Genealogy Notes: a recent Germanic Genealogy Society Conference in Minnesota

About 3/8ths of my DNA can be traced to areas on both sides of the Rhein River – within about a 60 mile circle from present day Karlrsruhe. I have traced the contributing ancestors to Alsace, Pfalz, and Baden in the late 1700s. The associated cultures were mostly of Germanic ethnicity. (This includes those ancestors who migrated to Russia in the early 19th century.) Thus, my interest in the local Germanic Genealogy Society in MN.

The purpose of this post is to share a few notes from a conference that I attended on 9/24/2016. These conferences are held periodically by the local GGS organization (www.ggsmn.org). Recent ones have centered on visits by highly skilled historians/researchers that have particular expertise in Germanic Genealogy.

This conference was focused on information provided by Roger Minert (read “Meinert”), who is a prof at BYU.

Roger has just finished assembling information on German census records from 1816-1916. He has been able to provide fresh information that has not been brought to light in the past. He found that most archivists in Germany were not even aware of the fact they had what is normally considered census information. He was, however, able to ferret out considerable sources that describe who lived where and when during the period mentioned. His research results are compiled in a new book, German Census Records from 1816-1916, which is available from Amazon. I think that this is significant new information for genealogical researchers.

Roger also presented an entertaining explanation of how sounds found in the German and English languages can be analyzed to create spelling variants for surnames. Such surnames can be useful in tracking down genealogical information. His related book about this is Spelling variations in German Names: Solving Family History problems Through Applications of German and English Phonetics.

An example name in my ancestry is the name Hydaker (as used in the US), which maps to Heidegger. Using the Heidegger variant has provided lots of information that I would never have found.

Another presentation described suggestions about how to communicate with people and agencies in Europe regarding genealogical information. Lots of this was common sense. He described ways to contact civil records sources as well as church sources.

The last presentation was about “Status in German Society from 1500 to 1800.” Roger emphasized the concept that a person was born into a place in a very rigid class structure. People, especially at the lower end of the structure, found it hard/impossible to move out of the situation that they were born into. These were the most likely to emigrate when the chance arose. Marriages tended to be arranged within the structure. Occupation and status were tightly linked. And, as is the case now, teachers were low in the status hierarchy (in spite of protestations to the contrary). Here is a reference – Culture and daily Life in the Early Modern Era: Village and City, written bu Richard van Dülmen, translated by Roger Minert.

The most important thing that I took from the last presentation is that those of us that have Germanic ancestors likely are descended from people in the lower strata of society. Any attempts to look for “well – connected” ancestors are very likely to fail. Get used to the fact that you are not likely to be descended from nobility! Be suspicious of those who say otherwise, and make sure that there is good evidence.

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