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What does it say? Spelling in Germany

31. August 2017, Heike Leiacker - General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge

“Duden” from 1891 (3rd edition), picture by Merker Berlin (own book, own scan) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DUDEN_1891_0302_PAF1.jpg)

Probably every genealogist knows the problem: In old documents, the spelling of words often varies. That doesn’t make it easier to read old handwritings. For genealogy it is especially difficult, if personal data is affected, in particular names.

Today the spelling often appears to be arbitrary. The reason is, that in Germany for a very long time there were no orthographic rules. Regarding personal data an aggravating factor is that many people weren’t able to write themselves. Therefore they couldn’t verify the information for example in church books. If I think about how often my name is misspelled and in how many different ways even today (and even when I spell it), it is no wonder that there were various notations.

What does it say? Spelling in Germany

Sources for genealogy: Birth-, marriage and death certificates

15. July 2017, Heike Leiacker - Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge, Tips and Tricks

First page of a marriage certificate by a civil registry office from 1880, picture by Mediatus (Own work (Familienarchiv)) [CC0, Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Standesamtliche_Heiratsurkunde_Wilhelm_Carl_Friedrich_Gräber_-_Sophia_Caroline_Wilhelmine_Jörß,_1880,_Teil_I.png)

Some time ago we published a top-10-list of sources for genealogy in Germany on this Blog. Today, we would like to start keeping our promise by providing more information on the particular sources. Let’s get started with the civil registries.

Sources for genealogy: Birth-, marriage and death certificates

No marriage without vaccination!

17. June 2017, Heike Leiacker - General, Genealogy, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge

Detail from the register of marriages of the parish Münsterdorf, available at the Kirchenkreisarchiv (church district archive) in Wrist, Germany (https://www.kk-rm.de/unser-kirchenkreis/kirchenkreis-archiv.html)

What has a „Vaccinationsschein“ (vaccination certificate) to do with a wedding (and what is it)? Or is there something else written in the church book?

Is there any genealogist who doesn’t know the situation? Finally, you have found a document regarding a sought-after person, but you are not able to read everything. Even after deciphering the words, or after you think you might have deciphered them, you are not sure what to do with the information. Often, background information is necessary to understand what this is all about.

No marriage without vaccination!

Top 10: Sources for genealogy

08. June 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Historical Documents, Tips and Tricks

Reading room of Evangelisches Zentralarchiv in Berlin (Evangelical Central Archives in Berlin), photograph by Clemens Schulz (Own Work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABenutzersaal_des_Evangelischen_Zentralarchivs_in_Berlin.jpg)

Today we like to start our new series on sources of ancestry and family research. For what would we genealogists be without our sources? We start with an overview and will address the various mentioned sources at irregular intervals and provide further information. What relevance they have, were you can find them, what is to be considered…

Top 10: Sources for genealogy

Periods applying to archive material

12. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Tips and Tricks

Archive file register, photo by moi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AArchives_entreprises.jpg)

Genealogy isn’t always simple. Sometimes legislative restrictions that are in themselves very reasonable can complicate our work. Today we would like to give a short overview of different periods applying to archive material in Germany. This is further complicated by German federalism. Many regulations only apply to one particular federal state.

Periods applying to archive material

Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy

28. February 2017, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, Historical Documents, General

Flood in Hamburg, 17.02.1962; picture by Oxfordian Kissuth (own work). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHamburg_-_Flutkatastrophe_1962.jpg

In the night of 16 to 17 February 1962 the hurricane Vinicinette caused a storm flood at the North Sea coast of Germany. Hamburg was affected especially hard, the early warning systems failed and the danger wasn’t taken seriously. The residents of Hamburg were surprised by the water in their sleep. 315 people died in the city alone (of 340 people in total).

Documents that might have helped genealogists today were destroyed as well. The public record office itself was left unharmed, but the records of some administrative bodies were affected. It’s hard to estimate, how many records of private companies were lost as well. If one of your ancestors worked in any of those affected companies prior to 1962, it might be hard to find information today.

Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany – part three

25. January 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - Genealogy, General, Knowledge, Historical Documents

How could genealogical research be conducted without time and dates? After we have already  explained the different calendrical systems in former blog entries, in this article we would like to present the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar, the latter is valid today in Western countries.

