Hof- und Häusergeschichten: How Farm and Building Histories Can Help Your German Research (Guest Post by Scott Holl)

When it comes to searching for genealogical information, researchers with German ancestry have the advantage of access to many high-quality published secondary sources. Prime among these are Ortssippenbücher (OSBs), which I described in the June 2019 issue of the SK Translations newsletter. Hofgeschichten and Häuschergeschichten are additional sources that can provide valuable information about your ancestor.

Hofgeschichten are farm histories (Hof means farm). Häuschergeschichten are building histories (Haus means house but can refer generally to a building). Both types of publications pertain to a specific village or town and include chronologies of each property in the community listing a succession of occupants. Häusergeschichten, as the name suggests, usually include a construction history of the property, although Hofgeschichten can also include this type of information.

For the most part, the succession lists (Höfefolgen or Bestizerfolgen) pertain to tenants, as property ownership was usually impossible for common people until the late 18th to mid-19th centuries. Leases were heritable depending on the area of Germany, making it feasible for a family to occupy a property over many generations. This feature can make the lists useful for connecting generations.

Data is commonly extracted from tithe and tax records and may be supplemented by genealogical information from church records. Non-German speakers should be able to decipher the information in the lists if they can identify common words and abbreviations.

The chronological lists usually appear in the context of a broader local history that can help researchers ground their ancestral research in the larger historical and social context. Information can include historical development of the community, descriptions of churches and other important institutions, lists of war casualties, information about emigrants from the village, and maps and photographs. Researchers who do not read German may want to consult a translator in order to glean this information.

Example: Oberpreuschwitz

A farm history for the village of Oberpreuschwitz near Bayreuth, Bavaria was written by Ernst Wiedemann and published in Archiv für Geschichte von Oberfranken, Band 47 (1967) (Bayreuth: Historischer Verein für Oberfranken), pp. 7–110 under the title, “Hofgeschichte der Gemeinde Oberpreuschwitz, Kreis Bayreuth”.

The Hofgeschichte for Oberpreuschwitz begins with narrative sections outlining the historic development of the community through its land divisions among various landholders, and descriptions of the boundaries, characteristics, and ownership of the fields related to each house number.

This Flurkarte (field map) from the Oberpreuschwitz Hofgeschichte shows the village in the center surrounded by fields associated with the community in 1682. The different shadings refer to the key below the map that indicates ownership. Text in the article give physical descriptions of the fields, which are referred to by the number on the map, and notes which farms are associated with them.

The main section features the Besitzerfolge, a farm-by-farm chronological listing of successive occupants. The article also includes a Hofgeschichte of the neighboring hamlet of Unterpreuschwitz. The chronologies are followed by lists of sources used, a table summarizing tax-list data, and a name index.

The following chronology appears on pp. 55–56.

 

 

TRANSLATION:

House No. 17, a manor, together with House No. 20.

1596 Peter Jeger and his son-in-law, Hans Neukam, a forest worker.
1620 Cunz Graßinger, subsequently Forkenhof
1620 Hans Hacker, mentioned since 1618 (still unmarried), died 1646.
1646 Hans Hacker’s widow, buried 16 Nov. 1678, 80 years old.
(1662) Hans Hacker, the son, buried 24 Oct. 1700, 73 years old; married on 26 Oct. 1660 to Margaret, widow of Hans Walther in Donndorf and daughter of Hans Ritter in Simmelbuch, buried on 19 May, 1699, 62 years old.
1700 Hans Hacker, birth name Seeser, baptized on 24 Oct 1670, buried on 1 Aug. 1704, married on 23 Nov. 1696 to Barbara Popp from Eckersdorf, buried on 18 Feb 1731, 60 years old. Second marriage on 26 Jan. 1706 to:
1706 Hans Roder from Vorlahm, born 6 Dec. 1677, buried 11 July 1713.
1714 Third marriage (of Barbara Popp) on 13 Nov. 1714 to Nicolaus Tressendörfer from Eckersdorf, born 21 Feb. 1683, buried 10. Feb. 1731.
First half
1731 Johann Hacker, the son [of Hans Hacker and Barbara Popp], see House Nr. 20

The other half
1731 Hans Roder, the son [of Hans Roder and Barbara Popp], born on 17 April 1707, died on 4 May 1761, married on 12 Nov. 1731 to Anna, daughter of Hans Rieß in Dörnhof, born on 23 April 1716, died on 11 April 1778.
1772 Lorenz Roder, the son, born 1 July 1745, died 20 July 1811, married on 2 June 1776 to Anna Neukam from Dörnhof, died 12 July 1825, 74 years and five months old.
1811 Margareth Roder, the daughter, born on 20 May 1784, died on 20 Jan. 1829, married on 13 May 1802 to Leonhard Holl from Oberwaiz, born on 10 June 1782, died on 25 Feb. 1862.
1844 Johann Holl, the son, born 6 July 1818, died 1 Feb. 1886, married on 13 May 1845 to Anna Barbara, daughter of Adam Hacker, born 19 July 1821, died on 24 June 1893.
1889 Konrad Holl, the son, born 13 July 1864, died 17 June 1921, married 1 July 1890 to Kunigund Margaret, daughter of Konrad Kirschner in Melkendorf, born 10 July 1871, died 9 Feb. 1953.
1928 Adam Holl, the son, married on 5 Jan. 1938 to Margaret Körber from Unterpreuschwitz.

 

ANALYSIS:

This example shows that the farm at House No. 17 had been occupied by the Hacker family beginning in 1620. In 1700, Hans Hacker became the occupant. When he died in 1704, his widow, Barbara, married two more times, first to Hans Roder in 1706 and, after his death, to Nicolaus Tressendörfer. Both Barbara and her third husband died in 1731. The property was then divided between Johann Hacker, a son from her first marriage, and Hans Roder, a son from her second marriage. The property was split so that both sons could inherit tenancy. Johann Hacker occupied one section of the property, which was designated as House No. 20, and whose chronology continues in a separate list. In 1811, Margaret Roder inherited the property. She married Leonhard Holl in 1802, and the property continued in the possession of the Holl family until the end of at least 1928, when the list ends. A footnote next to Leonard Holl’s name on the bottom of page 55 in this example lists his direct ancestors back to Hans Holl, Sr., who was born about 1588.

Tables in the Oberpreuschwitz Hofgeschichte list farms with their obligations at different periods. In 1499, house nos. 17 and 20 had the status of half of a manor and that occupants owed 26-1/2 days of labor to the margravial landlord per year. By 1682, that increased to 70-1/2 days per year. In 1812, land reforms gave financial support to farmers to buy their properties outright. In 1854, the Holl family in house no. 17 owed 35 days of labor in the community fields and 13 days in the communal forests. Communal rights equaled ½, and they were to harvest four cords of wood from the communal forest.
 

