A German discussion of Ancestry.com

I haven’t investigated what I’ve read in a German mailing list, but it sure is interesting (and I’ve seen similar comments before):

(translated) “In the collection Rheinland are hidden, among other things, military church books from East Prussia, church books from Leipzig and much more….”

Germans are divided on Ancestry.com, with several being critical of transcription errors by persons unfamiliar with the locality of the documents, and (of course) of errors in family trees that are then perpetuated by others.  Generally, however, they recognize that using it with care is far preferable than having to travel to read documents the old way.

Moral of the story:  It’s always good to explore online resources thoroughly!

“Not Stated”

I’m always interested when Ancestry.com has some new records posted, but I’m often alerted to these opportunities by German genealogists posting messages on the various Mailinglisten to which I subscribe.  Today I went to the listed URL, and found myself looking at Ancestry’s German website page “Deutschland, evangelische Kirchenbücher, 1519-1969.”  We can see the same page in English on our own Ancestry.com site, but I’m reasonably at home reviewing German-language genealogical pages (even though I’m not a speaker of German) because my genealogical vocabulary is fairly broad and, well, it’s just fun to be an explorer.

So I looked for the browse dropdowns, which isn’t hard to find because the page layout is pretty much the same for either site.  The box is labeled “Diese Sammlung durchsuchen” and the dropdown options are for “Historische Region” and “Stadt oder Distrikt.”  You’re with me, right?  The purpose of the box is for searching through the collection, the first choice is the region desired and the second is the specific location within the region.

Twenty actual regions offered are: Baden, Bayern, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Hannover, Hessen, Lübeck, Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, OstPreussen, Pommern, Posen, Reuss Linie, Sachsen, Schlesien, Schleswig-Holstein, Schwarzburg, West Preussen, Westfalen and Württemberg.  But then there were two other possibilities, and it amused me to see that they were listed in English on a German web page:  “Military” and “Not Stated.”  The latter has sixteen options, and I was curious to see what might be included.  So I turned to Wikipedia, the English version, and tried a few of them.

The first one listed is “Avgustovo,” which has to be a typo for Augustovo, English for Augustowo or Augustów, a city in northeastern Poland.  It had been included in the 1795 Prussian partition of Poland, but was incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland in 1815 and was later made part of Russia, according to Wikipedia.  I could see immediately that: (1) these would be places of complex history, and (2)  these could still be important to someone’s German genealogy, even if Polish today.

I tried another.  There were three renditions of Iława (or Ilawa, as it is shown on the page), so I looked it up and found that it was once Deutsch Eylau, an important city which “became part of the Duchy of Prussia in 1525 and the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701” and then found itself within the “new province of West Prussia in 1773.”

So the moral of this story is “Explore!”  If your ancestor(s) came from a place with a lot of history and an unfortunate habit of changing jurisdictions often, then you’ll always want to be poking into the corners of websites like Ancestry.com.  There will be many blind alleys, but on occasion you might be surprised with some treasure….