Saturday, August 20, 2011

Feeling like Hermione Granger tonight

For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, or have kids who like the Harry Potter movies, do you remember that part in the Sorcerer's Stone when Hermione says she was doing "a bit of light reading" and whips up this enormous book? That's kindof how I felt today. I felt like I needed a bit of a distraction and wanted to take on a little project, separate from the other stuff I've been working on. It turned out to be more than just a little distraction though.

I thought revisiting the possible birthplace of John Kleinert would fit the bill for what I was looking for. I have a copy of his 1885 marriage record, a registry entry from Kankakee County, Illinois, which includes a question about place of birth. For John, the village of Tauenzinow, Germany is shown. So I fired up ole' faithful, , and got to the Meyers Orts Gazetteer here . Meyers Orts is pretty much the answer to decoding all those German place names that may or may not still exist. You find a record here in the US with the name of town as it was known in the 1860s but that doesn't mean you'll just be able to find it on a map. Because of all the boundary changes and partitions of the area now covering Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland and any number of other Eastern European countries, you're going to need help finding that 19th century place name. Meyers Orts is your first step.

Now don't go thinking it'll be quite that easy though. Oh no. Meyers Orts is written in Gothic script. And it's in German. And it's full of abbreviations. So go ahead and pull up the name of your town and see what happens. Think you can do it without help on the first try? If you can, you're way better at this than I am. Luckily, I found a great guide available through It gives general information about the gazetteer as well as an immensely helpful section on deciphering the Gothic alphabet which makes up the abbreviations, followed by a guide to exactly what all those letters mean. The guide and tips can be found here (you can just click on the guide and tips tabs as you go along to help find the info you need as you need it). There's also a pretty useful wiki here

Here's what the entry for Tauenzinow looks like:

I know what I got from it, namely that this place is no longer part of Germany, but Poland. Now what can you find out about your own pre-WWI German place names? If you're anything like me, you'll find that maybe those German ancestors of yours weren't quite as German as you thought.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Still alive, yes...Standing still long enough to chat, not so much

So yeah, where do I begin? In the nearly one month since my last post (ugh, I can't believe I let time run away from me!), I've been run through the ringer and really have a ton to talk about, not a whole lot of time to talk about it, and no clue where to begin. How's that for playing catch-up? Besides the usual back to school rush and any number of other things happening here, here's the genealogical run-down.

For starters, in case you haven't noticed, I'm no great writer. I decided from the start that this blog was basically going to be for me alone and if I could write things that would help other people, that's a bonus. So the voice here is extremely casual, and there's very little pressure on myself here. Which is great, usually. What's happening though is that I'm getting very used to writing for myself in that casual style, and not working enough on professional writing and that could be detrimental to achieving some of my goals. Namely, getting a case study published (hopefully in the NGSQ) and working on my certification portfolio material. I need practice and I need to start taking myself and my work more seriously. That's not to say that I'm chucking my light, casual, no-pressure blog. I like knowing that I can talk about my work and not get all stuffy about it. But to help me get on track with where I need to be professionally, I've been working on developing a new writing group based upon the ProGen model. We're having our first "intro" chat tomorrow and will be kicking off the program shortly. This group is going to be a tester to see if the format will work when applied to a writing program. If it does, we've got some plans for future groups. The goal here is to get everyone comfortable with genealogical writing in as many outlets and formats as possible and to get as much practice and experience as possible, while also receiving some helpful, constructive feedback from peers and a mentor. Those already familiar with ProGen will already have the idea. Those who aren't familiar, get familiar. ProGen should be a valuable part of your genealogical education.

So that's been the big pet project for the summer, part one. The second item that's been keeping me away from the blog for any extended time, is more personal. I've recently gotten acquainted with a couple new cousins on a family that I just rediscovered last year. They've both already done a great deal of work as far as record retrieval and tracking down collateral lines through siblings and children and have developed some leads that it would have taken me quite some time to compile. So we've been trying to get on the same page with our research so we can develop a game plan. It's been good to have another project to work with while I'm waiting for the FHL film for Clinton County, Ohio (yes, still waiting). I had been working on the Atkinson family of that area but needed to view some of the county records to help figure out what my next step might be. So in the meantime, I've got a new line of family from Parke County, Indiana, Greene County, Tennessee, and possibly Botetourt County, Virginia to brainstorm about. Once things get settled down a bit more and my thoughts get a little more clear, I have a feeling I'll be talking about them a lot. For now, we'll call them the Newbies :)