Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Updated immigrant list

When I started this blog, I wrote a post outlining some of the immigrant events in my family tree. I've learned a little bit since then, so I thought it might be good to update the list.

Ancestor(s) Origin Year %
Vincent Loccisano Gioiosa Ionica, Calabria, Italy 1939 25%
Elizabeth De Fazio Cardinale, Calabria, Italy 1926 25%
Louis Pritz Poland (near Sompolno?) 1892 12.5%
Conrad Miller
Maria Eifert
Angersbach, Hessen, Germany 1883
Valentine Benner Dielkirchen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany ~1856 3.1%
Catharine Gerard Mühlacker, Baden-Württemberg, Germany 1816 3.1%
Jacob Stähle Württemberg, Germany 1814 1.6%
Johann Michael Drittenbach Germany or Switzerland 1749 0.8%
Jacob Grässel Betschdorf, Alsace, France 1754 0.4%
Conrad Lintz, Sr. Possibly Waldershof, Bayern, Germany 1749 0.2%
Anna Maria Handwerk Hettenhausen, Hessen, Germany ~1740 0.2%
Peter Delong Probably Germany ~1720 0.2%
Eva Elizabeth Weber Probably Germany 1709 0.2%
Hans Jürg Rex Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany ~1715 0.1%

So far I have traced about 85% of my family tree to European immigrants.  The trails for the remaining 15% end in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  Hopefully I will continue to push back my family tree and update this list again in the future.

Monday, August 5, 2013

My first DNA triangulation!

I have finally triangulated a fragment of my genome through two DNA relatives!

I connected with the first match, Cathy, on AncestryDNA back in May. We quickly compared trees and immediately noticed the Moyer connection. She is a descendant of John Moyer, son of Johann Peter Moyer. John (or Johannes) was the brother of my own ancestor, Peter. This makes Cathy and I fifth cousins exactly.

Cathy was nice enough to also send me her raw DNA file, which I used to find our matching DNA. The biggest segment was on chromosome 7, positions 93M to 106M.

Then, just a few days ago, I got a new match on Family Tree DNA. My matchPatwas predicted to be at an incredibly close 2nd to 4th cousin level. I was very excited about this and immediately set about the chromosome analysis (FTDNA, unlike Ancestry, has a chromosome browser and displays matching segments). Lo and behold, this match was also on chromosome 7, with two big segments running from 93M to 131M totaling 30.8 cM. This segment wholly overlapped the one I shared with Cathy! Another Moyer link, then?

I contacted Pat to determine our connection. As a predicted 3rd cousin, I expected this to be easy, but nothing jumped out. In fact, both her tree and mine were so filled-in as to completely negate the possibility of a 3rd, or even 4th, cousin connection. So I looked further back.

I was immediately drawn to a Nathan Myer in her tree, born 14 September 1818 in Heidelberg Township, Lehigh, Pa. Pat gave me a quick rundown of what she knew of Nathan:
He came with his family to Wayne County, Ohio at the age of 14. When he was 17 his father died and he assumed responsibility for his mother and several younger children. He married Elizabeth Wright in Medina County, Ohio in 1841 and they lived there for almost 40 years before moving to Ashland County. His obituary says he was one of 9 children but much to the dismay of myself and several other Myers descendants there has never been any record of a name for either his parents or any of his siblings. Nothing!
Among the vast army of Moyers in my tree (all descended from Johann Peter), there are four named Nathan. My first thought was that Nathan Myer must be one of them. The closest (date-wise) was Johann Peter's own son Nathan, but he was born in 1819 and ultimately moved to Michigan. I had to expand my search.

I found my answer in an Excel spreadsheet I had made containing all the Helffrich Pastoral Records from that contained a variation of Moyer: Nathan Meier, born 14 September 1818 in Heidelberg to "Johan" and Magdalena Meier.

