PDA

View Full Version : This is Distressing!



Hesse
Sunday, December 12th, 2010, 02:31 PM
Well, as an attempt to further consolidate my genealogical research, the other day I sent an inquiry to the civil registration office of my ancestral hometown in the fatherland, only to find out that the ancestor I located in the churh records and presumed to be my great great grandfather had immigrated to Iowa in 1883, which coincides with what I know to be true about my ancestor.

I know 1883 could not have possibly been my ancestor's year of immigration because I know for a fact he was in the states before this, because he first came to Iowa to do some work for some time to pay off his immigration, and then naturalized and married here in MN in 1874 and had his first son in 1875. My ancestor came here in the early 1870's, around 1872 or 1873 respectively.

If this person really immigrated in 1883, it would be inconsistent with the genealogical records of my ancestor’s events that happened in the United States.

I was extremely dismayed to get this news from the civil register, because this ancestor I located among the church register was the ONLY person I was able to find a birth record for in Germany, with the same first and last name and exact same birthdate right to the day, on top of that, he was baptized in a Catholic church, and was a farmer, which is what I know my great great grandfather was. In other words, this person matched up with the statistics of my great great grandfather right to a tea.

How could this be? How could someone so closely match up with the statistics of my great great grandfather, yet not be him? I have traced back the lineage of this individual back several generations, well into the 1600's and found no impurities, and hate the fact I have put substantail amounts of time, moneys, and efforts into establishing what I thought were my ancestors that I have to start all over and send various letters across the fatherland to see if any of the churches have a birth record for my ancestor. What if I never find a birth record for my great great grandfather at all?


So, what effects will this have on my identity and validity? How am I ever going to know my ancestry? How can I claim German ancestry after this? My German identity is a very important aspect to my personal status, and was extremly proud of the fact that I had traced down my lineage quite far and found only Germanic relatives.



How should a person who is German and proud of it handle this?

Is there still a chance this person is my ancestor and a number was recorded wrong in the document?

Would it be recommended that I still claim descent from this lineage, hoping that the person working in the civil registration office transcribed the wrong date? Or should I just deny that this is my ancestor?

Even without the lineage, I know for a fact that my ancestor was a German individual because he has naturalization documents stating he was from the Kingdom of Prussia, and listed Germany as the place of birth for he and his parents in every censes he lived to be a part of, accompanied with a big W (for you know what) in the race box, the epithet on his headstone was written in German and his grandson who is my grandfather spoke German as a first language. Also when I look at a family picture of my great great grandfather he and the other family members seem to have fair hair. So it's not like finding out he's a Jew or anything like that; it could always have been worse, but I just pray that this is the most distressing discovery I will ever come to in tracing back my family tree.

It feels like someone took a big axe to your family tree and chopped it down, something that you had put a lot of time and moneys into establishing. An important part of your identity, gone.

To be honest, I am extremely depressed right now about this.

The best thing I could hope for is that the person in the civil registration office got the date mixed up, like maybe they meant to transcribe 1873 instead of 1883, in which case the former would be dead on accurate with the time frame my ancestor came here.

It has proven that you cannot trust the dates and names in the paper trail to be accurate or know wheter they really are my ancestor or just a duplicate person. Its very easy to dupe yourself with similar dates and names of different persons.

Tracing back the family tree through parish birth records has proven unreliable for a number of reasons.
Its time to bite the bullet and have a DNA test to settle this once and for all.

velvet
Sunday, December 12th, 2010, 02:56 PM
Could still be your ancestor, and even the dates dont have to be necessarily wrong. While this person already was in (or went frequently to) the Americas, this did not mean that he was immediately removed from the church registers here. This he maybe did only in 1883 then, after having already been living for years in America.

Churches were mainly good with registering new members in their community, with updating the records when something changed this often wasnt the case.

Hesse
Saturday, December 18th, 2010, 10:44 PM
Would it still be safe to accept this person as my ancestor, keeping in mind that the city archives of the town may have transcribed the incorrect date? Or should I drop this relative and all the work I put in to tracing him back and search out another one with the exact same name and date?

Since I know there are some intelligient heritage-minded folks here, who view heritage identification as important, what would it be recommended that I do in this situation? Should I still continue to accept this person as being my ancestor, keeping in mind that the date the Stadtarchiv (city archives) transcribed may have been an error, or renounce the individual since there has been some data found that disproves this as my ancestor, and he just happened to be a duplicate Prussian with the same first and last name and date of birth.

