Friday, July 12, 2013

Marylanders & Delawareans Abroad

This year, I was treated to DNA testing through Although fascinating, it created many questions as I soon learned that most of the people whose DNA match both myself and my Uncle, all come from outside of Delaware. This was quite the shocker as most of my research for my mom's side of the family has shown our roots to go deep within delaware for hundreds of years.

After much tinkering around with different genealogies, I began to see a pattern with those who matched me genetically: most had ancestors from Kentucky, then possibly from Virginia or the Carolinas. But none seem to have Delaware or Maryland links in their trees.

Or so they think :)

Noticing this trend, I began to look into migration patterns and found a man who has published books with such titles as "Marylanders to Kentucky". As it turns out, a great number of people from the Salisbury and Worcester Counties of Maryland, migrated in hoards to first the Carolinas, then to Kentucky/Tennessee border towns, some then moving on to Missouri and/or Illinois.

After finding this particular migration pattern, I began to also notice a common county that most went to in Missouri: Selby County, Missouri, as well as seeing the town name of Palmyra pop up occasionally. In searching through the county history of Selby, I came across multiple family names I recognized that had originated in my ancestral homeland.

Familes from Worcester County, MD that moved to Selby County, Missouri in the early-mid 1800's:

Families from Wicomico County, MD that did the same:

Families from Sussex County, DE who also ended up in Selby CO., MO
Smith (descendants of Marvel Smith to be exact)

Hopefully as I research more, I will be able to add to this list and have it grow. If you are reading this and know of other family names that migrated into KY, TN, MO or IL from the Delmarva area, please let me know!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Professional Services

Please visit my website to learn more about the Professional Research services I offer:

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Few Rules You Need to Know to Play the Westfalen Research Game :)

A Few Rules You Need to Know to Play the Westfalen, Germany Research Game :)

Have you ever been talked into playing a game you didn't know the rules of? While others are scheming for the win around you, you helplessly try and keep up, getting either bored (if you don't care) or frustrated (if you do care) as the game progresses.

Such is the case with researching Westfalen records without learning the "rules" of playing the research game for that area. Westfalen, once a Prussian state, marches to the beat of its own drum as far as both naming customs and inheritance patterns. Understanding these nuances will make for a much easier research experience.

Rule #1: Which child inherits the land?

Westfalen is worlds different in this custom from the rest of Germany: Instead of inheritance passing on to the oldest son of a family, it is always passed on to the youngest child in the family (male or female). This fact may not seem a big deal if you are only planning to peruse the vital records (as opposed to land records), but in fact, knowing this helps the researcher muddle through the oft-times confusing naming patterns of the area. Which brings us to...

Rule #2: Acquiring a Surname in Westfalen: The importance of one's farm or Hof

In western society, a surname passes from father to son, down through the generations. However, in this particular area of Germany, the farm (Hof) a person lived on was more important than the name their own father had passed on to them! I came upon this phenomenon with many of my ancestors. An ancestor who was named Joseph Schütte was later listed as Joseph Hilverding in his son's baptism record, and finally as Joseph Stallhans in his daughter's marriage record. In one record, I found the poor man listed as Francisco Casper Joseph Schütte or Hilverding now Stallhans (English translation added—see Rule #3). When you take into account that there was no set spelling to these names--you can imagine the confusion of trying to find a man who has 3 different last names spelled in various ways throughout the years!

Once learned, however, the naming pattern becomes easy to follow. Those who did not inherit their family farm (remember, only the baby of the family gets to inherit!), were forced to search for greener pastures elsewhere. This meant finding a husband or wife who did inherit the family farm. Once married to the inheritor, both men and women took on the new spouse's surname. A period of transition then followed where both last names were listed for an individual, until finally the new last name had been fully and solely attached.

In the case of the ancestor above, Joseph Schütte did not get lucky enough to be the youngest in his family's large brood of children, and thus went in search of a wife. Either due to his father marrying an heir to the Hilverding farm, or Joseph working on the Hilverding farm, he acquired the "aka Hilverding" surname. By age 32 he had met and married a young heiress in a neighboring hamlet named Anna Catherina Röper called Stallhans. You see, Anna was the youngest surviving member of the Röper family who had inherited Stallhans farm. As such, she inherited both the estate AND the surname. Her brother (who she must have been close to as he is a witness to her marriage, multiple children she had, and her death) is listed as Casper Theordore Röper called Stallhans up until Anna inherits the farm. In later records, he is then listed as Casper Röper called Burik.