Woo! Found him! Wait...who the heck were Johan and Magdalena? I scoured more baptism records and found more of the pair's children, all in Heidelberg:

Name Parents Born Baptized Sponsors
Johannes Mayer, Johannes & Magdalena 28 Jun 1807 19 Jul 1807 Jacob Fritzinger & w Susanna
Daniel Mayer, Johannes & Magdalena 28 Jun 1807 19 Jul 1807 Jacob Muller & w Catharine
Nathan Meier, Johan & Magdalena 14 Sep 1818 22 Nov 1818 Jacob Fritzinger & Catharina Miller
Abigail Meier, Johan & Magdalena 18 Dec 1821 3 Feb 1822 Daniel & Margaretha Kern
Rachel Meier, Johannes & Magdalena 25 Mar 1825 22 May 1825 Heinrich & Eva German

To my eye, there is clearly a relation between this Johannes Meyer and my ancestor Johann Peter Moyer. The names of four of Johannes' children (Johannes, Nathan, Abigail, and Rachel) were shared by children of Johann Peter! But how, exactly, are these two men related?

One possibility is that Johannes is Johann Peter's brother. In my post on Johann Peter's father, William, I mentioned a baptism I found in the Weisenberg records: Johannes, 8 weeks old, baptized 9 October 1761; parents Wilhelm Meyer, Elisabeth, Lowhill; witnesses Johannes Meyer, Maria Elisabeth. As I mentioned in that post, I am not at all sure that this William is the same one that fathered Johann Peter. But let's hypothesize that it is, and that his son Johannes is Pat's ancestor. What would this mean?

First, the children listed in the baptisms above would have been born while Johannes was between the ages of 46 and 64. This seems a bit old, but Johann Peter fathered his youngest child when he was 60, so it's not unprecedented. Second, according to the facts relayed by Pat, Johannes would have moved his family to Ohio when he was 71, and died three years later at 74. Again, this seems a bit old to pack up and move so far away, but not impossible.

If this pans out, then Pat and I are 5th cousins, once removed. Here's the pretty graphic:

Another possibility is that Johannes is Johann Peter's nephew. Sticking another generation in there would bring Johannes' age down. Clearly more research is needed to determine which hypothesis is correct, if either.

The next step for Pat was to find these potential siblings of Nathan Myer, as listed in the baptism records above. She set about doing this and located a woman named Abigail (Myer) Etling in Wayne County, Ohio, whose birth date exactly matches Johannes' daughter's. One hurdle is that most Ancestry trees list her as being born in Washington County, Pa., instead of Lehigh, which is at the opposite end of the state. Conventional wisdom can be wrong, however.

To me, one unsolved mystery here is that FTDNA predicted Pat and I to be 2nd to 4th cousins. We share a total of 49 cM, with nearly 31 cM being in basically one big segment. In reality, though, we are actually further than 5th cousins. My question is: Is it possible for this massive chunk of DNA to be passed down, unbroken, through seven generations? It's more than one percent of my genome! If you are a geneticist, help me out here!

DNA triangulation is clearly going to be one of the most powerful tools in the genealogist's toolkit in the future. Pat now has a chance to break through a brick wall that has been plaguing her. And it is helping me to learn more about my ancestors' families as well.

