Saturday, December 28, 2013

German Church Record Basics - Part 1 - German Records

All of my Panther family tree information was found in the church records of a few villages in Germany. So, let's say you know what town your family is from in Germany. You have found microfilm of the church records in the LDS archives. You order the film or are viewing the images online. How do you read them? You might recognize your ancestors' names written on the pages but that's all you can figure out. How do you know what they say?

First, you need to know what language the records are written in. The later records, from about 1800 and later, are typically written in German. Earlier than this, they're typically in Latin. This is part one of two, the German records. Part two covers the Latin records and can be found here:

Then comes the hand writing. Some of the writing is in very elaborate script that can make it difficult to read. Some is in clear handwriting which makes it quite easy. Some seems close to a scribble that sometimes can be nearly impossible to read.

Here is a sample of each of the types of German church book records:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 - Most Popular Posts of the Blog's First Year

I'm trying to come up with a good subject for my next blog post but nothing is inspiring me, so... I'll give you the most popular posts on my blog this year.

The most popular post this year, narrowly beating the second place entry is "What Constitutes Proof?" This post is a rundown of everything I know about Elizabeth "Lizzie" Juliana Dunzinger, my great-grandmother. I've found quite a bit of circumstantial evidence pointing to Andreas/Andrew and Fanny Dunzinger of New York and Wemding Bavaria to make me believe they are her parents. I'm hoping to find concrete proof of this. It got quite a few of the visits due to it being mentioned in the Genealogy Guys and the Genealogy Gems podcasts.

Coming in second is my post titled "Who Finds Who?" It tells the story of the discovery of my great-great-great-grandfather's grave and it's near discovery by my cousin's son, who had literally tripped over it but still didn't find it. As another one of my cousins described it, "unbelievable, awesome, spooky and hilarious all rolled in to one!"

Coming in at a solid third was the report of my initial discovery of Elizabeth Dunzinger, "Elizabeth Dunzinger Possibly Found", describing how I found her and what I found, along with follow-ups on some research in Wemding.

Have a subject you think will make a good blog post? Do you have a research question you'd like an answer to? A research technique to let people know about? A branch of our shared family tree you'd like posted? Drop me a message!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Indiana Marriage Records - Bixenmans - Family Search Newsletter

First, thank you all for getting me to 2000 page views! It took 6 months to get to the first 1000 hits and only 3 months for the next 1000. Thank you!

Next, I've mentioned this tip before but I'm going to mention it again because I have another example of why it's a good thing to do. The tip is this: Create a free account on, then sign up for the Family Search Newsletter. The Family Search Newsletter is sent out by, which is the LDS Family History Center. These are the people that have all the microfilm that you can order and have delivered to your local family history center. They are in the middle of a huge project to digitize and index all their microfilm rolls so, in the future, you won't have to order them and view them at your local family history center. You can just look at them online...for free!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Ancestors of Julia Cecelia Doran

Ancestors of Julia Cecelia Doran

My Grandmother

First Generation

1.       Julia Cecelia Doran, daughter of Thomas F. Doran and Mary Ann Kelly, was born on 1 Mar 1891 in New Boston, Lee County, Iowa, died on 10 May 1968 in Fort Madison, Lee County, Iowa at age 77, and was buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Fort Madison, Lee County, Iowa.

Julia was one of thirteen children born to Thomas Doran and Mary Ann Kelly. She was one of six that survived all the serious childhood epidemics of the time. They moved from New Boston to Fort Madison, Iowa and lived at 1543 Division Street (now Avenue L). She attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and later found a job as a telephone operator. She worked for Northwestern Bell Telephone Company advancing to supervisor and was made chief operator in 1923. During WWII the "new" Bell Telephone Company called Julia back to work part-time until the war was over, which she did feeling rather proud and patriotic. She was a member of the Daughters of Isabella, past president of the Catholic Ladies Auxiliary of St. Mary's and a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers Auxiliary. Of their home life, their daughter Cecelia wrote:
"Our lives at home were mostly happy times, always busy with school work, music lessons and playing neighborhood ball. Dad was always busy going to work at the Santa Fe. Our train rides, though not excessive, were fun when we were growing up, as that was a Santa Fe privilege to travel with a pass."

Leo Miller and Julia Doran on their Wedding Day

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Miller/Müller Family

I got a message from a cousin on my Miller side, asking for what is currently known about the Miller family. Of course, that makes a perfect blog post.

The Müller Family

First Generation

1.  It is unknown who the parents of the Müller siblings are. It is believed they lived and died in Germany. Where they lived and when they were born and died is unknown.

Their children were:

  +         2   M        i.         Charles E. Miller was born on 7 Oct 1852 in Germany, died on 21 Oct 1923 in Fort Madison, Lee, Iowa at age 71, and was buried in Fort Madison, Lee, Iowa.
  +         3   M       ii.         Gottlieb Müller was born on 29 May 1868 in Germany.
  +         4   F       iii.         Annie Müller.
              5   M     iv.         Unknown first name Müller.
  +         6   F        v.         Sophia Müller was born about 1871 in Germany.
  +         7   F       vi.         Rika Müller.

Not sure of order but Charles E. Miller appears to be in the front center. The rest are Gottlieb Miller, Annie Miller Quenzer, Sophia Miller Schmalzl, Rika Miller Susenberger

Read all the known details by clicking the Read More link:

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's a Small World

When it comes to genealogy, it really is a small world. I'm well aware of the fact that the further back you research, the more people you're related to. My mother always says, "If you go back far enough, we're all related." These things are true but it's interesting when you actually start seeing connections you wouldn't expect to find. Here are a few things I've found in my years of genealogy research that show just how small a world it is. I found a couple of these just in the past month when I was given the opportunity to read "Groene Family History - Kasper Groene & Adelaide Menke" when at the house of a lifelong friend of my mother's.

1. Professional baseball players on both sides of the family -

I've known for several years that my third cousin once removed on my mother's side of the family, Jim Panther, was a baseball player. He spent most of his career in the minors but he did play for a short time in the majors. He was on the roster for the 1973 Braves, the 1972 Rangers and the 1971 Oakland A's.
My fourth cousin on my father's side of the family is a world famous pitcher and record holder. Darold Knowles is the only pitcher to pitch all seven games of a World Series. He did this while on the roster for the Oakland A's. He played on the Oakland A's from 1971 until 1974. He played on the same team at the same time as Jim Panther.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What Constitutes Proof?

Lizzie Dunzinger as a young lady.
An updated article has been posted here.