Understanding the farm name is important in searching out records. All of Joseph and Anna's children are listed in indexes under the surname Stallhans, even though most of them carry the Schütte surname throughout their lives. Anna Catherine Röper was actually listed in her death record as Anna Stallhans, thus finally being fully known as her farm name. How would that record ever be connected to her if attention had not been paid to the Hof she had inherited?

Rule #3 Pay close attention to the German or Latin words used in records!

During my first round with German records, I came across the Hof naming pattern often, but didn't fully understand it. I sought out help from those who spoke German (not from the area), who also didn't fully understand it. It is a system unique to this area, and thus must be learned about from others who have experience researching there. There are numerous German or Latin words used in-between surnames that can give you clues as to what is going on.

Words used to denote the new farm surname are often:
modo; alias; nunc; sive; dicto (Latin)
genannt; colon (German)

Noticing the slight differences in the meanings of these words can help you understand who is inheriting what surname from whom. For example:

In the years after Joseph and Anna's marriage, many children were born. For the first two children, the Latin records list the parents as:
Josepi Hilverding nunc Stallhand or Joseph Hilverding now Stallhans
Anna Catherina Röper dicto Stallhand or Anna Catherine Röper called Stallhans

Noting the slight difference in meaning between the words nunc and dicto helped me figure out that Anna had the original Stallhans farm name, while Joseph had only recently acquired it.

The most important of these words to understand for this region is colon. This word is often interpreted to mean someone who belonged to a colony, or was a hired hand on the farm. Such is not the case in Westfalen. Joseph Schütte colon Stallhans does not mean that he worked on the Stallhans farm--it means he owned the Stallhans farm, despite his ancestry not carrying one drop of Stallhans blood. This is how the naming system worked, and is still even practiced in parts of this area today.

Rule #4 Why are so many parents not married?

Around the early 1800's, I began to notice that some of my ancestors were being listed as illegitimate in their birth records. My immigrant ancestor, Franz Kemper was one of those labeled as such in his birth record. Luckily, his father stepped forward and claimed him, thus not ending the pedigree. In such cases as those of children born to unwed parents, the child takes on the mother's surname, not the father's (though I found Franz listed later in life under his father's surname Cussmann as well, the majority of his life he carried the surnames of his mother--Ebbert or her farm name Kemper).

Illegitimacy, though common, was slightly like a scarlet letter one carried around the rest of his/her life. The word illegitimate was noted in various ways in every vital record of the individual throughout their lives. Certain privileges were taken from those who held illegitimate status--such as voting or owning land. So why, knowing all this, would so many parents of this time period never marry? The answer is that new laws were created that consistantly raised the price of marriage. Many families could simply not afford it. In some areas, one was not allowed to marry until acquiring status in his profession in a guild, which didn't usually happen until a man's 30's. Knowing such circumstances gives the researcher insight as to why so many Germans immigrated to America. It was much to my delight to see ancestors with such restricted societal status in Germany, have themselves listed as "Burgers" in the German obituary notices listed in their American communities. Such would not have been the case had they stayed in Germany.

Though there are many other "rules" to researching in Westfalen, these are 4 of the major ones I have encountered in my own work. Even after reading articles on the subject, I was not able to pick up the distinct patterns of my ancestor's towns until I had taken the time to search their records. Over time, patterns can be seen that may be unique to your area. (For example, the patterns I have seen in Robringhausen are slightly different then the patterns I have found in Westenholz, only 20 miles north of it.)

Hopefully, blogging such information will help others out there be more successful "playing" the research "game". If you have any feedback, or further insight on this subject, please leave a comment!

And until next time....auf wiedersehen! :)

Much of the information above was acquired from German Research classes I have attended, my own experience, and the following article (which I highly recommend to those serious about researching in this area of Germany):

Dr. Roger P. Minert's article Surname Changes in Northwestern Germany, found in the German Genealogical Digest Spring 2000 (Vol. 16, No. 1). Copy found at FHL, SLC, but copies of this Digest may be available in other libraries as well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Westfalen--Oh my!

