Getting Help with a Genealogy Brick Wall

Sooner or later, we all hit genealogy brick walls: a point in our family history research where we can’t seem to make any further progress. When I hit a brick wall with great-grandpa Gus in Eastern Europe, I turned to Legacy Tree Genealogists. Here’s what their experts found that I hadn’t discovered for myself.
 
bust genealogy brick wall with new leads
 

My Genealogy Brick Wall in Eastern Europe

My great-grandfather Gustav Sporowski was born in Kotten, Kreis Johannisburg, East Prussia on July 20, 1881. His wife was born in Kreis Ortelsburg in 1878. I’ve found all of her church records, but have had no luck with his.

I’ve met so many people who get stuck researching in Eastern Europe, and East Prussia and the Belarus area in particular. (I strongly suspect that the Sporowski family came from the Sporovo lake region of Belarus). So I invited Legacy Tree Genealogists to take a look at Gus and suggest some next steps. I wondered what someone who specialized in Eastern European research might be able to tell someone like me, who knows how to genealogy but not-so-much in that part of the world.

Reviewing My Work

Legacy Tree Genealogists assigned me to a Project Manager, Camille Andrus, who reached out to discuss what I already knew and what I wanted to learn.

Camille Andrus, Project Manager, Legacy Tree Genealogists.

I requested their Discovery Research Plan, for which they just provide guidance about what record collections to consult and what methods or strategies to try. That way I can do the research myself (which I like doing!). I also asked Camille if she would write about her research process so I could share it with you. Here’s what she sent me:

We looked over Lisa’s work, and upon initial inspection everything looked great.

She had looked in the gazetteer (now available digitally at www.meyersgaz.org with maps of the area) and Lutheran church records. (Editor’s note: Learn more about using Meyers Gazetteer in the Genealogy Gems article 5 Expert Tips for Using Meyers Gazetteer for Your German Genealogy.)

She had searched the records for her ancestor’s supposed home parish. When that failed to yield results, she had done a partial radial search, searching records in several adjacent parishes. Check. Check. Check. She was following all of the integral steps, but still not having success.

What had she missed? What had she done wrong? The short answer — nothing. Her research was impeccable, and she was looking in the right places.

Getting Around the Genealogy Brick Wall

Camille had three specific suggestions for where to look next for great-grandpa Gus. At the end, she also offered some helpful reassurance. Here’s what she said:

1. Civil registration in East Prussia

After closer inspection of what Lisa had already tried, we saw several opportunities we could still pursue.

We looked up civil registration records available through a Polish archive, since what was East Prussia is now part of modern Poland.

Prussia

German civil registration in East Prussia began in October of 1874 and is an important resource for researching individuals from this area.

The Meyers Gazetteer confirmed that Kotten (where her ancestor was from) belonged to Kreis Johannisburg in the German Empire province of East Prussia. This village belonged to the Monethen (Kreis Johannisburg) civil registration district.[1]

Using Meyers Gazeteter for German places

Using Meyers Gazetteer to find German places

The Olsztyn State Archive inventory lists several birth, marriage, death, and family books for the Monethen Civil Registration Office, but the books only cover the late 1930s and early 1940s. The whereabouts of the registers covering 1874 through the early 1930s are unknown.

It appears as though the records covering this time period have been lost or destroyed. This situation is not unusual for East Prussia, in general due to the numerous conflicts that have occurred in the area over time.

2. Church records in East Prussia

Another major resource for German genealogy research is church records.

The Meyers Gazetteer database noted that Protestant residents of Kotten attended church in the nearby town of Baitkowen (Kreis Lyck).[2]

Kreis Lyck in Meyers Gazetteer

The church book inventory for Baitkowen revealed that the Protestant parish was established in 1891, a decade after the ancestor Gustav Sporowski was reportedly born. No sacramental registers for this parish are known to be extant. It should be noted that the Baitkowen parish was created from parts of the Lyck, Ostrokollen, and Drygallen parishes.[3]

The Protestant parish of Drygallen (Kreis Johannisburg) has extant baptismal records which are available on microfilm at the Family History Library for the years 1730-1821 and 1844-1875.[4] Lisa indicated that she had reviewed these files but did not find any Sporowskis.

