My new book: German Immigration to America

Why did your German ancestors immigrate, when did they leave, where did they leave, how did they get here?

These are questions we all hope to find the answers.

This book discusses the history of the Germanic people and gives some insights into possible answers to the questions about your ancestors’ immigration.

The book also presents brief histories of most of the ports that were used by German immigrants for departure from Europe and the ports where they arrived. Also covered are details of life in steerage during the voyage and the process of examination of the immigrants to gain admittance to the United States.

Continuing our Genealogical Research during the Shutdown

Are you bored? Are you becoming a couch potato?

Our libraries, historical museums, and Family History Centers are closed. How can we do research?

Actually, now is a great time to do all the research we have been putting off because we did not have the time.

Before the shutdown, there are many online opportunities, and many were free.  Today, genealogy groups and companies are adapting to this new situation and trying to make many more resources available.

From home, we can do the following:

  • Officials have closed libraries, but online resources are still available from your home. An added feature is that Ancestry is allowing access to AncestryLibrary Edition from home. This database is an excellent addition to our online arsenal during the shutdown. Do not forget to scour through newspapers.com pages for your ancestors if your library has this fantastic resource in their collection. HeritageQuest and MyHeritage are two other useful resources that some libraries offer.
  • One downside to having your library closed is no access to Familysearch’s film library. So far, FamilySearch has not flipped a switch and made these digital images available from home. However, you can go to your library’s parking lot and should be able to connect to the library’s server as if you are inside the building. From the parking lot, you should have access to FamilySearch’s film library. This method is not the best-case solution but the only one available.
  • Some people have reported that they have been able to access Family History Files from the parking lot of their Family History Center. However, I believe that you may need a church sign on to do this.
  • Lastly, do not forget the free websites.

The shutdown also gives time to organize our information. This is a great time to organize and start writing your family history. The method I described in previous blogs helps you organize your information to do better research, but it also is the beginning format for your family history. Get organized now.

Now is a great time to improve your genealogical skills and knowledge. Genealogy conferences and local society meetings are canceled, but many groups are going online. Some state societies have been using online webinars, but now I see some local societies begin using this format. In fact, I gave my April program to DuPage County Genealogical Society as an online webinar. I have also seen some groups rescheduling their in-person conference to online webinars.

Other sources for online webinars on videos:

  • The Learning Center on FamilySearch.org has a vast collection of videos on most genealogical topics. This resource is free, and probably my first choice for a genealogical educational resource.
  • Another great resource is the webinar library is at com. This library is a collection of webinars that have been recorded from the live presentation. There is an excellent selection of topics, and all are well-done. The most recent webinars are free to view for a limited time after the live presentation. You will need a subscription to view the entire collection. The subscription costs $49.95 is worth it.

Stop being a couch potato. Keep going on your family history research. You have more time to do more.

Remember to have fun.

Niech Bóg Wam Błogosławi i otoczy opieką

God Bless and Stay Safe

International Tracing Service (ITS) – Where can we find the stories for Post-WW II Displaced Persons?

Did your parents or grandparents immigrate to the United States shortly after WW II? If so, they probably told you stories of staying in one or more of the refugee camps at the end of the war. The Allied forces established these camps to handle the masses of displaced persons coming from the German work camps or death camps or who fled their homes to escape communist rule.

Did your ancestors tell you the details of their lives during and after the war, or were they reluctant to talk about their experiences? The International Tracing Service had the task of saving the documents of the refugees and gives us hope to complete their stories.

The work of ITS began in 1943 when the Headquarters of the Allied Forces asked the British Red Cross to set up a registration and tracing service for missing persons. ITS grew out of the Central Tracing Bureau, which was approved on February 15, 1944. The bureau initially worked out of London but was moved from there to Versailles, then to Frankfort am Main, and then to its current location in Bad Arolsen, Germany. On July 1, 1947, the International Refugee Organization (ICRC) took over administration of the bureau on July 1, 1947, and changed the name of the bureau to International Tracing Service on January 1, 1948.

