BR: Ancestors in German Archives

Wright III, Raymond S.; Nathan S. Rives; Mirjam J. Kirkham; and Saskia Schier Bunting. Ancestors in German Archives: A Guide to Family History Sources. Baltimore : Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2004.

Do you have a brick wall involving a German ancestor?  Want to make sure you hae considered all the available records for a particular proof you are writing?  Either issue may drive you to obtain this book.  I have just finished reviewing this book (one does not really “read” this book.) and found it to be quite helpful in identifying archives and the records they hold.

The book begins with a brief overview of the complex history of the the Germany including WWI and WWII.  Then the book describes the organizational structure of the national, state and local archives.  Included are also church and private or family archives, the latter primarily of the German nobility.

Archive rules and protocols are covered which are very helpful due to odd opening/closing hours and pull protocols. Strategies for a successful visit are outlined.

Content for the book was gathered by students at BYU by use of a survey to all identified archives.  Some surveys were not returned, some questions were not answered.

Here is an example of a typical entry:

Niedersächsisches Staatsarchiv Aurich, Oldersumer Str. 50, 26603 Aurich (Tel: 4941-176660, Fax: 4941-176673, Website:, E-mail:

What follows is a description of the coverage area, how the archive organizes its holdings and if there are finding aids.  Subsequent entries are of record types of usual interest to genealogists and requests a description of them.  For example, the entry for emigration outlines three different locations where emigration records are held.  The statement describing church records is consistent with my understanding of the filmed records held by the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City for the same area.  However, one cannot tell if the films cover more villages than are held by the FHL If the responding archive has no holdings in that category, the response was “none.”

I was wondering if there were any church records I was missing which may include some pastor notes describing the conflict my ancestor had with the church just prior to his emigration.  (answer: it doesn’t look like it.)  I was also wondering if there emigration records held in Germany.

You might consider taking a look at this book if you have a German brick wall or there is some specific information you are looking for but you do not know where the record may reside.

I got my copy of the book from inter-library loan from the UW Library.  Thank you, University of Houston. And, thanks to Warren Bittner for recommending the book in his German class at NGS 2015.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: finished printing the SGS Bulletin, watched Mark Lowe’s “Tick Mark Censuses” class on Ancestry Academy, had lunch with three local genealogy buddies, and working on three upcoming presentations (NwGC, SGS (2))–House Histories, Insanity in the 19th c., and Fire Insurance Maps.

I love public libraries–even when they aren’t!

Chicago Cultural CenterOn July 15, I had a chance to visit a library that isn’t any more.  Yes, that is correct — it isn’t filled with librarians wheeling racks of books or scholars wading through tomes, or children dashing excitedly to their parent with THE book they want to read.  No, it isn’t a library any more even tho’ the sign on the colonnade says it is the “Chicago Public Library.”   This building has been the home of the Chicago Cultural Center since 1991 and in the past few years it has been completely renovated. Though it isn’t used as a library any more, people were sitting in the open space and reading — some were reading “real” newspapers and others, the digital kind.

A few facts before I show you the photos.  The Chicago Cultural Center is located across from Millennium Park at the corner of Randolf and Michigan Ave.  Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge designed the facility in the Beaux Arts style, a clear homage to the architecture of the Chicago Worlds Fair. The building opened in 1897, displaying spectacular interiors filled with rare woods and marbles and glass and gold mosaics.  The building has the largest Tiffany dome (38′) in the world, composed of over 30,000 pieces of glass.

There are sit down spaces, galleries, and a performance space under the Tiffany dome.

Here is a series of photos of some of the fabulous mosaics in the building.  Truly these are “eye candy” of the first sort.

CCC understairI love the shape of stairs as they cross each other.  The underside of the stairs –all of them– have mosaics of famous authors.  The mosaic “frame” of each author’s name is handled differently on each stair. The closeup photo below is of a different stair with a different frame style for the author’s names than the frame style in the photo to the left. Every stair was different.

CCC understair closeupThe underside of the stairs, close up.  Bryant and Hawthorne are only two of the six writers on the underside of one of the “handles” of this T-shaped stair. Again the green and the gold predominate as a color scheme with accents of deep red, light beige and pink stones.





CCC medallionA mosaic rosette about 8″ in diameter (gives you an idea of the fine detailing of the pieces.)  Notice the shimmer of the gold mosaics and the various types of stone. I think the middle is mother-of-pearl.  There were three of these on every newel post of every stair.





CCC B FranklinA dedication to Benjamin Franklin (b. 1706, d. 1790), “founder of the circulating library.”  Notice the deep, and richly decorated coffered ceilings and the elaborate mosaic frame around the dedication. The lamps aren’t too shabby either!


