Genealogy Case Study: Using the Web to Find Immigrant Origins

By Nancy Hendrickson Premium

My goal with this online genealogy search is to learn more about Nancy D. Broyles and the Broyles family, particularly their country of origin. I know a few details: that Nancy D. Broyles was born in March 1821 in Tennessee, and married Bailous E. Dearing in 1841 in White County, Tenn.
1. My raw Google search for Nancy Broyles results in more than 430,000 hits, including links to social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook.
2. Searching for “Nancy Broyles” Dearing yielded 384 hits, but the first ones were exactly what I was looking for. Among the findings: message board postings about this family, noting Nancy’s birth in Tennessee. It also lists a child I had never heard of. A Nancy Broyles-Dearing marriage in the same Tennessee county occurred earlier than my Nancy’s. The search results also named other Broyles-Dearings, including someone named Abraham in Nancy’s ancestral line. Who are these other Broyles-Dearings, and do they fit in my family? I later discovered the earlier Nancy was my Nancy’s aunt.

3. Because the Abraham connection mentioned the Germanna Colony of Virginia, I ran a search for Germanna Colony. Results included, a treasure of information about two groups of Germans who came to Virginia in 1714 and 1717. Among the second group of colonists was “Breyhel/Breuel/Broyles/Briles/Bruhles, Johann/John and wife Ursula Roup; children: Hans Jacob, Conrad, Maria Elizabetha/Elizabeth”: my Broyles family.

When I saw the name of another family in the second group, it cleared up a family mystery. The other family was Willert/Wilhoit/Wilheit. On a research trip to Missouri, I’d found Dearings buried in a Wilhite Cemetery and wondered about the connection. The families probably had been together since their arrival from Germany.

4. According to the Germanna site, the Broyles came from a place called Schwaigern. I searched for Schwaigern and got a article noting that Schwaigern is a town in the district of Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

From the March/April 2014 Family Tree Magazine