ITS collects and controls the documents, information, and research on Nazi persecution, forced labor, and displaced persons. The archive in Bad Arolsen contains about 30 million records from concentration camps, details of forced labor, and files on displaced persons. The archives have been accessible to researchers since 2007. Requests for information from individuals or descendants can be made by mail or on the ITS website (Home Page – https://arolsen-archives.org/en/). In 2015, ITS began adding records to an online database and today has over two million records in an online searchable collection of documents. Family historians should search the online archive at https://arolsen-archives.org/en/search-explore/ to confirm their ancestors are in the archive. However, the results will show one or two documents but not the complete file. Use the inquiry page (arolsen-archives.org/en/search-explore/inquiries/) to request the entire file. Be patient because the average delivery time for the files is about four months and can take as long as eleven months.

Viewing Film Images on Familysearch.org

In 2017, Familysearch.org changed our access to their film catalog that they have for genealogical records. They made digital images for the records on most of their films and allowed us to view them on computers from various locations.

We can determine where we can view the digital image by finding the film in the film catalog, and looking at the icon on the far right will tell us where to view the film. If there is a roll of film, we can view the film only at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. If there is a small camera-shaped icon on the far right, we can view the film online. If there is a key over the camera, we cannot view the image at our present location. Clicking on the camera icon will tell us where to view the digital images of the records. If the key is missing above the camera, we can click on the key icon, and the digital images of the records will appear. If the key is above the icon, one of three error messages will appear when we click on the camera icon:

  1. To view these images, do one of the following: Access the site at a family history center or Affiliated Library.
  2. To view these images, do one of the following: Access the site at a family history center.
  3. You may be able to view this image by visiting one of our partners’ sites or the legal record custodian (fees may apply). Note this replaces an earlier error message that indicated that the image could be viewed at a Family History Center but only to Church Members. (Basically, this option means that you can view the images only on the films in Salt Lake City.)

My strategy is first to try to view the film from home. If available from home, my research will progress faster because this is the most convenient option.  If the key is above the camera icon, click on the icon to see where you need to go to view the digital images for the film and plan your trip.

I try to visit affiliated libraries because they usually have hours and locations that are more convenient. Before visiting a Family History Center, I review their hours and site instructions very carefully because some are open only by appointment. I also have the phone number for the Family Center with me, because entry to the building may be a challenge.

DNA and Dark Secrets – expanded comments

If your DNA results do not make sense, ask yourself these questions before you try to uncover the answers:

  • Do you need to know the answer?
  • Are you prepared to deal with a dark secret that may upset the family?
  • What will you do with the information once you know the answer?

Be prepared for bad news and dark secrets!

Finding answers to your DNA test results can change known relationships by uncovering the existence of previously unknown biological parents. You may immediately think of adoption as the cause for unknown parents, but researchers have also identified unwed mothers and infidelity as significant sources of DNA surprises. Another frequent reason for unknown parents would be the remarriage of a spouse after the other spouse dies young, leaving children. The new relationships may affect your parents, grandparents, or with earlier generations. Please remember, genealogists must respect the privacy of family members when uncovering “secrets” in documents and now DNA testing makes privacy issues even more critical because of the nature of the information revealed.

Suddenly finding out we have an unknown biological parent or grandparent in our family history will probably cause immediate emotional issues.

  • If they were not due to adoption, how did it occur?
  • How can I find the name of my unknown parent or ancestor?
  • Should I find out?

The search for the answers will be challenging if the problem was in an older generation because the documents probably do not exist, and people who knew may be dead.

Before you take a DNA test, try to understand the possible outcomes of a DNA test. After you submit your sample, be prepared for unexpected issues. Once you have your results, handle problematic information responsibly by responding discreetly.

Be sensitive to your family members. Please consider that some family members do not have to know, but some family members need to know. Everyone will react differently and be careful with who you tell and how you say it.

The only way to prevent the disclosure of problematic genealogical information is to avoid all genealogical research and DNA testing.

Lettin‘ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier ‘n puttin‘ it back in.

 

by Will Rogers

Problems with Names

Finding the documents for your ancestors is thrilling. It may lead to an addiction to genealogy and family history. However, there is a challenge when their names are difficult to spell or pronounce. Another problem is interpreting the handwriting on the document.

