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Tuesday, May 03, 2016
Organized Genealogy Research: Matching Up Two Theresas
Posted by Diane
My new favorite genealogy accomplishment is figuring out whether the Theresa Seeger Kolbeck whose 1937 death announcement I found by chance in a newspaper
index on the Kenton County Public Library website was the sister of my great-great-grandfather, German immigrant
Heinrich Arnold ("H.A.") Seeger.
All I had on H.A.'s sister was her
baptismal record from Steinfeld, Germany, with her date of
birth and parents' names.
A little research into the local Theresa—actually Mary
Theresa—uncovered a death certificate with her birthday as Feb.
18, 1949 (three days after H.A.'s sister's birthday) in Germany. She
and her husband Herman Henrich Kolbeck immigrated May 16, 1873, and
settled in Covington, Ky. The 1900 census reported they'd been
married 27 years, putting their marriage in 1873.
Following tips Drew
Smith will share in our Genealogy
Organization Tips and Strategies webinar on May 19, I planned
out some steps:
Finally the stars aligned and I could get to the FamilySearch
Center to view the Steinfeld church records. Within 15 minutes,
I found Theresa's and Herman Henrich's April 23, 1873, marriage
record. Theresa's parents had the same names as on her baptismal
record, and the same names as H.A.'s parents.
- From previous
research in Steinfeld, Germany,
marriage records, I knew they usually name the parents. I added a to-do list item to view the records covering 1873 at my local FamilySearch Center. So many folks around here have roots in that part of Germany that the film is in the
permanent collection of my FamilySearch Center. Getting out to research requires all kinds of
scheduling acrobatics for me, so I knew it'd be awhile
before I could visit.
- I looked up the Kolbecks in other databases on the Kenton
County library website. and found church record index
entries for the baptisms of several children. The
library has the records on microfilm, so I ordered digital
copies through its fee-based
A few were the Kolbecks' children, with Theresa's maiden name as
variants close to (but not exactly) Seeger. One baptism had a sponsor Frances
Säge. Frances was the name of H.A.'s wife. Other baptisms were the children of another Kolbeck couple, with Theresa a sponsor in one.
- Also from the Kenton County library, I ordered a copies of
two newspaper death announcements for Theresa. Neither named her parents or birthplace in Germany.
Yay! I could add
all those Kolbecks into my family tree.
Drew Smith recommends organizing your genealogy research around goals, and I have
two new ones for this family:
Organization Tips and Strategies webinar on May 19 will help
you manage your research process, so you can take a focused approach
to solving genealogy problems. Learn
more about this online event in ShopFamilyTree.com.
- Figure out whether Theresa and Herman Henry were cousins.
You probably noticed that Theresa's mother was born a
- Figure out if and how that other Kolbeck couple in the
Covington, Ky., baptismal records was related to Herman Henrich.
That family later moved to Ford County, Kan.
German roots | Research Tips | Webinars
Tuesday, May 03, 2016 3:18:13 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, April 25, 2016
Genealogy Roadshow Debuts May 17 (PLUS: Submit a Family Mystery for Next Season!)
Posted by Diane
Roadshow" has released a preview of its new season, premiering
Tuesday, May 17, 8 p.m. ET on PBS. Shows this season will take place
in Boston, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles.
If you haven't seen this series, it has professional genealogists D.
Joshua Taylor, Kenyatta
Berry and Mary
Tedesco use research to solve family history mysteries for
ordinary people. Often,
the guests have done a little genealogy themselves and run across a
family legend or difficult research problem.
(PS: Josh Taylor will present our Best New England Genealogy Research Strategies webinar this Thursday, April 28. Got ancestors from Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut or Rhode Island? Find out more here about this terrific opportunity to learn from an expert.)
Here's a preview of this season of "Genealogy Roadshow":
website also is beefed up with genealogy tips and clips from
past episodes. Many featuring background on historical events and
people in guests' trees, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder, the US
Colored Troops, and pirates and outlaws.
"Genealogy Roadshow" guests are selected through an
application process—here's the online form for next season.
Genealogy TV | Webinars
Monday, April 25, 2016 10:31:57 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Monday, April 11, 2016
My No. 1 Favorite Genealogy Resource
Posted by Diane
Newspapers! It's newspapers. They're full of details you don't find
anywhere else (although sometimes colored by a reporter's
perspective). Because our Find
Your Ancestors in Online Newspapers webinar is coming up April
21, I'll let my third-great-grandfather Thomas Frost
demonstrate why I love this resource.
