Friday, January 22, 2010

Avoiding Mistakes in German Research....

I decided to stay put for Baerbel's second session. The first one was so good and I managed to maneuver my way to a front row seat right next to the projector. My view and elbow room has improved significantly.

To truly avoid mistakes, in German or any other genealogical research, be sure to realize:

  • You need to research the whole family, no shortcuts, no generation jumping

  • Document, record, cite, document, record, cite, document, record, cite....

  • Other people's written and Internet information can be wrong because people submit what they have, can be duplicates, and submissions are not verified, use with discretion.

  • Same name never means same person

  • Age is flexible and spelling doesn't count

  • Wild card search functions can be lifesavers

Baerbel shared a number of examples of people with conflicting dates, names and places yet were the same person. And, another example of four different man who share the same name in similar locations with at least two wives. Check twice, at a minimum. Use the "Thomas" principle. Evaluate the quality of the source. Just because someone is not listed in a book, does not mean they were not there. Review introductions and explanations of what each book offers.

If there are several sets of records, be sure to review each one. Mistakes can be picked up and someone may have read Maria when the real name was Catharina. Who says penmanship doesn't count?

Always work with a good map as jurisdictions in the Germanic states changed often. Be sure to complement your research by studying geography and local history. Also, read the notes in the margin, it could lead you to other church records. Extract all records with the same surname.

Baerbel shared humorous anecdotes about research and how easy it is to be led astray.

  • Did you know in Mecklenburg, people are given two or three birth names and often use them interchangeably throughout their life. And, if an uncle dies and the individual liked his name, he might well go by his uncle's name for the rest of his life!
  • Patronymics, where the son is given the father's first name as his last name, was used until the mid 1800s.
  • In Westfalen, farm names were used as surnames and if someone moves to another farm, they change their last name.

"Technical difficulties" include:

  • Books can be scanned and put back together out of order
  • If there are several children in the same family with the same name and that does not mean the older ones died.
  • If an ancestor is not in a book they should be in, verify it with the original document

There are lots of false assumptions out there, so be careful, verify, check and double check. Just because it is written down, doesn't mean it is correct.

#fhexpos, #fhexpo, #genealogy, #familyhistory


Tamura Jones said...

Farm names were not used as surnames. Farm names are not a kind of surname, but another system than surnames.

Anna said...

Thanks for the clarification. I was trying to give the information as best I understood it at the expo this morning What is the other system of surnames? What can you tell us about it?