123rd Carnival of Genealogy: Birthday Parties

I’m not a big party person but birthdays are special and always a great reason to celebrate with close friends. My baby book records that I spent my first birthday quietly…which set the theme for others to come I suspect. By my third birthday I had three little friends, Mum and her friend.

My birthday is inconveniently in the midst of our summer holidays and frequently as a child the friend-supply would be a little light on for partying. However my non-holidaying neighbourhood friends would be invited as well as occasionally my cousins. Mum always made delicious cakes and biscuits which was certainly a bonus and we had a good time! I think that’s why to this day I much prefer to have a small gathering of close friends and cringe at the thought of even a medium size group of party-goers.

Pauleen looking cute (!) in blonde curls and a bow. It looks like the 3rd birthday party because it’s the right group of children.

There was one birthday as an adult when I nearly came a social cropper. A friend and work colleague had invited us to a dress-up party celebration. The day rolled round and it all seemed more trouble than it was worth to get gussied up and party on. Social responsibility eventually took over and off we went – only to discover on arrival that it was actually a surprise birthday party for me! How embarrassed would I have been if we hadn’t bothered going?!  We had such a good time that we didn’t get home until the wee hours –something which scandalised our teenaged children and took some living down!

Happy birthday to Jasia whose November birthday inspired this Carnival of Genealogy theme.

What’s it all about?

“What’s it all about, Alfie?”

“What’s that, Ann?”

“All that blogging nonsense you talk about. I don’t have time for that. You mustn’t have enough to do”.

If the essence of this sounds familiar, you’re in good company. Some months ago James Tanner at Genealogy’s Star, Randy Seaver at GeneaMusings and Jill Ball at Geniaus were wondering why we struggle to get some fellow genealogists to understand that blogging about our family history has any value. I’ve even had similar responses from librarians in family history areas.

The world is your family tree oyster with blogging. Edited image from Office Clip Art.

Blogging lets you communicate with genealogists world-wide.

I’ve been pondering the topic since then and reached the conclusion that the majority of genealogists/family historians just don’t “get it”: they think we’re just talking about our breakfast or where we met our friends for dinner….what might be called the early-days-of-Facebook syndrome.

So what’s my solution? I think we need to reframe how we refer to our blogs. Instead of just using that one-word shorthand (a kind of jargon) that geneabloggers understand, and other don’t, we should try these types of options in response to “Ann’s” questions:

“I write and publish my family history on the web”

“I write my family stories and share them on the internet”

“I write my family history and share it world-wide”

By reframing it and calling it by the content of what we’re actually doing, it gives the activity a clear weight. We are writing and publishing our own and our family’s stories as an alternative, or a prelude, to writing a formal manuscript. Along the way we gain other benefits, and I shared my experiences a while ago in this post.

I recently started re-reading a book called How To Write History That People Want To Read[i] written by two Australian (women) Professors of History. (By the way it’s a great book!) Having been thinking about what we’re really doing when we blog, this paragraph leapt out at me:

Even if you are working alone, writing history need not be a lonely and isolated activity. We encourage you to mix and talk to other people, to share your ideas and your writing with them, and to be interested in theirs. Learning about the past is, in the end, a collective activity, as we build on the work of those who went before us, and share with our peers, friends and colleagues the trials and struggles of our endeavours.

Although it was written for a different context it seems to capture all the reasons why we blog and why it’s an appropriate activity for people who take their family history seriously. So many of us may be unable to attend conferences or meetings depending on where we live or our family circumstances. We may live in places where few people share our interest. Blogging meets those needs and helps us share our research and our writing with others. By reading other people’s blogs and making comments it becomes a dynamic process.

Some benefits of blogging.

My view is that responses to comments are equally valuable as it lets our readers know that we hear what they’re saying, appreciate their involvement (especially navigating that wretched CAPTCHA business), and gaining a level of interaction that’s missing when comments get no response. You’ll notice that this little sketch I did last year has arrows going in two directions: we need our blogs to be responsive and dynamic.

What do you think? Would changing how we talk about blogging alter people’s perception of what we do, and perhaps encourage them to either read blogs or start their own?