You first heard about Thomas when I blogged about his
sensational divorce (a Cincinnati Daily Enquirer
newspaper article provided the clue to look for divorce records). On
Nov. 19, 1879, two papers detailed the charges, although with
The Cincinnati Daily Enquirer article is at the top and the
Cincinnati Daily Star article is below it.
Thomas' life didn't improve from there.
The Daily Enquirer reported March 8, 1881, on his visit with the children in an article titled "A Frosty
Day." Mary was supposed to make herself scarce before he arrived, but instead she hid in the house. She jumped out when
Thomas reprimanded one of the children and "made things rather
lively ... Cold water, hot water, pokers and any amount of angry
words were brought into requisition ... ."
Then things got even more crazy with this March 16, 1882, headline:
It would be thrilling only to a genealogist. (Or maybe a serial
It appears my ancestor had taken up with a woman, Mary Bergan, who'd
left her husband (or he left her, as the Cincinnati Daily Gazette claimed) and was
staying in the European boarding house. The landlady said Thomas
told her Bergan was his niece, and he became "desperate" when she
was with another man.
On the night in question, Bergan was hanging out with James Murphy,
John Collins, and another roomer named Birdie Huston. Thomas waited
in the downstairs hallway for the party to leave. Then he leapt from behind the stairs and confronted Murphy. A scuffle ensued and
Thomas was cut on the head.
Police detained Bergan, Murphy, Collins and Huston at another
lodging house. Collins took the blame for the cutting, with a
razor he'd grabbed from Murphy's pocket.
The Cincinnati Daily Gazette carried some different details, including a gory description of the
wound. It was an "ugly-looking" two-inch gash positioned "just back and a little above the left temple."
fracture was visible in Thomas' skull.
From articles about other relatives, I've learned about a kitchen
fire, child's birthday party, barfight, commitment (for one who'd
become "violently insane") and other events in their lives that probably wouldn't
make the news today. Where court records are missing, newspapers
informed about the bootlegging
arrest and trial of my great-grandfather (not the one in the
In our Find
Your Ancestors in Online Newspapers webinar, you'll learn the
best websites and techniques to search for articles with this kind
of detail about your ancestors.
The webinar is on April 21,
and all registrants receive a copy of the presentation slides and
access to view the webinar again as often as you want. Find
out more about this webinar and sign up at ShopFamilyTree.com!
Newspapers | Webinars
Monday, April 11, 2016 10:51:49 AM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
Raise a Glass: Connecting With German Genealogists Online
Posted by Diane
In some ways, what has happened to online German genealogy in the last few years reflects what’s been going on in the wider family history world: more instant communication and loads of ways for people to connect. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the newly released Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, shares how collaboration made possible by the internet has affected his genealogy research.
Two correspondents who the internet figuratively brought to my doorstep stand out to me when I think about my experience with online German research.
The first crossed my path a dozen-plus years ago, when I was trying to track down a female ancestor for whom I (frustratingly!) had an exact birth date but no maiden surname. Her married name was Gertraut Rauch, and I knew her husband had been born in the northeastern section of Berks County, Pa., but all the information I had on her came from her tombstone. I was prowling online bulletin boards, having just realized that these were replacing the “queries” of my first years of doing genealogy (now most people have moved on to online family trees).
In any case, within hours of posting a Rauch query, a researcher named DelLynn Leavitt from Idaho Falls, Idaho, replied saying he knew Gertraut was the daughter of a man named Jacob Sicher. With that small fact, my brick wall came tumbling down. And this type of connection would have previously taken months or years to form, but it took less than a day for us to connect thanks to the internet!
Fast-forward to 2010: After many years and a dozen trips to Salt Lake City’s Family History Library, I finally unearthed the German hometown (Gerolsheim) of my surname immigrant ancestor, Johannes Beÿdeler. Coincidentally, I had already made plans to go to Europe that year to take in the once-in-a-decade Passion Play, so I simply added Gerolsheim to the itinerary. I tried to contact Gerolsheim officials in advance through the town's own website—but there was no email contact listed. Instead, I contacted the local tourist bureau (which did have an e-mail address, and a few days I had a response from the town’s deputy mayor, Klaus May.
