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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Good and the Bad of Names, Dates and Places -- Part Four Places

In this series of posts about names, dates and places, I am finally to the really controversial and most difficult of all of these considerations. If names and dates have some issues, they are a like minor neighborhood battles and places are like World War III. The main reason is that if a name or date is wrong, it is just wrong. Variations in names and dates are usually understandable. Adding places to the mix opens up a whole world of controversy.

Let me start with the accepted genealogical rule on place names: they are to be recorded as they were at the time the event in question occurred. Well, that seems simple enough, doesn't it. Maybe I should just end this post with that statement and avoid all the controversy? Hmm. That wouldn't be very much like me would it?

Here I go, I'll bite the bullet and dive into the deep end (mixed metaphor warning: if these drive you crazy, you will probably be well over the edge by the time I am through). Let's get started with a list of possible alternative ways of recording places taken from Family Group Sheets. By the way, has 5,337,178 old family group records digitized in the "Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969." This is a wonderful way to see a lot of messed up information lacking sources. No, really. These sheets are valuable and do have some helpful information that was not necessarily preserved as the names were transferred into various online family trees. Here are some examples of place names. I was going to hold a contest to see if anyone could actually identify the places from the entries on the Family Group Records (Sheets or whatever), but I decided the point would have already made. Here is the list:
  • of Wimboldsley, Middlewich, Chshr, Engl
  • of Middlewich, Chshr, Engl
  • of Over, Chshr, Engl
  • of Frodsham, Ches.,Eng.
  • Overton Frodsham, Ches. Eng.
  • of Montgomery Co., Va.
  • Elliston, Montgomery, Va.
  • of Highland Co., Ohio
  • Marshell, Highland, Ohio
  • Clovis, Curry, N. Mex.
  • of Grossniedesheim, Pfalz, Bvr
The list could go on and on. By the way, none of these abbreviations were due to lack of space on the form. It always looked to me like these folks were being charged per character for filling in the forms. I picked one of these place at random from the 5+ million records and decided to look it up. The last one on my list above is recorded as "of Grossniedesheim, Pfalz, Bvr." The associated date is 1844. Let's see if that works out?

A first quick check in Wikipedia gives us the following: Großniedesheim is a municipality in the Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. By the way, the coordinates are 49°35′N 8°19′E. So why do we care? The real question is where are the genealogically pertinent records? This is where the municipality is today, where was it located in 1844? The rule is that genealogically pertinent records are created at or near the place where the event occurred depending on the jurisdiction in which the event was located. Records pile up like pancakes in layers depending on the time the event occurred. For example, there may be local, district or county, township, state and national records created at any given time depending on the event. Military records may be kept on a national basis. Church records may be kept in the administrative division of the church. Tax records may be kept by the taxing authority and so forth.

Let's go a little further. The Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis is a district (Kreis) in the east of Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The district was created in 1886 under the name Bezirksamt Ludwigshafen, one of the last acts of king Ludwig II of Bavaria. See Wikipedia. Hmm. So in 1844 this place did not exist as it is today. By the way, the word "Kreis" means district in German. Oh, actually it also means "circle" but is used for district. The German words for "district" are Bezirk, Kreis, Stadtteil, Viertel, Gegend, Gebiet, Gau, Teil, Quartier, Revier and Stadtviertel. Let's go a little further with this discussion.

The Rhineland-Platinate is one of the 16 states of the Federal Republic of Germany. See Wikipedia. This state was created in 1946. So we can pretty much appreciate the fact that records created in 1844 or there abouts might be a lot of places.

Before going on. Remember, our genealogist recorded this place as "of Grossniedesheim, Pfalz, Bvr," so we don't even know, at this point, if the event of 1844 took place in this location or somewhere else. The individual ancestor may have moved to this location later in life and was actually born in a completely different place. When the place was recorded as "of..." such and such, what did that mean? Well, we don't really know. If there is no source noted on the Family Group Record, we have to guess as to how the genealogist associated this person with this location.

But my point is that the location may or may not exist or at least, may not have existed at the time recorded for the event. So how am I supposed to find the record that produced the date? Hmm. Well, in this particular case, the genealogist was well above average and noted the following:

Evangelical Luth Ch Rec of Grossniedesheim, Pfalz, Bvr (GS ser no 26214 pt 2)

Hurray, a source citation. A quick check in the FamilySearch Library Catalog to see if there is a film number shows that the number is not from Germany, it is the Annual Genealogical Form from Nibley Ward, Utah. So let's look in the Catalog and see if there is still such a record.

Searching in Catalog for Bavaria gives me the following: See Germany, Bayem. I can then look for places inside of Germany, Bayem and there are probably 500 or so places listed and here is part of the list for places called "Pfalz."
  • Pfalz
  • Pfalz (Kurfürstentum)
  • Pfalz-Neuburg (Herzogtum)
  • Pfalz-Zweibrücken (Fürstentum)
OK, so now I am completely lost. So I will go back and see if there is anything for "Grossniedesheim" and skip all the other stuff. Now we are getting someplace. the FamilySearch Catalog has a place called "Germany, Bayern, Großniedesheim." Here are the records listed

Germany, Bayern, Großniedesheim - Church records ( 2 )

Kirchenbuch, 1700-1954
Author: Katholische Kirche Beindersheim (BA. Frankenthal)

Kirchenbuch, 1709-1936
Author: Evangelische Kirche Großniedesheim (BA. Frankenthal)

Germany, Bayern, Großniedesheim - Civil registration ( 1 )

Zivilstandsregister, 1807-1824
Author: Großniedesheim (Bayern). Standesamt

The church book records cover the time period and one of the records is for the Evangelical Lutheran Church. By the way, FamilySearch records the place as Manuskripten im Protestantischen Landeskirchenarchiv der Pfalz, Speyer, Bayern, Deutschland. Guess what? The records are of confirmations and deaths. The date recorded was for a birth. 