As anyone who has been aware of my genealogy research knows, my big mystery is my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dunzinger. I've put a lot of time and effort into finding her, as you'll see in the evidence collected below.
I am going to list all the documentation we have on Lizzie (as she was known most of her life). I'm interested in your opinion. Does all this together consistute proof that we've found her parents? If not, where do we go from here to prove it? Please comment below or email me your thoughts. Thank you!

The family story passed down through the years says that Lizzie was born in New York in either 1854 or 1856. Her grandparents brought her to Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa to live with relatives after her parents died when she was about three years old.

In this list, I will talk about only facts about the documentation and facts about what we know, not my beliefs on what is true.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trip to Southeast Iowa

I drove my mother to southeast Iowa last weekend so she could visit her sisters and old friends. While she was busy, I got busy with genealogy research.

I took photos at St. James cemetery in St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa. I took a list of graves from Find-A-Grave that didn't have photos posted. I started near the back of the cemetery, going grave by grave, checking the list to see if a photo was needed. If so, I took the picture and moved to the next. Once I got home, I added those I needed (most of them - I'm related to 40% of the people in this cemetery) to my database and posted them all to Find-A-Grave. The percent photographed showed 24% when I started. It now shows 42% photographed.

While taking the photos, I set up my GoPro Hero3 camera to take time-lapse photos of the clouds and sunset. I think the video is pretty stunning:

The thing I was most excited about on this trip was my visit to Sts. John and Paul Church in Burlington. They allowed me to page through the old books.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Passing of Elmer Steffensmeier

I got word today that my Uncle Elmer Steffensmeier died early this morning after being diagnosed with lung cancer a few months ago. He was three days shy of his 87th birthday and will be buried on his 87th birthday. Cake and ice cream will be served at the reception!

Here is his obituary:

Elmer Steffensmeier

  • BORN: October 15, 1926
  • DIED: October 12, 2013
  • LOCATION: Fort Madison, Iowa
Elmer Lloyd Steffensmeier, 86, of Fort Madison, IA, passed away on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 2:19 a.m. at his home. He was born on October 15, 1926 in Fort Madison, IA to Leonard & Caroline Rippenkroeger Steffensmeier. He married Rita F. Panther on June 12, 1948 in Houghton, IA. He was an engineer for the Santa Fe Railroad for 40 years, retiring in 1987. He served in the U.S. Navy during WWII and was a member of Ss. Mary & Joseph Church and the Knights of Columbus. He was the former president of the BLF & E.

Elmer is survived by: his wife: Rita Steffensmeier of Fort Madison, IA; 3-daughters: Marilyn (Vince) Brinkschroeder of Fort Madison, IA, Anne Steffensmeier of Cedar Rapids, IA & Carole (Richard) Grayson of Chicago, IL; 4-grandchildren: Sheila (Tony) Huls, Eric (DeAnn) Brinkschroeder, Michael (Heather) Brinkschroeder & Elizabeth Steffensmeier; 5-great grandchildren: Jacob, Megan & Owen Huls, Andrew & Isabella Brinkschroeder and 1-brother: Vernon Steffensmeier. He was preceded in death by: his parents, 1-daughter, Ellen, 2-brothers & 1-sister.

Friends may call after 2:00 p.m. on Monday, October 14, 2013 with the family to receive friends from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. with a wake service to be held at 6:15 p.m. all at King-Lynk Funeral Home & Crematory. The funeral mass will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at Ss. Mary & Joseph Church with Rev. David Wilkening officiating. Burial will be held at Gethsemane Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established for Lee County Hospice or the Gethsemane Cemetery Foundation. Online condolences to Elmer's family may be left at the King-Lynk Funeral Home & Crematory website:


While I don't put as much effort into collateral lines of the family such as Elmer, I do log the information when I find it so I do have a bit of a family tree for him. Here is a chart of his ancestors:

My mother and I had a good trip to southeast Iowa last weekend. I'm glad we were able to see Elmer one last time. I've been busy going through all the information I gathered while there and will post it soon. In the meantime, here is a time-lapse video of the clouds and sunset while I visited St. James Cemetery in St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Bixenman Family Tree - Volume 2 Republished

After scanning in an original copy of "Bixenman Family Tree - Volume 2" by Sister Catherine Seemann, cropping and cleaning up the scans and fixing some minor errors, I've just made the book available to purchase on Lulu. She originally published the book in 2001. It has been out of print since then. She made it clear that her relatives were free to do as they pleased with the book. I really wanted to make sure it was available for anyone to order now and in the future.

You can purchase the book here:

Volume 1 was republished about a year ago and is available here:

For those interested in the Bixenmans, my father's father's mother was Philomena Bixenman, born in Lawrence, Lake County, Indiana, lived about 25 years and was married in Wien, Chariton County, Missouri then lived out her remaining years and died in Fort Madison, Lee County, Iowa.

Tomorrow, I will be taking my mother to visit her sisters in southeast Iowa (the West Point, Fort Madison, Burlington area). While there, I will be getting some photos at area cemeteries and looking through the church records at Sts. John and Paul Church in Burlington. My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dunzinger Panther's death record reports that she moved to Dodgeville when she was 23 years old. This was the year she was married. Their marriage was officiated by a priest from St. John's, although it wasn't at the church itself. She would have lived in the area and attended church at St. John's at least from the time she was 17 until she was 23 and likely from the time she was just a few years old. I hope I'll find some sort of records that mention her parents' names, who family stories say died when she was three years old. I'll be sure to let you know what I find.


Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy Ancestor Appreciation Day!

Did you know that today, September 27, is Ancestor Appreciation Day? I didn't either! In honor of this day, give a thought to your ancestors and what they did for you.

By way of the GenealogyU eNewsletter,

Here is an inspirational essay by Della M. Cummings Wright; Rewritten by her granddaughter Dell Jo Ann McGinnis Johnson; Edited and Reworded by Tom Dunn, 1943."

"The Chosen"

We are the chosen. In each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again. To tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve. Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes.
Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors, "You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.". How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say. It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who I am, and why I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying - I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.
It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that the fathers fought and some died to make and keep us a nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. It is of equal pride and love that our mothers struggled to give us birth, without them we could not exist, and so we love each one, as far back as we can reach. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers. That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory or greet those who we had never known before."

Monday, September 23, 2013

Elizabeth Dunzinger's Death Certificate

I received an official certified copy of Elizabeth Dunzinger Panther's death certificate from the State of Iowa Department of Vital Records.