I still think Klaus and his wife would have put us up for our entire stay in Germany if we had just asked! Klaus showed us around the town and introduced us to the Ortsbürgermeister (village mayor). With Germany’s largest wine festival in full swing in nearby Bad Dürkheim, we toasted a local Riesling wine with Klaus, his wife, and the mayor to celebrate our newfound friendship. What a great connection to have made through the internet!
Learn more about what the web can do for your German genealogy research in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, available now on ShopFamilyTree.com; order between now and April 28 to get free shipping.
German roots | Social Networking
Tuesday, April 05, 2016 1:35:19 PM (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Sneak Peek! "Who Do You Think You Are?" Premieres Sunday With Aisha Tyler
Posted by Diane
The month of March sneaked* right by, and it's already time for the
premiere of TLC's "Who
Do You Think You Are?" this Sunday at 9/8 central.
This episode features African-American actor Aisha Tyler (she was
Ross' paleontologist girlfriend on "Friends" and she's a cohost on "The Talk").
I always enjoy when a genealogy show visits places that also figure
into my family tree, so I should be happy with this one: Tyler
travels to Cleveland, Ohio, and the Western
Reserve Historical Society, as well as the Texas State Library &
Archives and other sites in Austin.
The stories Tyler discovers in her mother's family history include a
second-great-grandfather who, according to the show's publicist, "took a brave stand for his people, and left a mark
so great that he is commemorated today by one of America’s
capital cities." He was born out of wedlock to a white man who
opposed rights for African-Americans.
I'm not allowed to reveal too many details about the episode, but
here's a video sneak peek for you:
a rundown of other "WDYTYA?" celebrity guests
*For any fellow grammar geeks out there, I actually looked up whether sneaked
or snuck would be correct, and the Grammarist
recommended the former, although the newer snuck has
become common and is also acceptable.
"Who Do You Think You Are?" | African-American roots | Genealogy TV
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:55:25 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
German Resource Spotlight: Hamburg Passenger Lists
Posted by Diane
Immigrant ancestors tend to capture researchers’ imaginations more than others. We’re enchanted by the idea of our ancestors coming to a foreign land with nothing but the clothes on their backs and a dream of better things to come.
Fortunately for those with German ancestry, researchers have access to more than one resource to help document their ancestors’ incredible journeys. In addition to passenger arrival lists in North America, German researchers can also find embarkation lists that record Europeans as they left the continent. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, looks at the Hamburg Passenger Lists, one of the major German assets on Ancestry.com.
The resource, which is actually a collection of the scanned passenger lists and a collection of handwritten indexes for these records, are from emigration departures from the port of Hamburg in northern Germany. Hamburg was the number-two exit point from Europe from 1850 to 1934, so you’ll likely want to search these two resources if you have ancestors who left Europe in the second half of the 1800s or early in the 1900s.
You'll need an Ancestry.com subscription to search the passenger list collection, which offers images of the lists from 1850 to 1934 but is only searchable through 1923. However, the handwritten indexes collection is only browsable, so you’ll want to focus on a specific time period. While you can’t search through the handwritten indexes, they can help cover defects of the passenger lists, which can have bad handwriting that prevents you from finding your ancestors.
These Hamburg lists can provide valuable context for your research when used with other resources. For example, I searched for my ancestor, Rosina Friedrika Wibel, on the Hamburg lists. From other resources, I knew she was born in 1829; A Rosine Wibel (note the spelling difference) was identified in the Hamburg lists as departing Hamburg on the ship Harmonia on 28 Feb 1857. Reviewing stateside passenger lists, I found that she arrived in New York almost a whole month later, on 26 March 1857. And if I couldn’t find Rosina in the searchable embarkation lists, I could have used her arrival date from the US passenger list to pinpoint when to browse for her in the Hamburg’s handwritten indexes.
Here’s a quick timeline of the Hamburg Embarkation Lists:
- 1850: Embarkation lists begin, initially with just the passengers’ names, but later with additional details.
- 1855: Handwritten indexes are first created for embarkation lists.
- 1854–1910: The lists and handwritten indexes are separated into “direct” (passenger who weren’t going to change ships before their ultimate arrivals) and “indirect” (those who did change ships). After 1911, the lists and indexes are no longer categorized this way.
- 1915–1919: No lists are kept during World War I.
- 1934: Passenger lists cease to be created for Hamburg.
Learn more about how to research German immigrant ancestors in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1.
