Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Ricklefs breakthrough thanks to Italiangen.org?

And this is how progress is made, often in a haphazard, seemingly random fashion.

On Familysearch.org, I had found records giving the parents for both my 3rd great grandfather, John Ricklefs and his wife, Meta Tiedemann, as well as a marriage date, 8 Sept 1884 in Manhattan. Familysearch, like Ancestry, has a lot of inaccurate, user-posted information, but it also has a lot of government, official, accurate records. Unfortunately, unlike with Ancestry, there are no links to image copies of the original documents, but if you can find accurate data on Familysearch, at least you know there's an original record out there to be found. But in this case, I could never find that actual record.

Well, now I think I have.

One of the Web sites touted at the genealogy conference I went to on March 15 was www.italiangen.org. It is the Web site for The Italian Genealogical Group, but thanks to the efforts of a large group of volunteers, the site has information posted pertaining to not just Italians but many people looking for information on New York ancestors. Among that information are many of the records in the marriage index kept at the New York Municipal Archives. The Municipal Archives are one of my favorite sources of original documentation in my genealogical search, but the one drawback has always been their index. When requesting a certificate search online, there is no provision for name variations. So if I search for "Ricklefs," it won't search for "Reckleff" or "Rickleff." Variation in spellings is common. But even making a trip down to the Archives can be tedious if the person transcribing the index or putting the index together misinterprets someone's handwriting, and the name ends up in a part of the index you would never to think to look - in one of the census records I have, the family is indexed under "Ricklebs," due to the transcriber mistaking the script "f" as a "b."

What the Italian Genealogical Group has done is allow the user to do a soundex search using the index, and a lot of what I put in yielded no results. But a soundex search of "John Ricklefs" produced several boring and one intriguing result of "John Riekleffs." When I checked the link to his bride's name, what did I find? The name "Neta Tiedermann." In my head, I can see someone's old-fashioned handwriting, loopy or sloppy or with unique flairs to letters being misinterpreted by the person transcribing the index. The "c" in "Rickleffs" gets recorded as an "e". "Meta" becomes "Neta." I'm inclined to believe this is the couple I am looking for. My hunches about genealogical records, when they're this strong, are very rarely wrong, but I will reserve judgment till I receive the marriage record. The index on the italiangen.org Web site included a certificate number, which I used to send away for a copy from the Municipal Archives (it's cheaper to ask for just a specific record as opposed to requesting a search and a copy). Verification of names and a marriage date and place would be important information to add to my tree, but will the record also include the needed verification of the possible parents of both these parties? That would be a somewhat huge breakthrough on the Ricklefs line. I have to wait 4-6 weeks for the record to come. I think I'm going to be antsy beyond belief till then!!

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