On the certificate, you'll notice that her father and mother are listed as "No record". It lists her birth date as April 12, 1854 and her birth location as New York City, New York. I believe this lends a little more weight to the argument that the Elizabeth Dunzinger found in the 1855 New York state census is her, but doesn't yet confirm it. I have a request in with the State of New York Department of Vital Records for a birth record of Elizabeth Dunzinger born on April 12, 1854. Prior to 1857, the records are not indexed and they require an exact date to search. I submitted April 12, 1854 as her birth date to them about two weeks ago. They say they respond in 6-8 weeks. We'll see what they can find for us.

Doing a bit more thinking about Elizabeth's life, I suspect we will find very little about her in the records of St. Mary's in Dodgeville (stored in West Burlington) but I do have someone there taking a look for me. I think it's more likely we'll find information about her early life at St. John's in Burlington. I have an appointment set up to view their original church books in about a week and a half. You know I'll be enjoying that visit! While the trip is still not set in stone, the current plan is to bring my mother to visit her sisters October 3-6. I plan on visiting St. John's to view their records on that Friday. You know I'll let everyone know what I find.

Lesson: Even if you think you've looked everywhere for the elusive ancestor's records, re-read everything you have on them. Really think about where you'll find something about them. All this time, I've been focusing on Dodgeville's records when in fact, we should be able to find her in Burlington's records. Close to each other, sure, but they are not the same jurisdiction. I'm hopeful I'll find a little more about her at St. John's Church in Burlington, then, hopefully, find her birth record on the correct date in New York City.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Columbus, Nebraska - Kramer High School - 1929 Annual

High school annuals can make a great source of genealogical information. While my parents families originated 350 miles from where I was born, it was still interesting to look through the old annuals. I was back in my home town of Columbus, Nebraska, browsing through an antique store and stumbled across a few old high school annuals. I flipped through them and when I saw one particular student, especially the trait he was tagged with, I had to buy it. Here is the cover of the 1929 Kramer High School Annual:

The student body was known as "The Discoverers", as the school now known as Columbus High School is known today.Here is the title page:
It appears the original owner wrote their name across the top of the title page and either they or their descendants cut/tore it out before it ended up at the antique store. The entry I found interesting is found on page 7:

In the 1929 graduating class was a student by the name of Walter Behlen. He is noted as "Ambitious". If you're not familiar with Columbus, this may mean nothing to you but if you know the town, you know that one of the big manufacturing companies in town is known as Behlen Manufacturing. They are best known for manufacturing corrugated steel grain bins. These bins are found all around the midwest and other areas. They employ about 3.5% of the population of Columbus. It was founded by Walt Behlen in 1936, just 7 years after his high school graduation. His first product was steel toes for work shoes and clamps for wooden egg crates, manufactured in his garage.

I recall a book on my father's bookshelf titled "Walt Behlen's Universe". Ambitious? I'd say so!

Do you know anyone that might appear in the 1929 Kramer High School annual? If so, drop me a line and I'll get a scan of their photo for you.

Look for high school and college annuals to see if you can find more information about your ancestors. I'd bet you can gain a little more insight on them as a real person.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cousin Bait

I've heard of some genealogy bloggers talk about cousin bait. This is where you put information about your family history onto a web site in the hopes that a cousin will see the information and respond, giving you contact with a relation and possibly more information. Let's take this one analogy one step further.

In the water just off shore of what used to be a tiny fishing village in Belize, we saw our fishing guide and boat pilot throwing a net to catch small fish that we'd use to catch larger fish on the reef later that morning. We could have then taken those larger fish to use as bait to catch even larger fish or even sharks. I've encountered a similar thing when it comes to genealogy information.

I've posted information about my Kelly family line, that Thomas Doran was married to Mary Ann Kelly in Illinois. I found information that someone who ended up being a second cousin posted showing Mary Ann's parents as being Hugh Kelly and Catherine. I posted this information onto the RootsWeb message boards. Almost immediately, I got a response from another second cousin that had a photo of Catherine Kelly. This cousin believed her maiden name was Murphy but wasn't sure. I posted this information and got a response from a third cousin saying she had a photo of Hugh Kelly and a funeral card of Catherine Kelly. It said her maiden name was Murphy, and it gave her birth date and location. I then posted this information and got a response from someone who might be a fourth cousin (not confirmed yet). Their great-great-grandfather was Joseph Murphy. His obituary listed that he had a living sister named Catherine Kelly, born in the same year as my Catherine Kelly, living in Jolliet, Illinois, which is where my great-great-grandmother's funeral card said she died the year after Joseph Kelly did.

If we can confirm the connection to his Murphy family, we'll have a connection to a large extended family tree going back to Catherine's parents, Michael Murphy and Catherine Healy and Catherine Healy's sister, Johanna Healy Lane.

So, be sure to use your earlier, smaller catches as bait to catch bigger and bigger fish! One small bit of information may trigger someone to give you a little more. This bit more may allow someone to see a connection to their family and possibly break your brick wall to smithereens.

----A Couple of Updates----

I've been working hard on cleaning up the scans of the Bixenman Family, Volume 2 by Sister Catherine Seamann. I hope to have Volume 2 available to order no later than the beginning of November.

My search for confirmation that I've found the correct Elizabeth Dunzinger has not turned anything up as of yet. I have placed orders for her birth records from the New York City Department of Vital Records and her death certificate from the State of Iowa. I hope to see results of these requests in the next month or so.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

School Photo - 1923 St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa

Thanks to all for getting me to 1000 page views! It happened much faster than I expected.

Here is the school photo of St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa from 1923. We're pretty sure it's 1923 but if someone has hard evidence that it's from another year, I'll be sure to correct my information. The reason we believe it's 1923 is because we believe we see my uncle, Urban Panther, in the second row, on and immediately to the right of the crack. He is numbered #28 in this photo. If this is indeed Urban, then this would be from 1923 because he's in the second row, which corresponds to second grade. The St. Paul school lines up the students in rows corresponding to their grade. Front row is first grade, second row is second grade etc.

Do you recognize anyone in this photo? If so, please leave a comment below or send me an email!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spelling of Names in Genealogy Records

I spoke to a second cousin of mine on the phone last night. He had recently discovered the information about the Panther family. This is despite the fact that I posted information on RootsWeb immediately after the discovery and he saw these posts. He just didn't realize it was his family because of the spelling of his great-grandfather's name. That is what prompted me to write this post. A portion of this post was in the Panther Family History book.

Stephen, I'm very glad you were able to determine this was your family. I'm happy to hear your family is enjoying the information!

Whenever you're looking at records that could pertain to your family, keep in mind that prior to modern times, especially before about 1900, spelling was not important. Many people were illiterate prior to about 1800 and for those that could read and write, spelling was unimportant. As long as the pronunciation was correct, it didn’t matter how you spelled it. For example, we’ve seen the surname of Panther spelled as Panter and Pantzer but the most common spelling seen is Panther.