 

This map from the Oberpreuschwitz Hofgeschichte shows the property associated with house nos. 17 and 20 (pink highlight added by author). The key below the map shows that the farm was a margravial property.

 

FINDING HOF– AND HÄUSERGESCHICHTEN

Some Hof- and Häusergeschichten are stand-alone publications, but many are included in histories of the local community. Look for books in which the village name is the title and words such as Geschichte, Chronik, Hofgeschichte, Hausgeschichte, Höfe, Häuser, and Heimatkunde (local history). The following are examples of titles:

  • Häuserchronik Braschstadt
  • Häusergeschichte Kirchberg bei Simbach am Inn
  • Häuser und Höfe von Paitzdorf und Mennsdorf
  • 500 Jahre Haus- und Hofgeschichte von Bobing
  • Holzgünz: Heimatkundliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der Ortsteile Ober- und Unterholzgünz

 

The Haus- und Hofchronik for Holzgünz, a village in the Swabian region of Bavaria, is very different in format and content from the Oberpreuschwitz Hofgeschichte.  It offers historical information about building construction and alterations, including photographs, and floor plans, as in this example. Narrative sections within the building histories describe the circumstances of occupant succession. Occupants are listed with birth and marriage dates. The Haus- und Hofchronik was published as part of a more extensive local history. (Hermann Immerz, Holzgünz: Heimakundliche Beiträge zur Geschichte der Ortsteile Ober- und Unterholzgünz, Kempten: Heimatbund Allgäu e. V. Kempten, 1998).

Hof- and Häusergeschichten also appear as articles in journals published by genealogical and historical societies in Germany.

The St. Louis County Library History & Genealogy Department actively collects these and other sources for German research. Search the library’s catalog at https://webpac.slcl.org/ or contact the History & Genealogy Department at genealogy@slcl.org. Other libraries with sizable German research collections may also have them, and they are usually listed in WorldCat. Many are available for sale at abebooks.com and other online book sellers, as well.

Locating Hof- and Häusergeschichten for a village or town and interpreting the information in them can be a challenge, but the results can yield and substantial amount of genealogical data pertaining to your ancestor and valuable historical and cultural information to add to your family’s history.

 

Scott Holl is manager of History & Genealogy at St. Louis County Library in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a BA in German from Fort Hays State University, an MA in Theology from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and an MLIS from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.

A Visit With Grandma is Worth More Than You Think – Here’s Why (Guest Post by India Young)

When’s the last time you called your grandma?

Maya Angelou once said, “The more you know of your history, the more liberated you are.”

While studying history at the University of Utah about five years ago, I happened upon an article in The New York Times that changed my life. It not only reaffirmed my belief in the value of history, but also redirected my course of study within the field as a whole.

Families may want to create a mission statement similar to the ones many companies use to identify their core values.
The Family Stories That Bind Us, New York Times, 2013

Entitled The Family Stories That Bind Us, this article provides scientific insight on the connection between doing one’s own family history and an increased capacity to develop resiliency in the face of opposition, specifically in the case of adolescent youth. In discussion of a study conducted at Emery University in the United States, this article concludes that:

The more children know about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned.

Grandma, Grandson, Generations, Love, Hold Tight

What an insightful discovery! Having grown up in a society bursting at the seems with childhood mental illnesses such as depression, ADHD, ADD, bipolar disorder, and anxiety, I can affirm that the cry for psychological stability is literally everywhere. Perhaps this is one way in which history, and more specifically our own personal history, can have real, tangible benefits in the lives of everyday people, children and adults alike.

How This Discovery Opened My Eyes…

After graduation, I began interviewing the elderly in my community. I listened to and recorded their life stories, and then made videos of their stories for their posterity to keep. The results were pretty incredible. My eyes were opened from behind the lens as I left each interview feeling inspired, strengthened and connected to something so much greater than myself. Their grit and tenacity, coupled with a greater perspective of life as a whole, changed me for the better.

It’s Bigger Than Me…

While I’d happily keep doing these 1-on-1 interviews for the rest of my days, I think that this is something bigger than just me. I believe with all my heart that every child, teenager and young adult need to have the experience of sitting with and really listening to someone much older and wiser than them.

I’ve come up with a way to make it easy and fun for young people to do just this; to interview and record their elderly relatives telling stories from their lives. (More on that here if you’re curious..). However, while COVID-19 is still a grave concern right now, I know we can’t physically visit our elderly loved ones in their homes. So! In the interim I’m instead encouraging  *virtual visiting* of the elders in our communities!

My Challenge to You…

This week I challenge you or your kids to do a video-chat with someone in your life who could use a visit today. This could be a grandma, grandpa, a neighbor, or a family friend. Pick up the phone and FaceTime or Skype or Facebook video chat with them and just SEE the magic as they light up at the sight of your face. It will mean the world to them, and here’s the secret, it will mean the world to you, too.

And, if you need a little help to get the conversation rolling and keep it interesting, I wrote an ebook called Grandparent Chats a few months ago when quarantine began. It’s a collection of 10 curated questionnaires with the two-fold goal of:

-lifting the spirits of the elderly by engaging with them on a regular basis, and;

-inspiring youth to see personal value in the lessons our elders have to share.

The questions cover themes like ancestry, career, love & relationships, and spirituality. I’ve included a link to download the first Grandparent Chat for free here, if you’re interested!

In a society so focused on ‘having more’ and ‘being more,’ perhaps one way to thrive today is to better understand how we fit within history as a whole. Maybe one key to knowing how to best move forwards with purpose and confidence is to lean on the lessons of the past to provide guidance and context. I love these words written by historian Frank Harper nearly 9 decades ago in 1936:

While the outside is altered, the heart of life is unaltered.

We are, after all, a sum of many parts, and perhaps so much of that which has come before us actually does reside in who we really are.

Happy chatting!

References:

“The Family Stories That Bind Us.” The New York Times

Hi, I’m India – a new mom, fitness junkie and avid family historian. I believe that history gives us context, and I fear that in the midst of today’s fast paced world, we don’t take the time to appreciate the valuable lessons our elders have to share. My husband and I launched my passion project, Narrativo, in late 2019. We promote bonding between generations while giving families a way to preserve their stories with lifelike quality at a reasonable price. We strive each day to help young people find strength in the stories of the past, feel a sense of belonging in a greater human context, and to develop and intergenerational self. Check us out at www.narrativo.co!

How German City Directories Helped Me Find My Great-Grandfather (Guest Post by Garth Wunsch)

Have you hit a brick wall? Is your one German ancestor giving you more trouble than you could ever have imagined? Luckily, there’s another source available – one you might never have considered. Thank you to Garth Wunsch for sharing his journey of using these fantastic sources with us! 