CCC stair to domeThe stair leading up to the Tiffany dome.  They were practicing for a violin performance that evening.  We were the lucky attendees to the practice session.  Check out my public dropbox for a 21 second treat!




CCC dome typanumOne of the four pendentives at the lower corners of the dome.  I took a photo of this particular corner because it showed the double serpents of medicine.

I hope that you enjoyed this luscious architectural treat as much as I enjoyed visiting the library.


Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I analyzed Melinda Daffin Henningfield’s NGSQ article “A Family for William Gray of New Madrid County, Territory of Missouri,” about merging multiple men when there is a lack of documents, in this case due to the New Madrid earthquake.1  I also put some information pertinent to my case study into a table so it was easier to analyze.  Several “ah ha” moments were discovered. Finished incorporating the edits for my last SGS Bulletin.  I will print starting tomorrow.

1 Melinda Daffin Henningfeld, “A Family for William Gray of New Madrid County, Territory of Missouri,” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 101 (September 2013) 307-228.

What’s New in the ‘Hood: NC State Academic Library

This post is a bit of a departure from postings about my avocation to one that is more closely related to my vocation. Recently, I had the privilege of visiting the James L Hunt, Jr Library on the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC.  This library is a repository for the collection of primarily scientific, engineering and textile related materials held by NC State. Admittedly they have few historic materials, as those are mostly held at the University of North Carolina in Durham, but the design of the building and the spaces, the colorful furnishings and variety of uses all welcome you to sit and learn.

The services offered at the Hunt Library take the Resource Commons at the University of Washington in the Allen Library to a new level by expanding it over the entire 121,000 SF. If you haven’t been to the Resource Commons, I highly recommend you stop in–it’s a hub of activity.

Designed by Snøhetta Architects, here are some of the fun spaces inside the Hunt.

Hunt Lib Game roomThe video gaming room is 22 feet wide and is staffed to assist students in learning different programs or creating new programs of all kinds  it is probably what your “TV room” will look like in the future!  Students use the room to create new games.


Hunt Lib lobbyThe commons area has a plethora of furniture options for all kinds of interactive groupings . I loved the colors and the beautiful furniture chosen. Can I take one of the Mies chairs home?



Hunt Lib bookbot

Check out  the “bookbot,” a book robot which takes the book box which contains the desired book from the large bins (which looks like those infinity “canyons” they create in the sci-fi movies) and brings it to the distribution technologist.  The technologist pulls the desired book from the bin, and the bookbot takes the bin back to its original storage location about three stories down. Click here to see the video.  (my first!)

Thanks to David Goodwin, librarian for a great tour an to Lisa Johnson, University Architect at NC State for their assistance is giving and setting up the tour.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  I attended a business conference in 100 degree heat.  Whew! I have been working on my Proof Argument and have a good start on the document.  There are some holes I need to fill to complete my “reasonably exhaustive research” responsibility, the first element of the GPS, but all are do-able.

Research Plans: a Reprise

Clock 4I recently discovered that my posts about “Research Plans” consistently get the most hits of all of my archived posts by readers using the search feature on this blog.  That indicates to me that genealogical research plans continue to be a struggle for readers to understand and to write.  I personally have come full circle about the usefulness of research plans and have a better (but not perfect) understanding of them.

It still takes longer than I would like for me to write research plans; therefore,  I suspect my skill level will continue to evolve. This post marks my personal progress.

You can read the past blogs about research plans here:
11 September 2012: How Do You Do a Research Plan?
4 October 2012: What Have I Learned Lately About Research Plans?
9 March 2013: Have You Done a Research Plan Before?
31 March 2013: Research Plans! I Have Become a Believer

CONCEPT 1:  I first struggled with the time it took to write research plans; it seemed like a waste of time.  I now see how the plan can be the outline for the research report and save time instead of “taking time.”  Research plans keep me focused and serve as a “touchstone” to return to when I veer “off track” while researching a particular problem for a client or my own genealogical questions.

CONCEPT 2: I still like the basic format of the ESM research plan I noted in a previous post and found on:

CONCEPT 3: You must have a strong research question.1  This question seeks information about identity, relationship or event.  It includes enough information to make the individual “unique in the world,” — to quote Tom Jones.  Thus, there are two parts to every research question:

  1. the identification of the person with enough identifiers to make her or him unique in the world and
  2. the interrogatory–the question you wish to have answered.

In a previous post I decided that my research question would be “What was the death date of Frederick Eilers, second husband of Eda/Ida Berg.” While this is much better than my other examples in the post, I now see that it could still be improved.  Today, I would make the question:

“What was the death date of Frederick Eilers, who married Eda Berg (1811-1889)  in 10 October 1862 in the German Reformed Church in Freeport, Stephenson County, Illinois.”

