Monday, 7 November 2016

Geogen – a “geographical genealogy” website

Geogen – a “geographical genealogy” website

The free Geogen website ( can be used to create maps showing the distribution of surnames in Germany based on entries in the telephone directory. A large concentration of surnames in a particular area could indicate where the name originated.
Enter the surname of interest in the input field and click the research button. The German special characters (ä, ö and ü) are distinct letters, so Müller, Mueller and Muller must be looked for in separate searches. As well as producing attractive maps that could be a conversation starter, Geogen may provide the clue to allow the researcher to break down some brick walls. Enjoy its use!
An example: my great grandmother Christina E. F. Brohmann was born in a rural area near Eckernförde in Schleswig-Holstein. While I have been able to find baptisms, marriages and burials for her family, I have not been able to go back further than her great grandfather Claus Bromann who was mentioned briefly when his son, Christina’s grandfather, Claus Wilhelm Bromann was baptised in 1792. Searches for other references to the older Claus have been unsuccessful!
Entering the Brohmann name into Geogen revealed the main cluster of people by that name in Altmarkkreis Salzwedel in the Federal State of Saxony-Anhalt with other individuals scattered across Germany. A similar result came when the variation Bromann was used. It could be that some Brohmann/Bromann family members moved to the Salzwedel area years ago in search of work and became established there, or perhaps the roots of my Brohmann/Bromann family might actually be near Salzwedel. Further research is clearly called for.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Using Meyers Orts … has become easier!

Using Meyers Orts … has become easier!

For many years Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon … has been recommended as THE source to go to for information about the location of localities in the pre-World War 1 German Empire, and for details of their jurisdictions. In fact, the entries in the FamilySearch catalog are largely based on those jurisdictions.
Originally available on microfilm or microfiche through FamilySearch, more recently Meyers … has been available in digitised form through Ancestry. However, this valuable resource has remained difficult for many researchers to use because it was printed in the German language in the old German script (Fraktur font) with many abbreviations. 
A new website has become available that makes the use of Meyers Orts … much easier! This is the Meyers Gazetteer website
The name of the place that you are looking for should be entered. Note that it permits the use of wildcards so that it becomes possible to locate places for which only some of the letters are known. A list of place names that fit the supplied information is given and the correct one can be selected.
Let's look at the second Diedenshausen:
The site then shows the relevant extract from Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs- Lexikon … together with a small map showing the approximate location and the significant information extracted and explained.

Clicking on the “Map” tab (above the extract from Meyers…) displays a scalable, historical map.  “Toggle Historical Map” changes between the historical map and a modern Google map and allows the transparency of the historical map to be altered. Protestant and Catholic parishes and Jewish Synagogues can also be displayed on the map.
If a location is the seat of a Protestant or Catholic parish, or a Jewish synagogue, Meyers Orts … indicates that fact; but otherwise no indication of the relevant parish or synagogue is provided. However the Meyers Gazetteer website partly overcomes this problem through the “Ecclesiastical” tab which gives a list of Protestant and Catholic parishes and Jewish Synagogues within 20 miles of the chosen place along with their distance away.
An additional feature allows people to add their email address to those places with which their family was associated. 
The Meyers Gazetteer website is an excellent site to investigate to learn more about the towns and villages of your ancestors.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Hamburg emigration lists

The Hamburg emigration lists
Bremen and Hamburg were the main German ports through which 19th and early 20th century emigrants left for new lives in the Americas, Africa and Australia and New Zealand. The authorities in Hamburg compiled lists of the emigrants who departed from that port and these cover the years 1850-1934 but with a gap of 1915-1919 because of World War 1. On the other hand, most equivalent lists from the port of Bremen were destroyed. makes the claim that “The lists include approximately 5 million records of individuals, approximately 80% of whom were destined for the United States. Ca. 475,000 traveled to South America, ca. 214,000 to Canada, ca. 100,000 to Africa, ca. 54,000 to Australia, and ca. 10,000 to Asian countries.”

Voyages from Hamburg were either direct or indirect. Direct voyages took the emigrants from Hamburg to their destination (possibly with visits to intermediate ports) whereas indirect voyages took the emigrants to another port (usually in Britain, sometimes in France, Netherlands or Belgium) where they transferred to another vessel that then took them to their destination. From 1855 to 1910, emigrants travelling directly and indirectly were recorded in separate sets of lists.

On arrival at their destination immigrants’ details were usually recorded again. Obviously differences can be expected between the departure and arrival lists because of deaths and births that occurred during the voyage. Where both lists are available it is always useful to check both.