Berlin City Directory

How German City Directories Helped Me Find my Great-Grandfather

I’m seventy-five years old, which I seldom think about, but today is still the first day of the best half of my life… and at the rate my genealogical research is going, I may well need that next three score and ten… well actually, fifteen, to solve all the riddles my family history has posed.

Genealogy is strictly a hobby, so no professional letters after my name, no book credits, no public speaking… and in fact this is the first published article I’ve written outside my own genealogical society in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.  So this is an amateur’s story using “ancient” city directories (German: Adressbücher) from Eastern and Western Europe. I was amazed at what they have to offer…

It all started with Grandma…

My interest in our family history began with a Q & A between my paternal grandmother and myself. Grandma was doing her usual thing… working at something or other around the giant flat-topped Findlay cook stove, the heartbeat of the home in pre-electricity Anywhere. Although that encounter was well over forty years ago, I still have the original notes I scribbled with a red pencil on buff newsprint!

Fast forward four decades…I’m attending one of our monthly genealogical meetings, and I come across a magazine left behind for us by another member. The feature article, on using the World Wide Web to research your German roots, included a website that I hadn’t seen before. I decided to check it out – and was very glad I did. 

A Trip Back in time…

Once at the computer, I type in the link, and find myself inside thousands of pages of old German Fraktur text. I was, in effect, looking through pages and pages of digitized city directories spanning many decades of Berlin’s residents. In addition to names, these directories included: 

  • People’s addresses
  • Who else lived in the building
  • People’s occupations
  • Double-index between name and address for businesses and individuals

WOW! 

Could my great-grandfather Adolph be somewhere in these historical pages?

To access these Berlin city directories yourself:

1. Go to https://digital.zlb.de/viewer/index/
2. Click on the telephone and address book image. 
3. Click on the little German flag at the top right, and it will switch to the British flag – and English text (no need to do this if you are fluent in German). 
 
For other address books besides Berlin, simply Google “Adressbuch + your ancestor’s city” and see what comes up!

on the trail of my great-grandfather…

In 1900, the population of Berlin was 1,888,848 – a lot of names to go through! Luckily, the directory only listed the “heads of households”, so this narrowed down the search a bit at least…

From my Q&A with grandma forty years before, I knew that Adolph (the name he went by – and the only name I had for him) was a baker by trade, that he lived in Berlin, and eventually married the young Fräulein that delivered the baked goods every morning – the baker’s maid.

Sample Page of Berlin City Directory

In the surname section, I began my painstaking struggle with the text, looking for our last name of Wunsch. I searched through the W’s, moving 50 pages at a time, until at last I landed in approximately the right spot.

But suddenly, those upper case W’s looked like fancy English M’s to me! Perusing page after page of Fraktur font had “fraktured” my brain and I had trouble remembering W’s looked so different! Because of that, I actually skipped past the name Wunsch on my first go. It appeared to my English brain as Munich. I was confused, how did I end up back in the M’s? 

Then it dawned on me – again – hey silly, this is Fraktur and that is a W. So back I go, looking for that Fraktur Wunsch,  and there it was!

I Found the last name, now what?

While the city directory is organized alphabetically by surname, under the surname, there are no rules. It appears they were just typeset in random order . So how to find Adolph?

Luckily, I only had six A. Wunschs’ to choose from. One was a female with her married name. (Useful tip… if a female is listed, she’s likely a widow, and you get her married name too). That narrowed my search down to five.

Recall I mentioned that occupations were listed in these records? There was a miller and and a cigarette maker… and my German isn’t good enough to figure out the rest… but thanks to Google Translate, I knew that “baker” was Bäcker. To my great good fortune, of the five names listed, there was only one Bäcker. I had him!

Wunsch, W.A., Bäcker (baker)

And the best part…

Based on the “A’, the last name, the location, and occupation, it had to be him, but what was that W before the A? I called up Gerry Rosenfeld, my German-speaking friend and a fellow researcher, to share my great discovery.  Gerry had an Ancestry subscription, so off he went, and in twenty minutes called back with info on Wilhelm Adolph Wunsch. Everything matched with my great-grandfather, especially his birthdate! 

Discovering this W was crucial to my future research – I could now use the name Wilhelm Adolph Wunsch to find more information on my great-grandfather (For more information on German names, see here). 

And find it I did! Knowing his name was Wilhelm Adolph Wunsch allowed me to find his long-sought marriage certificate below:

I trust this little story will encourage you to keep up your search and find your own German ancestors!

In conclusion:

1. City directories can provide you with the name, address, occupation, housemates, and business information of your German ancestor.

2. To access city directories, either use this link for the Berlin directories or type in the German word “Adressbuch + city name” to see if you can find your town’s address book. 

3. The first names may be in random order under the alphabetized surname. Knowing the names are in random order is useful to remember if you happen to be searching a really long surname list, such as Schimidt. You just never know where your Schmidt is on the list…never give up!

4. Keeping a discovery journal as you make your great genealogy finds may be very helpful for future research (for yourself and other family members). 

Good hunting!

Related Links: How German Address Books at Ancestry.com Are Helping Bust Brick Walls 

Garth Wunsch:
Born on a farm in 1944 in Mattawa, Ontario,  I was raised in the mining village of Creighton Mine, now a ghost town, but technically part of the City of Greater Sudbury. The town consisted almost entirely of first and second generation European immigrants, so at an early age I developed an ear and love for those languages, which has proven valuable in my genealogical pursuits. In 2015 I was able to make a successful research and vacation trip to Poland, my paternal ancestral home.
 
I’ve been a member of the Sudbury branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, recently rebranded Ontario Ancestors, for about four decades. In that time I’ve been responsible for streamlining our cemetery transcription and publishing process, thus helping to greatly enlarge our database (and income). I also spearheaded the copying, indexing and publishing the employment records of about fourteen thousand employees of the Mond Nickel Company, the primary miner in the Sudbury Mining Camp from 1905 – 1928. Ancillary to all this is my ongoing support of the branch as an active photographer/memory keeper.

How to Use Google Drive For Your Genealogy Research: 7 Questions with Expert Lianne Kruger

Thank you to Lianne for this guest post and sharing her expertise with us. For more information on Lianne, see her bio below, or check out her blog here: iFamilyHistory.blogspot.ca.

1. How Can Google Drive Help With My Genealogy?

  • Back-Up: All of your important genealogy files (such as documents, photos, and letters) should be in three locations: your computer, a USB drive, and somewhere online (that way, if something happens to one, you haven’t lost all your valuable documents!). Google Drive is a good location for the online component.
  • Global Access: Google Drive allows you to access your genealogy files from anywhere, on any device, as long as you have an internet connection.
  • Sharing: Google Drive allows you to share your genealogy files and photos with family members. You can give your family the ability to add information to the documents themselves, or simply just view them if you prefer to maintain control yourself.