This is my 400th post since I started blogging writing my family history online in late December 2009. It seemed an appropriate time to discuss my views on this topic.


[i] Curthoys, A and McGrath, A. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, page 12.

Beyond the Internet: Week 43 – Griffith’s Valuations

Search Beyond the Internet

This is Week 43 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. This week we’re off to Ireland’s green fields with the Griffith’s Valuations.

I could make my life easier, and this post very brief, by exhorting you to beg, borrow or buy a copy of James Reilly’s book  Richard Griffith and his Valuations of Ireland. If you have Irish ancestry, do yourself a favour and check its availability at your favourite bookstore or library. Hint: an preview of this book is now available to read through Google Books  – enough for you to see how much value this seemingly slight book contains. In the meantime have a read of this short article by Reilly called Is there more in Griffith’s Valuations than just names?

Reilly’s book will astonish you with just how much lies behind those tables of information that we Irish researchers treat as a substitute for the census. I think the temptation for us is to simply look at the superficial facts of the size of our ancestor’s land, its value and who the immediate lessor was. Reilly makes it clear just how much more there is to even the summary information and in particular the significance of the number and alpha reference at the start of the line.

An extract of the Valuation for Ballykelly townland in the parish of Kilseily, Clare.

The new online access at AskAboutIreland makes it easy to link the search with the map reference indicated by that originating number, but again, do we go beyond that? How about the field books, perambulation books and house books that lie behind the valuation? Yes, they don’t exist for all parishes but wouldn’t you want to check? Unfortunately they’re mostly only available in Ireland but if you’re sufficiently keen you may choose to employ a researcher to follow it up, especially if you can determine they exist.

As a teaser: If your ancestors were either Michael Meaney or James Carmody of Mountrice townland in Kilseily parish, Clare, you would no doubt be interested to know that the landlord intended “to build houses for them and then throw down the houses on which they presently live”. Notes from the Perambulation book for the Parishes of Kilseily and Killuran by surveyor Michael O’Malley (The National Archives of Ireland). Or you may wish to know who ran huxteries in the area or…

The complication throughout is to know which one is really is your man (or woman)! From my point of view you need some other way, eg parish registers, to be assured of which one you need to be following.

The Irish Valuation Office now has current valuation information available to search online (try typing in your county and townland). While there are no maps available, I see this is “coming soon”. I was surprised just how familiar were the names of people still holding land in Ballykelly – echoes of the 1911 census and also Griffith’s. Also surprised to find one missing that I expected. Not really of great specific use but interesting none the less!

REVISION LISTS

These are one of the unsung heroes of Irish research. Have you found your ancestors in the Griffith’s tables? If so, they will enable you to trace who took over the family’s property generation after generation. Not only that, you’ll have a good chance that they’ll tip you off on when various family members died.

How does that work? Well, the original valuations were reassessed on a regular basis for change of tenancy or ownership, improvements or deterioration of the property. On the original books held by the Valuation Office, these amendments are messy but able to be followed because they are in different coloured inks and different hands. Your 2 x great grandfather’s death might result in a new entry with his wife’s name, then subsequently various children until it perhaps passes to a distant relative or out of the family.

An extract from the Ballykelly, Co Clare valuation revisions. It notes that in 1950, my ancestor’s family home was in ruins.

The good news is that these are available wherever you live because you can order them through the Family Search catalogue and have them delivered to your local family history centre or approved library. The easiest ways to find the correct film is to search the catalogue by keyword (not anything else). For example if I enter “valuation revision Ballykelly Clare” I promptly obtain film number 819471.

The other benefit is that it lets you search beyond the timeframe of the initial valuations to perhaps find your ancestor. For example, I wanted to see where my James Sherry and his family were living in the townland of Knockina outside Gorey, Wexford in the 1870s before they emigrated (I had Knockina from the Gorey parish registers). The valuation revisions suggested to me that they must have been living in a property owned by the Southern and Eastern Railway as that was the only property not attached to a specific family and I knew he was a railway worker. If my deduction is correct, it suggests he may have held a position of some responsibility although it’s likely he was still a grassroots worker.

