Archive for the ‘genealogy’ Category

I haven’t talked about my obsession with family history on this blog much yet, if at all, but it’s only because I’ve yet to get organized enough to post stuff. I started my journey in 1989, when we had a relatively new first personal computer and didn’t know quite what to do with it. At the time, there was a magazine called “Family Computing” and in one issue there was a review of a genealogy program sold by the Mormon church (LDS) to anyone who wanted it for $35 (Personal Ancestral File). I couldn’t resist and purchased it right away. There’s just something about database management that appeals to me and that’s exactly what this program was (and still is). Of course, back in the ’80’s the program was only available in DOS and when the world went to a GUI interface, I abandoned PAF and moved to Family Treemaker. It took the Mormons longer to translate PAF into a graphical format but I was ready for something more advanced, anyway. I abandoned FTM a long time ago too and moved to the program I still use today, The Master Genealogist.

But the reason I’m posting today is because just this morning, I found something I’ve been searching for for 23 years: the German birthplace of my 2nd-great-grandparents, Simon and Maria Gertrude (Gertie) WEBER. If you are a veteran at this you know that German vital records were kept at the local level and you have to know the town your ancestor was born in before you can search for records. Obviously, this is a problem when the name of that town is the information you need.

Back when Simon and Gertie came to Southwest Wisconsin (Grant County) in the early 1850’s, they didn’t contribute much to the local documentation. Most all the records I could find just said they were from Prussia. That’s like saying I’m from the U.S. I found Simon’s citizenship papers and nothing but Prussia, Prussia, Prussia. Same with census records. Same with church records if birthplace was even recorded. Same with his obituary. They left their oldest child behind with his grandparents and he came over when he was about 13, according to family legend. I followed Joseph throughout his life and again, his records only said Germany, Germany, Germany. Every document gave a different birthdate or age, like he didn’t even know when he was born. I can’t find any citizenship papers for him, even though every census that asked the question stated he’d been naturalized. (And I know the rules in the U.S. were such that minor children and wives were automatically naturalized when the husband/father was, but Simon waited until the 1880’s when Joseph was over 21. My presumption is that Joseph would have had to start the process himself. Indeed, the census records state that he was naturalized about 1875. But that could have been a big fat lie.)

I had a little bit of a breakthrough in the 1920 census for Joseph. It stated that his parents were from Rhineland. Yippee! That narrowed it down considerably, but again it’s like saying I’m from California. Joseph died in 1940, after social security was created but he was too old to apply. An SS-5 application form would have been a goldmine, I’m sure. Joseph had one son who had no children, so there the line died.

Back to this morning. I saw something on a blog post that prompted me to go to www.familysearch.org and look for another German ancestor. I didn’t find anything on that person, but I plugged in Simon’s name and VOILÁ, there he was. It was just so easy, it was crazy. I have searched the LDS records for Simon in all the years they’ve been online and he never came up. So somewhere along the way, this is new data.

This record gave me Simon’s parents’ names too, so I now know my 3rd-great-grandparents. I was able to get the same information on Gertie, so that’s another generation on her side, too.

My advice? NEVER GIVE UP

Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to live long enough to find this place. My goal when I started this journey was to find the birthplaces of my immigrant ancestors. I have accomplished that on my Dad’s HOFF and SCHMIEDER lines, and I got to visit those villages in 2003. I got to see the churches my ancestors probably worshipped in when they were young. Another cousin found the birthplace of our BACHMANN ancestor and that just leaves GRIMM. GRIMM was married to BACHMANN, so my assumption is that GRIMM had to have lived in the same general area, but so far we haven’t found where exactly. And no, neither GRIMM nor BACHMANN are in the records at familysearch. At least, not yet. NEVER GIVE UP!

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Imagine the possibilities

I just heard something on a podcast that sounds so exciting to me that I just had to share.

You probably don’t run in the same tech-geek circles I do and may not have heard the Apple news from last week’s MacWorld. Actually, when I heard about it, it was kind of a yawner for me, but then, I will never claim to be a person of vision. The news is an upgrade to the iPhoto software that is part of Apple’s iLife suite for Mac OSX. (I don’t use iPhoto which is part of my yawning reaction.) The new iPhoto includes “face recognition.” The short version is that you put photos in your iPhoto library, somehow tag them with the people’s names and it learns to match the name with the face. You probably have to do this a number of times in order for it to catch on, I would imagine. Then you can upload the photos to Facebook. If face recognition is not sci-fi enough for you, when other people upload their photos somehow it can scan yours for unidentified faces and match them to identified faces in those other people’s photos. Don’t ask me how. The Facebook angle is the other part of my yawn; I don’t use it either. I can see this being popular with kids because it is really cool. And during all the podcast discussions of this new feature, that’s all I was thinking.

But what I heard Fred Johnson say on this week’s episode of This Week in Photography podcast (link in the sidebar over there) made me sit up as straight as I could in the driver’s seat. He plans to take a box of old family photos of people he doesn’t know and sit with his dad while he scans them and has iPhoto tag all the aunts, uncles and cousins. That’s when I began to imagine the possibilities. I have inherited a lot of old family photos that aren’t identified on the backs, my in-laws are gone and how cool would it be to have this functionality? Granted, we’d have to get a lot (!) of other people on board with this in order for it to work, but don’t pooh pooh this idea yet, I’m just imagining.

And then I realized that the photos our kids are taking today will be the unidentified photos abandoned to the online flea markets (think Flickr in 100 years LOL) in the generations to come.

Does this inspire a vision for you? I’d love to hear about it.


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