid-20s could not write when the 1880 census was taken in June, but when the census was redone* in November he could. I'm sure if I spent more time looking for examples I could find at least a few just in the records I've saved for personal research. And let's not overlook how children were classified: A large number of enumerators seem to have ignored the literacy issue of the youngest children, yet there were also those who pointed out the obvious, that a toddler could not read or write. The point here is that, again, census records should not be taken literally and Gates should have qualified what he told Oprah Winfrey about one of her ancestors learning to read between 1870 and 1880. If there was additional evidence to support the finding, great. But that seemed a bit misleading to me.

  • Gates was also eager to accept that a "Jane" listed in other documents without a last name was his 2nd great-grandmother. Was it likely? Probably. But it would have been safer to qualify such a statement. I sensed that the genealogist assisting him was trying to be cautious, but Gates' exuberance kind of took over the segment. It was understandable, though.
These issues are relatively minor. I bring them up only because African American Lives could be what sparks a whole new wave of researchers and while it may not have made for good TV, I don't think it wouldn't have hurt to have explained the pitfalls of census records or warned against making quick judgments of records without other supporting evidence. There are probably two things that need to be stressed the most to new family researchers: Don't completely trust any one source and have some sort of organization when recording your findings. I can attest that both issues -- the latter in my case -- will eventually become huge roadblocks if not taken seriously.

The final two installments of the series were what I was really waiting for. I still do not fully understand which DNA tests are better than others, or if one test can do it all, but I am very intrigued by the test that shows percentages of ancestral roots. I may have missed it before, but I don't recall previously having heard about that test. (My results probably wouldn't be that exciting, although there are a few lines that have not yet been thoroughly researched.) With this test, African American Lives seems to have destroyed the belief that blacks cannot find out where they were from. Granted, it's not perfect and doesn't make up for the fact that tracing specific individuals beyond a certain point is impossible, but I would think this is an exciting breakthrough.

Again, this was a wonderful program. Don't pass it up should it ever air again, or see if your library will be carrying the DVD, which according to Amazon ships on May 2nd.

* I've read that St. Louis, in an attempt to not fall behind Chicago, padded their 1880 totals. When it was discovered, the census was redone in the fall. Those researching ancestors in St. Louis have two sources of information and twice the work fun. The rivalry between the cities continues today and is primarily played out at Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field. The St. Louis Cardinals have won nine (9) World Series titles -- second, I believe, to the Yankee$ -- between 1926 and 1982, and have been National League champs sixteen (16) times, the last being in 2004. The Chicago Cubs haven't won the National League pennant since 1945 and haven't won a World Series since 1908. :)

[, ]

Thursday, February 23, 2006

German emigration database

A database of German emigrants from Baden, Württemberg and Hohenzollern has been updated with English pages. The German version wasn't that hard to figure out, but this really simplifies searching, as well as learning more about the project.

I did not find August RICK or the MÜLLER family, but that may be because they did not have permission to emigrate -- like the site notes, these individuals did travel to Le Havre, France to board a ship. I did find several RICK family members from Siegelsbach, though. I haven't spent much time looking for these folks in American records, but will eventually.

[, , ]

UC Berkeley course audio

UC Berkeley is offering webcasts for some courses. There's nothing for genealogy, but I'll be giving "European Civilization from the Renaissance to the Present" and "From the Civil War to the Present" a listen.


Do you really need to know?

Just in case anyone is wondering -- and apparently there is -- Ask Yahoo! answers the following question: How many states allow a resident to marry a cousin?


Monday, February 20, 2006

Genealogy radio show archive

Toward the end of yesterday's Relatively Speaking radio show, Irene Johnson announced that past shows would be archived on the AM 820 website in the future. Irene indicated that more than a few people -- myself included -- had been asking her about the possibility of listening to past programs. This is great news for anyone who has never heard her show or too frequently misses it on Sunday evenings.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Mormons and DNA

Los Angeles Times:

"Bedrock of a Faith Is Jolted. DNA tests contradict Mormon scripture. The church says the studies are being twisted to attack its beliefs."

[, ]

Friday, February 10, 2006

Lankau: Strike One

Until a new clue materializes, research of the LANKAU family will be put on hold. The records of St. Nicholas Church in Neustadt (Magdeburg) didn't have what I was hoping for, which means there are only about 30 other Evangelical churches in Magdeburg to search. I may instead later concentrate on Magdeburg city directories to develop a better picture of where the family lived in order to figure out which church most likely has the records needed to prove Carl LANKAU's birth. That's assuming I can find a map of where the churches in Magdeburg are/were.

[, ]

The Ebert family of...?