How can I be a proud German if I am uncertain that this is really my correct ancestor? Proving that my ancestry is Germanic is one of my top priorities in life.

Until I heard from the city archives office stating that he immigrated in 1883, I had every reason to believe he was my ancestor, for this person had the exact same birthdate, first, and last, and so I did quite a bit of research on the individual, tracing the lineage back to the 1600's, knowing full well that that was my great great grandfather's correct lineage. I am also uncertain of where the Stadtarchiv obtained that date of 1883, and where they got their data from, and hence don't know how accurate that is.

I am certain my great great grandfather did not immigrate in 1883 because he married here in 1874.

They are right in the fact that he immigrated to Iowa, the year just cannot be right with that I know for certain to be true about my ancestor.

Any suggestions?

Hilderinc
Saturday, December 18th, 2010, 11:46 PM
Try to do more research on people with close relations to him (his wife, kids, parents, etc.) and if all of the data for these people points to them really being his wife, kids, etc, then I think it is safe to say that he is your ancestor, and the date of the records was just incorrect.

I don't think the dates, which are just 'petty facts', are necessarily as important as things such as the structure of the family itself.

I have done research on my own family tree, and when records conflicted with each other, I had to do process of elimination to see what was wrong and right about the records, and what could not possibly be true on the records based on what I did know.

In short, try to find as many possible sources for records (personal family tree, letters, church records, etc) and play detective and see if 'this person fits'

Hesse
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 12:14 AM
Everything but the emigration date from the Stadtarchiv fits my ancestor.

Both persons have the same name and birthdate, were Catholics, farmers, and born in Prussia.


Oh, yeah, and they both immigrated to Iowa.

velvet
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 12:34 AM
I really think you shouldnt overestimate that date. Mistakes happen everywhere (also in Prussia), and when you already researched that lineage and found proof that this is the lineage of your ancestors, chances are very good that this is your ancestor and just someone messed up the date of emigration ;)

The chances for two persons with the same name and birthdate, from the same place, with the same occupation are somewhere around zero I would think, so just forget about the date.

If it causes you sleepless nights nonetheless, try what NorseWarrior said. It's not so long ago that there werent maybe newspaper articles, registers from associations/unions/clubs/registered societies whatever, extent your research, there might be information available other than from city archives / public registers. Also other direct relatives of this person (or rather their descendants) who stayed here might have private letters or other records that could shed at least light on the date thing, or confirm outright that this is the guy you're looking for (when he wrote back home f.e.).

As far as I see that, everything points to that this is your ancestor, you really shouldnt give it up just because one tiny (handwritten) number doesnt fit. There are plenty ways how this can happen (inattention, confusedness, hurry, whatever). :)

Sissi
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 12:38 AM
How can I be a proud German if I am uncertain that this is really my correct ancestor? Proving that my ancestry is Germanic is one of my top priorities in life.
What about your other ancestors? In your profile it's said you have some ancestry from Norway also. Norwegians are Germanic too. :)

But anyway, I think it more comes down to your upbringing and education. Sure ancestry is important, but it's not enough to consider yourself a proud German. Unfortunately many Americans put emphasis on the latter and completely forget the former. No offense.

But I think living like a proud German is also honoring your ancestors. It's not enough to be ethnically German. Do you speak German for example, or do you practice any German specific customs? Has any German heritage been passed down to you? If not, then it's time to self-educate. You see, if I found out one of my ancestors wasn't really my ancestors, I wouldn't feel less German. Why should I, since it's my identity? You see?

Besides, if everything but the date fit your ancestor, he has a German name and came from Germany, why is it a reason to doubt you being of German lineage? Even if it's not him and a duplicate.

I'd say if you're keen on your genealogy to continue the research for the same name, as well as research other branches of your family. But at the same time don't let it affect your identity. Unless you find out that your ancestor was non-European like African, Arab, etc., and it's a recent one, but it doesn't seem the case at all.

So it shouldn't affect you too much, in my opinion. You are who you are. Once more, my advice is to focus a little more on your identity. If you don't have it well established, forge it. Once you are secure of your identity, such details won't matter significantly anymore. ;)

Hesse
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 03:41 AM
Do you speak German for example, or do you practice any German specific customs?

