DNA and Privacy: No Man is a Genetic Island

The recent identification of the Golden State Killer through a DNA database for genealogy is just one way your DNA may be used in unexpected ways. Lisa Louise Cooke shares 5 key principles to keep in mind when considering your online DNA presence.   Golden State...

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.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 242 – Genealogy Research Questions

Podcast host: Lisa Louise Cooke

June 2020

In this episode we discuss how great genealogy questions and research plans can help you accomplish your family history goals. Then I’ve got ideas you can start using right away to manage distractions effectively. 

Download the episode mp3

Watch Elevenses with Lisa live on the Genealogy Gems YouTube channel on Thursdays at 11:00 AM Central. After the live show you can watch the video replay at your convenience. You’ll find the show notes for Elevenses with Lisa here on the Genealogy Gems website.

Research Plans and BSOs

On March 26, 2020 I started producing a new weekly YouTube Live show called Elevenses with Lisa. Originally it was in response to the fact that COVID-19 had created a situation where we were all staying home. For me that meant that all of my in-person speaking engagements for the foreseeable future had been cancelled or rescheduled. I saw it as an opportunity to take on a new challenge, which is live video production.

I love doing the live show on YouTube. It’s definitely different than doing a podcast. It’s more interactive which in turn makes me more animated. And obviously it’s a visual medium so it provides an opportunity to show as well as tell.

Of course, sitting down to watch a video is more stagnant than listening to a podcast. When you’re listening to a podcast you can still move about and get things done if you want. So, I’m sure there are some of you who haven’t seen the Elevenses with Lisa show yet. That’s why in this episode I’m bringing you a few highlights of the YouTube Live show in audio form.

In episode 2 of Elevenses with Lisa I talked about the importance of creating research questions and plans. This was the first presentation in a series called How Alice the Genealogist Avoids Falling Down the Rabbit Hole. If you want to stay on track and achieve your genealogy goals, a research plan is really essential.

Then in the third episode I talked about “Bright Shiny Objects”, also known as BSOs, that can distract you from your research plan. I shared the techniques I use to deal with them so that I don’t miss a good thing while still staying on track.

If you watch the show this will be a refresher for you, and if you haven’t gotten around to watching it, I hope it will inspire you to join us in the future, as well as help you improve your genealogy research today.

You will find the complete notes for the topics discussed in this episode (and more) in the show notes web pages for these episodes of Elevenses with Lisa:

Episode 2 – how research questions and plans will improve your genealogy research.

Episode 3 – dealing with Bright Shiny Objects that threaten to get you off track.

  

Get the Entire “Alice” Video and Handout

If you enjoyed this portion of How Alice the Genealogist Avoids the Rabbit Hole and you’re a Genealogy Gems Premium member, I have the entire presentation edited together in one complete video class for you in the Premium Videos area at genealogygems.com.

how Alice the genealogists avoids the rabbit hole

Premium Members get the entire video class plus 7 page downloadable handout.

There you can also download the complete handout which is ad-free and 7 pages long. It includes not only research plans and BSO management but also creating supportive research environments both on your computer and mobile devices.

Become a member here.

GEM: June Weddings

Monday, June 15.

For centuries, the month of June has been the most popular choice for weddings.

free British family notices wedding photo

All about June Weddings – Genealogy Gems

One of the purported reasons was that some hundreds of years ago, this time was just after May’s annual bath, so the happy couple and the guests were about as clean as could be hoped.

With the ensuing advances in plumbing and overall hygiene, dressy weddings are readily staged year-round, from simple civil ceremonies and backyard or back-to-nature vows, to elaborate church functions. In normal years, there are more than 2.2 million weddings across the nation.

The median age at first marriage for women is now 28 years— up six years since 1980. Men are now an average age of 29.8 when they take their first vows.

Sources:
June weddings, accessed 2/3/2020  
Number of marriages, accessed 2/3/2020  

Getting Your History Digitized

Our family’s history comes in many forms, and some of them over time can become obsolete. I shared in this episode my continuing progress on my own project of converting the rest of my old home movies that are in a variety of formats (8mm, mini DV, High 8, and VHS.)  I use Larsen Digital and have been extremely pleased with the service and results. The folks at Larsen Digital have put together special and exclusive discounts for Genealogy Gems listeners and readers. Click here to learn more and receive exclusive discounts and coupon codes.

Read more: 5 Steps to Digitizing Your Old Negatives

5 steps to digitizing old negatives

Learn how to tackle the task of digitizing your old negatives at Genealogy Gems


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