Click the video player below to watch 10 Top Tips for Beginning German Genealogy now.
Episode 52 Show Notes
Researching ancestors in another country can be a little daunting. Challenges include foreign languages, moving boundaries, and spelling variations. This is certainly true for German genealogy.
If you’re new to German genealogy or your research has stalled, this episode of Elevenses with Lisa is for you. In fact, even if you don’t have German ancestors I think you will still find the principles and ideas covered very helpful.
Translator, author and German handwriting expert Katherine Schober shares her 10 Top Tips for Beginning Germany Genealogy.These tips are packed with tools and resources that you can start using right away.
Katherine Schober is a German / English translator, specializing in the old German handwriting. She is the author of “The Magic of German Church Records” and “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”, as well as the creator of the online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” And this year she will be one of the featured speakers at this year’s virtual International German Genealogy Conference.
Click the video below to watch the show. Then scroll down below to get all of the show notes. Premium Members will find the downloadable ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.
Mentioned in this video:
International German Genealogy Conference July 17-24, 2021. Use special code EARLY until April 30 to get $50 off the package of your choice. Registration here
Reading the Old German Handwriting Course online with Katherine Schober Register for the course here
Use Coupon Code GEMS for 10% off the course.
1. Start with What You Know about Your German Ancestor
Resist the temptation to start searching online immediately. Take the time to talk to your relatives, starting with the oldest. Review family documents, photo albums and other materials around your home. You may be surprised how much you already have, and the light that other relatives can shed on the family tree. Every step of the way its critically important to document everything!
2. Look for Resources in America Before Jumping Over to Germany
Family Bibles (Watch Elevenses with Lisaepisode 29)
Local church records
Passenger Lists (Watch Elevenses with Lisaepisode 34)
Records in Germany are kept at the local level. Make sure you have the right town in the right state.
Meyers Gazetteer About the Meyers Gazetteer from the website: Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs “is the most important of all German gazetteers. The goal of the Meyer’s compilers was to list every place name in the German Empire (1871-1918). It gives the location, i.e. the state and other jurisdictions, where the civil registry office was and parishes if that town had them. It also gives lots of other information about each place. The only drawback to Meyer’s is that if a town did not have a parish, it does not tell where the parish was, making reference to other works necessary.”
The Historic Gazetteerat The Genealogical Gazetteer provides “The precise identification of places is essential in genealogy. Unfortunately, too few researchers care in identifying places. The project “GOV” was initiated to help historians and genealogists with the management of place references and to provide high quality data for anyone.”
4. Identify Available Records for the Town in Germany
Some pairs of letters can find themselves interchanged in German words. Understanding which ones were commonly swapped can save you a lot of frustration as you attempt to interpret documents. Examples of commonly switch letters include B and P, and K and G.
Geogen v4 offers genealogists a way to discover the areas of Germany where a surname appears most frequently. Type in your ancestor’s German surname and press Enter on your keyboard. Try variations that you have come across in records to compare the results.
Geogen v4 offers genealogists a way to discover the areas of Germany where a surname appears most frequently.
10. Use the Genealogy FAN CLUB
If you get stuck, use the FAN CLUB principle by looking at Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. These are the people who interacted with your ancestors in important ways. They will come in particularly handy when you run out of records for your German ancestor. By reviewing the records of those closest to your ancestor you may find new clues that can move your search forward and lead back to your family tree.
Katherine Schober is a German-English genealogy speaker, author, and translator, specializing in the old German handwriting. She is the author of “The Magic of German Church Records” and “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”, as well as the creator of the online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” Katherine lives in St. Louis with her Austrian husband, and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or via her website, www.sktranslations.com.
Another brick wall…busted! We all have trouble spots in our family history research. Sometimes, we just need a little help breaking through. Here’s a tried-and-true method for using the genealogy FAN club principle to overcome brick walls in your family history research from guest author Amie Bowser Tennant.
