Finding a birth place for your ancestors from Europe is the genealogical Holy Grail, because it opens up the possibility of finding overseas records, particularly church records.
For German ancestors, our German Genealogy Crash Course webinar next Thursday, Jan. 16, has information about resources that can help you trace your roots back to Germany. It also gives attendees a chance to ask questions of presenter James M. Beidler.
In case any of you are ready to throw in the towel on finding your ancestor’s place of birth, I wanted to share the places I found birthplace information (unexpectedly, in a couple of cases):
- My fourth-great-grandfather Edward Thoss was a founding member of the Covington (Ky.) German Pioneer Society, which I was surprised to discover on the Kenton County Public Library website through a Google search. The overview there gives his birthplace as Langenweisendorf, Schleiz. The library has a 25th anniversary book, published in 1902, which lists “Langenweizendorf Fürstentum Schleiz.” I believe this should be Langenwetzendorf.
- My third-great-grandfather Joseph Ladenkotter immigrated in 1836 from Rheine, in the district of Steinfurt. I discovered this from the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s (it’s in print at many libraries, or search it on Ancestry.com), which in turn led me to a list of emigrants called Auswanderungen aus dem Kreis Steinfurt (Emigration From the County Steinfurt) by Freidrich Ernst Hunsche. I searched WorldCat and found this publication at the Allen County Public Library, so I ordered copies through the Genealogy Center ‘s Quick Search service.
- The obituary of my third-great-grandmother (Joseph’s wife) Anna Maria Weyer, printed in the German-language Cincinnati Volksfreund newspaper, gave her birthplace in Schapen. (The alphabet chart in our German Genealogy Cheat Sheet helped me read it.)
- My great-great-grandfather H.A. Seeger was born in Steinfeld, as noted in his 1907 passport application, which I found on Ancestry.com. I had no idea he ever traveled overseas, so this was a thrilling find.
For a couple of other families, I’ve had luck by finding people I’m related to and contacting them about their research. Here’s a map of birthplaces I’ve found so far. That cluster in northwest Germany is my Cincinnati ancestors; Edward Thoss is the one in the bottom right corner.
Besides the German Genealogy Crash Course webinar, we also have a couple of seats left in Family Tree University’s German Genealogy 101 online course. It’s starting this week, though, so you should register ASAP.