“German-American Genealogy,” 2016

The 2016 issue of German-American Genealogy is at the printer now!  Four articles are in this issue, as follows:

“East German Colonization in the Middle Ages,” by James Westfall Thompson
“The Banat Swabians:  A Tale of Perpetual Hardship, Survival and Hope,”
by Alexandria Irimia
Meyer’s Gazeteer Now Online, Indexed and Fully Searchable!”
by Fritz Juengling PhD, AG
“The Germans in Missouri,” by Jana Bickel

For members of IGS during the 2016 year, this issue should reach your mailbox around mid-December.  Other articles are in various stages of preparation for the next issue, possibly one for Spring 2017.

Do you have an interest in writing for it?  Many topics could be considered, but especially welcome would be more articles describing German colonies or emigrant regional groupings, such as suggested by the second and fourth articles listed above.  Please contact the webmaster or editor, if interested.


My Wife’s 7th Cousin

Every so often I read something in a genealogical periodical that catches my interest in a personal way.  And so it was over seven years ago, when I was browsing the newly-received journals at the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, MO.  An article in the Germanic Genealogy Journal produced by the Germanic Genealogy Society (of Minnesota) made reference to a village from which my wife’s 19th c. immigrant Schwingel family had emigrated.  The issue in question was volume 11 number 4 (Winter 2008), and the article was “Chasing Family Myth Through Canada to Germany,” by Dick Kline.

The article was a research case study describing how the author had successfully located a place of origin in the German state of Saarland, and the place in question was one of three villages in the parish that had served my wife’s ancestors.  This author knew of the town family book that had been published for his Klein immigrant’s ancestral village, but did he also know that one of the remaining villages had also produced such a resource book?  I had to contact him in case he wasn’t aware of this, and so I wrote to the journal’s editor to get the man’s address.

It was a good move on my part, because in the ensuing correspondence between us he was able to assist me in my own research in an important way.  I’d begun researching this particular family in the days before we had personal computers and online databases, and I’d made the mistake of not revisiting my earlier research as new source material became available.  In this instance, I had failed to search the now-digitized images of passenger records that were available by 2009, in order to document the date of arrival of my wife’s ancestral family.

As we exchanged information, he had a hunch that he’d seen my wife’s immigrant family named on a companion ship that had sailed with the one carrying his own Klein-Schneider immigrant family.  He was right!  And was I ever grateful that I’d taken the time to reach out to this man.

Dick Kline continues to publish articles through the Germanic Genealogy Journal.  The latest one appears in the volume 19 number 1 (Spring 2016) issue, and is titled “Spinning Genealogy Into Family Stories.”  In it he describes how he’s produced two brief booklets about his father’s family, and how the rewards of that effort have paid off so handsomely for him through the responses of relatives to his stories of the earlier generations.

In between the 2008 and 2016 issues, he’s also written articles for the Summer 2009, Fall 2011 and Summer 2012 issues of the same journal.  The library of the Immigrant Genealogy Society has these back issues, and both members and visitors are welcome to come in and read the continuing saga of discovery of my wife’s 7th cousin.  It’s always a treat to have established such a personal — if distant! — connection to a genealogical researcher and author.  But many of you would also enjoy reading what Dick has to say, even if you’re not “kin.”

The Lesson in the Back of a Bible

Tony Messenger writes for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Today he told a story about immigration, in his own family and more recently.  He (and his source) also told me something I did not know — that of the twenty largest metro areas in the nation, St. Louis had the largest increase in foreign-born residents from 2014 to 2015.  Second was Minneapolis-St. Paul.

And here’s the lesson he found, in his annual flip-through of the pages in his mom’s old Bible….

“Until after my mom died, I never thought much about my immigrant past.  I was a typical American mutt,….  But we all come from somewhere.”

It’s a quick read; you’ll enjoy it!

Genealogists Helping Genealogists!

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!


That’s the family name of the first German researcher to contact us since we switched our website to the new domain.  This person is looking for Dommershausen immigrants to America — any time, any place.  A cursory examination of family trees on Ancestry.com leads us to believe that all persons carrying this surname originated in or near 56346 Prath, Rhein-Lahn-Kreis, Rheinland-Pfalz (Palatinate).  This lies very close to Sankt Goarshausen.

It appears that members of this family emigrated in the 1850s and 1860s, and there’s an early association with Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana.  In the 20th c. there are persons of the name living in Cross Plains, Dane County, Wisconsin who appear to originate in Prath as well.  And so we appeal to you, the reader, to help us by “crowd sourcing” more information about families of this surname.  If you are researching Dommershausen, know of someone else who is, or are merely aware of an instance of this name appearing in records you have used — then, please, write to:
…and we will take it from there.  Thank you!