I really can’t emphasise enough the value of following your family from the original valuations through the revision lists to see what happened to them and their property.

And as a finale, here’s a new occupation for you: the meresman was the hired local resident who assisted in identifying boundaries (Reilly, op cit page 4)

You may also want to have a look at my post, Finding Irish Ancestors Part 2-The Old Country, if you haven’t seen it already.

Advance Apologies: Week 44 may be a few days late as I have some upcoming commitments and I doubt I’ll get it scheduled in advance.

Family History Alphabet: Y is for yearning and yawning

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. We are in sight of the end now with the letter Y which appropriately gives us:

Y is for YAWN: We’ve been at this series for 25 weeks now so it’s not surprising we’re a little tired, despite the pleasures it’s brought us. Not that yawning is new to family historians. We certainly love our research and explorations but sometimes that same enthusiasm carries us away into the wee hours of the night well beyond Cinderella’s coach-into-pumpkin time.

Y is for YEARN: as we long for the small or large discoveries that will break down a brick wall, or take our research further. Some yearnings will never diminish though, as we’re bound to fail in our quest to know how our families felt about lives in general and their own specific experiences. Only those lucky researchers whose ancestors wrote down their thoughts in diaries or letters will have any means of moderating this yearning.

Y is for YO-YO when our emotions go up and down like a rollercoaster as we make new discoveries or come up yet again with a blank. I’ve felt like this in the past week with the exciting adventure into German newsletters only to zoom down the emotional ladder as the search constraints through up obstacles, or my German, not to mention my lateral thinking, is found severely wanting.

Y is for YELL or YELP: the alternatives to the genealogy happy dance, or perhaps the precursor, as we exclaim over a genealogical discovery in document or our on computer screens, frightening our pets and families.

Some days are just plain tiring.

And here’s another one, inspired by Mr Cassmob having to listen to my ramblings (ravings?)

Y is for Y AM I DOING THIS? After another day peering at German newspapers or as I ponder (bemoan?) that I have yet another 9 posts before I finish the Beyond the Internet series. There are days when I wish I was less persistent.

Can you think of any more Y attributes we share as family historians?

Images from Microsoft Office images online.

Finding the Fass in Dorfprozelten

It’s all been about the Germans for the past week as I unravel mysterious old documents or hunt through the newspapers. I still haven’t located the departure of my George Kunkel even though I’ve found quite a lot of his compatriots. I’m sure he’s there somewhere but I may have to trawl through page after page, which could get a bit tedious, not to mention hard on the eyes.

A postcard for Das Goldene Fass, owned by the Happ then Kunkel families. By the time of this photo  it was in other hands,  however I doubt much changed over the years.

I’ve known a little bit about his family’s business in Dorfprozelten am Main, thanks to the wonderful village histories[i] and the generosity of the local historian[ii].  The family owned and ran an inn or Guesthouse in the village for over 100 years. It was called Das Goldene Fass or The Golden Barrel. It seemed that it was indeed a lucrative business given the taxes they were paying: 800 gulden in 1818[iii].

Given this background George Kunkel was atypical among his emigrating peers many of whom were day labourers or in poor-paying jobs. It seems likely, given some of his occupations in Australia, that he shared his older half-brother’s trade as a Metzger (butcher). Family anecdote that he left to avoid military service seemed quite possible, as did the anecdote that he jumped ship given that Dorfprozelten is on the River Main, where a dominant industry is the barges up and down the river. One possibility is that George Kunkel left Bavaria when his older half-brother Jakob August Ulrich inherited/took over the Fass guesthouse circa 1853 when his father died.

My research in the German newspapers last week overturned all my prior thinking on this family, and therefore also on George’s reasons for emigrating. References are not particularly easy to find but I was very pleased with my discoveries.

The first was finding George’s father’s name, Adam Kunkel in the Intelligenzblatt von Unterfranken und Aschaffenburg’s Allgemeines Register, page 34 (Public Register) for the year 1846. Among the approx 2400 names is this one:  Kunkel, Adam Liquidation, 338, 4619, b.