Friday, August 2, 2013

William Meyer of Lowhill/Lynn, Lehigh County, Pa., late 1700s

William (or Wilhelm) Meyer was my 5th great-grandfather.  The bulk of what I know about him comes from Charles Roberts' History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of its Families (p. 930):
Moyer (Meyer) Family
Among the early settlers of Lowhill township was Wilhelm Meyer, who lived in the southwest corner of that township and it appears some of his land extended into Lynn and Weisenberg townships. William P. Moyer, a prominent citizen of Allentown, Pennsylvania, has among his cherished heirlooms, a parchment deed, which was given on the sixteenth day of June, 1764, by John Penn, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Pennsylvania, to his great-great-grandfather above named, for 53 acres of land situated on the east side of Weisenberg township, but this pioneer had already owned land before this time, as his name appears among the taxables of Lowhill in 1762.
On March 17, 1765, the records of the Ebenezer church at New Tripoli, Pa., mention the baptism of Johann Peter, son of Wilhelm and Barbara Elizabeth Meyer, born Dec. 19 1764.
Church Records
William's son Johann Peter was my 4th great-grandfather.  I have not located that baptism record myself.  However the baptism records of Weisenberg Church contain some intriguing entries:
  • Wilhelm Meyer, an adult, Lowhill, baptized 9 October 1761; parents Johannes Meyer, Maria Elisabeth; witnesses Andreas Riess, elder of Lutheran congregation & wife Barbara [Andreas Riess' wife was named Barbara, so this is likely his wife and not William's]
  • Johannes, 8 weeks old, baptized 9 October 1761; parents Wilhelm Meyer, Elisabeth, Lowhill; witnesses Johannes Meyer, Maria Elisabeth
  • Susanna, born 22 February 1765, baptized 14 April 1765; parents Wilhelm Meyer, Elisabeth; witness Dorothea Winck, Grandmother
  • Andreas, born 19 September 1767, baptized 18 October 1767; parents Wilhelm Meyer, Elisabeth; witnesses Andreas Meyer, Catharine Hartmann, single

What we might have here are the baptisms of William himself and several more of his children.  At first this seems unlikely since Susanna was born early in 1765 and, according to Roberts, Johann Peter was born in late 1764.  However Johann Peter's tombstone gives a date of 1763, so it's possible Roberts mis-read the dates.  I don't have a copy of the original record, so I don't know.

If this is William and family, then some interesting facts jump out:  William's parents were Johannes and Maria Elisabeth; William's wife's last name was Winck and her mother was Dorothea; and the witness Andreas Meyer could have been a brother of William.  Furthermore, son Johannes' birth date puts an upper limit on William's own, around 1741.

In addition, William and Elisabeth were sponsors for:
  • Elisabeth, 2 years old, baptized 9 October 1761; parents Christian Kneip, Agnes, Lowhill
  • Elisabeth, Lowhill, born 16 October 1765, baptized 3 November 1765; parents Andreas Sintell, Anna Maria

If we cast a slightly wider net, there are some records from the Jordan Reformed Parish in South Whitehall that might be pertinent:
  • Hannah, baptized 6 March 1791; parents John Koch, Magdalene Koch; sponsors William Meyer, Maria Hofman
  • John, baptized 5 October 1788; parents John Koch, Magdalene Koch; sponsors William Meyer, Elizabeth Meyer, sponsors are married

Tax Records
Here are all the mentions of William I could locate in tax records:

Year Town land horses cows Other Meyers Source
1762 Lynn None Roberts, p. 1463
1762 Lowhill None Roberts, p. 1464
1772 Lynn 80 Andrew, Engel, Peter Ancestry
1781 Lynn Andrew, Engel, Charles Ancestry
1781 Lynn Andrew, Engel, Carl Ancestry
1785 Lynn 260 3 2 Andreas, Daniel (single) Ancestry
1786 Lynn 260 2 4 Andrew, Daniel (single) Ancestry
1787 Lynn 160 2 4 Andrew, Daniel Ancestry
1789 Lynn 260 1 5 Andrew Ancestry
1789 Weisenberg 300 1 1 John Ancestry
1790 Lynn Andrew Ancestry

William does not show up in later tax lists (e.g. 1798, 1800).

Census Records
Census data for William is sparse.  A 1786 septennial census of Lynn Township lists William and Andrew Meyer.  The 1800 Federal Census for Lynn lists a William Meyer (1 male age 10-16, 1 male over age 45, 1 female over age 45).  That census also lists Andrew Meyer and Peter Meyer.  William is not enumerated in the 1800 septennial Lynn census, but Andrew and Peter are.  It's possible that this is because he died that year, but that's just a hypothesis.  Certainly it seems that 1800 is the last time William shows up in any documentation of any kind.

The will of John Hartman (1777) "mentions William MEYER's place in Lowhill and Heidelberg Twns."  According to the Strieby Genealogy and History site, "Conrad Riedy and William Meyer were two of the acting administrators of the Michael Strieby [of Lynn Twp.] estate, the final settlement being exhibited Sept. 13, 1791."

