Saturday, August 20, 2011

One Day of German Research

For the 31st edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, the theme is to write about "Personal Research, Research Experiences, and Tips."

I found this to be perfect timing as I have been spending a lot of time on some of my German surnames.  A few weeks ago I spent a whole day on these families, especially my Bergers.  I had never been able to get far researching them, mainly because they never showed up where they were supposed to be and because I was pretty ignorant when it came to German research.

It didn't start off as a Berger research day, or even a German research day.  It started off with me checking out the online classes at FamilySearch.  It had been several months since I had seen what they had to offer and it wasn't long before I was thoroughly engrossed in The Journey Takers, presented by Leslie Albrecht Huber.  One of the many things about the video that stood out to me was that the place where a family lived (especially if it was in a small community) might not have had the parish they attended.  It was entirely possible that they attended the parish in a nearby, larger community.

With that in mind I decided to play around with the German records on FamilySearch.  I knew that my Bergers were from an area near the border of France called Rinnthal.  The problem was that whenever I looked for my Bergers in Rinnthal I came up with zip.  So, with the lesson I had just learned in mind, I broadened my search.  I started typing in the names and dates I knew and to my surprise I was getting matches, only they weren't in Rinnthal they were in some place called Wilgartswiesen.  A map of the two communities can be seen here (Rinnthal is on the far right, Wilgartswiesen on the far left):

View Larger Map

The two towns are right next to each other (less than three miles apart) and Wilgartswiesen is the larger of the two.  The Berger children I was expecting to find all showed up in Wilgartswiesen, as well as some additional children who must have died young.  My second great-grandfather, John William Berger, was born after the family came to the US but all except one of his many siblings were baptized in Wilgartswiesen.  Another interesting tidbit is that most of John's brothers (who I knew as Philip, Jacob and Michael) were actually named Johann Philipp, Johann Jakob and Johann Michael.  Obviously, my John Berger wasn't the first in the family, although he seems to be the only one who actually went by John.  Then I read this article at Arlene Eakle's blog and this article at FamilySearch wiki and it cleared up a lot about German naming traditions for me.

I continued to spend time looking through the Wilgartswiesen records (type C02454-0 in the Batch Number box to browse these records at FamilySearch) and started to see a pattern with some of the mothers, their maiden names seemed to always end in "in."  For example, Katharina Kupperin, Anna Maria Weilacherin, Elisabetha Daulin, etc.  After some hunting, I found a thread that somewhat answered my question regarding the surname endings.

The day wasn't over yet, however.  With a lot of my questions concerning German research in Germany answered, I started to shift my focus to my questions concerning German research in the US.  Specifically, I wanted to get a better idea as to why my ancestors left Germany for the US.  They arrived in the early 1830s, first settling in Stark Co., Ohio.  By 1840 they were in Marshall Co., Indiana where they remained.

While I was formulating what to look for next, I remembered the wonderful presentation I had seen in June thanks to the SCGS Jamboree Live Streaming.  One of the things Curt Witcher stressed in the presentation was to study not just your family in an area but their neighbors as well because they were likely connected in some way.  With that in mind I wanted to look for any common threads between my Bergers and their neighbors in both Ohio and Indiana.

The first census the Bergers appear in is the 1840.  I pulled it up and made a note of their neighbors, especially those with German sounding last names.  Then I did the same with the 1850 census.  Nothing really jumped out at me, but it is an avenue I will continue down.  Something else I'm going to look into?  Bergers and Matz in the Stark Co., Ohio area in 1830.  My ancestors weren't there yet but their relatives might have been.

I also remembered this wonderful narrative lineage from the BCG's Work Samples page.  The author's family also had German roots and had settled in Stark Co., Ohio.  They were also members of a similar religious order - could that have been the reason my Bergers came to the US?  It is something I will also continue to look into.

To end my day of German research, I headed over to one of my very favorite places, the website for the Bremen Public Library.  While going through my Berger database I realized I was missing some obituaries I should have.  Luckily, the Bremen Library has put them online - free to view and download.

I accomplished a lot that day, but even better I formulated a plan of what I need to do next.  I also learned some lessons that I'll apply to my other German lines and future research.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go look for my Bergers in the Stark Co. court records over at FamilySearch...

Disclosure:  I am in no way affiliated with any of the blogs, websites, organizations or institutions mentioned and/or linked to in this post.  I received no prompting or remuneration of any kind for this post.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Census Sunday: Great-Great, Part 3

Since my great-grandparents were still living with their parents in 1910 and I already covered this generation of ancestors, you can read about them here.  And, this is also the case for the 1900 US census.  You can read about them here.

So, here they are in the 1880 or 1881 (with the exception of the four who were still in Italy):

John Grant Allen
I haven't been able to find him in 1880.  He would have been about ten and was likely living in Trumbull County, Ohio where the rest of his family was.  Twelve years separated John from his next oldest surviving sibling and by 1880 all but John seem to have established their own household.  The exception is his brother, Robert, who was living with their father in 1880.  They were working as laborers in Niles and John was probably with them though not enumerated.

