Lost or Misplaced??

I found myself going through the 1940 Census on Ancestry.com trying to figure out why on earth my Grandfather and the rest of my mother’s family had seemingly disappeared during that Census.  After getting very frustrated in not finding them where I knew they should be living, I turned to another resource – FamilySearch.org.  I performed the same search, and voila!  The family appeared in the search and I went right to the Census sheet.

Hmm…something is obviously amiss here.

So now the question became, “Why does Ancestry not show them???”  After browsing through the individual images of the 1940 Census for the enumeration district where I had confirmed they lived, I came upon the answer… The transcriber for Ancestry.com listed the last name as “Lisk” vs the correct name of “Link.”

This is probably one of the most blatant examples I have run into of where transcription leads to a lost relative.  Even the Soundex Codes for the two names are different – L520 vs L200.  They even mis-transcribed “Hannah” into “Hanuah”!

Needless to say, it pays to not accept that a relative is “lost” just because a search doesn’t yield the results you think it should.  Try different avenues, and you may just find that someone else just “misplaced” your relative!

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Thrifty Thursday – Getting started without going broke

This is a tip for those who may be just getting started on their genealogy journey.  We have all seen the wonderful ads put out by Ancestry showing just how easy it is to click a leaf and discover new branches of our family tree, but when you start looking at the monthly cost of a subscription, I have the feeling most new genealogists stall out after the initial free 7 day trial.

Don’t despair because there are a number of FANTASTIC free resources out there on the internet that you can use to continue your research!


Make no mistake – I love Ancestry and several other of the paid sites and I have been using them off and on for years.  Most of the subscription sites offer amazingly easy search capabilities and an incredible treasure trove of records.  I just know that for most people, paying for a subscription can be a stopping point until you are fully “hooked” (addicted?) to genealogy.

Perhaps my favorite free resource is FamilySearch.org.  This site is run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) and is a direct link into their Family History Library (FHL).  I first discovered the FHL when I was starting out in my genealogy journey, but back then, I had to find one of the local FHL locations, and go there to manually search through their microfilm  collections, order the films and then get the copies of records that I needed.  FamilySearch.org has nearly eliminated that altogether!

FamilySearch.org is a digitized version of most of the collections contained in the FHL including some very comprehensive state collections, census records and many others.  The FHL is an incredible collection that has yielded more results and documents for me than I can even begin to recount, and to have this resource at home for free is just incredible.

I encourage any new genealogist to go check out FamilySearch.org and see what they have to offer.  While you are there, be sure to avail yourself of the free learning resources that they offer – it makes the genealogy journey so much easier when you learn from those who have gone before.

Changing Focus: The evolution of an amateur genealogist

As with most things, I’m finding that my genealogy is evolving…

When I started my genealogical journey, I had really only one “goal” and I suppose what you might call a vague “end” in mind.  The goal was to prove that I had an ancestor who had served in the American Revolution, and the “end” was to see what I could find out about where my family came from.  My goal was the result of a promise to my mother to verify a family “legend” and the end…well, I suppose the end I had in mind was what I thought genealogy was all about.

Fast forward a decade or two to the present…. This past fall, I achieved my goal with flying colors (more on that in another post), and in the process, I found out that genealogy isn’t necessarily what I originally thought it was – at least not for me.  I started out those many years ago thinking that genealogy was just tracing your family tree back over the generations with as many dates as you could find.  What I have come to find is what many “serious” genealogists probably knew all along:  that genealogy is hard research, exacting documentation and building enough pieces of evidence to say you have “proven” a particular link.

My realization about the “hard” part of genealogy came directly as a result of proving that Revolutionary War lineage.  As I sought that goal, I decided to look into what it would take to join the Sons of the American Revolution and for my daughters to be able to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.  What I found was that those organizations required meticulous documentation and organized research  that up to that point, I had not really been doing.  I was admittedly a very amateur genealogist.

So I went back and assembled and organized all of the documentation to prove my Revolutionary Ancestor.  I went back and documented the U.S. Census records, learning to cite them correctly.  I ordered certified copies of birth, death and marriage certificates where they could be found.  I learned what other cited evidence constituted proof by the standards of the DAR and SAR.  Finally, this winter, the final birth certificates arrived and I was able to submit my application.

After the realization of that goal, I found myself staring at volumes of paper documentation that I had not really organized, cited, noted or officially recorded.  Oh sure, I had used it all when I was putting those names and dates into my Family Tree Maker program over the years.  I had multiple generations going back nearly three centuries in a couple cases.  But what I realized that I didn’t have was documented and cited proof of all of those names and dates.  And there is where the change happened.

