Stories from an Expert: Leaving No Stone Unturned

From a previous blog that told the story of Martie, a life-long genealogist, here is just one of her many stories about an adventure she took to learn more about her ancestors.

Martie’s research has been extremely thorough by going through countless records available in the United States as well as online including those that go all the way back to Germany where many of her ancestors are originally from.

One of her biggest ancestor research topics has taken her 30 years to find some answers. This story is pretty involved as it involves a specific search for her great grandparents, Anton and Bertha Boesch. He was from Germany and emigrated to Dayton, Ohio. Since her grandfather died when her father was 10 years old, almost nothing was known of Anton.

According to the Dayton city directories, it seems that Anton was no longer living with his wife in the late 1870’s and then disappeared from the city shortly thereafter. It was said that no one would talk about “the scandal” and his place of birth was lost by the time she began researching the family almost 100 years later. His naturalization papers indicated that he was from Baden, which didn’t seem to be a big place until she began looking at all of the small towns there were in the area.

In the 1860 census, his oldest son was listed as Charles followed by his younger brother and two younger sisters, all born in “Baden”. A fourth child, her grandfather, wasn’t born until 1861.

Turning Over More Stones

Who was Charles? No one had ever mentioned him. For years she searched the 1880 census in Dayton to try and find the rest of the family. Finally, the LDS 1880 Census Index CD’s arrived and she could search for every person and every possible variation of the name Boesch. In the record, she found “Beartha Basch” and two children living with Charles Miller, noted as her son, on a farm in the county. She thought “Great, he changed his name to Miller and now I will never find him and any clues that his information may reveal.”

She trudged through records until she found an index to the Gedenk-Blatter: Sonntags-Beilage zur Daytoner Volks-Zeitung (Sunday Memorial Supplement to the Volks-Zeitung newspaper in Dayton, Ohio). This paper asked families of deceased Germans in the area to send a portrait and an obituary to be printed. Only a few were submitted each week and they did not encompass the entire German community. It listed some of her more distant relatives as having printed obituaries.

Martie does not read German but she was able to utilize some of the free translation web sites to obtain additional basic data. In the record, she also noticed that there were three Charles Mullers listed and thought that she might give them a shot to see if her “Charles Miller” may have an obituary. Even if one was her relative, how was she ever going to know it with such little information about him?

When she got to the library, she photocopied the articles from the microfilm and brought them home. Since time was short, she only copied one of the three obituaries for Charles Muller. When she returned home and started sorting through her information, she was ecstatic to find that the one Charles Muller obituary that she copied referenced his mother, Bertha Bösch, and gave the place of his birth as Mahlberg.

She immediately went to to see if there was a microfilm available for Mahlberg, Baden through the LDS Library. She ordered two films. One was the Catholic Church baptismal records, written in old German script. The other was an “Ortssippenbuch” for the town. An Ortssippenbuch is a lineage book for the area.

With all this new information, she was able to find her great grandparents and ancestors for an additional four generations back. As it turns out, Bertha had been married previously to Apollinar Müller, and Charles had not changed his name. He was actually her great grandfather’s stepson.

Hard Work and Patience Pays Off

While Martie’s story had some complications with changed names, inaccurate census records and a family that really didn’t know a whole lot about the family history, her perseverance of going through a variety of records and looking at alternative solutions paid off. Once she found a vital record in the LDS library, she was able to find hundreds of ancestors in one month in a search that had been going on 30 years.

Serendipitous? Yes. Her advice is to keep turning over all of the stones to see what is there; sometimes it pays off in a BIG way.

The question still remains of what happened to Anton when he left his wife and children. Did he return to Germany or migrate somewhere else in the United States? Guess she needs to turn over some more stones.

Do you have a story like this where you’ve had to dig really deep, turnover a few stones, or look at alternative methods to find out information on your ancestors? Tell us about it in the comments!