Marion A. Wood
Charles S. Wood Family
1881 Census of Canada
McKillop, Huron Centre, Ontario
Marion was ten and living with her parents, Charles S. Wood and Diadame Beam, and her siblings.  While Diadame was a native Canadian and Charles had spent the majority of his life there, Marion and several of her siblings were born in the US.  The family had relocated back to Canada around 1876 and came back to the US not long after this census.

1881 Census of Canada, McKillop, Huron Centre, Ontario, population schedule, district 174, subdistrict E, division 2, p. 79, family #341, Marion Wood; digital images, ( : accessed 13 June 2011); Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-13273.

Frederick Rendle Croad
Frederick Rendle Croad
1881 England Census
Midsomer Norton, Somerset
Fred was fifteen and working as a laborer.  He was over forty miles away from home and his family.  While he is listed as a 'labourer' many of the people on the page were in the mining industry and I have to wonder if Fred was as well.  Where he was living, in Midsomer Norton, was in Somerset's coalfield.

1881 England Census, Somerset, Midsomer Norton, District 1a, RG 11, Piece 2428, Folio 7, p. 9, household 204, Frederick Croad (lodger); digital images, ( : accessed 4 August 2011); The National Archives of the UK, GSU roll 1341584.

Mary Stokes
George Stokes Family
1881 Wales Census
Pontypridd, Glamorgan
Mary was thirteen and at home with her parents.  Her father, George was a coker and both her parents were originally from Somerset.  Mary's occupation is given as 'scholar' and she was able to speak both English and Welsh.

1881 Wales Census, Glamorgan, Llanwonno, District 18, RG 11, Piece 5296, Folio 41, p. 85, household 376, George Stokes (head); digital images, ( : accessed 7 August 2011); The National Archives of the UK, GSU roll 1342274.

Heman Doyle Shinn and Emma Sophia Tock
See here.

Lauren Everett Healey
Comfort Healey Family, p. 2
1880 US Census
Centerville, Alameda, California
Lauren was two months shy of his seventh birthday and was at home with his parents and siblings.  His father, Comfort, was listed as 'farmer' and originally from Nova Scotia.  Many of the family's neighbors were also relatives, all connected to Ebenezer Haley who was the first in the family to come out to California.  NOTE: The family is divided over two pages, parents on 517B and children on 518C.

1880 US Census, Alameda County, California, population schedule, Centerville, enumeration district (ED) 24, p. 517B and 518C, dwelling 276, family 281, Comfort Haley (head); digital images, ( : accessed 12 August 2011); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 62.

Katherine Nielsen
Niels C. Nielsen Family
1880 US Census
Eden Twp., Alameda, California
Katherine was four and with her parents and sister in 1880.  They were living in Mt. Eden which was later absorbed into present-day Hayward. Her father, Niels, is listed as a laborer.  Most of the people enumerated with the family also seem to have North Frisia Danish roots.

1880 US Census, Alameda County, California, population schedule, Eden Township, enumeration district (ED) 23, p. 476B, dwelling 287, family 288, Niels Nielsen (head); digital images, ( : accessed 13 August 2011); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 62.

John W. Berger and Susanna vonAllmen
John W. Berger Family
1880 US Census
South Bend, Saint Joseph, Indiana
John and Susanna were living in South Bend with their children were John was a minister.  NOTE: The family is divided over two pages, parents on 470D, children on 471A.

1880 US Census, Saint Joseph County, Indiana, population schedule, South Bend, enumeration district (ED) 163, p. 470D, dwelling 746, family 867, John Berger (Head); digital images, ( : accessed 13 August 2011); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 309.

George Washington Wellons and Mary Anna Webb
George W. Wellons Family
1880 US Census
Animas City, La Plata, Colorado
George and Mary were living in Animas City (mistranscribed as 'Ammas City' by with their children in 1880.  George is listed as a 'farmer.'  Also on the same page are Julius A. and Martha (Webb) Nicholson - the sister and brother-in-law of Mary.

1880 US Census, La Plata County, Colorado, population schedule, Animas City, enumeration district (ED) 65, p. 572C, dwelling 37, family 49, George Wellons (Head); digital images, ( : accessed 13 August 2011); NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 91.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting the Most Out of DNA Results

(NOTE: This post is all about genetic genealogy.  So, if you aren't at all interested in that sort of thing you might just want to skip this all together.)

I'm continually surprised to find people who have taken an autosomal DNA test and not investigated all the additional things you can do with the results.  The fact is that there are A LOT of options you can look into with your autosomal DNA test results, regardless of whether you tested through 23andMe or FamilyTree DNA.  Honestly, all the side projects and calculators were a big reason why I wanted to do autosomal DNA testing for myself and my parents and why I want to continue testing other relatives.

