Beyond History Blog

The needle in the haystack or a genealogy miracle

Avatar of Andrea Bentschneider Andrea Bentschneider - 28. July 2015 - Emigration, Family, Genealogy, General

It was one of these cases that seem almost impossible to solve. For the research of the German ancestor of our US-American client we had close to nothing to start with: A name that did not sound German at all, the fact that he immigrated from Germany and a possible time frame of 10 years of his possible birth. An unrelated person of the same name that had lived close to ‘our’ German emigrant and came from the area of Oldenburg allowed the presumption that he, too, could have come from there.

A presumption. A name. A vague time frame.

The area of Oldenburg covers 98 church perishes with each their own church books. 45 of these church parishes came into question for us, still leaving over a hundred church books, in which our immigrant could be hiding. For every book, at least 50 pages had to be read carefully not to miss his name in the small scrawly handwritings, so at least 5000 pages in total, and about 20 000 birth entries. And we weren’t even sure we would find him in the area at all! Eight days were spent turning page after page looking for the needle in the haystack, until, surprisingly, we did find a birth entry with a name that fit!

But was he the right one? Only a cross check could make sure. So we looked for a burial entry. If we had found one, we could have been sure that it wasn’t the right person, as the person we were looking for emigrated and died in the U.S.A. And we found nothing – no burials, no weddings, nothing.

Nothing? Well, not quite. As fate would have it, our emigrant had fathered an illegitimate child whose baptism entry we stumbled upon. The name we were looking for was listed for the father, with a note: “….emigrated to America in 1834”. The right name, the right place, the right time!

Eureka! The impossible had happened. We actually had proof in our hands that we would never have expected. After endless sorting through piles of church books we had found evidence of what was very likely to be the ancestor of our client. Now his family’s history in Germany can be researched. Sometimes it really is worth to dare the impossible!

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