Researching hard-to-find Ancestors

One of the most common reasons that your ancestors are hard-to-find is Record Loss!

War-torn countryside and chaotic living conditions create record loss–who can make the effort to record daily happenings when all around you is in upheaval? And if the government is imprecise and indecisive about whether it is even necessary to record births and deaths, if they are recorded at all, it is due to some parish clerk or local person who wants to keep track of those events.

Let me introduce you to publication of a typed source: Prussian Netzelanders and other German Immigrants in Green Lake, Marquette, and Waushara Counties Wisconsin.  It was compiled by Brian A. Podoll and published in 1994 by Heritage Books, Inc. And it is a treasure.

In researching my own ancestry in Green Lake, Marquette, and Waushara Counties Wisconsin, I discovered a pattern of settlement among German immigrants there. This pattern indicated that the majority originated from the vicinity of the former Prussian kingdom.
When listening to older relatives reminisce or looking over old photographs, it is easy to form a picture of pioneer days in your mind. For these central Wisconsin residents of German ancestry now, some may be surprised to learn that their immigrant forefathers to America weren’t the first in their families to move to a “new frontier.” On behalf of their Prussian homeland, many of these immigrant parents and grandparents staked out their own frontier–on the Polish frontier, that is.

Drawing on his award-winning, previously published  history of the Podoll family, the author sketches a history of Great Poland (Poznan) and Pomerelia. Here the government invited settlers to claim vacant lands, some previously uncultivated to “bolster a sagging farm economy.” Podoll describes the warring armies that criss-crossed the territory sweeping the land clean.

This study includes some informative maps of Wisconsin, Posen, Pomerania, and West Prussia.

And annotated lists! Immigrants to Wisconsin from specific places and locales. Each entry sourced. With spellings taken from the records themselves and corrected where possible by research. Pages and pages of immigrants:

BOY, Emil Carl Leopold. b. “Danzig (a county seat, Prussia, Germany.” marr. Justine Palmer at Crystal Lake, 19 November 1869/ Vol. 2a, p. 5.

There is a copy of this interesting and valuable book at the Family History Library (977.55 F2P) which you can request be scanned into digital format for searching. Or you can check WorldCAT to locate the copy nearest you.

If your ancestors come from Great Poland or Pommern, to the United States Mid-West–check this title out for those ancestors or the fore-runners of your family coming to America.

And be sure to check the marriages first! When the original ancestors came to America, they may have married here–even though they knew each other or had lived together before they immigrated. European jurisdictions required permission to marry and part of the clearing process was to determine the economic base of the contracting parties. If they lacked sufficient assets together to support a family, in the eyes of the government, to meet the base income of the law, they were not permitted to marry. One of the motives for immigration was to better their economic base so they could marry.

Remember, there is a lot to learn as you trace your families back in time. The more you know, the more successful you will be. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS There are so many opportunities to learn in genealogy today. Have you checked out the Family History Expos website lately–Live and online streamed events, new take-you-by-the-hand research guides with accompanying dvd’s of live presentations, and much more. There is no need to research alone or in the dark. Not in 2016.


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