The addition of the identifiers make Eda and Frederick “more unique” than in the previously developed research question.  Unfortunately, I do not know much more about this relationship than I did back in 2013 when I wrote the research question the first time! (In my defense, I haven’t been looking either.)

CONCEPT 4: I have learned to “write as you go.” By spending time on the research plan and putting it into a format I can use for the client report, I save time in the writing of the report.  Writing client reports used to take 50% of the time allotted for the project.  By doing a research plan first  and then using the research plan as my outline for the client report, I estimate I shortened the writing of the report to about 33% of the time — and that includes the writing of the research plan! It leave more time for research, bringing better value to the client for my work.

Are my research plans perfect?  Far from it but I am getting better.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  attended a business conference in North Carolina and spent vacation time on Cape Cod with  hubby, daughter and her boyfriend.  Great fun.  Presented to the Cape Cod and Falmouth (MA) Genealogical Societies on 19th century emigrant decision making and the changing roles for women during the Civil War.  It stormed so vigorously just prior to the presentation that I was afraid we were going to lose electricity.  Luckily, it didn’t.

1 Tom Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (National Genealogy Society, 2013). See the Chapter on writing the research question.

2Photo take by the author at the Elgin Historical Museum in Elgin, Illinois in July of 2013.  They have a wonderful collection of Elgin watches.  The inclusion of the timepiece on any post indicates that the post relates to the BCG portfolio requirements for certification and is about being “on the clock.”


It’s spit and swab day at the Morelli house!

DNA EamesTomorrow starts the US Open here at Chambers Bay Golf course in Tacoma, Washington about 60 minutes south of Seattle.  What, you might ask, does that have to do with anything related to family history?  A lot–especially when you realize it means that family members are visiting and I have a problem which may be able to be solved using DNA!

I have decided to try to solve the identity problem of the grandfather of my husband.  Many steps are needed just to get to the end point.  First, I need to define my research question [done], develop a testing plan [done with the help of my friend, Karen, in Chicago] and then implement the plan.

So, tomorrow morning, two of the brothers will be swabbing and spitting to help me identify (hopefully) the name of the father of their mother.

Of course, it’s not that easy.  When the results come back, they will be analyzed.  They are taking  the autosomal DNA tests which look at the other 22 chromosomes.  This type of test can reliably identify kinship back about 3-5 generations.  While the test is accurate that far in the past, it is also possible there will be no matches.  Then, we will wait until some descendant of the father of Molly, decides to test.

So, in my lay person’s terms this is what I am doing:

  1. by testing the siblings of my husband (there are 4 sibs) we will be able to identify patterns which will show their father, Steve, and mother, Molly.  The test could also show, tho’ not predicted, if there is a non-paternity event at that generation.
  2. Steve was tested before he died for Y-DNA and mtDNA.  I need to test his autosomal, so we can identify which part of the pattern of code is attributable to Steve.  I need to get the company to run the autosomal test on Steve’s data.
  3. Molly’s DNA is composed of DNA from her mother and her (unidentified) father.  I am hoping to get Molly’s half-brother to test.  If so, we might be able to clarify which parts of the makeup of the Molly’s genome is attributable to the mother, Anna, and by default, what is attributable to the unknown father.
  4. We then “remove” the pattern that is attributable to Steve and Anna and what stands alone is that of the unknown father.
  5. Then, we check to see if there is anyone who matches the unknown father’s DNA   Hopefully, or eventually, there will be a match for the unknown father.  We will then try to find our common ancestor using the “old-fashioned” method of genealogy–doing the traditional paperwork!

We will see what happens.  It might take years.  I still have to get the half sibling to agree.  I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: cleaned house in anticipation of company, and worked on the SGS Bulletin but didn’t get far enough along.  It won’t get published until the end of July; attended the Puget Sound-APG meeting where Claudia Breland did an excellent job of presenting on self publishing for commercial purposes.  I have been doing some additional tax record research on my Swedes.  That’s been fun and enlightening. And I have worked sporadically on my proof argument for BCG.

Photo from the Collection of Charles and Rae Eames, Library of Congress.  Used under the fair use doctrine for scholarship and non-commercial use. This is not real DNA but rather a design in a double helix pattern done by the famous architects/designers, the Eames’s.

Jamboree! Day 3

RainierGoing home! but, first….

Sunday was another good day at Jamboree….