This past year I "stumbled" upon a goldmine of a genealogical find. You know the type--you gasp in awe of it, knowing that it is about to open up generations of research doors to you, and life will never quite be the same. Such a moment hit while tracing my ancestor's children through census records in the 1900's. One of these distant great-uncle's of mine happened to list the hometown of his German father--a hometown I assumed in my 12 years of research that I would never know the name of. Through a little google-ing and mapquest-ing, I finally figured out the correct spelling of this town name provided by (my now favorite) distant-great-uncle:
Westenholz, Germany.

Up to this point in my life, I considered myself a PDG researcher (Pretty Darn Good)--I could whip up a 4-5 generation American pedigree chart in a short amount of time, while still sitting around in my pajamas at home. I'd have it fully sourced, with notes of explanations. I had frequented the Delaware State Archives since my childhood (literally), and broke through difficult brick walls using land records, Bible records, and late-night-umbrella-wielding graveyard sleuthing. While others sat in their cars wondering if ghosts were going to get them, I was out there with my flash light, hoping that if they came, they'd at least let me in on a birthdate or two!

But....Germany? I didn't know whether to feel at a loss, or remain in blissful ignorance of how "easy" family history research could be. I know I had taken a Latin Paleography class (a fancy term meaning "how to read old Latin handwriting") in college--but that had been years ago. Would I even need it now? I had even sat through a few German Research classes at the FHL the previous Summer--but still wasn't sure how that would help me.

Shaking off my nerves, I pushed up my sleeves, got dressed, and made a trip to the Family History Library. Surely, I could find something there.

And, surely, I did :)

Hoping against hope, I drew upon what I knew: our family was filled with stories of my grandfather's strict Catholic grandmother. If she had been so faithful, probably her German immigrant father was Catholic back in the old country. Just my luck, the FHL had Catholic church records from Westenholz! After a quick lesson in basic reading of baptism records in German, I came across his name on the birthdate he celebrated in the states:

Jodocus Hermann Höber, son of Ludwig Höber and Elisabeth Moerfeldt.

My mind reeled, my heart beat increased 10-fold, and I held back the tears as I realized that I had just broken across the Atlantic Ocean barrier--I was sitting face to face with my great-great-great Grandfather's German birth record.

I sat hours that day, writing down names and discovering a new-found love for Catholic Church records. Why couldn't all my ancestors be Catholic? These were fantastic! Often a marriage date and spouse, or death date was noted in the margins of a birth record. Siblings were easy to find, families pieced together with ease, and the matriarchs of each family seemed to enjoy the steady rhythm of birthing children every 2 years. Ages and parents were listed on Marriage records, occupations printed, and cause of death explanations quickly pulled at my heart strings, binding my heart to theirs. A definite connection was quickly formed
with the people of my past that I had not even been aware of one week before.

Six months of gleeful research followed. When difficulties arose in the records (why is there always a second name listed? Farm names, what's that??), a consultant was always available to educate and advise me. And imagine my satisfaction when I discovered the pre-1800 records all written in Latin. Helllllllo college education! Many prayers of thanks were sent heavenward as both the paleography class and my Spanish fluency kicked in. I began to tackle the church records written in difficult script, and started to even brag a little to my husband that I felt I was getting pretty good with these "advanced German records".

Enter: Robringhausen, Germany.

(note how much I had to zoom up on this one, to even see the town!)

That's right. By this time, thanks to, I had found the Passenger List records of Hermann Höber's in-laws, also from the Old Country. My delight in finding them had been stopped short by what I assumed was a misprint in town of origin (Google couldn't even fathom a name close to "Robingshausen". And why was the wife and daughter going by a different last name than the husband? Later census records listed their marriage date as 4 years after their first daughter being born--surely a misprint. Or....perhaps she was from a previous marriage of the wife? ) I felt utterly confused, and completely defeated. I put my questions on the shelf, and concentrated on conquering the documentation of all my Westenholz family branches.

As my confidence in searching the German records grew, I decided to revisit the above "brick-wall". I had just corresponded with a distant cousin from the Westenholz line, who shared with me that most German immigrants to St. Charles County, Missouri were from one of two cities in Germany. While mapquest-ing these cities, I found Westenholz 10 miles north of them....and to my mouth-gaping-open surprise, saw a town named Robringhausen 10 miles south of them. Could it be?