I speak some German that I decided to learn in school, although it wasn't directly passed on to me (it was completely lost in my mother's generation), I decided to adopt the language because it is for my heritage and wish to honour my ancestors.


or do you practice any German specific customs?

Does Christmas count?


Has any German heritage been passed down to you?

Of course. Its in my blood.


Besides, if everything but the date fit your ancestor, he has a German name and came from Germany, why is it a reason to doubt you being of German lineage? Even if it's not him and a duplicate.

I'd say if you're keen on your genealogy to continue the research for the same name, as well as research other branches of your family. But at the same time don't let it affect your identity. Unless you find out that your ancestor was non-European like African, Arab, etc., and it's a recent one, but it doesn't seem the case at all.


But then again, I fear that I will never be able to find his birth record in Germany. In essence, how will I be able to prove that this ancestor was a German? How would I ensure the reason I am unable to locate his birth record in Germany doesn't mean he was born outside of Germany to Africans or Arabs?

I see a red flag in being unable to find your ancestor's birth record in the fatherland, but I may be wrong.

Every time the census rolled around, he said he and his parents were from Germany, but how do I prove he actually meant what he said and was not a dupe?



So it shouldn't affect you too much, in my opinion. You are who you are. Once more, my advice is to focus a little more on your identity. If you don't have it well established, forge it. Once you are secure of your identity, such details won't matter significantly anymore. ;)

I would like to establish my identity as a person with German heritage, which is part of my identity as a Germanic as well , but how can I possibly back up my identity without proving that I have German ancestors or tracing my ancestry back to Germanic roots?

Ralf
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 03:29 PM
Well, as an attempt to further consolidate my genealogical research, the other day I sent an inquiry to the civil registration office of my ancestral hometown in the fatherland,

Can I ask how you go anout doing this please?
I would like to do the same though I fear most Prussian records where destroyed by the Russians.

Hesse
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 04:59 PM
Can I ask how you go anout doing this please?
I would like to do the same though I fear most Prussian records where destroyed by the Russians.

Do you know which town your ancestors were from and what religion they were part of?

If so, you can email the city archives (Stadtarchiv), of the town and send an inquiry with everything you know about your ancestor and hopefully they will find the record.

Even better yet, if you know their religion, you can write to the parish office of the town, with the same inquiry, and chances are they will have the pertaining record for your ancestor's birth, baptismal, marriage, or death record, including the names of the parents if you find the birth record.

Finding your relatives in church books will allow you to trace them back a few centuries further, since most churches kept records as far back as the 1600's, and some of them go even further.


Best of luck in your search, and when you do find your ancestor, I hope it is the correct one who is actually your ancestor so you dont end up tracing a family that you don't belong to, like I think I did.:P

şeudiskaz
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 05:14 PM
You've said yourself that this particular ancestor was for sure German, why distress? You know he came from Prussia, and that makes him German. That is proof right there if your heritage. If you are still interested in decoding this mystery, feel free, but you should'nt stress about it.

SaxonPagan
Sunday, December 19th, 2010, 06:07 PM
My own thoughts on this, wallflower, are that you shouldn't fret too much about this detail that goes back over 120 years.

If you act Germanic, think Germanic and feel Germanic, that would be good enough for me!

Ediruc
Monday, December 20th, 2010, 04:15 AM
Wallflower, the best thing to do is just make assumptions. I don't have all the full documents and details of my family history. I only have a scroll and what has been written down in a Bible and what my grandparents and great-grandparents have told us about my ancestors.

I'm sure if I consulted a variety of sources, I could better put together the pieces of my own family history, but I just don't have the time for that.

Sigurd
Monday, December 20th, 2010, 09:58 AM
Unless it's some really common name such as Johann Müller, Josef Gruber, John Smith, Adam Kowalski, or Alistair MacDonald --- chances are fairly high that the ancestor you tracked is precisely the one you've been looking for.

All other details are correct and verifiable as you find them, the chance that two people with the exact same name (especially if uncommon) were born exactly the same day in exactly the same region --- and if they were, you'd expect this to be noted elsewhere, such as "village litanies".

Old records aren't always that accurate, sometimes it takes a while to register a change, sometimes there happen mistakes. We in disciplines that have much to do with archive work, say: "One detail, or one source that contradicts the other evidence can be negated; I'd start to worry when it's two or more."