Sunday presentations go until mid afternoon and I have found that the last day of a conference is a good one to attend lectures by speakers that I want to hear but haven’t.  I also try to attend classes of ethnic groups or topics of which I know nothing.  Two classes caught my eye  when I reviewed the app– Introduction to Jewish Genealogy and Introduction to Mexican Genealogy.  I know nothing about either but wouldn’t it be fun to know a little more than nothing?

Luckily, I also ambled through the exhibit area before it closed.  I got away without buying any books!  But, not without dropping some money (RootsMagic.)  This was an “amble” worth making.  I stopped at ArkivDigital (Swedish records) and asked the experts about how to access tax records.  The help was terrific; I found what I was looking for, but they are certainly hidden.

I attended “Intro to Jewish Genealogy” and found same genealogical principles apply to resolving the many questions one has for their Jewish genealogy. The presenter did a  good job dispelling the myths about availability of records and particularly about the myth:  “my name was changed at Ellis Island.”

I didn’t fare so well with the intro to Mexican Genealogy.  There were some technical problems and so I slipped out and went to the mapping session.  She did a nice job of presenting an overview of mapping sites but didn’t have a syllabus.  The final session I attended was Michael Lacopo’s on “Incorporating Social History into Your Genealogy.”  He had terrific examples of illustrating how the story is enhanced by finding documents other than the BMD.

This conference friendly with lots of opportunities and locations for socializing, something that the other conferences I have attended, lack.  There also seems to be built-in time to  chat with exhibitors.  While I wouldn’t put that need high on my list of priorities that last two conferences hae been good for me when those conversations could occur.  These opportunities make Jamboree seem very “California Casual.”  I urge you to consider attending next year.

My lecture schedule now has a bit of a gap but work intervenes! :-) I am off to Association of University Architects 4.5 day conference in Raleigh NC, followed by a vacation in Boston/Cape Cod with our daughter. (I will sneak in a lecture at the Cape Cod/Falmouth Genealogical Society while there!);  then I am back to Chicago for my last Society of University & College Planning conference as a board member in late July.  I am already looking forward to the Northwest Genealogical Conference (NwGC).  Some of the same folks at Jamboree will be up there–Cyndi Ingle, Linda Harms Ozasaki, Judy Russell, Lisa Alzo, etc. It will be nice to check in with friends from around the state and around the nation.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Talked to Cyndi Ingle about how her ProGen course is going while we waited for a plane at Burbank Airport.  Said good-bye to some new friends and old including, Mike, Judy, Beverly, Paula, Janet, Emily and Lisa.

Jamboree: Day 2!

jamboree 2015I had anther great day at Jamboree filled with surprises and successes. But, in the game of “pick the best concurrent session” roulette, I did not do so well.  But, the parts of the day that were terrific included the following:

Surprise #1: Diane Young and I connected, Diane was the coordinator for the Jefferson County Genealogical Society Spring Seminar for which I was the speaker for the day.  It was great to see her again.  She is living in the Los Angeles area assisting her son and daughter-in-law with the care of their 7 week-old baby.

Surprise #2: I had a chance to talk to Randy Seaver and Thomas MacEntee and discuss blogging.  It was great fun to hear how two of the most prolific bloggers do it.

Surprise #3:  Had lunch with the ProGen folks.  As always it is good to see old friends, and meet new ones.  ProGen graduates and those who are still matriculating are some of the most impressive genealogists I know.

Surprise #4: Rev. David MacDonald, CG gave two talks, one on finding historical church records in the US even if the church has been blended with another and another on reading church records.  As usual they were stellar presentations.  He is deeply knowledgeable on church history of all religions.

Surprise #5:  I skipped one session and sat down with Mike Booth at the RootsMagic booth.  RootsMagic is a genealogical software program and Mike provided technical assistance in getting RootsMagic running on my MAC laptop.  It was a great relief to see it operational.  Thanks, Mike.  It took an hour and during that time he made just one $20 sale.  I really appreciate your tenacity.  Impressive.

Surprise #6: (Well, not really a surprise.)  I had a fun dinner with Lisa Oberg from Seattle.  We discussed a variety of topics including which speakers impressed us, Special Collections at the UW, and the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies conference in 2016.  We continue to try to find a way to work together on a genealogical topic.  Always fun.

Surmise #7:  My roommate and I have chats that are like the ones you had at camp when you were 8 years old–funny, informative and delightful.  Barbara Brown is terrific and I am lucky to have her for a roomie.

Tomorrow I got home, so I would be surprised if I will write again about the conference. Jamboree is one of the most fun that I attend.  It is “California Casual” and the volunteers all are so helpful and eager to assist.   Thank you, SCGS Volunteers for putting together another great conference.

Happy Hunting:


What I have done since the last posting:  See above.  Also attended two other presentations.