Plainly the business was on shaky ground and on the verge of bankruptcy, or perhaps it was just Adam himself who was in financial difficulty –much would depend on his legal standing in relation to the guesthouse. The Fass had actually belonged to his wife’s family, the Happs through the previous century so how Catherine felt about all this we’ll never know.  I’m sure the numbers after the entry have some significance but as yet I don’t know what they are.

A few years later, on 26 April 1849, he appears in the Aschaffenburger Zeintung…. with this notice. This time the link to the guesthouse is clearer.

My literal translation is confusing but my best guess is that this was some form of creditor’s meeting in neighbouring Klingenberg. Patching words together to make sense of it is hazardous but for now this is my best guess. Notice: On Saturday 12 May at 11am Adam Kunkel, married of Dorfprozelten, belonging to the Guesthouse Fass with Amgriff (surrounds?) in 3 to 4 years interest eked out (??), interested parties are invited to attend in the parish rooms, a public auction in the said place….(Sorry but I just can’t figure this out accurately –feel free to enlighten me!).

The next entry is again in the Intelligenzblatte von Unterfranken und Achaffenburg for the year 1852, page 32[iv]. Once again there were many other entries. Adam’s reads as follows:  Kunkel, Adam zu Dorfprozelten, Gasthaus Versteigerung, 2 20 b, 31 427 b. My understanding is that this says Adam Kunkel, auction of Guesthouse. It’s pretty clear that the business remained in financial difficulties.

It’s around this time that Adam’s step-son Jakob Ulrich marries Elisabeth Firmbach and takes over the Fass. It’s also within the timeframe I estimate for George Kunkel’s departure. In 1848 Europe had been in the throes of revolution and Bavaria was part of this unrest, largely due to the people’s dissatisfaction with the King’s mistress Lola Montez. There were also moves to German unification. Whether these political factors affected the viability of the Fass Guesthouse is of course unknown, but it’s not illogical to think that during periods of economic and political instability people don’t tend to travel or holiday elsewhere.

Only a year after the last notice in 1852, Adam Kunkel died, aged only 55. I don’t have his cause of death but it makes me think I should follow this up.

Jakob Ulrich managed the inn until 1868 when suddenly the remaining family fell ill. Jakob died in June, son Karl in July, his wife Elisabeth in August, and finally his mother Catherine Kunkel nee Happ and later Ulrich, in October 1868. Before her death Catherine would see her family’s inheritance auctioned off as advertised in this notice. The guesthouse was taken over by an August Ulrich, possibly a cousin of Jakob’s. The surviving children of Jakob and Elisabeth progressively emigrated to the United States, settling in New York state.

What does it all mean? This advertisement post-dates the death of Jakob Ulrich and the sale of the family guesthouse.

Some of these newspaper references were easy enough to find, others required rather odd search terms. It’s possible there’s more still to find, but these gems have certainly reframed my family’s story in Bavaria.

Concurrent with this research I was reading The Lieutenant by Australian author, Kate Grenville (kindly sent to me by a friend). It’s an excellent book, by the way, but this section (page 152) spoke to me in the context of my German research and the limitations of my high-school German:

“But language was more than a list of words, more than a collection of fragments all jumbled together like a box of nuts and bolts. Language was a machine. To make it work, each part has to be understood in relation to all the other parts.”

ENDNOTES

[i] The most useful of these is Dorfprozelten am Main Teil II, Veh, G. Benedict Press 2002.

[ii] Those gifts didn’t drop easily from the tree but took multiple letters and visits to obtain, so do persevere with your challenging European ancestors.

[iii] Veh, G. Op cit page 192.

[iv] Grenville, K. The Lieutenant. Canongate Books, 2010, page 152.

Searching German Newspapers/Books

Last week I posted about the excitement of discovering some German newspapers in Google Books. The exploration has taken a fair bit of time, even without getting down to full transcriptions and translations. I thought I’d share some practical tips I’ve developed as I’ve gone along bearing in mind the limitations I mentioned in my previous post.

SEARCHING

I’ve been asked about how to find what you’re looking for and frankly that’s not nearly as simple as it sounds as this is not a Germanic version of Trove (sadly), however exciting the find.