2. How Do I Access Google Drive?

  1. If you have a Google e-mail, you already have Google Drive. If you don’t have one yet, you can easily create one here.
  2. Once your Google e-mail is set up, open your web browser.
    1. Type in Google.com.
    2. Log in to Google using the username and password setup when you created the account. Do not use the full Google email.
    3. In the top right of the page are 9 dots. This is a menu.
      Click on the dots.
    4. Select Google Drive.

3. How Do I Create a New Genealogy File in Google Drive?

If you want to write something within Google Drive, such as a family history or research log, take the following steps:

  1. From the main menu of Google Drive, click + New.

2. Select the program you want to use. For genealogical purposes, Google Docs is great for writing your family history, and Google Sheets is helpful if you are creating an inventory list or a research log. (If the program you want is not on the first list, simply click More, as shown in the image above).

3. Type your new document title at the top left of the screen.

4. Start writing down your genealogical data. Your document will be automatically saved every few minutes.

4. How Do I Upload Genealogy Files That Are Already On My Computer?

Some of your genealogy files may already be stored on your computer. You can easily upload these from your computer to your Google Drive by following the steps below:

1. Click New.

2. Click File upload.

3. Find the file on your computer and click upload. It will then be saved on your drive.

5. How Do I Create a Folder to Group Certain Genealogy Documents Together?

If you are working with multiple lines, it may be nice to group certain documents together in one place. To do so:

  1. Click New.

2. Click Folder.

3. The following window will then appear:

4. Type in the name for the folder.

(This name might be a last name for a specific line or a certain location, depending on what you are going to store and how you are grouping your items).

5. Click Create.

6. I’ve Uploaded Many Genealogy Documents. How Do I View All My Saved Files and Folders on Google Drive?

There are two ways to view files and folders: the view list and the grid list.

This is a view list:

This is a grid list:

You can choose which option works best for you.

Google Drive will also show you a “Recent List”. This is found above the grid or list views.

If you don’t like the recent list at the top, you can remove it by taking the following steps:

  1. Click on the gear icon in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Make sure General is selected on the left.
  4. Scroll down (bar on the right) until you can see the section Suggestions.
  5. Click inside the box to remove the check mark for “Make relevant files handy when you need them in Quick Access.”

The Quick Access section will now no longer appear at the top.

You can still view this list at anytime after closing the list at the top with the following steps:

  1. On the main menu on the left, click Recent.

Recent files are listed in date categories such as Last week, Earlier this month, and Earlier this year.

7. Is It Possible to Search For A File By Name or Subject Matter?

Yes, it is. To find a file in your Google Drive:

  1. Click in the
    Search box at the top of the screen.

2. Type in the name of a file or a phrase inside the file that you are looking for.

3. A list of files that have the text as a title or text inside that file will appear.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Google Drive can be extremely helpful for your genealogy research. In addition to giving you peace of mind with back-up options for your files, you can also easily share letters, photos, census records, newspaper clippings and more with your family and friends. Best yet, you can also access them yourself at any library, archive, or any place of your choosing.

Do you use Google Drive? Any tips for other users? Let us know in the comments!

Lianne began doing genealogy as a youth with family at graveyards, then as a teenager with a list of names in front of a microfilm reader on Saturdays at a Family History Library. At college she began researching her paternal grandmother’s line researching back to the first European landowners of Canada.

Lianne taught genealogical courses five years at LDS Institute in Ogden, Utah. She has spoken at genealogical conferences and sessions for RootsTech, Ontario Genealogical Society, The Genealogy Show (UK), FamilyRoots, Saskatchewan, and variety of locations in Alberta. Lianne has articles published by BYU Studies Quarterly magazine, FamilySearch.org, SK Translation, AGS Relatively Speaking and Tree Climber. 

She has done webinars for The Surname Society, Virtual Genealogical Society, Red Deer Family History Fair, and a panelist for Looking 4 Ancestors.

She was President of Red Deer branch of Alberta Genealogical Society (AGS) for two years and Vice President of AGS for six years. She is now on the Ancestry.ca advisory committee and a member of the mitoYDNA board.

Lianne’s blog is iFamilyHistory.blogspot.ca.

Check out Lianne’s other popular guest post: How to Use Social Media in Your German Genealogy Research

Three Tried and True Ways to Inspire Children to Love Family History (Guest Post by Shenley Puterbaugh)

Getting children excited about family history may sound intimidating, but the benefits they can experience from knowing their family history are worth every effort. Knowing family stories has been proven to result in higher self-esteem, resilience, a sense of place and security, a strong sense of control, lower levels of behavioral problems, and more successful family function (studies done by University of Wisconsin, Princeton University, and Emory University).

But how can we help children experience these benefits? According to Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch, our goal should be to help them “have a small discovery experience that invokes emotion…that’s what is going to spread…Discovery brings the spirit and emotion to it” (Trent Toone, “5 Questions with FamilySearch CEO Steve Rockwood,” Deseret News, 1 Mar. 2018).

This discovery experience will help inspire children to love family history themselves. So what should you consider when deciding what kind of discovery experience to create for your child or grandchild?

1. Age

Try to remember what it was like to be their age. Make it fun and unique to them. Traveling to cemeteries and churches may not interest young children and may even bore them but a bedtime story would engage them and ingrain the stories of their ancestors into their minds. In contrast, adults may not get as much excitement out of a picture-matching game as they would attending or planning an ancestor night or planning and going on a trip to the homeland of their ancestors.

2. Interests

Do they like acting, drawing, cooking, organizing? Do they find maps interesting or do they enjoy music? Let their interests guide you.

3. Learning Style

We all have different ways that we learn best. The three learning styles are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Consider the individual learning style of your child and choose any idea that will cater to that style. Some children will gravitate toward hands-on games and projects, and others will lean toward reading books about the time period ancestors lived.

Once you have thought about these three key factors, you are ready to choose an idea and inspire! Here are three fun ideas to inspire your children or grandchildren to love family history!

1. Generations Project

Let the child choose an ancestor to connect with. Think together about what you know about him or her. Where did they live? What did they do for a profession or hobby? What skills did they have? What traditions did they have? What did they eat?  

Once you have learned this information about your ancestor, choose a project such as:

  • Learn something or do something that they did such as fishing, using a washboard, knitting, gardening, going to an opera, or having a picnic in the mountains.
  • Visit a place they lived or frequented such as a lake, the ocean, or a park.
  • Do one of their traditions.
  • Make one of their recipes.

Children can consider what their ancestor may have thought during the activity— for example, did they find the activity difficult or relaxing? Was the place beautiful in their eyes? Was the recipe delicious?