German roots | immigration records
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 9:40:45 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Where Do They Find All Those Old Records? Interview With FamilySearch Content Strategist Suzanne Russo Adams
Posted by Diane
For the January/February
2016 Family Tree Magazine, contributor Sunny Jane
Morton asked Suzanne Russo Adams, content strategist for FamilySearch (and formerly for
about the cool old records she discovers traveling around the world for her work.
Here's the full Q&A:
Tell us about the
content strategy team you work on at FamilySearch.
We're a team of
nine, and we refer to each other internally as the “Raiders of
Archives.” One of our engineers made us a poster about that, and
ourselves that way. We travel the world, go into archives and
treasures of historic records.
FTM: What parts of the world are
assigned to you?
SRA: I cover parts of the United States
and the federal strategy (what we
get from the National Archives and Records Adminstration),
southern South America,
Italy, Portugal and the Adriatic Sea, as well as help with New
Australia and the Pacific Isles.
Do you see distinct
attitudes about old records in different countries?
Yes. The areas I work
with in Europe tend to be more open and want their records to be
accessible to the world.
Portugal is amazing. It’s neat to see
how much they
care about their records and want people to have access. We’ve been able to
digitize all the Catholic
church records in Portugal because they were held by a government
Italy is the same way about records access. They have a website
your Ancestors” where they're
working with us to publish their civil registration records. They
see it as a
way of giving people back their heritage.
country you’ve fallen in love with?
SRA: Half my heritage is from Italy, and
that’s my research
specialty. I love Italy. But I fell in
love with Brazil’s people, culture and records. And the food is
so good. I
think what put me over the edge in Brazil was the archivist at
Paolo who pulled out all the
old church court records. He kept showing me all these cool
cases. He was so
FTM: Share a cool discovery you’ve made.
SRA: We got a lead on these cool civil
ID cards in Brazil. That’s
not a record that we have (or any company has, really)
traditionally acquired. They
have tons of information and include pictures. We’ve found them
I’ve seen them in South America. Depending on the country, they go
back to the
late 1800s, early 1900s.
FTM: What’s different about working for
FamilySearch rather than
SRA: As a nonprofit organization,
FamilySearch has the luxury of
being patient when working with archives, which requires
considerable time to
contact, establish rapport and orchestrate records access
agreements. When it
came to digitizing the civil registrations in Italy, I saw
Ancestry pull out
and FamilySearch win the contract. But it took seven years.
what really lured
me to FamilySearch was because our scope is so international, not
cultures and countries that may be commercially viable. In just
I’ve been to Brazil, Peru, Switzerland, Germany, Italy (twice!),
around the United States.
Do you coordinate
efforts with your counterparts at other genealogy organizations?
Yes. We try to work
very closely with the three major commercial partners, Ancestry,
MyHeritage. We try hard to
work together on targeted records collections when
it makes sense. But some of the companies aren’t interested in
the areas we are
interested in, and there we go it alone. Like,
FamilySearch places more
emphasis on South America whereas our partners don’t. We also work
numbers of nonprofit genealogical and historical societies and
churches to help
digitally preserve and index records of mutual interest.
What do you learn
when working with all these international records?
SRA: I learn a lot about migrations and
the multicultural heritage
of a lot of these countries. There are connections between South
countries like Argentina and several European nations, not just
personally, this has
expanded my love of
a lot of different cultures. Looking at the records of people
who lived long
ago, I see a commonality. We all have shared experiences:
we’re all just people trying to live our lives, all over the
5 Questions Plus | Ancestry.com | FamilySearch | Genealogy Industry
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:54:56 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
German Resource Spotlight: The German Genealogy Facebook Group
Posted by Diane
Few can argue that reaching out to other genealogists on social media can be helpful to researchers. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, talks about one particular Facebook group that sees a lot of activity from genealogists with German lineage, the German Genealogy group.
The group, classified as a “closed group” that users can ask to be accepted in, is a typical moderated social media thread. Those approved for the group can post relating to German genealogy—sometimes including historical photos and other times “just for fun” items they’ve found in their research.
The group, boasting more than 15,000 members, describes itself as a forum for “networking with those conducting German genealogical research, in order to provide help and resources to others researching German genealogy.”
Members also use the forum to request transcription and translation help for documents written in German. To do so, users can follow four quick steps provided by the group:
- Post your image with a translation request.
- See which members offer help.
- Contact those members privately and ask if they can assist you further. Give basic details of how much you need translated, etc.
- When you find someone who agrees, send images straight to them one at a time, either by email or by Facebook message.