A FAN club stands forFamily, Associates, and Neighbors. Using the FAN club principle is a process in which genealogists identify a list of people (family, associates, and neighbors) that lived and associated with a given ancestor. By researching these other people, you may flesh out some new hints for your own research. Ultimately, identifying our ancestors FAN club is an effective tool for overcoming brick walls in genealogy research.
Renowned genealogist and author Elizabeth Shown Mills, coined the phrase “FAN Club” for genealogical purposes. She points out the significance of not only searching records for an ancestor’s surname, but also paying attention to documents about the ancestor’s “FAN Club” (Friends, Associates, Neighbors). Historical information, she says, is like real estate: the true value of any piece of information is unknown until it is put into community context. Learn more in Elizabeth’s “QuickSheet: The Historical Biographer’s Guide to Cluster Research (the FAN Principle).”
Step 1: “F” Stands for Family
Searching out other family members may prove helpful. Like in the case of Michael Knoop of Miami County, Ohio, I noticed there was another man in the county named Jacob Knoop. What was even more unique is both Michael and Jacob were born in New Brunswick. How unusual, I thought! Two men with the same last name, both born in New Brunswick, living in a small, farming area in Ohio! They had to be related, and they were. Jacob was Michael’s older brother.
Because I was having trouble finding when Michael had come to America, I traced Jacob instead. I located the passenger list with Jacob’s name on it and in doing so, I viewed all the passengers and found Michael, their mother, and lots of siblings!
Image above: Creating a FAN club with Family
In the case of Catherine Fearer Coddington, wife of James Coddington, I was having difficulty finding who her parents were. By searching for other Fearer individuals in the area, I discovered a biographical sketch on a John Fearer, Jr. Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 2, reads:
“In 1836[,]John Fearer [Jr.] brought his family to Illinois. From Wheeling, West Va., the journey was made entirely by water. A landing on the Illinois soil was made at Hennepin. James Coddington, from near the Fearer’s old home in Maryland had already settled north of Princeton, in Bureau County, and later married John Fearer’s sister Catherine. The family found a home at Coddington’s until Mr. Fearer rented land near by.”
Catherine had a brother! With this new information, I was able to easily trace John’s father to John Fearer, Sr. of Allegany County, Maryland and finally connect Catherine to her parents through a probate record.
It’s easy to see what a powerful strategy researching the relatives of your ancestors can be!
Step 2: “A” Stands for Associates
Creating a FAN club with Associates
An associate could be a business partner, a witness on a document, a pastor, a lawyer, or the man that bailed Grandpa out of jail! Associates are often related. To create a list of associates, you might start gathering all witnesses to vital events, such as baptismal or christening records, marriage records, probate, land, and affidavits.
Were the courthouse records in your targeted area destroyed? Check the local newspapers for clues for possible associates. As an example, Jacob Trostelwas a signee and vouched for Harvey D. Wattles’ tavern license. The license and names of the vouchers were listed in the newspaper, too. Eleven other men of the community appear on that petition. Later, Jacob himself petitions for a tavern license. That petition is signed by twelve men: George Filler, Conrad Slaybaugh, Lebright E. Hartzell, William G. Eicholtz, Isaac Yount, Joseph Dull, Isaac Myers, George W. Rex, Daniel Filler, William Harlan, and John Bream.
In both of these examples, relatives of Jacob Trostel had been vouchers. By tracing them, we were able to find out more about Jacob and his family.
Step 3: “N” Stands for Neighbors
Where can we find a list of our ancestors neighbors? A census, of course! When looking at a census page, we look for other people on the page with the same surname as our targeted ancestor. There’s a good chance those folks could also be related. But, your ancestor’s neighbors may also hold rich clues that can help you in your research.Many neighbors intermarried, sold land to each other, and even migrated to new locations together.