From 1850 to 1854 emigrants were listed on separate pages depending on the first letter of their surname. The following shows a section of the page for surnames beginning with ‘D’ from the year 1851. This shows entries for voyages 59 and 60 – the Hamburg ships Florentin, Captain Lofgren to New York, and the Helene, Captain Andresen, to Port Adelaide. The entries show the information typically available for this period during which usually only the head of the family was named along with his or her occupation or station.
1851 Helen D.JPG
When transcribed, the entries are easier to read [Schlosser = locksmith or mechanic or tinker; Landm (Landmann) = rural worker; Fr (Frau) = wife; Kinder = children] :

Name d. Schiffes
(Name of Ship)
Datum d. Abgang
(Date of departure)
Davidsohn Marcus
mit Fr u. Kind
New York
Dankel Chr.
und Frau
Port Adelaide
19 Aug
Döcke Peter
Döcke Andr.
Dallwitz Joh.
mit Fr. u. 5 Kinder

From 1855 emigrants were listed by ship, probably in the order in which they arrived at the ship. Individual family members were listed separately. This example, showing some families on the Fritz Reuter, which departed Hamburg 4 Oct 1878 bound for Brisbane, illustrates the sort of information available on these lists:
1878 Fritz Reuter headings.JPG
The headings on the columns are:
Nr. (Number)
Die zu einer Familie gehörenden Personen sind unter einander zu notieren und durch eine Klammer als zusammengehörig zu bezeichnen. (The persons belonging to a family are to be recorded one under another and denoted as belonging together by a bracket.)
1. Nachname   2. Vorname  (Surname  Given name)
3. Geschlecht männlich weiblich  (Sex male female)
4. Alter (Age)
5. Bisherige Wohnort (Former residence)
6. Im Staate oder in der Provinz (In the state or province)
7. Bisherige Stand oder Beruf (Former station or occupation)
8. Ziel der Auswanderung, Ort und Land (Destination of emigration, city and country)
9. Zahl der Personen (Number of persons)
Davon sind (Of whom are)
10. Erwachsene und Kinder über 10 Jahre (adults and children over 10 years)
Kinder (Children)
11. unter 10 Jahre (under 10 years)
12. unter 1 Jahr (under 1 year)

A little further down this page are two families:
1878 Fritz Reuter.JPG

When transcribed, the entries are easier to read:
11 HANSEN Peter W. m 31 Hadersleben Schleswig Landmann
12 HANSEN Catharina f 28 Hadersleben Schleswig Frau
13 HANSEN Waldemar m 4 Hadersleben Schleswig Sohn
14 HANSEN Josephine f Hadersleben Schleswig Tochter
15 LAUSSEN Carl m 8 Hadersleben Schleswig Stiefsohn
16 ERICKSEN Martin m 24¾ Hadersleben Schleswig Landmann
17 ERICKSEN Anna f 18 Hadersleben Schleswig Frau
(Landmann = rural worker; Frau = wife; Sohn = son; Tochter = daughter; Stiefsohn = stepson.) The individual members of the Hansen and Ericksen families are listed, along with ages, former place of residence and occupation or station. Note that, unlike the situation in the 1851 list where the town column was headed “Geburtsort” (Birthplace), in the 1878 list the town column was headed “Bisherige Wohnort” (Former residence). Carl Laussen is identified as a stepson (Stiefsohn) of Peter W Hansen.

It would seem that the Hansen and Ericksen families had travelled together from Hadersleben in Schleswig (now Haderslev in Sønderjylland or South Jutland in Denmark). Having two families arriving together from the same town suggests that there could be some relationship between the two and that is an aspect that could be investigated. It is always worthwhile looking for other families and individuals from the same village or district in case some relationship exists.

Although a high proportion of the emigrants were from the German states, there were many from surrounding countries such as Switzerland, Italy, Scandinavia, Russia, and even some from Britain.

The direct lists for emigrant vessels that left Hamburg between 1850 and 1879 for ports in Australia and New Zealand have been transcribed and indexed by Eric and Rosemary Kopittke and published by Queensland Family History Society Inc. See
More generally, microfilm copies of all of the lists are available through FamilySearch and may be hired and viewed at any of their Family History Centres. See has digitised all of the lists of emigrants for 1850 - 1914 and 1920 - 1934 and there is an index covering 1850 - 1914 and 1920 - 1923. See Remember, however, that in any list or index, names might not be recorded with the spelling that we might expect, so if the family does not seem to be there, try searching with alternative spellings.

It can be seen that there is a wealth of information available for the researcher, especially from 1855 onwards. Because it is not uncommon to find misspellings of or errors in the names of places of origin in documents from Australia, New Zealand or the Americas, in many cases the Hamburg emigration list can be used to identify an ancestor’s birthplace.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Handouts for presentations from UTP Cruises 10 and 11

Two wonderful Unlock the Past cruises have finished. The first was aboard Celebrity Solstice from Auckland in New Zealand to Fremantle in Australia while the second was aboard Legend of the Seas from Brisbane to Cairns and the Barrier Reef and back.

As well as enjoying the cruising experience, participants had the opportunity to listen to a number of presentations on assorted genealogical topics. The lists below show the topics that I covered on each cruise.

UTP Cruise 10: Auckland – Fremantle cruise

UTP Cruise 11: Barrier Reef cruise

Click on the links above to download the relevant handout.