The critical thing to remember is that you are searching German-language books and newspapers so you need to use the correct German terminology (if necessary use a dictionary like Reverso). For example if you’re looking for someone who came from Munich you’ll need to search for München or Köln for Cologne. Similarly if your German ancestor’s name was Anglicised after arriving in the new land, you’ll need to search by their original name eg Hennig not Henny or Zöller not Zeller or Zoller (though the latter sometimes works).

Other than that you need to be as lateral as possible and add combinations which might work. Try searching in combination with a neighbouring town where particular events may have been held. So for this purpose I was aware of Stadtprozelten, Kollenberg (Collenberg), Miltenberg or Klingenberg while looking for neighbouring Dorfprozelten.

You can limit your search by using Google Books Advanced Search which lets you restrict the timeframe you search eg 1840 to 1870. However a word of caution –I found it better to search using the alternative option of the 19th century because when I used a decade limit, some items just didn’t appear even though they fell in that time frame. That was because the year-limited search is about when the book was published which may not coincide with the year of the newspaper.

One option might be to search by placename + “Blatt” or + Zeitung as these searches might bring up more pertinent options. But as I said, be lateral and keep trying different options. I tried searching by the name of the newspaper plus the search term, and found it excluded options I’d found before.

Analysing the text is important.

I mostly focused on the books of newspapers but I also scrutinised the text provided by Google to see if it was helpful. This is a little easier as I have retained some of my high school German so can pick out relevant phrases. However you can still look for names and eventually you’ll get a sense of which documents are likely to be the most helpful to you. As mentioned I found the regional and local newspapers the most pertinent.

If you know the specific time period you need you might choose to download the book and search visually as you would a microfilm. Searching within the document doesn’t seem to work as well as the initial search. I’ve yet to buckle down to a microfilm-type search.

Check whether the found document offers one or more relevant images…it will tell you in the top bar.

You are reading documents in Gothic print which means you have two adjustments to make (1) to read the font and (2) to read the German. For example the letter K looks far more like our capital N while the lower case could easily be confused with the single s, f or l.

SAVING THE RECORD

Sounds simple really but perhaps I just went about it wrongly in the first place. I bookmarked relevant pages in Diigo and clipped to Evernote as well as downloading some files.

This gives you a good sense of what you’ll be looking at.

I was initially frustrated that I couldn’t print the page without downloading the whole (often large) book. Thanks to advice from a friend (thanks Rebecca!) I clipped print screen forthe image and pasted it to Photoshop. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

This worked better and I would then crop the page to cut out the extraneous info but leaving the search term at the top and the name of the book on the left. This meant I had a record of both.

I also clipped the extracted words from the Google search and copied and pasted them with the title of the book I’d found. This gave me (1) a guide to finding the phrases when it wasn’t highlighted (2) a time-saving of not having to transcribe all the words and (3) another record of the link to the book.  I used the pen marker to sidebar the relevant words I’d found (not all are highlighted). After all that I enlarged the image to fit the page, saved it, then printed it out.

While I had the book open I also clicked to save the link to my (Google Books) Library.

I also scrolled up through the pages until I found the specific edition of the paper that this extract had come from and noted that and the page number on the printed page (I could have done this in Photoshop but it was quicker to do it this way).

I added the page number and newspaper edition to the running file in conjunction with the above extract. I also added the name of the image file to the Word running file.

Ultimately this should make it easier to transcribe then translate the document.

SUMMARY

You really have to persevere with this type of search. Similar searches produce widely different outcomes. Hyphens in the printing may skew your results. (eg Dorfprozelten becomes Dorf-prozelten or Dorfpro-zelten).

I’ve found probably about 70% of the emigrants who left Dorfprozelten to come to Australia –as always not including my George Kunkel –but I’m sure the others are there somewhere, waiting for a tedious page-by-page search. And a new pair of reading glasses, before or after, not to mention strong coffee.

Try, try again!

Have you tried this search? What was your experience? Any tips for us?

And here’s another link to try out but it’s edition by edition. http://digipress.digitale-sammlungen.de/de/fs1/papers-overview/static.html

Images from Microsoft Office online.