A quick search of the FHL catalog left me again empty handed. They, like google, seemed to be unaware of the town's existence. I looked for larger cities nearby, and finally through some internet stalking of a few modern-day church websites, and Google translating, found out that Robringhausen (a town of only about 150 people now days) is part of the parish of Mellrich. Suddenly, Mellrich became my golden ticket with the FHL, and a new journey began.

If I had thought Westenholz was "advanced" German research, I was soon corrected by the records contained in Mellrich. What on earth were these big long paragraphs?? I could pick out names--but how frustrating that no one had thought to write in actual numbers. How was I supposed to figure out which set of chicken-scratch scrawled German lettering was supposed to be the date? I was thrown off by the fact that no one seemed to be married--and why did people suddenly have THREE last names??

My first encounter with Robringhausen left me feeling significantly humbled (it didn't help much when after the fourth time up to the help counter, a consultant peered over her librarian glasses and told me in a thick German accent, "You should vreealy learn some basic Gsherman!"). Despite the confusion, I could not deny the fact that I was witnessing a miracle--these were records I had given up hope of ever finding. I had wondered about these people for 12 years, ever since I received that letter from Aunt Joan telling me about "Grandma Mac's" fiery red hair, German accent, and immigrant father. I felt that after all the years of searching and reaching for these ancestors, someone was finally reaching back in return. Too many things were falling into place. Too many "coincidences" were happening to pave the way to these discoveries. I had to press forward.

What has followed since that time are my efforts to educate myself in German research, especially in the Westfalen area of Germany (then Prussia). After the fourth FHL consultant rolling their eyes or grimacing after my mention of Westfalen, I became acquainted with the fact that this area of Germany is "different". I have found amazing articles to help me understand the Hof way of life, and how it affected naming patterns (coming soon in a future post!). I have also picked up some basic German, and am getting pretty good at not hacking up a lung when saying the gutteral ich. I can also now say and understand the numbers (making those Robringhausen records a MUCH more enjoyable experience!).

My journey with German family history research has been fascinating for me. I love the challenge and newness of it all. I love researching a family line that no one on earth ( least in the cyber world!) has researched or published before. My growing understanding of the customs and records have increased my love for the people that make up my German roots.

In honor of this new found love for this research, and due to the fact that I have not found many helpful online guides to Westfalen research, I will be writing up a few information articles, in hopes that I can help a few other researchers out there.

Until next time, Auf wiedersehen ya'll!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Inspiration & Introduction

Welcome world to my new blog! I've been wanting to start a "genealogy journal" for a few years, where I can go on long tangents about my latest genealogy finds, and track progres over time. Recording the info is good for future use to, as I usually forget things within 2 mintues anyway ;)

I'll start today with a submission I sent to Family Tree Magazine, *Hopefully* to be published in their, "The Lighter Side of Family History" section. (Winners get a $25 gift certificate to the store! I LOVE that magazine--I read it everyday on my lunch break :). It's a good way to start my blog with my roots in Genealogy :)

Graveyard Sleuth
I attribute my mother, Debbie Elliott Hill, for instilling in my not only a love for Family History, but also for teaching me the thrill of the hunt :) When I was six years old, my mom flew us back to Delaware to see family and dapple a little in her new found hobby: genealogy. To keep me out of her hair while searching a graveyard, she gave me a pen and paper, telling me to copy down the letters and numbers I saw on the tombstones, just like her. Happy to be doing anything she was doing, I excitedly wandered around the cemetery, copying down names and numbers I didn't really understand. Afterward, while heading home, my mom felt really discouraged because she had not been able to find the ancestor's grave she had been looking for. Imagine her excitement (and surprise!) when she looked down at my notebook, and in the midst of my child-like scribbles, she found the information of her ancestor! Somehow, in all innocence, I had found and copied down the very person she had come to find. Her enthusiasm in that moment impacted my young mind, leading to a life-long love for the "detective" work of genealogy.
I began doing my own research at age 16, going on to minor in Family History in college. I have now been an avid genealogist for the past 10 years. By far, my favorite mother-daughter bonding trips are still going back to Delaware to research together...and graveyards are still my favorite goldmine of information! :)