Go into your brain and pick out a surname that would be awesome to try to research. Something that would return 8 million results every time you searched for it. If you guessed the surname LAST, you win.
Searching for anything on that surname was never fun. I would get every version of “last name” or other common phrases. In order to try to help myself get my information organized on my furthest LAST ancestor, Johann LAST, I decided to set up an Everything I Know site for him. Just like the other sites I set up, when I start going over all of the information I have, sometimes I find new avenues of research. I started with the first record I have of Johann and his family, the passenger arrival manifest from when they arrived in New York in 1857.
I looked it over to see if I missed any important info. I didn’t see anything new. Then, I just checked which port they left from in Europe and I noticed it was Hamburg, Germany. I remembered that Ancestry had the passenger emigration lists from Hamburg on their site. I think I browsed through them before, but didn’t find anything. I looked closer this time using their Hamburg Passenger Index database and found their entry. It was under “J W G Last” just like their arrival record. It’s basically the same info, except one very useful piece of info, his place of origin. The record says what looks like “Nagard” so after some searching and tweaking, it is probably talking about “Naugard” which today is called Nowogard in northwestern Poland. This is exactly where I tracked Doeringshagen, the listed birthplace of Johann’s son Charles, to be located today. That’s good news.
If that’s all I had found yesterday, that would be enough for me. On a whim, I decided to see what records the Family History Library had for the Nowogard area. I thought maybe I’d order the microfilm and take a look at it down the road. It was just my luck that FamilySearch has a huge collection of church records from what they called “Germany, Pomerania” which includes the Nowogard area. So, I began looking through the Naugard records for his birth, marriage, and births of his children, but no luck. So, I popped open Google Maps and browsed around the general vicinity and decided to try records from the church in what was then called Plathe (called Płoty today.)
Those records started in 1848, so there was no chance of finding his birth record. I started in 1849 since I have recorded that their first child, Augusta, was born in about 1850. I had yet to even come across the surname LAST in all of my hours of browsing, so it didn’t feel too great. Then, all of a sudden my eyes came across the surname LAST and I started to read the whole name “Johann Wilhem Gottlieb Last.” I squeed a little bit. Well, that surely matches up with his initials. Then, I moved over to the wife’s field, “Hanne Charlotte Regine Strassman”. That basically matches up, as she is just called “Charlotte” most other places.
A few morals to this story. One, always check surrounding communities if you don’t find the record. Two, take all of your information and look it over again and try to find new avenues of research. Maybe a piece of info on one random document can help you find a treasure trove on information elsewhere. Three, I enjoy it more spending hours browsing through old records at home in my pajamas rather than 30 miles away at the Family History Library after work. I can’t wait until they digitize more.