Another one of my long-standing brick walls was the origin location of my second main surname, Thielke, my maternal grandfather’s line. For the longest time, the most detailed origin location we had was Schwerin, Germany, which by itself is a city, but also can be considered a larger area. Though, another record indicated Baden-WÃ¼rttemberg which is on the complete opposite site of Germany.
Searching in some of the old 1819 Mecklenburg-Schwerin Census records did find some Thielkes, but nothing else to go on. At least we knew roughly the general area.
Last night, since I was working on some of the other Thielke lines to try to pad things out, I decided to run another FamilySearch search on my furthest ancestor, Henry Peter Thielke. I used WikiTree’s RootsSearch option which just makes it easier by automatically plugging in all of the vital data for me and searches FamilySearch.
As you know, if you a reader of this site, I’ve been trying to track down information on my Zalewski line as long as I’ve been doing genealogy. For the longest time it was always my shortest line, ending at my great-great grandfather, Frank Zalewski. This week changed a lot of that and during the excitement I almost totally forgot about RootsTech, which is crazy.
I plan to add more detailed posts this week about how exactly I found this new information, but here is a quick overview. [Update: the detailed post is now up. You’ll find the link at the end of this post, so keep reading.]
A few years back, I found Frank’s marriage record to his wife Anna in the civil archives which listed his parent’s names and his birthplace. This got me one more generation back, but with little more info besides names and a location.
Now that FamilySearch Family Tree is live and they also allow other programs to access that data on your behalf, we’re able to do cool things with it. RootsMagic allows you to connect members of your local family tree database to FamilySearch Family Tree where you can copy data and sources back and forth.
But, there are also other cool things that some websites are doing with your data. Puzzilla.org is one of those sites. They allow you to view a descendant or ancestor tree visually using the data on FamilySearch. Here is my ancestor tree out to 14-generations.
I am the small blue, circled square at the bottom. As you can tell, my maternal side is much more filled out inside of FamilySearch. I have cleaned up back about 4-5 generations, but beyond that, it’s all based on what other people have added. Remember, this is just what info FamilySearch has in their Family Tree. For example, the little orange squares mean that the individual died before the age of 16, which seems odd to have for ancestors that had children.
The cool feature that I love to use with this site is choosing a distant ancestor and viewing their descendant tree. It allows you to see distant cousins you never knew you had. Plus, it looks really neat when you do it for a “super” ancestor like Zacharie Cloutier who “had 10,850 French-Canadian descendants, the most of any Quebec colonist” and is my 11th-great-grandfather. Here is his descendant view only down 4 generations.
How cool looking is that? If you look hard enough, you can see the yellow lines that lead to my family lines. Again, lots and lots of “died before 16” marks, which may be due to bad/wrong data inside the Family Tree. This is also a good way to see bad/wrong data and go in and fix it.
I love being able to use data for non-standard purposes like this and I hope a lot of other creative people plug into the FamilySearch API and make more of these.
FamilySearch has a boatload of church records scanned and available online for Germany, Prussia, and Pomerania from 1544-1945, though I would estimate that most of them are in the middle of that range. Currently they’re not available for searching, but I did see them in the indexing software, so maybe they will be available for that soon. That means you must look through them by hand, like the good ol’ days.
It seems that a lot of families from this area of Wisconsin immigrated from that area, which is now mostly in Poland, so I’m in luck. I used this collection to find a few records so far. I found my 3rd-great-grandparent’s marriage record and my 3rd-great-grandfather’s baptism record (I’m pretty sure.) Keep in mind that the towns and parishes are not named the same as they were in the 1800s, so you can’t just go to Google Maps. Don’t worry, I’ve done some of the hard work for you and will show you how to find the records you need. Though, this won’t do all of the browsing record by record and trying to determine what someone wrote in German on old, ripped paper from 1840 for you, but maybe for a few bucks I can do that for you, too.
The key in all of this is an amazing site called Kartenmeister. They describe themselves:
Welcome to the most comprehensive database of its kind in the world. It contains 93537 locations with over 38.691 name changes once, and 5,500 twice and more. Included in this database are the following provinces: Eastprussia, including Memel, Westprussia, Brandenburg, Posen, Pomerania, and Silesia. It currently list most towns or points, points being: Mills, some bridges, battlefields, named trees, cenotaphs etc.
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.