Land Records
I found a land deed on Ancestry reading, "November 28th 1766 William Meyer 100 acres adjoyning the Proprietor's mannor, Mark Wannemacker, Philip Westman, Jacob Beel, and Mathias Schutz in Lynn Township Northampton County, Including his Improvement."

Military Records
In 1777 Pennsylvania passed a law requiring "all white men between the ages of 18 and 53 capable of bearing arms to serve two months of militia duty on a rotating basis."  The 3rd (1777) and 6th (1780, 1783) Battalions of the Northampton County Militia were made up mostly of men from what is today western Lehigh County.

Thomas Lynch Montgomery's Muster Rolls, etc., 1743-1787, lists the name William Meyer quite a few times in the Northampton militia.  There are two distinct men.  The first is a captain and unlikely to be my ancestor.  The other is a private and a much more likely candidate.  The towns from which men were called are generally known, and the private William Meyer was drawn from Lynn.

Name Bn. Co. Town Rank Class Date Notes p.
William Mayer 3rd 1st Lynn private 4th 1778 muster roll 228
W'm Moyer 6th 1st Lynn private 4th 1780 Oct 26 muster roll 443
William Meyer 6th 5th1 Heidelberg private 1780 pay roll 459
William Meyer 6th 1st2 Lynn private 4th 1782 Jul 27 willing to march 499
William Meyer 6th 1st3 Lynn private 4th 1782 Jul 27 muster roll 501
Will'm Meyer 6th 1st Lynn private 4th 1782 muster roll 503
  1. William is mentioned as being on the "pay roll of Capt. Conrad Reders company on the frontiers ag't the Indians being the 6th Battalion of Northampton Co. Militia."  Captain Reader was in charge of the 5th Company, drawn from Heidelberg.  This is despite William being on the muster roll of the 1st Company under Captain Adam Stahler, out of Lynn, that same year.
  2. William is "willing" to march with "Capt. Staler Companiey" (Stahler being in charge of 1st Company).  The list also notes, "For Captain to march is Henry Greeklow. Lynn Township."
  3. William is on a list of those mustered in Captain Henry Kregloh's Company in the 4th class of the 6th Battalion.  Kregloh is certainly the same as Greeklow, above. A note under the list says, "Penn Township, 28th September 1782, then mustered the above Company."  Under the column "Substitutes" is listed William Krämer.
Because men older than 53 were not called upon to serve, this helps further bound William's date of birth, putting it no earlier than 1729.

Final Caution
I've pulled all these records together and talked about them as though they all refer to the same man. This is certainly possible.  But it is also possible that the lives of two or more William Meyers are reflected above.  It pays to be cognizant of others nearby who could be getting mixed up.

For starters, there was another William Meyer living in Penn Township, just north of Lynn.  He is in the septennial census in 1786 and 1800. and in the tax records for 17731779, and 1784.  He's also in the Federal census in 1790, but had apparently moved on by 1800.  I think it's possible that this might also be Captain William Meyer, previously mentioned, in charge of the 2nd Company of the 3rd/6th Battalions of the Northampton Militia, drawn from Penn Township.

And while it appears that, just before the turn of the 19th century, there was a single William Meyer living in Lynn, the case might have been different in the 1760s.  There could have been two—one who fathered my ancestor Johann Peter, and one who fathered Johannes, Susanna, and Andreas.  Certainly there is some evidence for that: different churches, possibly overlapping dates, and a wife named Elisabeth vs. Barbara Elisabeth.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Joseph Fishbaugh of Hunterdon County, NJ

Sometimes I like to pick an ancestor I haven't put much thought into and delve as deeply as I can over the course of a few days.  Even the low-hanging fruit on the Internet can help to characterize an ancestor or open additional leads.  At the very least it helps me pull a bunch of links together into one convenient spot.