2. Create an Ancestor Playlist

Psychologist Jill Suttie said, “Listening to music and singing together has been shown in several studies to directly impact neuro-chemicals in the brain, many of which play a role in closeness and connection… Playing music or singing together may be particularly potent in bringing about social closeness through the release of endorphins” (“How Music Bonds Us Together,” Greater Good Magazine, June 2016).

By listening to music your ancestors listened to and loved, these connections can even cross generations! Make a playlist of songs your ancestors might have enjoyed. You may be able to ask living relatives about the music that their parents and grandparents listened to. They may know specific songs or they may just remember a genre of music.

If there aren’t any living relatives to ask, then you can find out what music was popular during the time period and in the location of your ancestors. After you have the playlist together, listen to it in the car or at home and talk about the ancestors who liked those songs as they come on. No matter what the children think of the music, they will connect with their ancestor in a new way. 

3. Play Games

“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning” (Diane Ackerman). There are so many games you can play to help children connect to their ancestors. Make a trivia game with fun facts about ancestors. This can be done in the form of Jeopardy, Trivial Pursuit, and Bingo. You can also make card games with the photos of ancestors and play games such as Go Fish and Memory. Make the difficulty level age appropriate. These games will make learning about ancestors fun and engaging!

For more ideas, visit inspirefamilyhistory.com. Like and follow “inspirefamilyhistory” on Facebook and Instagram for regular ideas and resources.

Shenley was inspired to love family history when her mom told her stories and helped her diagram her family tree when she was a child. For the past 16 years, she has spent many hours researching, interviewing relatives, digging through old boxes and records, and sharing what she has learned with others. While homeschooling their three children, Shenley and her husband, Brett, incorporate family history as much as possible. She has taught family history classes to children, youth, and adults, and strives to inspire her family, friends, and  everyone to love family history. Besides doing family history, Shenley enjoys going to the mountains, playing tennis, baking, reading, and traveling.

How to Use Social Media in Your German Genealogy Research (Guest Post by Lianne Kruger)

This article shares ways to use different platforms of social media for your genealogical research in Germany. As social media and websites change constantly, I have included the steps you will need to find new items. We will discuss Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. 

The advantages of using social media for genealogical research in Germany include:

  • Being able to talk to people who live in the area
  • Being able to access current information
  • It’s free!

Tree, Structure, Networks, Internet, Network, Social

1. Facebook

It would be nice if we could be members of all the genealogical societies where our families lived. Most of us, however, can not afford that.

Enter Facebook – the next best thing.  These groups are available through the popular social media platform, which includes many pages which can help you in your German genealogy.

To find these groups:

  1. Click inside the search bar at the top left side of the Facebook page.

 

 

2. Type in German Genealogy.

A list of Facebook pages then appears, which includes three different categories:

  1. Lists of relevant groups
  2. Articles that mention your search items
  3. Facebook posts by those you are friends with who mentioned your search items

Groups

Below are a couple of descriptions of German genealogy groups:

German Genealogy Group

“Join us and discover that family research is the most interesting and rewarding hobby that will enable you to discover your past and preserve your heritage for future generations. Be a part of the fastest growing hobby today!”

International German Genealogy Partnership

“The International German Genealogy Partnership’s mission is to facilitate German genealogy research globally as the internationally recognized federation of German genealogy organizations. Lists session on German genealogy”

Click on the + Join button to become part of a group, receive notifications of posts made in the group, and have the ability to add posts yourself. You will also be able to talk to others trying to research their family.

Many groups will ask you to answer two or three questions before they allow you to join their group. They want to make sure that you are actually interested in their topic. Do not be offended. This helps to keep the posts centered on the topic.

Articles

These Facebook articles link to a blog post for each group or person.

Click on an article not just to read the article, but to get to know the blog itself.

Follow the blog if you like the article(s) so you will get an email when new articles are posted.

Pages

This last search list shows Facebook pages that are open to everyone that you can like. Once you click like, their posts will appear on your newsfeed stream.

Add comments and ask questions to posts in groups or to the regular pages. Get to know these people. Help others and get help from throughout the entire world.

Searching Locations

You can also search for the town your family is from in the Facebook search bar. Not only will genealogy groups appear, but history groups and chamber of commerce type pages will show up as well. Like these pages. They will help you with the family history part of your research. You might even find cousins who still live in your ancestral hometown!

 

2. Twitter

Twitter allows you to chat with others all over the world. Follow fellow genealogists and those specifically researching or who know about the topics or areas of the world you want to research. Read the tweets. Many tweets will have links to their blogs with posts on the subject, such as German genealogy. The following list appeared today when I searched German genealogy.

If I wasn’t following these people already, then the “Following” button would say “Follow”. Click on the Follow button to have their tweets appear on your feed. Ask questions and make comments to engage with others in the genealogy field.

@GenChatDE

This genealogy chat meets together on Twitter for an hour on the second Wednesday of each month. Questions are asked on a specific German genealogy topics. Other questions can also be asked, and answers are given by anyone who wants to answer. You may contribute or ask questions on the topic or related items. Their twitter page is https://twitter.com/GenchatDe

To connect and see past tweets, search for the hashtag #GenChatDE.

Get to know people on Twitter from the areas of your ancestors. They could be a relative!

 

3. Pinterest

Pinterest is a platform where anyone can create “pins” related to any topic. Imagine it like a giant bulletin board where you save your favorite items. Effective pins have a link to a website or blog post where more information can be obtained.

To find pins on a specific topic, type the subject, such as German Genealogy, in the Pinterest search bar.

A list of pins appears. A different list appears if you type in German Genealogical Research and another list if you type in German Genealogy Research – so try out different searches and see what works best for you. If you are looking for maps of Germany, add that phrase to the search. If you want a specific city, add it to the search. 

 

Save

If there is a pin you like:

  1. Move your mouse over the pin
  2. Click on the Save
  3. Select a board to save it to.

This pin is now filed for you for later reference.

Go directly to website

  1. Move your mouse over a pin.
  2. Click on the black bar with the name of the person who posted the pin.

               This opens the link in a new browser tab.

Pin

Click on the pin to open it. The following appears with the pin on the left and more information on the right. You can hit the Save from here if you would like.

Follow

The person who posted this pin was Legacy Tree Genealogists. There is a Follow bottom to the right of their name. If you click the follow button here, you will follow all of their posts from all of their boards – just make sure you check out their boards and like what they post before you follow.

To view all of their boards, click on their name instead of the Follow button. All of their boards will then appear, as shown below. Review their boards. If you like what you see, then click Follow at the top. If there are some boards you do not want to follow, the simply click Follow beside the boards that you like, and you will only follow those.  

 

4. YouTube

YouTube has videos on “how to’s” for everything and can be a great resource for genealogy. And not just for Germany – for all aspects of genealogical research.

At the top of the screen is a search bar.

