Wednesday, October 3, 2012

When In Doubt, Map It

Continuing on from My Adventure With Meyers Gazetteer, I was trying to take the information that I learned and develop some sort of research plan.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far as I ran into a stumbling block.

Have you ever noticed that some entries in the Family History Library Catalog contain special notes?  For example, in the listing for Zivilstandsregister, 1874-1878, the note explains that these are civil registrations of births, deaths, and marriages for Damsdorf, Pommern, Preußen.  It further goes on to list the other towns that are included in these registers.  Furthermore, it also indicates that Damsdorf is now Niezabyszewo (Bytów), Koszalin, Poland.  That’s a lot of useful information.

More importantly, this added information is helpful when there is no specific location entry for the place you are looking for.  In my case, there is no location entry for Germany, Preußen, Pommern, Bernsdorf, so finding records for this location is a little difficult.  However, noting that Bernsdorf was listed in the notes section of the entry described above, I tried a “keyword” search for Bernsdorf.  There were 15 matches, one of which is the one above.  But there were two other entries related to Pommern that needed to be explored and both were more civil registrations.

The first one was quickly ruled out; the other place names that were included indicated to me (by looking at the gazetteer) that this was a different Bernsdorf altogether.  But the other entry, well there were some place names that were familiar, particularly the civil registration district of Gersdorf.  From my excursion into the Gazetteer, and taking the time to translate it, I recognized Gersdorf and the district government office for Bernsdorf.

Now, I have no idea how this government works or what each “branch” was responsible for.  I also don’t know if you can register, say births, in another location.  But I know enough to question whether the Bernsdorf in this listing is the same Bernsdorf that I’m working with.  So to Google Maps I went!

View this map in Google, which will show each place with its previous and current name.

I already knew from the FHL listing for the Damsdorf registrations, that it was now Niezabyszewo (Bytów), Koszalin, Poland, so I marked it on the map.  The same listing also included the new name of Hygendorf, so on the map it went.  The FHL listing for Gersdorf indicated that it is now Ząbinowice (Bytów), Koszalin, Poland; mapped. 

Through a variety of websites that provided the new names for all of the other towns listed in both FHL catalog entries, I was able to place them all on the map.  I color coded them so I knew which towns were in which batch of civil registrations.  And wouldn’t you know, as I suspected, Bernsdorf is right in the middle (the marker in yellow).  The civil registration office in Gersdorf is about two miles closer to Bernsdorf than Damsdorf, which is the one its assigned to.

Is it possible that some of my family’s records ended up being registered in Gersdorf?  According to the FHL catalog entry there were some from Bernsdorf, so I think it’s worth pursuing.

Had I not first deciphered the gazetteer listing, I would not have recognized the town of Gersdorf.  And, although I suspected a “border” situation, had I not mapped these locations, I would not have known to consider looking in the civil registrations for Gersdorf.  So when in doubt, map it!


1 comment:

Jana Last said...

Great post and great idea to map it! Maps can be such useful genealogical tools.

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