Joseph (originally Jost) Fishbaugh was my 6th great-grandfather (at least I think he wasthe trail linking us would probably not meet the standards of genealogical proof).  He lived in the area around Alexandria, Hunterdon County, N.J., in the mid-to-late 1700s.  I've seen his years of birth and death listed as 1733 and 1772, respectively, but I don't know the sources for these. They are not inconsistent with other facts about his life (e.g. his children's birth dates).

A New York newspaper extract from 13 August 1771 has the following to say about the location of some of Jost's property being sold:
SEVERAL Farms or Tracts of Land, situate in the County of Hunterdon, in the Western Division of New Jersey, being Part of a large Tract of Land known by the Name of the Society Great Tract.... 
No. 80. In possession of Peter Bloome, containing 209 and 75 Parts of an Acre, situate in the Township of Alexandria, about 2> Miles from the River Delaware, and 3 from Alexandria; 100 Acres cleared, which is good Wheat-land, 10 Acres of extraordinary good Meadow, and more may easily be made.
No. 83. In possession of Joseph Fishbough, containing 284, and 40 Parts of an Acre, adjoining Peter Bloome's Farm; 100 Acres cleared, which is good Wheat-land, and a sufficient Quantity of Meadow in English Grass.
Here are the transcribed birth records of three of Jost's children, from the parish register of the German Reformed Church of Alexandria.  ("Fishbaugh" is a variation of the original German Fischbach, Ferschbach, Forschbach, or the like.)
  • Elisabeth, b. 28 April 1763, baptized 2 June 1763, daughter of John Kirschbach & Anna Magd. Schaeffert. Witnesses: Will. Otto and Maria Elis. Dels. [married Paul Jung]
  • Anna, b. 21 June 1767, baptized 8 July 1767, daughter of Just Fwischbach and A. Magdalena. Witnesses: Paul Enders and Gertraut Firschbaehin.
  • Matteis, b. 15 October 1770, baptized 14 January 1771, son of Jost Forschbach and Anna Magdalena. Witnesses: Theis Schmid and Eva Jung.
I included all other mentions of the surname in the Alexandria parish register below the fold at the end of this post.

Other probable children of Jost include my 5th great-grandfather William Fishbaugh (married Sarah Ferrels); Sarah Fishbaugh (wife of Peter Lerch), Peter Fishbaugh, and Joseph Fishbaugh.  Gertraud Firschbach was a witness at Jost's daughter Anna's baptism, and it's difficult to see how she could have also been Jost's daughter, unless he is older than supposed.  Perhaps a sister?

Jost was supposedly an immigrant from Germany, but finding out exactly where is difficult across such vast time periods.  To complicate things, there was apparently a different Jost Fischbach living in Heidelberg, Berks County, Pa., married to Eva Catherine Elick [hereherehere].  To my knowledge, there were just the two Josts living around that time in that general area.  I believe I found both of them between two different lists of imported foreigners:
  • Jost Fischbach on the ship Halifax; Capt. Thomas Coatam; from Rotterdam, last from Cowes, England; Qualified 28 Sep 1753. (age 20)
  • Jost Ferschbach on the ship Two Brothers, Capt. Thomas Arnot; from Rotterdam, last from Cowes, England; Qualified 15 Sep 1752.
Two bits of information can help in sorting these men out.  First, the Heidelberg Jost was born 1 February 1734, which matches very closely with an age of 20 in 1753.  Second, the Alexandria Jost and his kin almost always had an "r" in their names in the parish register, while the Heidelberg Jost seemed to go without.  So the most likely scenario is that Jost Ferschbach on the Two Brothers is my ancestor.  (Incidentally, I may have found the Heidelberg Jost's birth record, based on dates.  He was christened in Feudingen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany).

Relative distribution of
"Fischbach" via Geogen
A great way to locate the potential origins of various surnames is to search for their frequency in living populations.  High relative concentrations of a certain surname could indicate places where your ancestor came from.  "Fischbach" is most highly concentrated in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Hesse.  There are spikes in four places: Altenkirchen and Siegen-WittgensteinRhein-LahnBitburg-Prüm, and Werra-Meißner-Kreis.  One thing all those regions have in common is a town named "Fischbach":
So the name Fischbach originated with residents of various towns called Fischbach.  The towns in turn were all named after nearby brooks and streams.  The Anglicization "Fishbaugh" is a literal translation of the German "Fischbach"; they both mean "fish stream."