Besides looking at individuals listed on the same census page as your ancestor, remember to turn the page! Sometimes, a neighbor is not on the same page as your ancestor, but rather the pages before or after. Just because a person appears directly after your ancestor on the census rolls doesn’t necessarily mean they were neighbors. This only indicates the order in which the census taker visited the homes. You might also be able to identify close neighbors by looking at land ownership maps for the area. In this way, you can easily identify who lived near-by.
If you are having difficulty determining where your ancestors came from, researching the neighbors may give the answer. Many neighbors migrated together. Always check at least one page before your ancestor and one page after your ancestor in any given census.
Image above: A FAN Club with Neighbors
Genealogy Fan Club: Comments and More Resources
There are likely dozens of successful ways for creating a FAN club for your ancestor. We would love to hear your examples in the comments below. For even more ways to break through those genealogy brick walls, enjoy these links below.
Even better: Genealogy Gems Premium Members can watch Lisa’s one hour video class Brick Walls: Cold Case Investigative Techniques. In this video you’ll not only learn how to apply criminal cold case strategies to your brick walls, but you’ll also get loads of fresh and innovative ideas you can try right away.If you are not a Premium Member yet, learn more about becoming a Genealogy Gems Premium Member here.
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 36: Your Genealogy Questions Answered, Part 1
Today’s show is all about YOU! This episode is made up completely of your emailed questions, comments and stories. I couldn’t do this podcast without you, and I definitely want it to be a two way conversation. Joining me on today’s episode to read your emails is my daughter, Lacey Cooke.
Question: When do I use the GPS (genealogical proof standard) method? How do I know whether what I’ve found meets the genealogy research standard? Do I need a research report for every ancestor? When do I use the research worksheet? – Jenna in Kansas City
Answer: First, put priority on your direct ancestors. I write up research reports on each direct ancestor, but only after I’ve done the bulk of the research on them. Use the research worksheet when you have conflicting or unclear information that needs to be worked over a little more thoroughly. Learn more about navigating your research with the genealogical proof standard in the Family History Made Easy Podcast, Episode 20 andEpisode 23.
Question: I need help finding a newspaper article on the killing of my great-great grandfather Thomas Leonard Frazier that originally appeared in The Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. I didn’t cite the source when I first found it! – Kent Frazier
Answer: I found the article you’re looking for at GenealogyBank.com. Online newspapers are scattered all over the internet. I started at GenealogyBank because they have a lot and I have a subscription. If you have trouble finding newspaper article, review the episodes below. You may also want to try regional and state archives, public libraries, genealogical and historical societies and large genealogy or university libraries.
Comment: I just listened to Family History Podcast Episode 33 about hard buy medicine online gurgaon drive file organization, including organizing photos files, and I just listened to Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 18 (not currently available online) on how to identify old photos by the cars that appear in them. My sister recently sent me a batch of old family photos, including one with the van in which I learned to drive. I decided to organize them according to your suggestions and it’s worked really well. I have one more suggestion: add a caption to each photo’s metadata. It’s like writing about the photo on the back of it.
To add a caption in Windows, right-click on the file, then click Properties. On a Mac, click on the File icon and then in the Finder menu, click on Get Info. I’m using Windows Vista, so this comes up with a window that has three tabs on it: General, Security and Details. Go to the Details tab and click to the right of the fields that are listed there to enable editing. On my computer, there are fields for Title, Subject, Tags and Comments as well as Authors, Date Taken and Date Acquired. There are a number of other fields that can be edited on this screen that have to do with the photographic equipment that was used, so scanned photos from your grandparents’ Kodak Brownie cameras can be updated too. The fields that I fill in are Subject, Tags and where known, the Authors and Date Taken. The Tags field can be very useful for the computer’s search function. If these fields are not available from the operating system itself, most modern photo editing software has functionality that will let you edit these same fields from within the photo software [for example, in Adobe Photoshop, this is under File -> File Info]. –Sean Lamb
Russ provides this link to his blog post about applying my hard drive organization strategies and incorporating Family Tree Maker software. For hard drive organization, see Family History Podcast Episode 32 and Episode 33.