The Lyck Landgemeinde (the congregation for parishioners living outside city limits) was founded in 1704, but there are no known extant baptismal records for this parish after 1808.[5]

3. Following up on clues

A key clue came from Lisa’s notes. She mentioned that Gustav and his wife were married in Lütgendortmund, a town hundreds of miles west of Gustav’s birthplace, before ultimately immigrating to the United States.

Louise at the time of her marriage

Louise at the time of her marriage

Luckily, their marriage occurred in a time when civil registration had been instituted. A search for marriage records showed there are civil registration records available for the town of their marriage, which are available at an archive in Detmold.

We were able to advise Lisa that further research should pursue this record, as it may list information about his parents.

The Protestant Bartholomew Church in Lütgendortmund, Dortmund, Germany. Von Smial – Eigenes Werk, FAL. Click to view.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is if you feel stuck, it’s not necessarily because you are doing anything wrong.

Review the “checkboxes” of your research plan to ensure you aren’t missing any integral clues.

If after final review of methodology concludes that you’ve pursued every avenue, the lack of success may be attributed to gaps in the records or perhaps they have been lost completely. Other times all you need is one clue to put you back on the right track.

This is exactly the kind of advice I was hoping for: expert and specific!

Hire a Professional Genealogist for a Quick Consult or Project

If you have hit a genealogy brick wall in Eastern Europe (or anywhere else) and would like a professional to review your work, I recommend contacting Legacy Tree Genealogists. They have helped many clients like me to solve their family history mysteries, and would love to help you as well!

You can hire a genealogist like Camille through their Genealogist-on-Demand™ service. Receive research strategies and advice from a professional genealogist during your 45-minute consultation that will help you continue your own research. Your virtual genealogy consultation will allow you to have your questions answered in real-time by an expert–all from the comfort of your own home!

Need even more help? Here’s an exclusive offer for Genealogy Gems readers: Receive $100 off a 20-hour research project using code GGP100. To learn more about Legacy Tree services and its research team, visit https://www.legacytree.com.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional costto you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

[1] Search the Meyers Gazetteer, Kotten, Johannisburg, Allenstein, Ostpreussen, Preussen, http://meyersgaz.org/place/11050078, accessed August 2017.

[2] Search the Meyers Gazetteer, Kotten, Johannisburg, Allenstein, Ostpreussen, Preussen, http://meyersgaz.org/place/11050078, accessed August 2017.

[3] Ostpreussen, Genealogische Quellen, Kirchbuchbestände Kreis Lyck, ev. Baitkowen (Baitenberg), http://wiki-de.genealogy.net, accesesed August 2017.

[4] Ostpreussen, Genealogische Quellen, Kirchbuchbestände Kreis Johannisburg, ev. Drigelsdorf (Drygallen), http://wiki-de.genealogy.net, accesesed August 2017.

[5] Ostpreussen, Genealogische Quellen, Kirchbuchbestände Kreis Lyck, ev. Lyck Stadtgemeinde, http://wiki-de.genealogy.net, accesesed August 2017.

Thousands of Irish Genealogy Records New This Week!

 If you’re looking for Irish ancestors, you’ll be delighted by all the new Irish record collections added this week! Also in this week’s new and updated record collections are court records and newspapers for Australia, parish records and more for England, millions of new Dutch records, South African probate records, and digitized newspapers across the United States. 

Irish genealogy records

Irish Genealogy: Thousands of New Records

If you have ancestors from Ireland who received an army pension between 1724 and 1924, you’ll want to explore Fold3’s new collection of Royal Hospital Kilmainham Pensioner Discharge Documents. This collection is made up of certificates of pensioners of the Royal Kilmainham Hospital in Ireland. According to the collection: “For each record, details given include, where available: a brief description of the pensioner together with age, place of birth, particulars of service and the reason for discharge.”

