Mit vager Vermutung zum Ziel

US-Amerikaner spürt nach jahrzehntelanger Suche seine deutschen Wurzeln auf und kann damit eine Lücke in seiner Familiengeschichte schließen.

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How to Break Through a Brick Wall − an Archion Success Story

For decades family members had been searching for the German hometowns of my 2nd great grandparents, John and Margaret Schmaltz of Washington Township. With no luck. They doubted we would ever find the towns.

Last year, I discovered an old Ohio church record (family register) that gave a lot of specific information about my 2nd great grandparents, including the hometown of John Schmaltz. But no luck for Margaret. It said John was from Ützhausen, Grand Duchy of Hesse Darmstadt but only gave the neighboring state Kurfürstentum Hessen (Hesse Kassel) for Margaret.

Because the information for John--including his birth, baptism, confirmation, and godparents--was verified by German researchers, I decided the information for Margaret must also be pretty accurate for Margaret.

I did know from multiple sources that her name was Margaretha Mendel / Mandel and she was born 2 March 1835.

So I decided to search all of the parishes of Hesse Kassel until I found her. This would have been impossible for me before Archion went live. But I noticed quite a few parishes from Hesse Kassel were online.

So I paid $22 for a month subscription and began my search. People told me I was crazy and would probably never find her. They said it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I was told there were 1,800 parishes in Hesse Kassel. They said it might take years to check them all and even then I might not find her.

I figured if I could check 10 a day for 6 months I would cover all the parishes, assuming the records hadn't been destroyed, etc.

Yesterday I found her and the information matches the Ohio records well. How long did it actually take me to find her? One month.

The first week I checked 10 parishes a day. The second week I didn't check any. The next two weeks I made time every night to search dozens of parishes.

It didn't take as long as you think. Some parishes had no births at all in 1835. Some had only 1 or 2 pages. 5 or 6 pages were a lot and more than a dozen seemed rare. Some didn't have any Margarethas born at all in 1835. Because of the ease of navigating the digital system, I could check most parishes in a few minutes at most.

Altogether I checked 11 of the 25 districts the parishes were organized into and found her. I think about 45% of the online records. Statistically it is unlikely your ancestor will be in the very last parish on your list. You would probably find them after checking 40-50% of the parishes. It wasn't as though there were dozens and dozens of possible matches. Only One record made sense for my Anna Margaretha Mentel.

Keep in mind my cousins had been searching for her for decades. I had been looking myself for several years.

It only took me 30 days to find her by browsing the parish books. I couldn't have done this before Archion. I would have had to order hundreds of microfilm and spend possibly thousands of dollars. And it would have taken many times longer on a microfilm reader.
But now there is a new way to break down walls of you have basic facts like name and birth date of your ancestor. If you have a fairly good idea of the German state your ancestor was from, even if not the exact town, you may save years and years of researching by simply browsing the parish registers in Archion.


Thanks to Gregory Mantell, who has kindly allowed us to publish his report in Archion newsletter.

Vielen Dank an Gregory Mantell, der uns freundlicherweise erlaubt hat, seinen Familienforschungsbericht im Archion-Newsletter zu veröffentlichen.