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany – part three

The unexpected hiding places of sources in genealogical research

19. January 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - Historical Documents, Personalities, General

Who would think that a painting from a church would reveal a complete family history?

In 2009, we researched the German ancestors of the popular Australian cook Maggie Beer for an episode of "Who Do You Think You Are?" in Budenheim near Mainz. The focus lay on the Ackermann and Krohmann family lines.

In the course of the investigation we came across a painting which had hung in the former Catholic church St. Pankratius in Budenheim. During reconstruction works a few years before, two portraits had been discovered: a woman and a child depicted as an angel hovering above a family father with 5 children. After they had been painted over for many years these pictures were revealed and renovated upon discovery.

The unexpected hiding places of sources in genealogical research

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany – part two

29. December 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - Genealogy, General, Knowledge, Historical Documents

http://www.lzkv.de/frk/bilder/frk1-14.pdf

After presenting the church calendar and – with it – the influence of religion on the time calculation in our last blog, we would like to inform a little bit more about the different calendar systems.

For evaluating sources in genealogical research, it is important to know not only the specific temporal period but also in which region or under which political rule these sources were made. By these factors the calendar systems were influenced as well.

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany – part two

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany

15. December 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Genealogy, Historical Documents, Knowledge

Source: state archive Hamburg, 514-6 No. 9 marriage register of St. Nikolai, Finkenwerder 1794-1848, 1822.

Dates are basic for doing genealogical research. By knowing specific dates we as genealogists are able to look for searched persons and to create complete ancestral charts. While doing genealogical research, the different calendrical systems need to be considered.

 

Different calendrical systems

In history there were always calendars, already in older civilizations systems were elaborated to classify time and the unit of a ”year” systematically. Hence different calendrical systems were established: The Romans brought in the Julian Calendar, in France the French Republican Calender was established in 1792. Moreover, every religion has its own computation of time which is guided by the holidays among others.

The meaning of calendars in genealogical research in Germany

Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 1

06. July 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Hamburg, Historical Documents, Historical Events

Source: State archive Hamburg, collection: 373-7 I, VIII (Auswanderungsamt I). VIII A 1 Band 227, Mikrofilmnummer: K_1815, page 2269; also searchable on Ancestry.com.

There is a song well-known in Hamburg called "Geh'n wir mal zu Hagenbeck...." ["Let's go to Hagenbeck..."] and when somebody sings it everyone knows it's about a visit to the zoo. It must be remarked though that Hagenbeck is an animal park strictly speaking: the enclosures are embedded in a park with artificial lakes and mountains and also the concept of laying more emphasis on species-appropriate husbandry in outdoor enclosures was developed by Carl Hagenbeck in 1896; later he even had the patent for it.

Over the decades, what had started as a small animal shop with 6 seals in 1848 escalated into an animal park which was opened at today's location in Hamburg-Stellingen in 1907. "Hagenbecks Tierpark" became the animal park Hagenbeck over time showing several attractions like the "polar sea" and the tropical aquarium.

Apart from the animals, Hagenbeck was also famous for something else: the ethnological exhibitions. At a time when not everybody could read and owned books at home, when there were no cinemas and TV sets, these exhibitions were considered an appropriate measure to let the people of Hamburg " gaze" at other cultures which were considered to be savage and uncivilized; thus, Inuit, Saami, or indigenous peoples of Africa and America became a kind of special exhibitions in addition to the animals.

Hagenbeck - a long-term institution in Hamburg - Part 1

Passports in the past and the present

22. February 2016, Andrea Bentschneider - General, Germany, Historical Documents, Knowledge

picture source: http://data.dm2e.eu/data/place/sbb/kpe_DE-1a_995/Berlin

In today’s German passport (the word originates from the Latin “passus”, passage) eight attributes and a photograph can be found.

In previous times – without the photograph – the descriptions and attributes had to be lengthier and more accurate. In the beginning of the 18th century there were 20 individual points of reference to be named. Name, age, nationality and height of the person as well as an exact description on the nature of different bodily parts. Color and completeness of teeth were registered as well as strength of beard hair or lip shape. Especially identifying features like “limping” or “hunchbacked” and even habits and character traits were dutifully noted. Because this level of detail was practiced over several generations sometimes you can learn quite a lot of interesting particulars about famous people. For example it is known that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had brown eyes and hadn´t turned fully gray by the age of 57.

Passports in the past and the present