As I mentioned earlier, though, Jost's surname probably had an "r" in it.  The first vowel is unclear. The parish records most commonly used an "i," but the earlier records especially sometimes used a "u" or an "o."  This may all be moot since people in those days weren't terribly concerned about the spelling of things and may have used all three interchangeably.

The "Forschbach" spelling is the most common of all these, and its frequency peaks a bit west of "Fischbach," in a smallish rectangle including Rhein-Erft-KreisKölnRheinisch-Bergischer Kreis, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, and Bonn.  There is a town in the center of the rectangle called Forsbach, which is probably the origin of the name.  I don't know if Fischbach and Forsbach are etymologically related.

One last thing to note while searching for Jost's birth record back in Germany: his father's name could have been Matthias.  It was common at the time to name first-born sons after the paternal grandfather. The two sons of Jost I have identified (William and Matthias) both named their eldest sons Matthias.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Another immigrant's origin found!

It's fairly rare (in my experience) for a genealogist to make an "Ah ha!" discovery.  The kind that helps break through a brick wall.  I made one yesterday.

Every now and then I idly search Google for names in my family tree and seeing if anything pops up.  Yesterday I was searching for Gideon Moyer, an x-great uncle, specifically because his name is so rare.  One of the hits that instantly jumped out at me was from Google Books: Lebensbild aus dem Pennsylvanisch-Deutschen Predïgerstand.  It is a transcription (in German) of William Helffrich's journal as a pastor in the Lehigh Valley.  It has quite a few direct references to the Moyer clan, making it indispensable.  I made a few discoveries as I searched through it, but one made my heart race.

My 3rd great grandmother, Catherine Gerard (also spelled Girard or Gernard)--wife of Peter Moyer--came to America with her mother when she was a girl, and had to work as an indentured servant for years to earn their freedom.  I had established, from several sources, that she was born in Württemberg, but one of my main genealogical goals is to trace my ancestors back to specific European cities.  This is very hard.  And yet, there in Helffrich's journal, the city of Catherine's origin could not have been more exactly pinpointed.  Here is the original text:
Am 4. April beerdigte ich Mutter Peter Moyer in Lynn; sie war am 30. April 1804 in Sengach, Maulbronn, Württemberg, Europa, geboren. Mutter Moyer war ein Muster von einer christlichen Hausfrau und so lange ihr Gatte lebte, war ihr Haus mein stetes Absteigequartier, wo ich immer mit Liebe und Zuvorkommen aufs freundlichste eingeladen und aufgenommen wurde. 
And here is a pretty reasonable Google translation:
On 4 April [1876] I buried mother in Lynn Peter Moyer, it was on 30 April 1804 in Sengach, Maulbronn, Württemberg, Europe was born. Moyer mother was a model of a Christian housewife and her husband lived for so long, their home was my steady flophouse district, where I was always received with love and courtesy in the friendliest and invited.
Not sure about that "flophouse" part, but overall that paints a very nice picture of Catherine and her husband.  And she was born in Sengach, Maulbronn, Württemberg.  Maulbronn was easy to locate, but I had distinct trouble finding Sengach, meaning it was either an outdated name or a tiny hamlet.  It turned out to be the second.

I managed to find it listed on a weather site, with coordinates included.  It is right next door to Maulbronn, so I have high confidence that it is the right place.

Now I have a place to start looking in German parish records.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Time to get serious about DNA relatives

DNA tests are one of the most recent tools to aid researchers in the field of genealogy.  My own belief is that it will become increasingly (in fact, exponentially) more effective and important as the technology becomes cheaper and more widespread.  But even today, many casual DNA genealogists stop short of making truly effective use of their results.  To do so, you and your match must compare chromosomes and attempt to triangulate your matching segment with a third party.  Otherwise you are just guessing, and that's not good genealogy.