In the search bar type in German Genealogical Research or German Genealogy Research.

Videos that meet that criteria will appear. Below is the list that I saw today. However, with more videos uploaded daily, this list will constantly change. 

 

Watch later

After searching for a topic, a list of videos will then appear. If these look like videos you would like to watch, and you want to make sure you don’t lose them, then mark them as Watch Later by taking the following steps:

  1. Move your mouse over the video.

A clock will appear in the top right corner.

  1. Click on the clock.

The clock changes to a checkmark.

The video is now on your Watch Later list.

The watch list appears on the left menu of your YouTube page, as shown below.

#Hashtags

Check the bottom of videos that have content you like. Some videos have hashtags. If the hashtag matches a subject you find interesting, click on it. A list of videos with the same hashtag will appear (if there are any, otherwise it will just lists random videos).

Use these social media strategies to supplement your genealogy research, and you will be amazed at the doors opened for you. Do you have any more strategies? Let us know in the comments!

LKruger Genealogy.jpg

From microfilm and a list of names as a teenager to researching her paternal grandmother’s line back to the first white landowners of Canada, Lianne loves to share her knowledge, experience, and love for genealogy and technology. She has published articles and spoken at conferences in Ontario, England, Saskatchewan, multiple locations in Alberta, and Utah including RootsTech.

 

 

Follow Katherine Schober on the following social media platforms for more German genealogy tips!

Facebook: @SKtranslationservices

Twitter: @SK_Translations

Pinterest: Katherine Schober, SK Translations

Instagram: @katherineschober

YouTube: Katherine Schober

 

 

Being Genetically German: Understanding the DNA Tests (Guest Post by DNA Expert Diahan Southard)

Good news: It is getting easier to be genetically German.

In 2007, 23andMe released the first commercial DNA test that could report on the origins of our ancestors on both sides of our family. At that time, they could break down your ancestry into just three categories: European, African, and Asian. And we were impressed. We were excited to get our hands on a technology that could see into our past and report information that may not have been previously known.

But now that DNA testing for origin information has become somewhat commonplace, we would scoff at a company who could provide so little information. That’s largely due to the fact that since 2007, our DNA testing companies have been setting aside significant resources towards improving their offering to give us more insight into our origins – and it’s working. 23andMe now boasts 175 population groups, a far cry from their original three. Even Family Tree DNA, who has the fewest population groups of the five major genetic genealogy companies, can break up the world into 24 pieces.

Where Does This Growth Come From?

Most of this growth comes in the form of companies increasing their reference populations. Reference populations are the groups of people the company is comparing you against. For example, when MyHeritage aimed to join the world of DNA testing, they turned to their vast customer base and their family trees and identified what they call their “Founder Populations”. These are individuals who have all four grandparents living in close proximity to each other.

Once identified, the DNA of these people is scanned for the unique DNA code that reflects their places of origin. Other DNA testing companies are following suit, gathering data from their own databases to help build their reference populations. Other strategies are to go out into the world and collect DNA from populations that are currently underrepresented. This has been a strategy of the company LivingDNA , as they have formed partnerships with other groups in order to build better reference populations.

Once a reference population has been selected and the DNA tested, it seems like it would be relatively easy to identify DNA that is specifically German, and then look for that same bit of DNA in anyone who was tested. Unfortunately, the process is much more complicated than that, especially when it comes to German DNA.

Why is German DNA Complicated?

Part of what makes genetically distinguishing a German from a Frenchman or an Englishmen is the simple fact that Germany is a very young distinction, culturally and geographically speaking. The area has long been a crossroads of cultures and people and therefore very difficult to pin down. In fact, out of our five major genetic genealogy testing companies (23andMe, AncestryDNA, Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage DNA, and Living DNA) you CAN’T be genetically German at either Family Tree DNA or MyHeritage. So even if you are 100% German, testing at either of these companies will only place you in a broad Northwest European category at best, or assign you to a similar region like Britain, possibly leaving you with the impression that this DNA stuff doesn’t actually work. At the other three companies, the way they are reporting German differs, so let’s explore each one in more detail.

23andMe

The official category at 23andMe is called French and German, so even then, they are hedging their bets. Of this category, 23andMe says, “This dataset includes people of Austrian, French, German, Belgian, Dutch, or Swiss ancestry. At this time, this dataset cannot be broken down further because the people in those regions mixed through history or have shared history, or we might not have had enough data to tell them apart. As we obtain more data, populations will become easier to distinguish, and we will be able to report on more populations in the Ancestry Composition Report.”

Despite this, you can still dig deeper into that category to find that they are attempting to further break down Germany into its 16 administrative regions by telling you which region(s) your DNA most likely fits into. In the image below, you can see that they have placed my mother in the Baden-Wurttemberg and Brandenburg categories. I know from our family history that she did in fact have ancestors in Baden-Wurttemberg. 


23andMe DNA Report

AncestryDNA

While Ancestry does have a specific German category, the real power is not in being assigned to the large region of Germany, but to their Genetic Communities. These communities are not based on reference populations, but on DNA matching. Because of this different technology, these categories are highly accurate. In the image below,  you can see my mother has been placed in the very specific Alsace-Lorraine & North Dakota category, which is exactly where her 3X great grandparents were born and where their descendants emigrated.

Ancestry DNA Report 

It is actually a bit mind-boggling that her DNA can determine something so specific about her ancestry. Remember, membership in this community is entirely depended on her DNA, not on her family history.

AncestryDNA has 12 Genetic Communities representing different migration paths into the United States and other parts of Europe. 

Ancestry DNA Reports

Living DNA

Living DNA currently breaks up England into 21 different categories, and their goal is to do that all over the world. They are neck-deep in their German project, which may not boast as many categories as their western neighbors, but still hopes to have significant improvements over their current offering. They do have a portion of this research almost ready, and I was able to run my mother’s sample through their new German dataset. In the old estimate, they didn’t really have a way to talk about German origins, but with the new data, my mom is 43.6% German, likely nearly spot on to what she should be. 

Living DNA Report

As time moves on and the databases grow, all of our companies will be improving their offerings, allowing us even greater resolution when it comes to our DNA and our origins. But of course, the best way to determine if you are genetically German is just to do genealogy! Finding the paper trail that leads back to your ancestor is still the very best way to explore your German heritage.

Have you had your DNA tested? What percent German are you?

About the Author

Frustrated with your genealogy research? Diahan is the teacher you need. Her 18 years of experience in genetic genealogy shows that after just one class, you will find yourself believing that you can understand this science, and likely will even be excited to go home and try it out. Diahan lectures internationally, owns Your DNA Guide, and writes for Family Tree Magazine and Your Genealogy Today. She has a passion for this work, a love for people, and the best husband ever.