The family story is that the EBERTs were from Alsace-Lorraine. A recently obtained death certificate from 1929 shows that the claim has been around at least since then. Another death certificate, which just arrived, lists Austria! The problem has been that the family's passenger list, census and citizenship records list Bavaria (Bayern) as their homeland. Should I be looking at Rhein-Pfalz, closer to Alsace but once under Bavarian rule? I don't know. The real problem is that I cannot find anything in St. Louis that mentions a town name. I'd like to check on some of the records for the branch of the family that moved away in the 1850s, but preliminary inquiries have me thinking that it will turn out to be nothing more than a nice ride in the country.

The only recent find (thanks, Gloria!) which may eventually help with research of German records is the 1852 Catholic burial record of Margaretha EBERT. This woman's age (59) generally matches with the age of the "Margreta" who immigrated with the family and the "Margaret" that lived with them in 1850. The burial record is simple in nature, but lists her parents: Joannis (Johann) and Catharinae (Catharina) EBERT. This implies that the woman never married, and fits into my theory from a few years back that the woman who immigrated and lived with the EBERTs was likely Konrad and Ferdinand's older sister, not their mother. But before getting carried away, the burial record doesn't list anything to connect Margaretha to our family. If we knew that Johann and Catharina EBERT were also the parents of Konrad and Ferdinand it would be a different story. It is worth noting, though, that Margaretha's burial was recorded at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, which was the family's church for their early years in St. Louis.

[, ]

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Among my grandma's papers are two pages stapled together. The first page is a typed transcription of her grandparents' obituaries. On the second page, someone attempted to draw a family tree. The same grandparents whose obituaries are on the first page are correctly placed in the tree, but that's about it. Just one other name (Kaspar Hermann SCHOLLE) is correct. The birth and death dates attributed to Kaspar's wife are so strange that I don't even know where to begin; no one in the family, or extended family, seems to have been born on March 31, 1842 or died on February 20, 1872.

So, were these dates based on faulty research or memory, or am I missing a family member? The dates don't seem to be for any ancestors, but then again little is known about Kaspar Hermann SCHOLLE at the moment. He's a bit of a wild card because the Buer church records aren't easily or cheaply available (a recurring theme in other lines as well). The 1842 date may in fact refer to his marriage, and although it's said he died in the 1860s, it could be that he really died in 1872 and that's what prompted his widow and children to emigrate later that year.

Another possibility is that the dates belong to a "lost" sibling of an ancestor or a cousin that's been overlooked. As far as I can tell, and as this tree is drawn, later generations knew who their contemporary cousins were, but didn't quite have all of the older names in the right places, especially when it came to those back in Germany. I don't think the truth was really known until the last decade or so.

[, ]

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Maps of St. Louis City churches

Trying to find baptism, marriage and burial records in a city like St. Louis without knowing which church created the record is not easy to do. (I can't imagine attempting the same in an even larger city.) Thankfully, the Special Collections Department at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters has created guides to using Catholic, Lutheran and Evangelical records on microfilm. The guides show where the churches are/were located and how the records are arranged on film.

As someone not as familiar with St. Louis streets and neighborhoods as I should be, I'm often going back and forth between these guides and Google Maps trying to figure out which churches my ancestors likely attended. This was not a very efficient process, so I decided to make my own Google Maps.

Due to the number of churches that were or are in the city limits alone, I've made a map for each religion and subdivided the Catholic Churches further into those north and south of Highway 40/64. Each map is pre-populated with the locations of these churches and lists their addresses. If you're not familiar with Google Maps, you can zoom in and out, as well as scroll in any direction by holding down your left mouse button and dragging the mouse.

I plan to use the heck out of these maps to hopefully find the few records I'm still missing, as well as when I get around to tracking down other lines of descendants. If anyone else finds the maps useful, even better!

St. Louis City Churches

A bit of a disclaimer...I am not proficient with JavaScript, so I had to find the script to make each map. I would have done it myself, and even added more features, but JavaScript is something I just never picked up on along the way. I know that the maps work with Internet Explorer 6 and Firefox 1.0.7. However, from the time I began making these maps until now getting them online, I've had to reinstall Windows XP and upgraded to Firefox 1.5. Oddly, the script is not compatible with FF 1.5, so I had to track down another script, which, of course, doesn't work with the other browsers. That's why there are two versions of each map, or at least will be once I finish the versions for FF 1.5.

Accuracy of the maps is only as good as what Google shows. I have noticed that some of the icons are a little off from where I wanted them to be, but I believe this is a minor inconvenience in the context of trying to find churches in a neighborhood. And there are a handful of churches not currently mapped. I need to look up a few addresses at the library.


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another Genealogue news flash

President Proposes Tax Break for Genealogists:

"One day her daughter—five years old—comes up to her and asks why they only eat two meals a day. Millie had to tell her daughter they couldn't afford breakfast because of the high price of photocopies. That's just not right, and it shouldn't happen in America."