In your case, there needn't be any contradiction. If 1883 was the year he was first found in Iowa, this may have been a later addition to the church records. Let's assume the following (not unlikely) scenario: he was the seventh son of a seventh son of some farmhand at some backwater farm. He emigrated, never bothered to change his details, and some fifteen years later the village priest comes by and wonders what happened to one of his sheep he hasn't seen in mass for a while. The simple folk don't remember which year he left, but they have a letter from 1883 which says he just moved to Iowa --- the priest takes this down in the church record as year of emigration.

You'll never know where the discrepancy is from. If it's the only one you've found a record for that matches all other details - he most likely is your ancestor. It could be worse, it could be like in one of my lines. In one of my lines, we're old Westphalian nobility but since the records got burned in the 30-year-war we can't say which one of the two lines we precisely belong to due to some two or three generations disappearing in the mists of time. ;)

Hesse
Thursday, December 30th, 2010, 05:16 PM
These are some good points, however I must ask:


How do I have proof that my ancestor is from Prussia Germany without finding his birth record over there and tracing back from it?


How can one feel Germanic without being able to prove their ancestry is Germanic?

wittwer
Thursday, December 30th, 2010, 07:39 PM
These are some good points, however I must ask:


How do I have proof that my ancestor is from Prussia Germany without finding his birth record over there and tracing back from it?


How can one feel Germanic without being able to prove their ancestry is Germanic?

Welcome to the "Joys" of Genealogy. Some lines can be traced far back because records were kept and are still intact, while others have disappeared or were destroyed by whatever incident. As an example, I have forbears who disappeared into the wild and wooly frontier of the southern Shenandoah Valley in the U.S. in the late 1780's-1790's and no official records were kept recording births or deaths, except by word of mouth and in old family Bibles. The case in point being my 5 great grandfather. No records of birth, but he's buried in the Family Cemetary with a headstone. Whereas, another family line has been traced back to Switzerland in 900 AD via an Official Paper Trail... So should I reject my paternal family line because of a break in the official paper trail? Heck no!
;)

Hesse
Friday, September 16th, 2011, 02:43 AM
I really think you shouldnt overestimate that date. Mistakes happen everywhere (also in Prussia), and when you already researched that lineage and found proof that this is the lineage of your ancestors, chances are very good that this is your ancestor and just someone messed up the date of emigration ;)

Well, it turns out that you are right. It turns out he IS in fact my ancestor after all, and I will explain how I came to this conclusion.


Thanks to having communications and contacts with someone in Germany who makes family trees and knows my ancestors and relatives from the church records of the district, I was able to have access to the original document from my ancestors emigration from the fatherland straight from the government office. And I was able to determine from the original record of departure, that his immigration date was really in fact 1873, not 1883 like the city archives of the area predicted. He still immigrated to Iowa according to the record and has the same date of birth, only the date is completely consistent with the genealogical records of my ancestor’s events that happened in the United States, unlike the date 1883.


This date of departure 26.4.1873, completely concurs with what I know about the ancestor that I had mentioned in the original post, as does all the other statistics about him (exact date of birth, religion, occupation, both immigrated to Iowa) and I now have certain verified proof that I can add him (and his lineage) back to the family tree because this person is officially my ancestor. And I can continue researching his lineage even further knowing that it is the correct lineage. :thumbup


The best thing I could hope for is that the person in the civil registration office got the date mixed up, like maybe they meant to transcribe 1873 instead of 1883, in which case the former would be dead on accurate with the time frame my ancestor came here.

That is exactly what happened. I have officially determined that 1873, not 1883 was the correct date and the 1883 date was only a transcribing error on the family index cards at the city archives (Stadtarchiv). However, such a seemingly insignificant error such as a clerical error of a date threw me off/had me mislead for months as I actually believed that he was not really my ancetor because the mistranscribed date conflicted with what I know about the ancestor. :P


And this is coming from the DIRECT source of the date, the actual, official, real written record composed at the time of the event. The card index from the Stadtarchiv is only a secondary source which was composed 10, 20, or even 30 years after it happened and there is room for error. For those of you researching your ancestors, ALWAYS keep in mind that second-hand sources are prone to errors and while they are a good guide, never take them too seriously. If you see something in a card index or another source recorded several years after the event took place that conflicts, try to search the original record if you can and see if it agrees with what you know. ;)