Most of these "goodies" are more advanced admixture tests than 23andMe and FamilyTree DNA usually perform.  Since I got the test results, I've submitted my father and mother's raw data to Dr. McDonald's BGA project.  It was free and I am so glad I did it.  Not only did Dr. McDonald send me graphs and maps, but he broke down my parents likely ancestral origins by percentages.  The most surprising result was the fact that he detected Jewish ancestry on my father's side (which I think is likely Sephardi, see here).  He also detected possible Native American ancestry on my mother's side - something that has long been rumored but never proven.  I also downloaded and ran my parents' results through Dienekes' DIY Dodecad calculator (again, free).

Below is a graph showing my father's various admixture results from the basic Ancestry Painting (also called Population Finder through FamilyTree DNA's Family Finder test) by 23andMe, to the additional tests I did through the DIY Dodecad and Dr. McDonald's BGA:

The 21.5% Mideast result includes the Jewish ancestry.  I should also point out that the DIY Dodecad results make the most sense when run through the Dodecad Oracle.  After putting the values above through the Oracle, I pretty much got that my father was half Italian, half Northern European - which is what the paper trail supports.

I've also uploaded my raw data to and while I haven't had any luck with my "matches" there, the eye color predictor proved eerily accurate.

But perhaps the biggest tool I've been using since getting my results is actually the one tool you don't even need any results to use: DNA-Forums.  I use it to educate myself on everything from the projects and calculators available out there, to specific SNPs to just general questions about the science.  And, speaking of SNPs, a great resource to learn about specific ones is SNPedia.  The ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogy) is also a lot more than just the wiki mentioned earlier.  It is a wonderful resource and has helped me tremendously in educating myself on genetics.

Honestly, there is a ton more out there on genetic genealogy than I have mentioned here.  What is mentioned here are just the tools that I personally have found helpful in allowing me to get the most out of my DNA results - so by all means, go out and explore.

I will say that it can be challenging to wrap your head around a lot of this stuff.  I've been interested in genetics since I was first introduced to it in 7th grade but that doesn't mean I've found all this easy.  Actually, I struggled to understand most of it (and still do).  But, I've been able to figure a lot of it out, so if you have any questions about pretty much anything in this post, let me know and I'd be happy to help if I'm able.

Disclosure: I am in no way affiliated with any of the people, products or companies mentioned in this post nor did I receive remuneration of any kind for this post.  I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the tests mentioned in this post or the reputability of the people and organizations performing the tests.  I cannot be held liable for any results or experiences others receive with any of the people, products or companies mentioned in this post.  I am purely a hobbyist in this subject, therefor my words and opinions on this topic should be taken as such.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Peschici, Please

I have a new favorite place on this big blue marble called Earth and it is Peschici.

It is a small village in Italy with a present-day population of less than 4500 people.  From pictures I've seen it is absolutely gorgeous and is apparently (and not surprisingly) quite the tourist destination.  I've never been there (though I'd love to visit) and whenever I say it I feel like I'm ordering some obscure Italian cheese.

Why do I love Peschici, you ask?  Because my great-grandmother was born there.  Yes, the same great-grandmother who is my biggest brick-wall, the one without parents, a definite maiden name and until recently, a birthplace.

When I ordered her SS-5 the parents were what I was interested in - I wanted names and nothing else mattered.  But, a funny thing happened when I got my copy of it in the mail.  There were no names listed for her parents (her daughter, who was her legal guardian at the time filled it out and she clearly didn't know much about her mother's ancestry).  I was momentarily disappointed until I noticed that her place of birth was listed (I was expecting just a blanket 'Italy' like I had seen on a lot of SS-5s for immigrants).  What was listed was 'Peschi' but a quick search reveals that no such place exists.  The only thing close is Peschici, which just happens to be about 12 miles from Vieste, where my great-grandmother lived before coming to the US and where her husband (and some of their children) was from.

I'm actually happier that I know her birthplace than if I just knew her parents names.  With a birthplace, I have a specific spot that I can start with and build from.  If I just had names it wouldn't mean much because I wouldn't have a clue where to begin looking for more information.  And, as I've found in researching my ancestors MANY times, names aren't always correct.  Case in point, my great-grandfather who said his mother was 'Carmela Scarlano,' then there is my great-grandfather's brother who said that their mother was 'Carmina Scarnia'... and then there are their actual birth registration records which list their mother as 'Carmella Scarano.'

Now that I know her birthplace, I can order films for Peschici (I knew her birthdate, though there is a little confusion over whether it was in 1891 or 1892).  Specifically, I can order 1802409 Item 3 and 1802411 Item 1 which include birth registrations for 1891 and 1892.

The wall isn't down yet, but for the first time in a very long time the wall doesn't look so high... or so indestructible.