March 2, 2013 was the European Group’s Day at the BCGS Walter Draycott Library.
A very good day with lots of discussion and sharing of resources – and homemade muffins too. A good turnout – and some new people.
Most of the group are currently looking for families in Eastern Europe – from 1700 through to post World War II. Among the places and countries represented were: Austria, Belarus, France, Galicia, Germany, Hanover [Germany], Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine, Württemberg [Germany]– most with family emigrating to Canada and the US (Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania).
Collecting as much information as possible about your immigrant families is vital. Our access to the Library’s subscription databases, Ancestry Library Edition, the Genealogical Research Library and the New England Historic Genealogical Society is helpful for this. In one case, although the original entry into the US has not yet been found, on a passenger list for a later trip home we saw birth dates and places for 3 of the children, as well as the mother’s date and court of naturalization, and her US passport number.
Deciphering place names of origin from these records is often a challenge due to changes in jurisdiction and spelling. To look for places we used a mix of maps and gazetteers from the Library’s collections, Internet maps (some printed out so we could more easily compare distances) and a good number of websites – particularly the on-line maps and information at the Federation of East European Family History Societies and the Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe, but even Wikipedia.com was of assistance, as were GeoNames.org, JewishGen.org (with database links to Communities Database and Gazetteer, and to the JewishGen Kehila Links Project), and the Główny Urząd Statystyczny (GUS), an information portal for the Central Statistics Office for Poland.
For those with German families of Germanic origin migrating ‘back’ into Germany during World War II, the EWZ or Einwandererzentralstelle records could be helpful. Dave Obee has articles about these on-line, “East European Emigration and the EWZ”, 51, FEEFHS Journal, Volume IX) and a guide to using them at his website Volhynia.com as does FamilySearch, “Using The EWZ Records for German and Eastern European Research” by NishimotoSR (2011).
Recommended highly was the Poznan Marriage Indexing project for the Prussian province of Posen, now Poznań, Poland and the Poznan State Archive. There are similar projects for Pomorze, Lublin and Geneteka.
For Württemberg, there is an article at ProGenealogists with information and good links: http://www.progenealogists.com/germany/baden-wurttemberg/
And learning how ancestors may have pronounced their own names or place or origin could help us look for more spelling variations in the many pubished and Internet indexes.
Forvo.com is great for this. Already there are lists of names/places that you can hear spoken, but submit yours, if not already there.
And try Pronounce Names too
The need for translation can often an issue both on-line and off. Google Translate certainly does a good job, but many times, terms we are looking for are older or specialized words or phrases and do not translate well ‘automatically’.
Books in the Library collections with lists of often seen words are very useful, for example, Finding Your German Ancestors by Dr. Hans W. Rerup and Finding Your Ukrainian Ancestors by Muryl Andrejciw Geary.
(Both were published by Heritage Productions and available at the BCGS Boutique as well as at the Library, as are similar books for other parts of Europe.)
Some of the Library’s maps, the WW II U.S. Army ones, had lists of translated terms too as this image shows.
For writing letters, the guides at FamilySearch are helpful. https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Category:Letter_Writing_Guides
Map of Hamburg, Germany, First Edition AMS1 Army Air 1943 Sheet L54. BCGS Map Tube #1