From looking at the feed on German Genealogy, note that many people jump in when an image of a record is posted and the accuracy of their transcriptions and translations varies, often with an inverse relationship to how certain the individual claims to be. Many people think they’re an expert in the German Genealogy Facebook group, but not everyone’s right about that!
However, it’s an excellent way to crowd-source opinions on a record or document—you just need to be able to sift throughout the many responses you get!
Learn more about how to use social media in your research in James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1.
German roots | Social Networking
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 11:41:05 AM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Six Helpful Genealogy Clues From Census Records
Posted by Diane
That old genealogical staple, census records, might seem ho-hum at
first, but they're full of clues that are important to your
I recently confirmed that my great-great-grandfather's sister as
Mary Theresa Seeger did in fact marry a Herman Henry Kolbeck in
Germany and move to the United States, settling just across the Ohio
River from her brother. (I'll blog more later about how I confirmed
that the two Theresas were the same).
With our Census
Problems and Solutions for Genealogy webinar coming up next
Wednesday, March 30, I wanted to show just a few of the clues
the 1900 census provided about Mary and her family:
I didn't have room to show the entire census. But this census also revealed that the family lived at 109 11th Street
(the address is written along the sides of the pages) and that
Herman, a cigar maker (also the occupation of my
great-great-grandfather, although as far as I can tell, they didn't
work together) had been unemployed for six months of the previous
Both Mary and Herman were born in Germany, as were their parents; the children
still in the household were all born in Kentucky. Both could read
For starters, now I have an alternate name to search with,
naturalization records to find, two children to track down, and an
address to identify the family in city directories. (I already have
the couple's 1873 passenger list and marriage record from Germany, or I'd
add those to the list.)
You miss out on all these clues when you can't find ancestors in the
census, whether it's because their name was misspelled or
misindexed, you can't pick them out among many same-named folks in
your search results, they didn't live where you thought they did,
you're using early censuses that name only heads of households, or
the records you need are missing.
In our Census
Problems and Solutions webinar, board-certified genealogist Paula Stuart-Warren will
take you through the problems that can keep you from finding
ancestors in the census, and show you the most effective strategies
to deal with each one.
The webinar takes place Wednesday, March 30, at 7 p.m. Eastern, and
you can sign
up in ShopFamilyTree.com. Remember, you'll get a PDF copy of
the presentation slides to keep, and access to watch the webinar
again whenever you want.
census records | Webinars
Tuesday, March 22, 2016 3:45:42 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
German Resource Spotlight: Archion.de
Posted by Diane
Everyone searching for German ancestry—both German-Americans and their forebears in Europe—researches church records, as the registers of baptisms, marriages
and death can often replace unavailable or nonexistent civil vital records. These valuable German church records have become more and more accessible as they've been made available in large numbers in the past couple
Archion.de, a new site that will eventually offer scans of most of Germany's Protestant church books, is the standard-bearer of these new resources. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James
M. Beidler, discusses some of this great new site's basics:
Archion.de is run by a non-profit organization
called Kirchenbuchportal, which was established in 2013 by the umbrella
Protestant church (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland) and eleven of its
regional churches. The Evangelische Kirche came about as a union of the
Lutheran and Reformed churches in the Kingdom of Prussia in the early 1800s, and
therefore includes the historical registers of most mainstream Protestant
Archion.de site already has millions of pages digitized. While not all of the
member churches of the Protestant union are participating, those that are
involved have already digitized about a quarter of their church registers; see the map for a listing of which districts have contributed to the project. Digitization is made possible by funds from the regional churches and
subscription fees paid by users, ranging from monthly “passports” that allow a
certain number of register pages to be downloaded to costly
the regional churches have loaded information about parish registers (such as
the dates for which the various types of records exist) even if those registers
have not been digitized yet.
registers that have been digitized are not searchable by name; their individual
pages are “browsable,” though, so you’ll want to have at least a hypothesis (if not
actual evidence) that an ancestor was from a particular parish.
The project continuously digitizes these church registers and will add greater capabilities to its English version this year. Kirchenbuchportal also hopes that additional Protestant
state churches will join the Archion effort. For records not yet digitized, the
Kirchenbuchportal.de site has a list of church archives and contact information.
Check out James M. Beidler's Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1, for more information on how to use this valuable resource. James will also be hosting a one-hour, live webinar on How to Trace Your German Ancestry Online on Mar. 24.
Church records | German roots
Tuesday, March 15, 2016 4:02:58 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)