New this week at Findmypast are Dublin Electoral Rolls. This new collection contains more than 427,000 transcripts and pertains to eligible voters located in the city of Dublin between 1908 and 1915. (FYI: You can also search Dublin City Electoral Lists 1908-1915 and other records for free from the Dublin City Council’s Civil Records webpage.)

Lastly, Irish records got a big update over at the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS): 5,000 records have been added to IGRS’s Early Irish Birth, Marriage, and Death Indexes. This brings their total number of names to almost 260,000. From the announcement: “This particular update draws from a range material: surviving 19th century census records; marriage licence indexes; pre-1922 abstracts from exchequer and chancery court records; memorial inscriptions; biographical notices from newspapers; a large number of long forgotten published works on particular families and places; and memorials from Ireland’s Registry of Deeds.”

New Resources for Australia

A fascinating new free website, Tracing London Convicts in Britain & Australia, 1780-1925 allows “genealogists and family historians to discover the fate of ancestors convicted of crimes and transported overseas.” This new website allows you to search millions of records from around fifty data sets, relating to the lives of 90,000 convicts from the Old Bailey. Pictured right: Lydia Lloyd, a Victorian era convict. (Image: The National Archives UK ref. PCOM4/71/6 (image 00001))

From the State Library of New South Wales Australia: The Lone Hand (1907-1921) newspaper has been digitized and made available through Trove. “Modelled on the London Strand and founded by J.F. Archibald and Frank Fox, The Lone Hand was a monthly magazine of literature and poetry, with illustrations by significant Australian artists of the time.”

England: Parish & Court Records

Ancestry.com has two new collections this week for England. Staffordshire Extracted Church of England Parish Records, 1538-1839 includes records for baptisms/christenings, burials, marriages, tombstone inscriptions, obituaries, tax lists, wills, and other miscellaneous types of records for Staffordshire, England. Also included are some records from non-conformist churches. Extracted Parish and Court Records, 1399-1795 is a collection of historical parish registers throughout England.

Also new for England, TheGenealogist has added over 1.1 million individuals to its Sussex County parish record collection. This update includes 717,000 baptisms, 213,000 marriages, and 208,000 burials.

Over at Newspapers.com, The Atlas newspaper has now been digitized. The London area paper operated from 1826 to 1869, and comprised a mixture of national and international social and political news, along with literary, theater, and music reviews. Another new newspaper available online is The Worthington Herald, from 1920-1959 in Worthington, West Sussex, England.

Millions of Dutch Records

FamilySearch has recently published millions of Dutch records (51 million to be exact) from the Netherlands, making it easier than ever to trace your Dutch roots. These new records have increased FamilySearch’s collection of Dutch names from 4,074,736 to over 55 million. From the collection description: “Archives around the Netherlands have contributed indexes which cover many record sources, such as civil registration, church records, emigration lists, military registers, and land and tax records.” Click here to search the collection.

South Africa Probate Records

New at FamilySearch: South Africa, Cape Province, Probate Records of the Master of the High Court, 1834-1989. This impressive collection is comprised of over 155,000 indexed records and 1.1 million digitized images! The original records are located in the Cape Archives Depot, Cape Town.

United States Newspapers

California. The Cal Poly University student newspaper has been digitized in honor of their 100 year celebration. 75,000 pages from 7,138 issues are now fully searchable online, thanks to optical character recognition (OCR) technology. Click here to explore the database.

North Carolina. Saint Mary’s Student School NewspaperThe Belles, is now online. Dating back to 1936 through 1995, the paper gives a good look into the viewpoint of North Carolina teen women over a 60 year period.

New Mexico. Now available at Newspapers.com is the Albuquerque Journalwith issues dating back to 1882. Almost 2 million pages are available to browse by date.

How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers

There’s a wealth of information about your ancestors in newspapers! Lisa’s book, How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers, provides you with a foolproof research process for discovering them, and is stuffed with everything you need for genealogical success. Available in both print and ebook formats, you’ll get step-by-step instructions, worksheets, tons of free online resources, case studies, and more!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Pin It on Pinterest

MENU