Here is a list of a few of the names found in the Ulm and Moesbach area church books. The first listed is the most common way found of spelling it and the rest are other spellings found in the books.

Panther – Panter, Pantzer
Birk – Burk, Burck, Birck
Klumpp – Klump, Klumpf
Hürt - Hirt
Sutter – Suter, Sutterer
Müller – Miller
Grafsig – Kräfsig
Hanle – Hinle, Heinle
Allgeyer – Algeier, Algeyer, Allgeier

In addition, frequently, especially in the earlier Latin records, the last names of females had the suffix “-in” added to the end. For example, Maria Anna Allgeier was listed and signed her name as Maria Anna Allgeierin and Margareta Armbruster was listed as Margareta Armbrusterin.

When it comes to first names, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, in the church books, especially in the earlier Latin text, most of the names were in their Latin form. For example, you wouldn’t find Franz Joseph but you would frequently find Franciscus Josephus and you wouldn’t find Johann Adam, you would find Joannes Adamus. My great-grandfather, Aloysius Panther, prior to the discovery of his birthplace, I had seen his first name spelled as Aloysius, Alois, Alos and even Aaron. In the Moesbach church records, his name is spelled as Aloys. These are some very different names but they all referred to the same person. In addition, just as spelling didn’t matter for last names, it didn’t matter for first names either.

Another issue about first names is that many times, you’ll find multiple children born to the same parents having the same first name and sometimes also the same middle name. When a child dies young, many times the parents would name a child born later the same name as their deceased child, resulting in many children recorded to the same parents having the exact same first and middle names. Also, a large percentage of boys were named Joannes and a large percentage of girls were named Maria. They would then have different middle names. Because of this, a family may have a Joannes Adamus, a Joannes Franciscus and a Joannes Jacobus along with a Maria Anna, a Maria Theresia and a Maria Salomea all living at the same time. These would be known as Adam, Francis and Jacob and Anna, Theresia and Salomea respectively.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Creating a Family History Book

I stopped by my local family history center last week. Upon entering, one of the workers recognized me and said something to the effect of "Matt! Someone would like your help!" They said someone was wanting to put a book together on their family history. They knew I wrote one and thought I could go through the process with them to help them understand how to put it together. They gave me her phone number and within a week, we were on the phone. Upon finishing the call, I realized that what I explained to her would make a great blog entry. So, here are the steps I went through to put together a genealogy book.

1. Decide on your focus. Will this book spell out the ancestors of a given person or the descendants? Unfortunately, listing out all the ancestors of a given person, then listing all of the descendants of each of their ancestors is a bit too much for one book. Some books are strictly ancestor books, some are strictly descendant books and some are a hybrid of the two. My book was a hybrid. My research started with my great-grandfather, Aloys Panther. I knew most of the book would focus on his ancestors but I also wanted to use information about his descendants. I didn't want to include information about the living so my cutoff point was the generation of Aloys' children, the generation of my grandfather. Since the 2001 Panther Reunion book also listed the descendants of Aloys' brother, Ferdinand, I figured I'd better include them also. The only way to do that would be to focus on Moriz Panther and Elizabeth Birk and include the descendants of their brother, Philipp, who stayed in Germany. Their descendants would make up part one. Because of the number of ancestors to list, I thought it would be easier to follow if I split up the ancestors of Moriz and Elizabeth into two separate sections. Part 2 was the ancestors of Moriz Panther and Part 3 was the ancestors of Elizabeth Birk. Unfortunately, there's not much in the way of family stories or photos from that generation and further back, the book wasn't going to amount to much. Maybe 100 pages. Since Aloys' first wife and Ferdinand's wife were also from the same village and their descendants would like to know their ancestors also, I decided to include their ancestors also. Part 4 was the descendants and ancestors of Moriz Traub, the father of Amelia Traub. I did this because there is a relatively large number of Traub descendants that would be interested also but I didn't put the descendants in a separate section because there were not as many as there were of the Panthers. Part 5 was the ancestors of Helena Kirn, Amelia's mother. Part 6 listed the descendants and ancestors of Sebastian Hanle, the father of Monika Hanle. Again, we had some descendants to document here but not as many as the Panthers. Also, I had no information on Monika's mother beyond her parents' names since they were from another village I didn't have documenation on. I did not include the ancestors of the wife of Philipp Panther. I should have but somehow I skipped right on past tracking down her ancestors. I have now documented them and they will appear in the next edition of the book.

Wow! Lots of thinking goes into figuring out your book's focus. Give it some thought. You want to make the book as interesting to as many people as possible but still have some good focus.

2. Initial Book Generation. I use PAF for my normal family history documentation but Legacy (free version) makes a better book. I exported a .ged file out of PAF then imported it into Legacy. You are able to do this with just about any family history software. You might not even need to export it if you use Legacy or your software generates a good book. In Legacy, go to "Reports", "All Reports (Books and others)".

Click on the "Ancestors" or "Descendants" button, depending the on the book or section you're working on. I ended up having to generate a separate book file for each of the sections of my book. You can't really generate one book to include the ancestors of this many different people. One generated book per person. The first section was a descendant book, the rest were ancestor books.

Verify your "Report Options" are the way you want them. Do not include photos in the initial book generation. You won't like the result of how it lays out the pages using photos, plus you wouldn't want to include all photos of every person and you likely don't want just the primary photo of some. Don't include any photos. You'll be adding them in later. Be sure to  include your notes though. This will give you something to start with in the text for each individual.

Click "Preview" to verify it looks approximately the way you want it. Once everything looks right, select "Rich Text File" and click Print.

Once it's generated, load up the file in Microsoft Word, or another full featured word processor you enjoy using. Legacy generates an .rtf file. Load it up in Word and immediately resave it as a Word document. This will give you access to all the features of Word. Copy from each of the generated books and paste into your main book file.

2. Starting at this point, SAVE YOUR DOCUMENT OFTEN! Yes, that's in all caps. I don't use all caps too often but in this case, it's warranted. Especially if your book is large, Word can freeze up on you. If the program freezes or crashes, everything you worked on since your last save will be gone. Get into the habit where, if you don't recall exactly when you last saved, save it again anyway. Also, every so often, especially after a long writing or editing session, save it to another separate file, named according to the date and/or time. This will give you prior generations of the file to fall back to if you encounter major problems. Also back up these files regularly so you don't have to start from scratch.

3. Mass editing. No matter what program you use, it's unlikely the wording will end up exactly as you want it when it comes to the birth marriage and death information. As an example, Legacy uses the word "christened" where my family uses the word "baptized". Technically they mean the same thing but that's not the way I'd word it. I went to the main Word menu, went to "Replace".