I’ve now gone back to the beginning…back to the very first generation.  I am going through all of those volumes of paper and organizing, properly recording and citing my evidence to formally prove all of my generations of lineage.  So needless to say, I now have a new goal of being able to fully present a family history that anyone can follow and enjoy the stories knowing that there is solid evidence behind the “legends” of the family.

My advice to any new genealogists starting out, whether you are doing it just for the “fun” of it or with a specific purpose in mind – stop and take some time to learn what it takes to properly cite a source and what reliable documentation is.  You will thank yourself years down the road when you can look at those volumes that you have accumulated and know exactly where each piece fits!  Enjoy the journey…it is as rewarding as any “end goal” that you may have in mind.

Immigration, Migration and Name Changes

When I first started my genealogy digging, I thought that the greatest challenge I was facing was the fires that seemed to ravage so many Midwest courthouses in the late 1800s and early 20th century.  It seemed at every turn, I was being told, “Those records were destroyed in the fire of…”

Lately, the courthouse fires seem to be at best a minor challenge compared to the daunting challenge thrown up by having so many German and Austrian ancestors whose names were changed, misspelled or somehow morphed.  I have seen lineage lines seemingly disappear into the mists of time all because of name changes that happened during their immigration to the U.S. or even during their migration from state to state.

One of the strangest ones so far is the Hill line.  I have been able to successfully follow the line back to my Great Great Grandfather, Samuel P. Hill, and then the line just vanishes!  For the first few generations, I have census records, birth and marriage records – all of those little nuggets of proof that genealogists love!  When I reach Samuel Hill, it’s as if he just fell out of the sky one day!  My suspicion is that this disappearance is all due to a name change.  One of the family “legends” is that when the Hill family came over from Germany, their surname was dramatically different than “Hill.”  All my mother was ever able to remember was that it was something like “Hillfinker” or “Hillfiger.”  So now, my challenge is to find the mysterious original surname.

Another wonderful example of this has been the Washler line of my ancestry.  This one, thankfully, has been MUCH easier to follow through its many iterations.  The original surname, as it came from Germany, was Wörschler.  From that good German name, it has taken many twists and turns…Warstler, Wastler, Warshler and Washler.  While many of the changes have been generational or regional (the name changed as the family migrated), the most interesting instance of this change that I have found all happened within one generation and all in the same county.  My Great Great Grandfather, John Warshler, moved to DeKalb County sometime between 1860 and 1870.  When he arrived here, all records point to him using the surname of “Warshler.”  His sons, however, did not stick to that apparent family name!  My Great Grandfather, Curtis, is listed in almost every public record as “Washler” but his siblings seem to be divided between “Warshler” and more predominantly, “Warstler.”

The lesson learned from all of this…I have had to learn to think “outside” the name box and think of and look for more creative spellings and variations of each and every surname.  In some cases, the creative thinking has paid off, and in others, I seem to have to just keep digging further!

Tombstone Tuesday – Isaac Farver

This is perhaps one of the more unique tombstones I have found for our family as I’ve done my genealogy research.  The stone is the grave marker for Isaac and Mary Anne Farver, my great great grandparents through my father.  Located in White City Cemetery near Spencerville, the stone would appear to be a bit of a tribute to Isaac’s past-time during his retirement years.

After moving to Spencerville, Indiana, Isaac operated a shoe shop there until he retired in 1869.  From what I have been able to find, it seems that after closing the shoe shop, Isaac became a rather accomplished wood carver.  His tombstone memorializes that accomplishment.  In the shape of a tree trunk, the family name is shown in carved branches, and the placard for the inscription appears “carved” in the tree.

I haven’t been able to find any of Isaac’s carvings, but my hope is that through family, and some of the older families in the area, I may one day be able to track down an “original” Farver carving!

Welcome!

Welcome to the blog!  I’ve decided to start a new blog to “journal” my genealogy journey.  Admittedly, this is not a new journey – I have been doing genealogy research for several years and have made tremendous progress in tracing several lines back even into the 1500s.  It is just recently, however, that I have gotten serious enough about my research to go back, and begin the process of fully documenting what I have collected so far.  This is the real challenge – to prove the family “legends” and suppositions that others have taken as “fact.”

The research I have been doing follows both my father’s family (the ancestors of Donald Washler and Mary Hablawetz) as well as my mother’s family (the ancestors of Earl Link and Hannah Hill).  Surnames include Washler, Hablawetz, Farver, Nicholls, Hill, Link, and Paessler.  Localities cover mostly Indiana and Ohio, but it appears I will be heading into Pennsylvania, and overseas to Germany and other countries in the near future.  My posts will range from family findings to research tactics and just posts about genealogy in general.

I hope you enjoy!  Please share your thoughts and comments at any turn.