Question: I’ve been doing genealogy for a couple of years on and off. I found your two podcasts and I’m almost caught up on Family History Made Easy. (Next will be the “Genealogy Gems” podcast!) Is there a “best practice” for which name should be used for a woman’s record? Maiden or married? Also, will you recap what a primary source is? –Bob Callahan
Answer: When I started the podcast, I wondered whether having two podcasts was overkill. I’m getting great feedback telling me that’s not the case! A primary source contains genealogical data collected at the time of the event reported by someone of authority and/or who was at the event and has first-hand knowledge. You may have several primary sources for each fact, like a family Bible and a government or church record for a birth or death. (A secondary source for that might be a birth announcement in a newspaper. The reporter obviously wasn’t there and doesn’t have firsthand knowledge of the event. If that’s all you have, dig a little deeper.)
As for your question about women’s names, a woman is listed in on a family tree with the name she was born with: her maiden name. She will be connected to any spouses later in life, and you can get her married name from there. They may appear in records with any of their surnames. A death record on Ancestry.com may have her listed by her married name, but in your family tree you should have her by her maiden name.
Comment: Let me first say that I am a new listener and have been on a Genealogy Gems and Family History Made Easy Podcast marathon! For the past month, I have listened to almost all of your podcasts and have gleaned quite a bit of information…to the point that it has almost overloaded my brain. But that is a good thing because I have a lot of new ideas for expanding the tree that my grandmother started forty plus years ago…
When setting up the surname folders and the sub-folders that go inside each, you set up one set of folders inside of one of the surname folders that are brand new with no documents inside of them. Then highlight each of them by first clicking on the first folder inside the surname folder, press and hold the shift key and click on the last folder and then right click on one of the highlighted folders and click copy from the drop down list. Then click and open the next surname folder, right click inside the folder and then click on paste from the drop down folder. –Eric Gomes
This is a GREAT suggestion! I constantly move multiple files at a time, but completely forgot that this can be done with file folders.
Question: Do you have any suggestions on what to look at when checking out and deciding on a society to join? –Eric Gomes
Answer: It depends on what your goals are. If your goals are camaraderie, education, involvement and community service, involve yourself with a local society. Go visit! See how welcoming they are, what kinds of programs they offer and whether they meet your needs. Don’t be shy about meeting the president and asking for a recent copy of their newsletter. Test drive it to see what’s a good fit for you.
If you’re trying to learn about where your ancestor lived, look for a society closest to that area. Look for societies near and far at the Federation of Genealogical Societies website on the Find a Society page. Or Google the name of the city and/or county/province and the keywords “genealogy society” to find what you’re looking for. Coming up dry? Contact a reference or local history/genealogy librarian at a local library or someone at a local historical society to ask for a recommendation.
Featured this week are new records for Canada, including the 1851 Canada Census, and BMD for Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Other records include new Irish collections, updated New Zealand birth, marriage, and death collections, new marriage record collections for England, and the launch of the New York State Death Index.
Also at Ancestry this week are new records for Manitoba, Canada. You can search Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials (1834-1959), and keep in mind that some of the records in this collection pre-date Manitoba’s creation as a province, and, as a result, are from locations that do not exist in present-day Manitoba. Some records may also appear in French. You can also explore Manitoba Census Indexes (1832-1856 & 1870).
The 1851 Canada Census is available now at Findmypast. It contains over 1.3 million records and images for Canada West (Ontario) and Canada East (Quebec), New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. This collection is also available at MyHeritage, as well as at the Library and Archives Canada (though their search tools may not be quite as robust).
For fabulous quick tips on Canadian research, take a listen to Lisa’s interview with Claire Banton of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Available free on the Genealogy Gems Podcast episode #199.