 

 

Facebook @YourDNAGuide

Twitter: @DNAdiahan

Instagram: @diahansouthard

Ortssippenbücher: Important Sources for German Genealogical Research (Guest Post by Scott Holl)

Church records are a vital source of genealogical information, and this is certainly true for German family history research. Once you discover your ancestor’s place of origin, the local parish registers can take your as far back as the mid-16th century. Such research has challenges. Besides the language barrier, you must also be familiar with the handwritten script used in various periods of record keeping. If only there was a short cut!

Luckily, you might find one in the form of an Ortssippenbuch (OSB). Ortssippenbuch (plural: Ortssippenbücher) translates as “local clan book.” You may also see them under the names Ortsfamilienbücher or Familienbücher, and some titles use the phrase, “Die Einwohner von… (“Inhabitants of…”), as in the OSB, Die Einwohner von Oppau und Edigheim, 1480–1813. Regardless of what term is used, OSBs feature concise genealogical information about inhabitants of a specific village or parish, based primarily on surviving local church records. They cover the period from the beginning of church records (as early as the mid-16th century) to about 1900. Some OSBs use local civil records, such as tax lists and court records, to expand and supplement the vital information found in the church books.

Format

OSBs present genealogical information by family groups. Their use of a standard format and common symbols, terminology, and abbreviations makes the entries easy to decipher, even if you do not know German. Families are listed alphabetically by surname, and some include surname and place-name indexes.

Let’s look at an example from Ortsfamilienbuch Heinersreuth, 1559–1900 mit Denzenlohe, Flur, Vollhof und Tannenbach: eine Familiengeschichtliche Untersuchung (Genealogical Register of Heinersreuth, 1559–1900, including Denzenlohe, Flour, Vollhof, and Tannenbach: A Family History Investigation). Heinersreuth is a village near Bayreuth, a city in northern Bavaria.

This OSB uses standard symbols commonly used in German genealogical sources:

* = birth

~ = baptism

† = death

The symbol for marriage (∞ or oo) is not found in this example, because individuals are listed by marriage date within the surname.

Each individual is assigned a reference number for cross-referencing purposes. The text for individual no. 791, the first entry above and shown in detail below, would read as follows:

791—Marriage: 21 July 1646 in Bayreuth

Hacker, Johannes; Protestant (ev.); stockman in Mosing; born on 15 Nov. 1610 in Unterpreuschwitz; baptized on 15 Nov. 1610 in Bayreuth; died in Aug. 1666 in Heinersreuth; buried (begrab.) on 22 Aug. 1666 in Bayreuth.

­

[Wife] Popp, Margaretha; Protestant; born on 19 Jan. 1611 in Laineck; baptized on 19 Jan 1611 at St. Johannis Church in Bayreuth; buried after 1653.

In this case, Margaretha does not have a reference number, which indicates that no information about her baptism or parents is available in records used in for this OSB.

Information about their children follows, and you will find more information elsewhere about them under the reference numbers in brackets.

Let’s look at their son, Andreas.

3) Andreas, born on 11 Dec. 1650 in Heinersreuth, died on 3 June 1710 in Heinersreuth. [793]

Further down the page you will find under no. 793 the individual entry for Andreas Hacker with information about his marriage and children. In this case, Andreas married Anna Weigel, who appears as a child of the couple listed at no. 3226.

Other Possible Information

Genealogical information is the main feature of OSBs, but many also include histories of the community, the church, the school, and civic organizations. Some include lists of emigrants with their destinations, information about “non-locals” (Ortsfremde) or refugees (Flüchtlinge, Exulanten), and rosters of soldiers killed in war.

Finding Out if an OSB is Available for Your Ancestral Place of Origin

OSBs are not available for every village, and they are more common for some areas than others. Many are available for places in Baden-Wuerttemberg and the Rhineland, for example, but few exist for Lower Saxony (outside of East Frisia) or Schleswig-Holstein. Many have been published for German-speaking villages outside of Germany, such as in Alsace and Lorraine in France, and in the Donauschwaben settlements in present-day Serbia, Romania, and Hungary (Banat and Batschka).

No comprehensive name index for OSBs exist. It is therefore absolutely necessary to know your ancestor’s place of origin. Once you have the location, consult the OSB lists on the GenWiki website. Villages are listed alphabetically.  Clicking on the village name will return the title of the OSB and relevant bibliographical information.

Finding an OSB

Once you have the OSB title, look for a library that owns it. The St. Louis County Library History & Genealogy Department has one of the largest collections of OSBs in the U.S. A list is available here. OSBs cannot be checked out or requested through interlibrary loan, but the library staff will do lookups and copy up to 30 pages. Send requests to genealogy@slcl.org. A limit of three requests per email applies.

The Family History Library, New York Public Library, and some academic libraries also collect them. The Peoria, Illinois Public Library has many for East Frisia. You can also check WorldCat  to find a repository that has the OSB you are looking for.

OSBs as Secondary Sources

The information in OSBs were extracted and compiled from original records and are therefore subject to the accuracy, interpretation, and criteria of the person doing the work. OSBs are reliable, but you should take the additional step of checking the information against the original records yourself, if possible. OSBs include a list of sources (Quellen) from which information has been extracted. Online access to German church records is increasingly available and bring the task into the realm of possibility as never before.

Further Information

More information about OSBs and aids for using them are available on the St. Louis County Library History & Genealogy Department website.

 

About the Author

Scott Holl is manager of History & Genealogy at St. Louis County Library in St. Louis, Missouri. He holds a BA in German from Fort Hays State University, an MA in Theology from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and an MLIS from Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois.

Finding Your German Ancestors in Chicago (Guest Post by Bob Rettammel, Rettammel Genealogy)

Finding Your German Ancestors in Chicago – Late 19th Century

If you are researching German ancestors who were in the city of Chicago or surrounding suburbs after the Civil War (1861-1865), then you may face challenges in finding records. Factors affecting your research can include destruction of records in fires, changing city boundaries and street addresses, and laws related to vital records collection.

Despite these challenges, there are helpful resources available for researching German settlers in late 19th-century Chicago. Before searching Ancestry or FamilySearch on-line databases for Germans who came to Chicago, it is helpful to have a basic knowledge of available source materials.

Question 1: Where Did My Ancestor Work and Live in Chicago?

Using time and place is a key strategy in establishing a genealogy foundation to tell your ancestor’s story. When direct evidence from a letter, newspaper, or another source shows that your ancestors lived in Chicago during the 19th century[1], finding an address can help you learn more. For example, it may lead you to find relatives with the same surname living nearby.

One place to find an address is in city directories. City directories can also lead you to find where your ancestor worked, if you know the occupation.  By establishing a location, you may also learn where the closest places of worship were, and this could lead to finding religious records. Below are my initial search findings for my own paternal ancestors.