 Type "christened" into the "Find" box and "baptized" into the "Replace With" box. Click "Replace All". That wording has now been changed for all entries.

You can do the same thing with locations or any other type of entry that might not be worded just right. As an example, if I don't know the town a person was born or died in but I know the state, I might list it as ",, Iowa" in my database, leaving room for the town and the county. Of course, I don't want my book to read this way so I put ",, Iowa" into the "Find" box and "Iowa" into the "Replace With" box. Replace all and all entries with this exact wording, complete with the two leading commas and a space is replaced with the same word but without the leading commas and space. Also, my database location entries are worded with the form "City, County, State" such as "Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa" when in the book, I'd rather word it "Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa". Seems like an easy fix, right? Search for "Des Moines" and replace with "Des Moines County", right? Not so fast! You need to be careful! If anyone in the book happens to have been born, married or died in "Des Moines, Polk, Iowa", you will have changed their entry to read "Des Moines County, Polk, Iowa". You'll want to include the entire common entry of what you want to change. You'd find "Burlington, Des Moines, Iowa" and replace it with "Burlington, Des Moines County, Iowa.". The same goes for searches for people and place names that are also common words.

4. Read through the book. For each person, verify their vital stats read the way you want them to. Cut your notes out of the book and paste them into a separate notepad file. This will allow you to re-enter the information but word it exactly as you want it to read.

5. Once your main text is complete, it's time to add the photos. In entries for people living from the late 19th century forward, you might have some photos to include. For those of earlier generations, photos will be hard to come by. You might have documents you want to include. My favorite, when possible, I extracted the signature of the person out of the records I have. In church records, you might find someone's signature in their marriage record or a child's birth or death record. If you have court records, you might find their signatures there also.

I also included small three generation ancestor charts for each individual. They didn't take up much space and they helped the reader place them in the correct location in the family tree in their mind.

6. Insert photos. I use the old photo editing program called Paint Shop Pro. It was inexpensive and still works really well. Use your favorite photo editor to crop the photos the way you want them to appear. In the photo editing software, go to Edit, Select All, Copy, then paste it into your book document. Play around with the word wrapping. By default, Word makes it so the text will end above your photo and start again underneath it. If you want it to go around it, change it to "Tight" or something similar. This will allow you have the text go right up to and around the photo. Of course this will depend on how you want it to line up. Experiment until you find what you like.

7. Set up chapter titles. At the beginning of each section, put in the title you want to use, set it to the font style and size you want.

8. Write your introduction. This is completely up to you. You don't need to include one but I wanted to describe how the information was discovered and what I wanted to accomplish with the book. You can include whatever you'd like. Here's where you can really be an writer.

9. Set up the page numbers according to the way you want them numbered and arranged on the page. In Word, if you pasted together a number of sections from other documents, it may be a challenge to get the sections' pages numbered correctly. This is what I consider a bug in Word but maybe you'll have better luck than I did. I wrestled with it for quite some time before I figured it out. I'm sorry I can't provide more guidance on this piece of the puzzle.

10. Anything else you want to include? Larger family trees charts? Put them in. Photos of town they were from? Put them in. Really, this is your chance to be creative. What do you want to include? Put it in.

11. Export/Save As a PDF file. In Microsoft Word, you will go to "File" or the Office button in the upper-left corner of the program and go to "Save As" and click on "PDF or XPF".

Make sure the PDF is selected and "Optimize for" is set to "Standard (Publishing online and printing)" and go to "Options".

Be sure there is a check mark in the box next to "IOS 19005-1 compliant (PDF/A).

This is important for online/on demand publishing, at least it is with Lulu publishing. Give the file a name and keep track of where you're saving it.

12. Let someone else read it. No matter how careful you are, you made mistakes. It happens to everyone. Tell your spouse, friend, cousin, whoever, to be very picky and point out every single flaw they see. Yes, it may hurt a bit but you want the book to look as perfect as possible. Make the changes they point out and repeat steps 11 and 12 until you're confident it's as good as it can be.

13. Publish! It's up to you how you want to do this but I can only provide information I know, which is publishing with Open an account with Lulu, start a new publication. Keep it private to begin with. You will open it up for anyone to see once you get it ready to go. Follow the instructions Lulu provides to upload your document. Create your cover. Verify it all looks good and order your first copy. Lulu on-demand books are suprisingly affordable. I was able to get my first copy for about $26 for a 210 page book.

14. I know it's exciting seeing your first book. Believe me, I know. But you need to consider it a writable, scribbleable fixer-upper. No matter how careful and thorough you were, seeing it in print will allow you to see more errors. Does that mean you just wasted the money purchasing your first copy? No. It means you invested money to make your book the best it can be. Make changes to your Word document and repeat steps 11-14 until the book is ready for the public.

15. Make the changes on Lulu to tell them to allow others to see and order your book. Send out your emails. Update your blog. Call your friends and relatives. Get them to buy your book.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ancestors of Helmut Doll

I just finished researching the ancestors of Helmut Doll, my third-cousin from Moesbach, A. Achern, Baden, Germany. His ancestors are well rooted around the village and the number of his ancestors found is amazing. I found 331 of his ancestors around the Moesbach, Stadelhofen, Erlach and Ulm area. I'm sorry this wasn't done soon enough for him to see it. Here is his ancestor chart:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Challenges of Reading Microfilm Images of Old Church Books

So, you've tracked your ancestors down to a small village in Europe and have obtained microfilm of the church books. A typical image will look similar to this:

Yes, it can be a challenge to read the handwriting and translate it from the original Latin. But still, they can be very legible and once you learn to translate the writing and Latin, you can make pretty quick work of the information.

Here's another page from the same marriage book:

This doesn't look too bad either until you need to get information from the entry that has the roman numerals bled through from the other side of the page:

This entry is for Martin Schnurr and Catharina Heiberger. They are a direct ancestor of Ludwig Doll and I'm trying to get this information together for his granddaughter. How do you extract their parents's names from this?

The first thing I'd try is to  load it into a photo editor and attempt to adjust the brightness and contrast and see if you can see some detail in the roman numerals:

Unfortunately, as you can see, that doesn't help in this case. All you can do is rely on what you can see between the letters and use your experience and examples of writing from other pages to help figure out what is written there.

So we go back to the full marriage book entry:

What I can see is, just above the roman numerals "CD" appears to be Christian Schnurr, followed by filius et pudica. Filius translates to "legitimate son" and pudica translates to "pure" or "chaste", this is followed by the bride's name on the next line, which I already know is "Catherine". I also see just a few letters of her maiden name. The writing between the roman numerals matches up with what I expect to see. So, we see "Martin Schnurr"..."Christian Schnurr"..."legitimate son and the chaste Catharina Heiberger"...