Irish Military & Bank Records
County Cork. A new database of Irish soldiers is now available online: Deserters, acts of heroism, and IRA murders unearthed. According to the site: “The details of some 2,187 people – soldiers and their families – recorded mainly in the registers of Ballincollig Garrison Chapel have been recovered using the registers of baptisms, marriages and burials between 1810 and 1922 now in the safe custody of the RCB Library, and further research using a variety of additional resources have further unlocked their hidden stories.”
Snippet from a detailed spreadsheet containing information on the 2,187 soldiers and their families recorded in the registers of Ballincollig Garrison Chapel.
Newstalk. The Central Bank of Ireland opens its archives up to the public, including an online catalog. According to a recent article: “The bank says the archives can now be used for public research purposes for the first time. They include a range of materials created and acquired by the bank – such as objects, documents, and ledgers dating from 1786 to 1986.” All materials are open to the public in a dedicated research room, and an online catalog is available to determine what materials may be of interest.
Colorado. Colorado Virtual Library: “The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection recently added four new titles; the Brush Lariat (1884-1885), the Morgan County Republican (1912-1920), the Louisville Times (1942-2007), and the Whitehorn News (1897-1907). These four new titles, added by a longtime CHNC partner and two new partners, join 205 titles of historic Colorado newspapers.”
Florida. The Greater North Miami Historical Society had a collection of historical images. Its historical collection dates back to the 1930s and includes over 4,000 negatives, photographs, and other items. *Only a fraction of the material has been put online and the project continues.
Newspapers(Seattle, WA, Boston, MA, & Washington D.C.)
Accessible Archives has announced the completion of additional titles in its African American Newspapers and Women’s Suffrage collections. The five newspapers are now fully imaged and searchable. These tiles range from mid-19th century to early 20th century.
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!
A listener sent in her favorite resources for Ohio genealogy research. Could any of these help you find your Buckeye State ancestors?
Recently we heard from Genealogy Gems Premium member Kate, after she listened to Premium podcast episode 125 with Cheryl McClellan (available to Premium members). “That [episode] was perfect for my situation. I am looking at our budget and thinking of letting my 12 year subscription to Ancestry drop. Cheryl’s comments helped me make that decision….Lisa, you always have answers when I most need them.”
“Wanted to share a few sources that have I have found very helpful in Ohio genealogy research. We live in Michigan but have used the Toledo Public Library for research for years as many ancestors have lived there.
Toledo Public Library: The Blade obituary index, 1837 to present. Through an online search from your home, you can request an obit and there is no fee. You may request up to 3 at a time. They will look them up when they have time and email you an image of the obit. It has taken up to a couple of weeks. They are very helpful. They also gave me a link to Google News so I can look myself on the Toledo Blade images. As you know there are gaps and not all images are legible. The Library has the paper on microfilm to fill in where needed.
FamilySearch has an index and images for Ohio Deaths 1908 – 1953. This has the full image of death certificates. You have to create a user account to see the images. Wow, what a great help to understand how all these people are related. Just one example in my tree: there are 11 Mary Lehaneys. Some never married, some did. They all died as Mary Lehaney and if their husband died, they are listed as Mrs Tom Lehaney etc.
FamilySearch has the Toledo Catholic Diocese record images. My paternal line is mostly Catholic and lived in Toledo area for many years. Again, not indexed, but when you know about the time [can you can find] not only birth and marriages, [but] the complete burial records from the Catholic Cemeteries.
Anyone who researches in Ohio may find these [resources] invaluable….Lisa, keep your beautiful smile and thanks for all your help!”
Thank YOU, Kate! We hope her suggestions prove helpful to many of you doing Ohio genealogy! Anyone can become a Genealogy Gems Premium member like Kate. Members get 12 months of access to monthly Premium podcast episodes and the full Premium podcast archive–all packed with genealogy news, tips and interviews like the one that helped Kate. We also have more than 2 dozen in depth video classes for Premium members only, with more added regularly. These include our entire series on Evernote for genealogy! Click here to see the current list of Premium videos.