Beyond the Internet: Week 42 Naturalisation Records

Beyond the Internet

This is Week 42 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens. The topic this week is Naturalisation Records.

I was reflecting the other day that these are perhaps the most poignant of our ancestral family’s records. It was the point at which they committed to their new country, put their psychological and emotional roots deeper into its soil, and in a sense rejected the land of their birth. It must have been a very difficult choice for some of them to make, simply because in essence they were leaving everything behind a second time.

A switch of allegiance to the new colony of Queensland.

British settlers were not confronted with this choice for a very long time. Settling in a British colony they remained British without any other fanfare. I’ve often wondered whether this affected their sense of loyalty and affiliation to their new country, perhaps why for such a long time many Australians thought of Britain as “home”. Settlers from other nationalities had ultimately to make a choice and so at this point they took on naturalisation or citizenship in their new country. If, like me, your ancestors come from places other than Britain you will need to see if you can find what choices they made.

 WORDS OF WARNING: No Naturalisation = no vote + no land?

No longer to be part of the Kingdom of Bavaria must have been a wrench.

In the early days of my family history I was told that no non-British person could vote or own land until they were naturalised.

I was puzzled because I couldn’t find George Kunkel’s naturalisation anywhere, yet there he was on the electoral roll and also owning land. Not only that but he was happily signing all sorts of petitions to Parliament. It wasn’t until after Australia became a nation in its own right in 1901 that George took the step separating him from his beloved Bavaria forever[i]. Perhaps the unification of Bavaria within the German Empire also made it easier to let go.

From 1904 when the function of naturalisation was taken on as a federal matter, new citizens were to be required to provide far more information on their background including arrival etc. Was this why George finally signed the Oath of Allegiance in 1902? Luckily he did, or there’d have been even more consequences for him when World War I broke out. Despite having citizenship he was still legally required to register where he lived and his movements. By then he was in his eighties and no security risk, either in reality or perception, but he must surely have felt betrayed by his new country.

Researcher David Denholm[ii] also discovered that in repeated instances land purchase came before naturalisation. In the case of some of my Dorfprozelten Germans, their applications for naturalisation explicitly states that they are desirous of remaining in Queensland and wished to buy land.

WHERE WILL YOU FIND THEM?

Of course the super-lucky of us may find these documents within the family’s collection. I would imagine these are records which the individual would have carefully preserved, unfortunately disasters or indifferent family members may have destroyed them over the decades.

For the rest of us, Cora Web’s wonderful site provides a gateway into the online indexes for Australia and New Zealand. Whether you use this step first or go directly to the archives in the state where your ancestor lived, a visit to the archives will be needed to find the original documents. If you live too far away you will need to request a copy from the archives for a fee.

The Australian National Archives offers a variety of resources especially for later immigrants.

As you know Queensland is my own focus, and I’ve just learned that their naturalisation kit is available in many places, including the Genealogical Society of the Northern Territory. (You learn something new every day in this hobby).

Another search which is interesting although perhaps not specific to your family (unless you’re lucky) is to do a Google image search for naturalisation/citizenship certificate. Just looking at the images is intriguing.

WHAT WILL YOU FIND?

Queensland State Archives PRV11623-1-32 SCT/CF32 folio 1257

This seems to be fairly variable but of the ones I’ve looked at, tend to tell us little new information. For example George Kunkel simply says he’s a farmer from Murphy’s Creek and originated from Bavaria.  I wish he’d waited until 1904 and provided me with more detail but I suspect it was his intention to avoid doing precisely that perhaps because of the family story that he’d jumped ship.

“Thanks” to Australia’s policies and attitudes to non-white immigration, citizenship was not available to Asian immigrants after 1904. However if you are lucky you may find them in state records before then and having seen some of these being researched by others you may find far more information about them there. (Also look at their arrival/departure records). A friend who researches her son’s Chinese ancestry has found a huge range of detail: to see an example click here.

