Summary of Our Most Recent Genealogy Program on April 13, 2010 with Teresa Steinkamp McMillin As Our Guest Speaker

Hi Everyone!

I just wanted to provide you with an overview of our most recent Genealogy Program that was held at the Schaumburg Township District Library on Tuesday evening, April 13, 2010.

We had a “full house” gathering of 73 highly motivated genealogy researchers who were just ready to learn some new resources and techniques to help them in their own research efforts.  this has been one of our highest levels of genealogy program attendance!

Our guest speaker for the evening was Teresa Steinkamp McMillin.

Teresa presented a program titled “So You’ve Found Your German Town of Origin … Now What?”

Our April 13, 2010 Program Starting To Fill Up With Participants

Our program was attended by about 10 new participants.  I invited each new participant to introduce themselves to the group and to give us an idea of how new to genealogy they are and to provide us with a few surnames they are researching.  Each new participant was provided an introductory folder of “beginning” material to help them start their “genealogy research engines”.  The number of new participants was also one of the highest we have had attending our program.

I followed the introductions of new participants with a quick review of the “handouts” of genealogical materials that I thought were important to note and to share.  These “handouts” are the new electronic ones that are in the form of a PDF file available from our library’s genealogy blog.  I made note to the audience of some of the upcoming genealogy programs offered by other societies and groups that are local to the area.  Attending programs such as our library program and these other programs can advance the research knowledge of any genealogical researcher.  Anyone can look at or download this material from our blog.  You do not have to be a Schaumburg Township District Library registered member in order to view the material.  I like to expand my own thoughts in these handout write-ups to give you an idea as to why I think a particular one may be of value to the researcher.

Some Of Our 73 Attendees Interact With Each Other Prior To Our Program Start

After I reviewed the handouts, I turned my attention to briefly review items in the Schaumburg Township District Library Genealogy Newsletter.  I will generally provide information in the Newsletter about recent periodicals that we received that focus on genealogy.  I will also provide some summary material on any new genealogical books we may have added to our collection.

The periodical reviews include a listing of the articles in the issue, the author of the article, a small description of the article content if provided by the magazine.  I generally provide an overview of at least two articles that caught my interest that I believe would be of interest to our participants.

The Newsletter is also available to anyone to look at or download from our library’s genealogy blog.

Teresa started her presentation at around 8:10 PM.

It is ironic, sad and not uncommon that many genealogical researchers may actually not discover the town of origin of their ancestors.  So if you happen to discover this piece of history in your research consider yourself lucky!  Cherish this piece of information knowing that it can help you connect the bridge from the United States to whatever point of origin you discover.

Teresa had an outstanding PowerPoint presentation to share with us to show us what you can do if you have discovered your ancestor’s German town of origin.

Teresa Steinkamp McMillin Sharing Some German Genealogy Research Tips

  1. 1.  Find the town on a map or a gazetteer.  One good German oriented resource is the Meyer’s Orts and Verkehrs Lexicon des Deutschen Reichs.   This resource is commonly referred to as Meyer’s.  Also consider using an online resource such as Shtetlseeker at www.jewishgen.org/communities/loctown.asp or Kartenmeister at www.kartenmeister.com.
  2. 2.  What if you can’t find the town on any map?  The reasons for not finding it might be that the transcription of the original document was faulty, the town name may have been written in German script, it may have been documented by an English-speaking person not familiar with the details of the German language, or it might have been translated from another language such as Polish.  In any case, if you are having problems at this stage, go back to look at the original document for a review.
  3. If you are successful finding the town on a map then try to get the records you seek.  Knowing the history of the country and the town as for political divisions is important to know.  Civil records are generally kept by the governmental jurisdictions.  Knowing these jurisdictions is important, but knowing the jurisdictions in the historical time period of your ancestors is even more important.  Consider using the Family History Catalog to see if microfilms exist for the village of your ancestors.  It is important to look in the /Family History Library catalog for the town associated with level of jurisdiction for the village that you research.  So for example, with a village called Kreyenborg, you would want to look at Kreyenborg, as well as Meppen, Bokeloh, Lingen and Osnabruck which are other levels of jurisdiction that pertain to Kreyenborg.  There may be many categories of film types that you can order.  There may be church records or civil records or any other type of category in the possession of the Family History Library.  Become familiar with German word terms by accessing the Resource Aids of the Family History Library online for German researchers.  These can be Word Guides to help you understand key German words you may encounter on the films you review.  You may be lucky to find indexes on the films.  You may be unlucky and find you have to look image by image through an entire film for a town.  Be prepared for ANYTHING!  Some of the data on the film may be easy to read in columnar format.  Some of the data may be written as long paragraphs.  Use the aid to help you interpret what is on the film and how best to interpret what may certainly be a foreign language or foreign format.
  4. Look on the internet for your German town.  It is amazing how many towns themselves have an internet presence.  Just try using a generic URL web address of www.<townname>.de.  Look for any online German telephone books in which you might be able to look for a surname, one that is hopefully not too common.  Try accessing www.dastelefonbuch.de to find German phone numbers.  If you find some names, consider writing a letter.
  5. Good luck and enjoy your search for and in German records!  Your research skills will improve as you search more.  You will begin to know what you are looking for with the help of the Family History Library online aids. 

Teresa Steinkamp McMillin Sharing More Germanic Research Tips to a Very Attentive Audience

 MAPS AND GAZETTEERS

  • Dr. E. Uetrecht. Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs [Meyer’s Directory of Places and Commerce in the German Empire].  1912. Reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co., 2000. Gazetteer showing places of the 1871 German Empire and their governmental jurisdictions.  The Family History Library’s [FHL] cataloging of German places is largely based on this gazetteer.  Written in German and gothic print.
  • Gemeindelexikon für das Königreich Preussen [Gazetteer for the Kingdom of Prussia].  Berlin: Verlag des Königlichen statistischen Landesamts. 1907-1909. This gazetteer consists of 14 volumes (one for each pre-1919 Prussian Province).  Among other things, it helps to identify to what Catholic and/or Lutheran parish a town belonged.  Written in German and gothic print.  Available at on microfilm through FHL and on indefinite loan at the Wilmette Family History Center [WFHC], Wilmette, Illinois

HELPFUL BOOKS

  • Ernest Thode. German-English Genealogical Dictionary. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1992.  This book is a must have for reading German records.  Also contains Latin, some French and other languages found in German-speaking lands.
  • Edna M. Bentz. If I Can, You Can Decipher Germanic Records. San Diego, California: Tamara J. Bentz, 2005.  This book has many examples of words written in script, variations of letters in script, lists of occupations and illnesses.

HELPFUL WEBSITES

We ended our program at around 9:30 PM.  Teresa stayed for a while answering questions of those that were present.

Her presentation was great!  She really knows her German research methodology!

Thank you Teresa for the great presentation job!

We hope those in attendance left knowing a lot more of what is needed to further their Germanic genealogy research.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

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