You can see why this is a series. I will continue this particular discussion in the next installment. 


  1. In understanding the old Archive Sheets, it helps to know what instructions were given at the time to the people filling them out. Over the years, I have been able to get a good collection of books containing these instructions by searching for them at thrift stores in Utah. These are the books published by the LDS Church (or GSU or DeseretBook) during the 1940s-1970s on the topic of genealogy.

    1. I relate to what you are doing. I also have a collection of the old and older lesson books and reference books. Thanks for the comment.

  2. The number you found on the German Archive Sheet looks like it was a Red Number (red numbers were the numbering system used by GSU immediately prior to their present system) -- for a number of years, microfilm boxes at the FHL had the new numbers in black ink and the old numbers in red ink. Hence the term "Red Number". The FHLC on the old DOS version of FamilySearch had a utility to convert Red Numbers to modern numbers, but that utility is now lost.

    1. That could certainly be true. Thanks for the explanation.

  3. When I look at Archive Sheets, I determine whether there are initials typed somewhere near the name of the person who submitted the group sheet. When they are there, I know that a professional genealogist employed by the old Research Division of GSU did the research. The case files of the Research Division were microfilmed when the division was shut down, and so it is possible to see all of the working papers of the genealogist who did the research on the group sheet in question. On research I did for a client in the early 2000s, I found microfilm copies of original letters written in the 1930s between my client's grandmother (living in Utah at the time) and her parents (still living then in England). Presumably, my client's grandmother gave the one and only copies of those letters to GSU when the GSU genealogist did research back in the 1940s. My client was thrilled to get them.

    1. Thanks for the extremely good information. There is always a way to get more information.

  4. Location and location names can also have an effect on us living today. All my ancestors came from Germany. My wife's from Denmark. I have a sign in my garage that states "Being married to a Dane builds character." Recently I discovered that a great grandfather was born in part of Schleswig-Holstein while it was part of Denmark. Now I have to deal with the fact that my six children are more Danish than German!

  5. I’ve run across the old film numbers before. By googling “family history library old film numbers,” you can find conversion tables here:

    “26214 pt 2” converts to 0193874 which in the catalog is:

    Kirchenbuch, 1709-1936
    Authors: Evangelische Kirche Großniedesheim (BA. Frankenthal) (Main Author)
    Format: Manuscript/Manuscript on Film
    Language: German
    Publication: Salt Lake City, Utah : Gefilmt durch The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1958, 1986, 1990
    Physical: auf 4 Mikrofilmrollen ; 35 mm.
    Mikrofilme aufgenommen von Manuskripten im Protestantischen Landeskirchenarchiv der Pfalz, Speyer, Bayern, Deutschland.
    Baptisms, marriages, deaths, confirmations, and communicant records of the Protestant Church of Großniedesheim, Bayern, Germany. Includes records from Kleinniedesheim. Each volume has a table of contents. There are gaps in the records.

    Film 0193874 specifically is “Taufen, Heiraten, Tote 1839-1873.”

    1. I learn something every day. Thanks so much for this explanation.

  6. I attempted to view these records but it told me I had to sign in as a supporting organization. I tried signing in with you FamilySearch username and password but then it to me the image was not available. Is this just for Church members? I would love to view these images. You never know what you can find in these type records. Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Any one can use's Historical Record Collections for free. It is not necessary to register to use the collections. To view some of the images it does require a free registration. I don't know what other images you are referring to.

    2. I am attempting to view images on the "Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section, 1942-1969". When I try to view an image when not logged on I get the message "This image is viewable to signed in members of supporting organizations". When I am logged in using my free login I get the message "Image not available" when I try to view an image. There may be something wrong with the collection at this particular time. I have not had this problem on any other records. Thanks for the help.

    3. OK, now I see the issue. Yes, if you click on the link that says "Learn More" about the collection, you will see the following statement. "Whenever possible, FamilySearch makes images available for all users. However, ultimate rights to view images on our website are granted by the record custodians. The Family Group Records Collection, Archives Section collection is available only to members of the supporting organization, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Sorry about the misunderstanding. I don't think this is a big issue because if you go to the Search Link for Genealogies, you can search both the Ancestral File and the Pedigree Resource File. The only thing lacking is the actual images.

  7. Great to learn that Red Numbers can still be converted to modern numbers. However, Red Numbers are actually the second scheme used by GSU. Some of the oldest Archive Sheets cite only the oldest numbers. To convert them, I first had to go to the library attendant's window and ask them for a particular book that converted the oldest numbers to Red Numbers. I then went to the DOS FHLC and converted the Red Numbers to the modern numbers. It would make my day to find that the wiki has a conversion table for those oldest numbers. I always had tremendous difficulty in getting the library attendant to find the book. Back when I did research for clients, I lived in fear that the FHL would one day toss out the book, thinking that it no longer had any value. The last time I used it was about ten years ago, so maybe it has been tossed out by now.

    1. Hmm. I really do learn something new every day. I suppose had I thought about it I would probably have predicted that there were layers of numbering systems. Anyone want to claim another layer?