WORLD WAR I

I don’t intend to delve into the complexity of this here but the conditions placed on German residents whether naturalised or not, were both insulting and onerous. The National Archives of Australia does have boxes of information on German-born Australians from this era. Many years ago I trawled through the “K” boxes looking for George Kunkel to no avail (on the plus side it meant he kept a low profile and wasn’t in trouble). I was quite shocked by the animosity and envy manifested by some of their neighbours eg bought a piano so must be selling guns!

SUMMARY

Whether you learn a great deal or only a little from your ancestor’s naturalisation records, if they were non-British (Aliens) then obtaining copies of whatever is available should form part of your research repertoire.

What experiences have you had with these records either in Australia or elsewhere? Please post on your own blog or leave comments here so we can see what other insights may have been discovered.


[i] Naturalisation at Queensland State Archives PRV11623-1-32 SCT/CF32 folio 1257 reference 215/2, microfilm reel Z2212.

[ii] Denholm, D. The coming of the Germans to the Darling Downs 1852-1860, unpublished BA Hons thesis 1967 The University of Queensland, p24.

Family History Alphabet: X is for Scandalous

My theme for the Family History through the Alphabet is the Attributes we need as family historians: the skills, experience and talents we need to bring to our research. This week we arrive at the tricky letter X.

X is for SCANDALS: All along I had a rating for this letter, but then realised if I used it my spam mail was likely to be flooded, so scandals it is. Not precisely an attribute but we as family historians do need to cope with all those scandals and skeletons that come out of the cupboards, the ones that earlier generations carefully concealed: convicts, illegitimate children, adoptions in/out, bigamy, incest, murder, victims of crime, divorce, mental illness, extreme poverty, etc etc. While many of these would no longer gain that letter-rating I carefully didn’t mention, some can still bring us up short and others ensure that the information may well still be concealed within the family. How we deal with this information, balancing honesty in reporting with respect for the people whose lives they were, as well as for their living decendants, definitely needs to be part of our family historian attributes. Which takes us back to E for Ethics (not to mention eXcellence).

X is (not) for XENOPHOBIC: Thanks to a former Australian parliamentarian we’re all familiar with this word.  Since many of us have ancestors who were immigrants from different cultures and countries we can hardly afford to be xenophobic about people from other lands. It becomes a challenge to learn all we need to know about their former lives, what conditions may have propelled them to emigrate etc.

X is for eXTRANEOUS: As genealogists we need the ability to sift the extraneous or the deliberately deceptive information we obtain or are given: to sort the wheat from the chaff.  It’s all too easy to be beguiled by a fanciful story handed down through the generations but we do need to practice D for Discernment.

Can you think of any other X words that should be added to our list of family historian attributes?

Images from Microsoft Office clip art online.

Serendipity down the rabbit hole

The research week started off with a plan to translate a document about one of the Dorfprozelten families: simple enough with a very large dictionary to one hand, or so I thought. Throw in some rather archaic terms about 18th century events, and my extremely rusty German, and it all went downhill rather quickly. I did manage to sort the families into clusters and reached the conclusion that there were two men by the same name in the village, at the same time….complicated. Now I have to compare notes with the local historian for the village.

Down we go: where will there be more carrots?

Some of the archaic terms defeated my dictionary, so back to my trusty friend Google where I found some other old translations. Before I knew it I was off down the rabbit hole chasing information following one lead at a time. However:  the research diversion was definitely serendipitous!  Last week I mentioned that the German emigrants were supposed to advertise their departure in the newspaper. I also commented that I didn’t know if any were online. Well Google Books answered that question with a bang, and my occasional whimpers.
So here’s the good, bad and ugly of the research process (stories and translations to follow later).