Now we're speculating because we don't have any previous information about her father's name other than his last name. We have to rely on what we see between the Roman numerals X and I. The length of the name and first names I've seen in this village, along with the small amount of writing I can see between the letters makes me believe his name is written as Hanss. -- Edit - Looking at the earlier baptismal records, I now believe her father's name is Martin. It's not much longer than Hanss and does fit into the space. There's really very little to go on between the Roman numerals. I do see a Hans Heiberger fathering many children during this time period with his wife Catharina but I do not see a daughter of his named Catharina. I do, however, see a Catharina born to a Martin Heiberger and his wife Maria. I found where the name Martin was written by this same hand just a few pages earlier in this book. I extracted this written name and pasted it into the space on this page and it does fit and match up pretty well with what can be seen on the original page.

Now, this is not certain and I will definitely put notes in his database entry explaining my logic, just in case someone has access to the books themselves and can see more detail. Also, further research may lead to their birth records that hopefully will show their parents' names more legibly. -- Edit - It did. I found a Catharina born to Martin Heiberger.

In two bits of other news, first, my brother is recovering quickly from his fall. He has gone from the point where we thought we were going to lose him to the point where, a little more than a month later, he's going home! Thank you for all the prayers and good thoughts. They were needed and will be needed in the future as he still has a ways to go on his recovery, but it's looking very good!

Second, the next two rolls of microfilm of death records for New York have arrived at my local Family History Center. I hope to get there tonight to see if I can confirm my Dunzinger connection! -- Edit -- I didn't find the Dunzinger information I hoped to find. Time to order three more films and hope for better luck next time.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Who Finds Who?

I've heard stories of people, genealogists in particular, visiting cemeteries, looking for the headstone of one of the ancestors and they are somehow drawn to park in a particular spot or walk in a particular direction that helps them find the headstone easily instead of spending hours on end looking at each and every headstone hoping to find that one.

When it comes to my family history research, it almost seems as if aunts and uncles I know and love, when they pass, they go through Heaven, round up the ancestors and get them to check in with their descendants. Before my Aunt Loretta died, we knew nothing of the Panther ancestors. Eight months after she passed, the breakthrough discovery was made that allowed me to research an extensive family tree going back to the 1650s. Then, this past December, my Uncle Urban passed away and just a few months later, I made a breakthrough discovery that (hopefully) will open another extensive family history project. I've heard genealogists state very convincingly, "They want to be found."

Here's another example that is just uncanny. When I went to my Uncle Urban's funeral, I went to St. James Cemetery in St. Paul, Lee County, Iowa in order to take a photo of my great-great-grandmother's headstone. I was very happy I found her! Then when I got back, I was disappointed when I discovered that one of my great-great-great-grandfathers is buried in the same cemetery and I didn't realize it so I didn't think to look for him and get a photo of his headstone. I sent an email to a cousin of mine that lives not too terribly far from there that is also interested in genealogy and is a great photographer. His name is Mark Fullenkamp. I asked him to see if he could find Johan Heinrich Kempker's headstone the next time he was in the area and get a photo for me.

He was happy to do so and stopped with his kids at the cemetery in St. Paul. It was a very cold and blustery day and hard as he tried, he couldn't find Great-Great-Great-Grandpa Kempker's headstone. While he was there, he took a few photos of his kids like he typically does. In a couple of the photos, it shows his son walking through the cemetery and tripping. We were both disappointed he couldn't find the headstone of the last of my ancestors buried in America that I don't have a photo of.

This past weekend, I got back to the area and found Johan Heinrich Kempker's headstone. It's a very distinctive shape that you can't confuse with any other headstone in the cemetery. I uploaded the photo to Find-A-Grave and sent Mark a link to it. He went through his photos and discovered this.

Yes, his son tripped directly in front of Johan Heinrich's headstone. I think his great-great-great-great-grandfather was trying to get his attention.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Too Many Distractions

I have many family history projects going on and many connections to new information recently. Here's a quick rundown:

1. I'm continuing to research and document the ancestors of Ludwig Doll in Moesbach, Baden, Germany. I've got most of the branches documented back to around the 1720s-1740s. I would expect I have another 70 or so years of ancestors yet to find. I continue to do a little research each day. I hope to have this complete in the next month or so.

2. Finally (hopefully) found Elizabeth Duzinger's connection in New York and Wemding, Bavaria, Germany. I expect the first of the microfilm rolls about New York city vital statistics to arrive in the next week or so. With any luck, these will confirm the connection so I can dive into whatever there is to find in Wemding. In the meantime, I have someone in Eichstatt that will do the research for me for a fee. Hopefully I'll be able to find a way to do the research myself.

3. I got an email from a second-cousin on my Kelly line who still lives in Warsaw, Hancock County, Illinois. Her mother has an old family bible that has a photo and a funeral card from the Kelly family line. First is a photo of my great-great-grandfather, Hugh Kelly when he was likely in his late 30s. It was taken in Clarksville,  Missouri by Otis Norman Baldwin. She also sent me a scan of Catherine Murphy Kelly's funeral card. It shows her birth date, which was uncertain to me before this, and her birth location. She was born June 1, 1823 near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland. This gives me another location to do original research.


Hugh Kelly

4. I will be going to southeast Iowa next weekend to meet with the second cousin whose mother has the family bible and these documents. I will get a photo of my great-great-great-grandfather's headstone in St. Paul, Iowa and enjoy a couple of relaxing days away with my wife.

5. A distant cousin on my Bixenman line already passed through on her cross-country trip and might be able to stop and visit on her way back.

6. I got an email from a distant Panther cousin. His mother passed away recently and they found some family history information that led them to my Panther research. I see that we had some very basic information about this branch but nothing more. Apparently we lost contact with them many years ago. I'll hopefully be able to document the branch of the Panther family descended from Maurice and Donna (Punke) Panther.

To me, all of this is good news. I'm happy to be able to pick and choose what to work on when it comes to family history rather than having all kinds of brick walls.

In other matters, not good news. For those of you who are religious, and even if you aren't, I ask you to please pray for my brother. He had a terrible accident and needs your prayers for a full recovery.

