This is how it’s all supposed to work. Years ago, volunteers at the Immigrant Genealogical Society created a card file on immigrants to America. It was for any immigrant, from any country, and at any time in our nation’s history. And it was for the purpose of sharing what we as individual members knew, in order that we might help other genealogists who were still trying to trace their ancestor back across and beyond our nation’s borders.
And so, because I (the IGS publications editor) had an idea about rounding up the names of immigrants from the former Kingdom of Saxony and doing something with it, I thought that the Immigrant Ancestor File was a good place to start. Oh, I’d looked at it in the past, when I was interested to see if there was data on a particular family or individual. But this was the first time in the five years that I’ve been here that I actually took one of the four card file boxes and started through it, card-by-card.
And then it happened that I spotted a card with a reference, not to “Sachsen,” but to Thüringen (Thuringia). And I remembered Astrid Adler, a German researcher and book compiler living in Tiefenort, Germany. Late last year she’d made a presentation to the Ventura County (CA) Gen. Soc. on her effort to recreate a record of emigrants from Thüringen to America in the mid-19th century. She’d begun this effort because her region was so notably lacking in documentation as to where its sons and daughters had removed.
Because I was in the audience for that talk, and was highly impressed by not only her spoken words but also her slide presentation, I immediately searched my shelves for anything that might aid her project. Finding some persons from her region who’d moved to St. Louis at an early date — including one family that had originated not ten miles from her home! — I sent the data in an email to her at first opportunity, even though my findings slightly predated her target focus period.
And so here I was again, tripping across something that might help her and/or other German researchers connect the dots as they seek to find distant American cousins who descend from this largely (officially) undocumented body of emigrants. But was it a valid reference? The card I’d found was without a formal source citation, although it appeared to be data extracted by a volunteer from an American county history. If so, was it from the late 19th century, or post-Bicentennial? Or was it from some other source instead?
Thus it was that I turned to my telephone and placed a call to the one IGS member whom I knew to be our own local authority on the county in question. Eunice Limberg had in fact been one of our stalwart volunteers until she moved out of the area a few years back. But every so often she shares with us what she’s found in regard to her Koch ancestral family back in Gasconade County, Missouri. As this card referenced the same county, I knew I had to ask her if she was familiar with either the KEHR family (with roots in Thüringen) or the Brüns/BRUENS family (into whom the female immigrant in question had married, once in America).
Eunice called me back yesterday, and while the KEHR name was unfamiliar — it turns out it had died out in the county — she did know the BRUENS name! She guided me to the appropriate 1979 county history, even to the extent of citing the page numbers I should review. Now I had at least the citiation I needed to complete what I’d sent earlier to Astrid Adler.
Will this end up helping someone make the connection they seek? Only time will tell. The dots, however, have been connected. A researcher in Germany looking for KEHR descendants in America will now have at least one specific locale in which to begin their American pursuit of cousins. And all because American researchers are working in tandem with German researchers, and because IGS members support one another and share both their interests and their discoveries….
Which brings me to the conclusion of this story. If we are to be a vibrant society, we need to — each one! — be active in reaching out to the others. Just recently, because I also handle membership records, I heard from a member who’d decided not to renew. This person had a valid reason for that decision: we’d not provided a break-through on the family name being researched. Okay, I can accept that.
But societies have to be more than just answer-givers if they’re to continue to exist; otherwise, it’s all just Ancestry.com and Facebook. The “special sauce” that we add to the genealogical “recipe” is those truly personal connections that you won’t find in the on-line world. Yes, you will make contact with others there, and you can (and do) exchange. But it’s through societies that you can form personal bonds (even long-distance, with a little work!) that can bring your research to life.
Join us now: What do you have to contribute? Because your contribution is unique, and it has value!