Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 244 – Ancestry Search Tips

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke
August
 2020

Everyone is spending a lot more time at home and online. That means it’s the perfect time to dig into Ancestry.com and talk about strategies that you can use to get the most out of it.

Today’s show comes from my Elevenses with Lisa YouTube Live show. Many podcast listeners have told me they hadn’t really thought about sitting down to watch YouTube videos. And my video viewers say the same thing about listening to audio podcasts. However, when they venture out, they find they really appreciate what each has to offer.

Podcasts let you exercise, work around the house and generally be pretty active even while you’re listening and learning. The live YouTube show is a chance to take a mid-week break, enjoy a cup of tea, watch the show and even chat with other genealogists in the show Chat. The video replays are great in the evening when there’s nothing to watch on TV.

They work together. You can watch the video first and enjoy the show’s community. Then you can listen again later to pick up what you may have missed or sit down to your computer to give the techniques a try.

My goal is that you’re going to learn something new that’s going to help you achieve greater success in your genealogy! Click the player below to listen to the podcast:

Ancestry Search Strategies and Tips

Watch the video and read the full show notes here.

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Profile America: On a Roll – The History of Toilet Paper

Sunday, August 23rd.
Often unmentionable and little regarded, a 130 year old American invention enjoyed—if that’s the word—considerable attention earlier this year.

In 1890, toilet paper on a dispensing roll was patented by the founders of today’s Scott Brand of paper products.

Toilet paper itself dates back about 1,500 years to China, but didn’t develop until the mid-19th Century. Some perforated and medicated versions were available in America before the Scott product, but weren’t successful.

In spite of demand-driven shortages, America is on a roll when it comes to stocking this species of sanitary paper.

Nationwide, there are 132 establishments producing sanitary paper products. These operations employ over 17,000 people in the $13-billion enterprise.

toilet paper patent

Toilet Paper Patent Application from 1889

Sources:

 

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This episode is Dedicated to Howie

We adopted Howie in 2005, and soon after in early 2007 I started this podcast. Howie took his place at my feet, and he’s been there for every recording. He’s been my silent podcasting partner and he will be missed beyond words. 

How the Wonder Dog

 

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show notes episode 244

Here’s What is Changing on Ancestry.com

Do you feel like every time you log in to your favorite genealogy data website, it’s changed? Well, that’s probably because it has. The sites themselves are gaining weight, both the weight of additional users and additional records. It only makes sense that the way you navigate these sites will change and (hopefully!) improve.

You’ll notice this in recent changes to Ancestry.com. The site has responded to user feedback by introducing three new features, described in a recent press release:

Ancestry photo comment sharing

Ancestry photo comment sharing

1. Username=real name for new users.

“With more than 50 million family trees on Ancestry.com, connecting with other members can yield family history gold. We know it’s hard to make a personal connection with “TheRealCookieMonster53.” In an effort to promote collaboration and sharing, members profiles will use real names instead of usernames. Users can still change their setting at any time from their Member Profile page to show their preferred name.

Although this change is only for new users, we encourage everyone to update their Member Profile to a more personal and transparent name (sorry Cookie Monster).”

2. Comment sharing across all copies of a photo.

“Today, commenting happens on individual copies of photos which means most comment activity on shared photos is missed.  We have made a new update on the site that will enable comment sharing across all copies of a shared photo so everyone can join the conversation.  We’ll email users when new comment activity occurs, but also make sure the email volume isn’t overwhelming. 

In addition, we’re refreshing the media page so it’s simpler to update, share, and view your family photos and stories.” (editor’s note: I’d be interested to hear if you, my lovely readers, find the emailed photo comments helpful, and limited as promised by Ancestry.)

3. Related Content suggestions in the image viewer:

“The Interactive Image Viewer has been updated with the Related Content panel. This is currently the most requested feature for the image viewer. A fantastic way to discover new content is just another avenue to easily flesh out more relevant records, the Related Content panel not only includes Suggested Records but will also show Related Trees.”

A Change You Need to Know About in Google Search for Family History (10/27/11)

When it comes to researching online, the only thing that is constant is change!  Just when you get all the search operators committed to memory Google goes and changes things. 
Not long ago I noticed that the Boolean operator NOT no longer seemed to be returning the expected results.  However, the minus sign can be used to remove unwanted words from your search results.  (Example: LINCOLN -ABRAHAM results in web pages that include the name Lincoln but NOT the name Abraham.)

 

The latest change is that the plus sign (+) no longer functions as a search operator that ensures a keyword is included in all search results. Now if you want to ensure a keyword is included, the keyword must be encased in quotations marks. For example:  LINCOLN -ABRAHAM “OHIO”
Interestingly Google has been fairly silent on the change.  Some in the Tech community suspect the move is in response to their growing focus on Google+ and the possibility of a new use for the “plus” sign.  Stay tuned!
 
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Find Your Criminal Ancestors: UK collection from Findmypast.com

If you have British roots, you’ll want to check out the new collection available on Findmypast.com: a half million criminal records dating from 1770-1934!

This sounds like a pretty gripping collection, whether you’ve got British roots or not. It contains records like mug shots, court documents, appeals letters and registers from prison ships (which were used when mainland prisons were crowded). According to Findmypast.com, the records “provide a wide variety of color, detail and fascinating social history, chronicling the fate of criminals ranging from fraudsters, counterfeiters, thieves and murderers and their victims.” The 500,000 records you can search now are only a fifth of the full collection of 2.5 million that will be online soon.

The company calls this the largest collection of historical criminal records from England and Wales to be published online and is done in association with the National Archives (UK). Findmypast.com members can click here to access the criminal collection directly (make sure the box for “Institutes and Organizations” is checked).

Here’s a little more background on connections  between British convicts and the U.S. and Australia….

During colonial times, Britain often punished criminals by forcing them to emigrate. The most famous destination was Australia: the first British settlement on that continent in 1787 was actually a penal colony. Australia celebrates that fact about its heritage today: learn more about the “First Fleet’s” arrival here.

Up to about 50,000 British convicts were also forced to emigrate to the American colonies during the 1700s. These included prisoners of war from Ireland and Scotland. Read more about this in Bound for America: The Transportation of British Convicts to the Colonies, 1718-1775 (Clarendon Paperbacks) by A. Roger Ekirch. Findmypast.com isn’t able to tell us yet how many records in the criminal collection relate to forced emigrations, but anyone with roots in the U.K. should check out this collection for sure.

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.

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