Thank you!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

More Information on the Dunzinger Family

I found out more details of the Dunzinger family in and around Wemding, Bavaria, Germany. This does not yet confirm that we've found Elizabeth Dunzinger's ancestors but it does confirm that the Andrew Dunzinger family found in the 1855 New York census does connect to the Dunzinger family in Wemding. What we need to track down now is the marriage and death records for Andrew and Fanny Dunzinger found in the 1855 New York census. If we can confim that they died in the late 1850s, that will, to me at least, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that we've found our Elizabeth Dunzinger's family. I'm sure there is more information than what I'm showing here but I've asked them to hold off the research due to the cost (more than I expected) and the fact that we haven't confirmed that this is the correct Dunzinger family. I'm pretty confident but I'd rather not have more research expense without knowing this for sure. I'm hoping to find a way to do the research myself but as far as I know, these documents have not been digitized or microfilmed.

Here are the details of what we now know:
Andrew Dunzinger, found in the 1855 New York census in Ward 20, 2nd Enumeration District, age 32, with a daughter, Elizabeth, 1 year old. Here's the entire family entry:

Andrew Dunzenger - M - 32 - born in Germany
Fanny Dunzenger - F - wife - 27 - born in Germany
Margret Dunzenger - F - child - 4 - born in New York
Elizabeth Dunzenger - F - child - 1 - born in New York
Victoria Sualemar - F - 68 - mother - born in Germany
Adam Pacoke - M - 16 - brother - born in Germany

At 32 years old, we can estimate his birth year to be 1822-1824 and the census specifies he was born in Germany and immigrated 9 years prior, in about 1846. It lists his occupation as a "paper stainer".
A paper stainer is typically someone who paints or dyes paper, typically to be used for wallpaper.

In the records of Wemding, currently stored in Eichstatt, we have the marriage of Andreas Dunzinger (a widower and tinctor [a dyer], son of the deceased Georg Andreas Dunzinger, a merchant, and his wife Cäcilia Riß) and Maria Francisca Leinfelder, born October 18, 1797,
Witness: Jacob Leinfelder, miller at Haagenmühl and his wife Maria Francisca Zamet.

They had 9 children including Andreas, born February 12, 1822. Their other childrens' names were Rupert, Joseph (died at 9 months old), Joseph, Catharina de Sienna, Cacilia (died at 5 years old), Francisca, Cacilia, Emmeram (died at 1 year, 8 months old).

The elder Andreas Dunzinger's first marriage was to Maria Josepha Lettenbauer, born 06.05.1792, daughter of Michael Lettenbauer mayor and innkeeper and his deceased wife Marianna Koch. They had three children, Maria Anna Juliana, Maria Anna and Joseph. His first wife died at the age of 38. His second wife, the mother of Andreas, also died at 38 years of age and he married a third time, to Marianna Strauss, daughter of the decesased Johann Strauss a citizen in Anhauserhof and his deceased wife Marianna Ottinger.

One baptismal entry says the father is owner of “Wildbad” in Wemding. Wildbad is a part of Wemding; today a hotel.

Georg Andreas Dunzinger (this would be Elizabeth's great-grandfather) married twice. First to Maria Barbara, daughter of the deceased Joseph Kreislmayer senator/councilman and his deceased wife Catharina. Next to Maria Cäcilia, daughter of the deceased Johann Riß innkeeper from Blindheim and his deceased wife Maria Anna. Maria Cäcilia would be Elizabeth's great-grandmother.

George Andreas Dunzinger was the son of Franz Xaver Dunzinger, cerearius Wörthae (= cerearius = chandler; Wörthae = Donauwörth?) and senator/councilman, and his wife Maria Anna.

We also have information about Joseph Dunzinger's marriage and descendants. This is the brother of the Andreas Dunzinger that moved to New York and likely the ancestor of most of the Dunzingers still living in the area. As for the mother and brother listed, we have to assume they are the mother and brother of Fanny Dunzinger. We have not yet figured out who she is and if she is also from Wemding. Their marriage record in New York will likely provide more information as there is no marriage record for the younger Andreas Dunzinger in Wemding. Also, the researcher could not find a connection between the Dunzinger family and the Ziegelmueller and Wagner families in Wemding so I'm working under the assumption they are releated to Fanny and that she is also from Wemding.

Lessons learned: Never give up looking for that elusive ancestors. Never lose contact information for those who've helped you in the past. Find out the cost of what research is going to cost before authorizing the research.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Elizabeth Dunzinger Possibly Found

I was planning on posting about the mystery of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dunzinger Panther. That plan changed this morning! I may have found her!

I first need to state that this information is not yet confirmed to be "our" Elizabeth Dunzinger, but the timeframe and location are correct. I MAY have found Elizabeth Dunzinger's family in New York.

What we know for sure up to this point is that she appeared in the 1870 census in Des Moines County, Iowa, living in the Charles Wagner household in Burlington. She was listed as 17 years old, a servent in the boarding house Mr. Wagner ran. We later figured out that this was the Valley Street Boarding House located at 413 and 415 Valley Street in Burlington, Iowa.

A second cousin of mine showed me a newspaper article that her grandmother had noted that it spoke about relatives of Grandma Panther, meaning Lizzie Dunzinger. The people the article talked about were from Wemding, Bavaria, Germany.

We have found Dunzinger families in Wemding. We just haven't been able to connect her to these families.

I just received the most recent newsletter from Family Search, which touted that new collections are added each week. The email contained a link to their online collection. I browsed down the list and found the 1855 New York State Census and did a search. A search for Dunzinger returned this family in New York City, New York County, Ward 20, Enumeration District 2:

Andrew Dunzenger - M - 32 - born in Germany
Fanny Dunzenger - F - wife - 27 - born in Germany
Mary A. Dunzenger - F - child - 4 - born in New York
Elizabeth Dunzenger - F - child - 1 - born in New York <----- This could be her!
Victoria Sualemar - F - 68 - mother - born in Germany
Adam Pacoke - M - 16 - brother - born in Germany

Our information said she was born in either 1854 or 1856. If she was born in 1854, the age would be correct in this census. I believe the next step would be to find Andrew and Fanny's marriage and/or immigration record, and, to confirm family stories, to see if they died in the next few years.

It's possible our most frustrating brick wall may finally be crumbling!

edited 01 June 2013 - changed sister name from Margret to Mary A.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

History of My Family History Research Project

It was back in grade school. I don't recall all the details but we were supposed to draw up a family tree. My mother said she thought a distant cousin of hers had traced our tree WAY back to around the time of Alexander the Great. We never did see who might have done that research or confirm it. My tree for that assignment consisted of me, my parents, my grandparents and one single great-grandfather. I was definitely interested in finding out more but I didn't know how to do it.

About 30 years later, my mother was given the Panther family history book, written by Mary Ann Messer and Anita Vantiger. It had a lot of information but nothing beyond my great-grandparents on that branch of the tree. I decided to use this information to start a genealogy database using Personal Ancestral File, put out by Family Search and the Mormon Church. There were a lot of names in my newly created database but it didn't go very far back in time.