Chicago City Directories

Figure 1: 1875 August Rettammel – r. 56 Hooker, work for Kastens and Company[2]

Sanborn Insurance Maps

One of the most interesting references for research in urban areas like Chicago are Sanborn Maps. The maps provide a picture at the neighborhood level of where homes, businesses, and other features (i.e., lakes, ponds) existed at the time period of interest. Sanborn Insurance Maps were created in the 1860s as aids to help insurance companies determine risk of fire and set insurance rates. Now, the maps are invaluable for doing family history research in the city of Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Each of the Sanborn Maps has a key to help the viewer understand the annotations and colors.

While doing genealogical research on my paternal great-grandfather, I was able to learn through city directory searches, voter registration records in 1888 and 1890, and correlated primary records that he lived with his family at 351 N Southport Ave., Lakeview District. A lookup of Sanborn Maps (Figure 2)  in the Library of Congress Digital Collections (http://www.loc.gov/collections/sanborn-maps) provided the following street-neighborhood view of the area in 1894.

Figure 2: 1894 Sanborn Map of Lakeview District, Chicago, Il.

Question 2: When did My Ancestor Arrive in Chicago?

Reviewing voter registration records is key.

Voting Registration Records

Cook County voting records from the 1880s and 1890s are a good source replacement for the 1890 US census that was destroyed in a 1921 fire in the basement of the Washington D.C. Commerce Building. Voting records can also provide information about naturalization status at the time of voter registration.

Figure 3: This excerpt from 1890 Chicago voter registration records indicates Aug. Rettammel was born in Germany and registered to vote October 9, 1888.[3] He has resided in Illinois for 26 years, in Cook County for 26 years, and in Precinct 1 of Ward 2 for 9 years. He was naturalized in 1875 in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

Question 3: What about Vital Records in Chicago? [4]

Starting with these Records

Compulsory recording of vital records (birth, marriage and death records) did not begin until January 1, 1916 for residents of Cook County. However, many previous vital records were registered with Cook County officials prior to 1916. Vital records collected prior to October 1871 were destroyed in the Chicago Fire of 1871, thus alternative sources are needed. Church records are often the key to finding vital record information. Also remember to search newspapers, military draft registration for WWI, and cemetery records for vital record information.

Birth Records

In the 19th century, many births were at home, with only a midwife in attendance. The birth would be recorded in the county by a doctor who made a later visit and saw the child. A typical Chicago birth recording in the 1870s provided the child’s name, number of children of mother, race, sex of child, date and place of birth, nationality and place of birth of each parent, full maiden name and residence of mother, full name of father and occupation, name of medical attendant, and date of registration of certificate.

Figure 4: My own search for my grandfather born on 4 June 1876 at 56 Hooker St., Chicago, Illinois. [5] Born to parents August Fredrick Rettammel and Louise (nee Felix) Rettammel.

Death Records

Death certificates are accessible from 1871 and some of the records can be found on Ancestry.com or the indexes in FamilySearch. The records were issued by the Cook County Bureau of Vital Statistics and the original provides the full name of deceased, age, sex, marital status, occupation, date and time of death, cause, and the duration of illness or disease that was noted.

 Figure 5: The author’s great-grandmother’s certificate of death record in 1890.[6]

Also in the form was the street address for place of death with ward, nationality and place of birth, and the length of residence in state. The place and date of burial and the name and address of the undertaker are other items noted. All of these notations are important as you continue to learn more about your ancestor’s life in the past. In 1910, the names and birthplaces of the deceased’s parents were included on the death certificates.[7]

Marriage Records

Marriage records in Chicago began in 1871[8]. The names and ages of the bride and groom, their respective town or city of residence, and the officiant are listed on the license. In the example below, the name of the minister is listed as W. Bartling [sic], that will help with the Rettammel family religious records and potentially lead to learning about the family in 19th century Chicago and other family members not known at this time.

Figure 6: Illinois Marriage Index – August Rettammel marries Mrs. Louise Fischer (widow) on August 7, 1892.[9]

Question 4: How Do Religious Records Help?

Church records are a key source for learning more about individuals, as they can highlight details that a family historian may not otherwise find. For example, church records can include vital records and place of origin information. Since Chicago was a key destination for many German immigrants in the 19th century, key information for a researcher to find is what religion the family practiced during the date and time of the research focus. Sanborn Maps can then identify affiliated churches in the area where your ancestor lived. It is also key to learn if the church exists today, and if not, was the churched merged and records transferred and available today. Other resources for identifying churches and finding church records include those assembled by archivists at Newberry Library in Chicago.

 

Hello, my name is Bob Rettammel, M.A., a professional genealogist based in Madison, Wisconsin. I became interested in family history in the summer of 1978 when I discovered a box of old family photos in my paternal grandparent’s house.

I am currently President of the Dane County Area Genealogical Society (DCAGS), and also a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG), National Genealogical Society (NGS), and Wisconsin State Genealogy Society (WSGS). I also was part of an 18-month professional study group called ProGEN, which I completed in November 2018.

A facet of genealogy that interests me a lot is photo restoration and history of photographic processes. I specialize in German-American research but also work in all types of U.S. record sources and databases. I have a variety of clients including those looking for ancestry records in Dane County and other locations in Wisconsin and out-of-state archives. I have also worked on two research projects with the TV series “Who Do You Think You Are?”, Season 9 (2017), episode 5, and Season 10 (2018), episode 4.

Facebook Page for my business is Rettammel Genealogy Service, LLC. I also have a website at www.rettammelhistory.com

 

                                                                          

 

Footnotes

[1] In 1909 all residential streets in Chicago were renumbered. Prior to 1909, Chicago was comprised of divisions: North, South and West. This means you need to convert any address found if you want to see the actual property.

[2] 1875 Chicago Directory, page 834. Fold3.com, accessed 20 July 2018.

[3] Chicago, Illinois, Voter Registration, 1890. Illinois State Archives. Ancestry.com, accessed 20 July 2018.

[4] A good reference to locate vital records in Chicago and Cook County areas is https://chicagogenealogy.org/Chicago

[5] Illinois. Cook County Birth Registers, 1871–1915. Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah. FHL microfilm #1287722. Illinois Department of Public Health. Division of Vital Records, Springfield.

[6] Cook County, Illinois, Deaths Index, 1878-1922. Certificate No. 00012109. Cook County Building, 118 N. Clark Street, room 402, Chicago, IL 60602, received August 2009.

[7] Loretto Dennis Szucs, 1996, p 486

[8] Marriages in Cook County were indexed from 1871 to 1878 by the groom’s name. The Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed all records prior to that year, so oldest year civil records are after that year.

[9] Cook County, Illinois, Marriages Index, 1871-1920Ancestry.com, accessed 20 July 2018.