The name on my grandfather’s manifest was correct but the indexer recorded with the wrong first four letters in the indexed record. Another set of grandparents dropped a few letters in their name once they arrived and this variation made the search very frustrating. I also had difficulty because first names were Americanized and I had to learn the Polish name that appeared on the manifest.

The myth of name changes

Many families believe immigration officials changed family names when the immigrants entered America. However, this is a myth. Officials usually recorded the names on passenger manifests based on official documents presented by the immigrant to the shipping line at the time of boarding. Changing their names would be illegal. Also, immigration stations were staffed with large numbers of translators to help ensure officials recorded accurately the information that was given by the immigrants. If families changed the spelling of their surnames, they did it after arrival, and this was usually to make it easier for the people around them to pronounce and write their name.

Name variations and spelling

Some instances of differences in names found on documents may have been caused when the recording person wrote the name phonetically. Immigrants may not have caught the misspelling of their name because the immigrant may have been illiterate. Also, the immigrant may have recognized their name written in the Cyrillic alphabet or Hebrew but did not know what the person wrote because he used the Latin alphabet.

Other problems were the given names found on documents. The immigrant may have preferred to use their middle name in their daily life, but official documents required their full Christian name. Another challenge we have is to identify the European spelling of the given names.

Searching

Remembering that documents may list your ancestor’s name as a variant should help you find your ancestor faster. Use the correct spelling first and if you cannot find them, use name variations and wildcards. First names are important in your search, and the record may list one of the variations of a given name. Sometimes it is best to use part of the given name with wildcards to reduce the problem with the given name variants. Research the spellings of given names for the countries of your ancestors and find books that provide surname variations

We are descendants of immigrants, and our ancestors contributed to the tremendous growth in America. The industrial growth in the 1900s could not have happened without the immigrants. Find the documents that add to their story to honor them and save for your future generations.

Be patient and remember to have fun looking for your family history.

Start Your Family History Journey

Researching your family history can have some very exciting moments.  Find your first census record and feel the thrill of seeing a snapshot of your family.  I became addicted to genealogy research after finding my grandfather’s passenger manifest and had difficulty waiting to find my next piece of my family’s history. Start your search, and you can also feel this thrill once you find that first document. Filling in more generations of your family tree and finding more family facts will start to haunt your waking thoughts. Get started and be prepared to make researching your family history a lifelong journey. Just like a great novel, it will be hard to put down.

Try to have a goal in your research. I intended to learn more about my family’s heritage and to preserve what I find for my children and grandchildren. Your goals can be similar to mine or yours can be as simple as doing an in-depth study of one of your famous ancestors. Start your journey at home. Collect documents, pictures, and letters that you and your immediate family have stored away in old shoe boxes in the closet or stuffed in desk drawers. Remember also that it is critical to interview your older relatives to save their memories and oral history.

Be organized in your research because this will save you time but will also point the way for more research. I use summaries to organize my facts and as a reference tool while doing my research. My summaries can make my research more efficient and helps me find more documents and facts. The summaries also help me focus my search efforts. Summaries are also a great way to share what I find with my family. Sharing gives me more opportunities for other family members to contribute more oral history, pictures, and old papers. Be prepared to uncover more areas to research after sharing your work. Remember to identify and label the family pictures. Asking relatives to determine who is in the pictures will help extend your family tree and also turn on the memories of the relatives who are trying to help.

Records you find may be confusing, misleading and wrong.  You will need to continually analyze and interpret your information and note where you got your information. As a beginner to genealogy, start now to note where you get every piece of information. Record your information as you find your facts. You may hear arguments that keeping up with sources are time-consuming and too much trouble. It isn’t fun, but without your source information, you can’t evaluate, analyze, and draw conclusions. And you can’t pass along your information because at least one family member will ask, “But how do you know?”

Companies and organizations are listing more and more genealogy records in online databases, and these are great sources to begin your research. However, there are many more genealogy records stored in libraries and historical archives that also may include your ancestors. Be sure to use all the sources in your research, both online and in person. You will be rewarded for your efforts.

Use books, genealogy programs, genealogy conferences, genealogy societies, online educational offerings, and social media to sharpen your genealogy skills. Again, once you start your journey, it will probably be a lifelong passion.

My last thought that may help you develop the same passion for genealogy as I have is

“Remember to have fun.”