A year or two later, my mother gave me a partial transcription of the Menke family history by Jim Menke. I proceeded to put that information into my database. This branch didn't have many names but it went back quite a ways. It was a family twig, going back to my 6x-great-grandparents, about the year 1700 in and around Schwagstorf, Hanover, Germany. I was very happy. I still knew nothing about my father's ancestors other than his parents and I knew nothing more of the Panther family.

I had mentioned my desire to research our family history to my mother and she mentioned a book sent to my brother from a Sister Catherine Seemann. Sister Catherine is a nun in Canada that researched the Bixenman family. Philomena Bixenman was my great-grandmother. I had never heard of her before. My brother gave me the book. In it was a letter addressed to both him and me! Apparently since he wasn't interested, he assumed I wasn't either. I took the book and began transferring the information into my database. During my research, I discovered that a family we grew up with and knew in our hometown (which, by the way is nowhere near where either of my parents grew up) were our distant cousins. This book told me who my great-grandfather was on my dad's dad's side and also gave a huge amount of information of my great-grandmother's ancestors on this branch. This brought my family history information back to my 5x-great-grandparents on this branch around Treherz, Baden, Germany. The difference is that there were a few more of the ancestors filling out the tree so this branch was more than the twig of my Menke branch.

Still, no information about the Panther family, which I've always had a fascination with. I guess I just love the name, plus it was the last name of the cousins I hung out with during our visits back to my mom and dad's home town area. I kept looking for them. We were always told they were from Baden-Baden, Germany. I looked at the church records from Baden-Baden and didn't find my great-grandfather there. I started looking through the church records, one village at a time, in the various villages south of Baden-Baden. I did a search on for anyone of this last name. When I found one, I ordered the microfilm from the Mormon Church to see if I could find the baptismal record of my great-grandfather. I had found many Panthers in Stadelhofen but not my great-grandfather. Eventually, the daughter of my cousin found them in Moesbach. I was just as happy about it as she was. We worked together using images that were online but once these were exhausted, I ordered microfilm from the Mormon Church. Eventually, I discovered that my great-great-great-grandfather had moved to Moesbach from Stadelhofen. Those Panthers I had found in Stadelhofen actually were my relations. I just didn't know it when I found them! I used the microfilms of the Moesbach, Stadelhofen and Ulm area of Baden, Germany. I ended up scanning in ALL of the pages of the church books I had there. Now I have them all on my hard drive to search at my leisure. I've traced this branch of my family tree back to 27 of my 8x-great-grandparents and 42 of my 7x-great-grandparents. I've also been researching the ancestry of others from this area. Call it an addiction but if the information is there and someone wants it, I want to provide it to them.

Now, I've also started an indexing project. I hope to index the baptismal, marriage and death records of ALL of these church records. This way, if anyone is from this area, I would have a relatively easy time researching their ancestry. Eventually, once it's all indexed, I'd like to import all the individuals into a database so we could potentially have the entire ancestry (that is available from these church records) of anyone from these villages. I think that wraps up any projects I may be able to work on for the next 50 years!

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Passing of Helmut Doll

I was sad to hear about the passing of Helmut Doll, my third cousin, in Moesbach, A. Achern, Germany. He was part of the Moesbach church choir. He died at the age of 70 on March 27, 2013. Attached to this blog entry is the image of the ancestor chart of Helmut's mother, Josefine Panther.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sharing Documentation Files with BitTorrent Sync

This is meant to be a blog about genealogy, my projects and tools and techniques I've found helpful in my genealogy hobby. This entry does fit that description because it is focusing on a tool that I am just now beginning to use to backup my data. Forgive my segways into technological descriptions. I'm a technology geek at heart and I'm excited about this new piece of software.

I have about 60 gigabytes of scanned images from the church books of Ulm and Moesbach, A. Achern area of Baden, Germany. It took six months of work to scan in virtually all of their church book images. I have the images backed up onto my external hard drive but I definitely don't want to have to rely on one piece of hardware. What if my external hard drive fails? All my hard work would be gone. In addition, there are at least a couple of people, likely several more, that would be interested in having access to these files. What can I use to solve both of these problems?

First, I'd like to give a quick lesson in BitTorrent technology. BitTorrent is a piece of software you can install on your computer. You then find BitTorrent "seeds", which are files served up from a web server that tells the BitTorrent software about the file. The trick to this technology is that once the download starts for several people, they start downloading different bits of the file. Then new clients wanting to download the file using the BitTorrent software download bits of the file from all the other clients downloading it. This means that the first clients will download a portion (but different portions) of the file from the first server, then all the other clients will download from the initial host machine and from each other. This takes a load off of the originating server and spreads the workload and bandwidth use around to all the clients downloading the file.

The sad part is that this wonderful piece of software is mostly known for pirating large files such as movies, not for its other (legal) uses.

Now, BitTorrent has released a new piece of software, known as BitTorrent Sync. With this software, I have shared up the folders of my church book scans. Anyone that would like a copy of them just needs to install BitTorrent Sync and give it the secret key set up on my share. This will allow you to download a copy of my scans for your own use. Just as important, it provides a backup for all my hard work.

If you are interested in the scans of the Ulm A. Achern church book scans from 1654 to 1788 (for births) and from 1654 to about 1900 (for marriages and deaths) and the Moesbach A. Achern church book scans from 1811 to about 1900 (for births, marriages and deaths), please let me know. I'll give you the key to my share and you can begin downloading a copy for yourself and do me a favor by acting as my backup.

A couple of notes about this software and how I've set it up:

First, NEVER share anything of confidential nature. No matter how secure you believe it is, someone someday will hack into it. I'm sharing what is essentially public knowledge with this share. Anyone could have access to it if they put in the effort to access the books or the microfilm of the books and scanning it in themselves. I want to make it easier for them.

Second, be sure to go into the configuration options of the software. You'll want to limit the amount of bandwidth it uses. Most Internet service providers have some sort of cap on their data usage, even if they don't publicize it. The size of these files is like downloading 13 high quality DVD movies. That's a huge amount of data. I've capped my upload and download speed for this software. Yes, this means it will take a very long time for it to be fully uploaded, but it's better than the speed I had prior to today, which was zero. Given some time, all these scan files will be backed up to the hard drives of others that would like to see them. Depending on how things look going forward, I may increase or decrease this speed. This is new software and I'll need to keep an eye on on it to make sure things work out smoothly.

Let me know what you think by commenting below or dropping me an email. Thanks!