I was first introduced to this concept via a cute comic strip.  The crux of the problem is that people may share more than one line of genetic descent.  If Alice and Bob are related, a DNA test will show that.  But the relationship may be complicated: they can have multiple shared ancestors.  Many combinations are possible.  What's more, Alice and Bob may know of one shared ancestor, but their DNA connection might be through an ancestor that is unknown to one or both of them!

Congratulations, you found a DNA match.
You still haven't proved anything.
23andMe and Family Tree DNA both provide chromosome browsers to see where your genome connects to your matches.  However, neither provides a utility to triangulate segments, and both let you compare only a few matches at a time.  My solution was to meticulously download all the matching segment data into an Excel spreadsheet and do my own comparisons.  This works but it seems unnecessary in the 21st century.  Both companies should be doing this automatically and grouping matches together by shared segment.
  An example of shared segments in
  FTDNA's chromosome browser
The much newer AncestryDNA service is even worse in this regard.  It does not (yet) provide even a rudimentary chromosome browser.  I have taken to basically begging my Ancestry matches to download their raw data and email it to me so I can compare it using an excellent utility by David Pike.  I then use another tool, the Rutgers Map Interpolator, to determine a degree of relatedness (i.e. a centiMorgan measurement).

There exists a fantastic third-party website called GEDMatch that aims to make all this easier.  It accepts raw data from any of the aforementioned services and runs its own comparisons and triangulations.  Unfortunately, as I understand it, the site is run by volunteers on a shoestring budget who are currently swamped by all the incoming data: DNA comparisons are computationally intensive.  The site is not currently accepting new data, but is projected to start again in August.  I encourage everyone to make use of this tool when it becomes available and then to DONATE so they can continue to function.  I'm glad to see that they stepped up where the large companies didn't.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How to use the Hilffrich Records on

Note: In this post I link to an database.  If you want to visit these links, you must be an Ancestry subscriber and logged into the website. is an amazing source of information.  Countless thousands of imaged and transcribed records are there for the browsing.  However, for some of the transcriptions, Ancestry inexplicably stopped short of making them useful.  For me, the prime offender is the Lehigh County, Pennsylvania: Hilffrich Pastoral Records.

Let's use an example to see what the problem is.  Gideon Moyer was my 2nd great grand uncle, and I want to locate his baptism record.  When I search for his name in the Hilffrich records, I get one result that looks promising: Gideon Meier, Baptized, 24 Oct 1824.  That's him!  Most Moyers in this area were once Meyer or Meier.

When I click "View Record", I get a page that displays this information again, but does not include information about his parents or sponsors.  You might think that Ancestry has me covered, because there is a link next to "Other Names Associated with this Event."  But when I click that link, what I get is a hodgepodge of other records with the same surname.  In fact, this new record-set contains every single record in the Lehigh Hilffrich database, in no particular order.  Obviously this is useless.

But there is hope.  It turns out that Ancestry did indeed index these records in order.  They just didn't provide an interface to easily browse them this way.  But it is possible, and the secret lies in the URL of the record.  The URL is just the web address of a page.  It usually starts with "http" and lives somewhere near the top of your browser.

Here is the full URL of that original record we found on Gideon Moyer:|_F00028C2_x%2c_F00027D3|_F00027D3_x%2c_F00027F9|_F00027F9_x&uidh=6hu&pcat=37&fh=1&h=5881&recoff=6+7

It's long and confusing, but I highlighted the relevant piece.  That "h" is a parameter that lists the actual numeric index of the record you are looking at.  Changing the number will let you browse to any record in order.  Let's look at the records immediately before and after this one.

&h=5879 - Peter Meier, Father, Baptism
&h=5880 - Catharina Meier, Mother, Baptism
&h=5882 - Peter Meier, Sponsor, Baptism
&h=5883 - Maria Meier, Sponsor, Baptism

Peter and Catharina are Gideon's parents, and the sponsors, Peter and Maria, are his grandparents.  I never would have been able to glean all this from Ancestry's interface alone.

Hopefully this will help some folks who are struggling with this database the way I was!