Thursday, September 14, 2006


Paying sizable fees for copies is something I've tried to avoid, but there are some records -- such as those in German archives -- that just cannot be had on the cheap. With that in mind, I recently decided to finally order a few emigration papers from the Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv-Staatsarchiv Osnabrück. I've known that these records were available for at least a year, but just couldn't bring myself to ordering them even though it was almost certain that three of the names in the index were of a 3rd great-grandfather, his brother and half-brother. There were other names in the index that will require future consideration, but to get my feet wet I decided to order the emigration records for Johann Friedrich BENNE, Johann Heinrich BENNE and Johann Friedrich SCHUMPE. (I passed, for now, on Ernst Heinrich BENNE's paper for reasons that aren't important at the moment.)

The two BENNE records were exactly what I thought they'd be and had some key details that shed new light on the family's migration from the Kingdom of Hannover to Missouri. The highlights are that Johann Friedrich BENNE and his wife, Clara Maria LANGENHEDER, apparently had a son before they emigrated. Considering their marriage date and the time they left Hannover, I would have to guess that the boy was either Clara's from a previous marriage or was born before the couple was married. If the latter turns out to be the case, it may be possible that this boy -- named Ernst Heinrich on a passenger manifest -- was overlooked in past attempts to research the family. I mean, would anyone have looked for a boy baptized as a LANGENHEDER a year or two prior to when his parents boarded a ship at Bremen (and just a few months after they were married)?

The other key detail came from Johann Heinrich "Henry" BENNE's record. Henry did not receive permission to emigrate until his younger half-brothers, Johann Friedrich and Ernst Heinrich, had already been in America for over six months. This means that there's little doubt that Henry, his wife and children, were in fact not on the same ship as other family members in the fall of 1842, and we still have to find another passenger manifest.

As for the record of Johann Friedrich SCHUMPE, it turns out that this name in the index was a red herring. Maybe it's because the site lacks a lot of documentation, I did not carefully translate the pages or I failed to ask enough questions leading up to my order, but what I got was a record for a woman whose father was named Johann Friedrich SCHUMPE. What I was hoping to receive was a record for a single man in his early twenties. It's not a bad thing that the Archives apparently indexed every name referenced in these records, but without additional information for context, such as a date or (in some cases) a clearly defined location for the origin of the record, ordering copies based on a matched name may cost you more than you're used to for failed searches. In this case, it cost me about $20 to learn this lesson.

So, for $45 total, which covered the cost of copies, research fees and postage, I was able to obtain two useful records that weren't available any other way. And unlike some archival requests, I received my copies in just a couple of weeks. Despite the SCHUMPE mistake, I'm happy with the results and am now in the process of getting information from a church in Hannover. And if a lead on another German family doesn't pan out, I'll be ordering church records from another archive later this fall. I'm excited about taking the next step with my research. I just hope the results are worth the money.

Those interested in ordering emigration records from the Archive in Osnabrück should check out the two links below. And if anyone needs the email address of the person in Osnabrück to deal with, let me know. (I haven't dealt with the Archives in Hannover and Wolfenbüttel.)

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