THE GOOD GREAT

  1.  I found some ground-breaking information on my George Kunkel’s family in Dorfprozelten which has made me think completely differently about why he might have emigrated (story will be forthcoming).
  2. As you know I pursue a group of about 30 families from Dorfprozelten – I’ve managed to track down the advertising for about 70% of them. Woo hoo!
  3. The advertisements provide an opportunity to do a timeline for each of these immigrants: notification of departure from village; departure date (sometimes); departure information from the Hamburg shipping lists and then arrival in Australia (mostly Sydney) and mostly via Port Philip.
  4. The Christian names on the departure advertisements sometimes vary from those on the immigration records because they were using their second name: this confirms which of the villagers I’m looking at. In one case, this is particularly helpful because while he arrives as Franz Zöller, he leaves Germany as Ignaz and appears in Australian BDM and newspaper reports also as Ignaz. Bingo!
  5. A small group of Dorfprozelten single people arrived in Australia in 1862. The advertisements revealed they were planning to go to Brazil! How the change occurred we may never know, but it makes a big difference, especially in the case of one family whose story was already particularly tragic and is now much more so. (again, more anon)
  6. Google Books search does a “good” job of reading the Gothic print and finding your search term.
  7. My new best friend in terms of web sites is the Reverso dictionary which quickly lets me translate from German to English (or vice versa). I’m in love with it and it’s so much less weighty than my real-world dictionary and equally effective.
  8. The newspapers of most use to me have been those based in Aschaffenburg and Würzburg as Dorfprozelten as situated between the two.
  9. I learnt/reconfirmed that some of the emigrants were not married when they left Dorfprozelten. As they had to arrive as married couples in Australia, they must have been married somewhere en route, perhaps Aschaffenburg, Frankfurt or Hamburg.
  10. My advice is to limit your search to the 19th century in Advanced Google Book search as that brings up “hits” that don’t appear when you restrict it by a block of years.

 THE BAD

Dorfprozelten am Main (click to enlarge).

  1. Google MAY find the term you’re looking for, but like any OCR on old books or newspapers it is decidedly unreliable. I found more “hits” going in a convoluted way rather than directly.
  2. The page may/may not be able to be enlarged and the search term may/may not be highlighted. Both of which can make it challenging.
  3. Once inside the “book” further searches are unreliable/unpredictable.
  4. You can’t print off the page (as far as I can tell)
  5. You can download the file but some are huge.
  6. I tried my usual strategy of searching by a header that was regularly associated with these ads eg Bekanntmachung or TerminKalender. Somewhat bizarrely this proved to be even less reliable than just searching for “Dorfprozelten” or perhaps “Prozelten”.
  7. General unreliability: it seems a bit harsh to carp about this, given the hoops Google is jumping through, but if you get a negative result I encourage you to be lateral in your search terms.
  8. I also eventually had the sense to use advanced google books search and limit the time frame.

 THE UGLY

I do look a bit bug-eyed right now!

  1. Between relearning Gothic script which we used to do occasionally at school and reading it in a foreign language, my brain is suffering from overload and my eyes are out on stalks. ( I knew I should have done that calligraphy class).
  2. My strategy has been to retype the Gothic print into normal print German. Phase 2 is then to translate the German to English. This is partly underway but see (1) above.

Hopefully I’ve given you some sense of how exciting, as well as how tiring, these discoveries have been. I’m thrilled to bits with it and know there’s going to be hours of exploration and translation ahead. Perhaps time to swap to the external monitor like a sensible person?

 

Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping’s Christmas Swap 2012

Some of you will recall that mid-2012 I participated in the Jubilee swap hosted by the Faith, Hope and Charity Shopping blog – I’d been tipped off by Julie from Anglers Rest. I had a ton of fun and was partnered up with Ms Dormouse from View from the Teapot in France who tipped me off that the Christmas swap is now open. You can read more about my Jubilee swap here.

This time it’s the Christmas swap – why not have a look and see if it appeals to you? You can state whether you are willing to post within your own country or overseas and these are the rules (neither onerous or expensive).

  • You have to have a blog which is updated regularly (so you partner can get a sense of what you like)
  • Anyone, anywhere can enter (let Letitia know if you’re willing to swap within your own country or beyond)
  • You should send your swap partner a minimum of 3 items, and max of five.
  • At least one item (or more) should be 2nd hand, from a charity shop, car boot sale, eBay etc etc
  • At least one item should be hand made (by someone if not by you).
  • Maximum expense: £12 (or equivalent in your currency)
  • One item MUST relate to a Christmas carol or song: It’s up to you to interpret this.
  • One item can fulfil many roles eg Carol + craft
  • Sign up closes 28th October 2012.

Why not join in and have some fun?