Monday, March 31, 2008

Recharging the genealogy battery

Sometimes it takes something simple like coming together with other people who are excited about genealogy to help renew your own excitement and remind you of your own enthusiasm for the subject. So that was something else that came out of the genealogy conference I attended. Doing genealogy the right way can be an exhausting and often frustrating process, so it's nice to feel a kind of renewing of the genealogical spirit, to get your genealogical battery recharged. Meeting like-minded people whose eyes don't glaze over as soon as you start mentioning archives and obituaries and heirlooms recharges the battery. Hearing other people's success stories recharges the battery. Learning new research tools and techniques recharges the battery. Just talking genealogy will do it. These people that you meet aren't just another type of genealogical resource (which, they are); they're a genealogical support system.

So what have I been inspired to return to? Tracking down what should be the easy information, but for whatever reason, continues to be elusive. Or backing up more solidly information I already have. For example, I have names, dates, birthplaces, occupations, and narrative on the parents of my 3rd great-grandfather, Friedrich Stutzmann. Friedrich's son, Rudolph, my great-great grandfather, was a prominent German-American in Brooklyn and Queens in both his role as the owner and operator of Stutzmann and Son's Funeral Home and the first president of the Ridgewood Savings Bank. Because of this, the Stutzmann's are included in the four-volume "Schlegel's American Families of German Ancestry in the United States." The pages on the Stutzmanns were a huge goldmine in fleshing out that branch of my tree. Of course, it also turned out to be incomplete and full of incorrect facts, but a lot was accurate and the rest provided a decent starting point. And yet knowing the inconsistencies in those volumes, I don't think I've ever tried to verify that Friedrich's parents were in fact Peter Stutzmann and Charlotte Schlick (and actually, someone doing research on a family that married into the Stutzmann's has Peter married to Louise Charlotte Schlick, which if true, would mean that even though I might be able to find family records under the name Charlotte, if that's the name she went by, I would never have been able to find any official records if they used the name Louise). Anyway, Friedrich was born in Germany, so I haven't yet tried to get that record. His death certificate lists both his parents as "unknown." So I decided to try his marriage records. On, I was unable to find a listing for Friedrich's marriage to my 3rd great-grandmother, Mathilde Rau (who died very young in 1880 of "bilious fever," aka yellow fever), but I was able to find one for his second marriage to Rosalie Goess. So, while his marriage certificate to Mathilde might have yielded important information not only on his parents but her parents as well (so far, they are completely unknown to me), his marriage certificate to Rosalie will hopefully include the names of his parents, which will either back up or dispute what I think I already know. I have sent away to the Municipal Archives for that record, which again, will take 4-6 weeks to arrive.

Other mysteries I'm tackling: trying to find people in the census who should be there but aren't, at least not obviously. For example, John Horgan died in 1908, but I can't find him anywhere in the 1900 census. While being creative as to what last name he's listed under, I may have to stop assuming he was living in New York at the time, or start looking him up under possible nicknames (nicknames always throw me for a loop in the census. Amelia, Millie, and Mildred are all the same person, my great-grandmother Amelia Berg Raynor - thanks for making that easy for me!) My 4th great-grandmother, Eva Herner Dauch, came to the United States in 1845 and died in 1877. She's in the 1870 census (as Christiana Dowe) but nowhere to be found in the 1850 or 1860 census records. So, even as I continue to search for new people to add to my tree, there's still a lot to be done with the names I already have.

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