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, FamilySearch.org 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 FamilySearch.org 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 (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 )
Author: Katholische Kirche Beindersheim (BA. Frankenthal)
Author: Evangelische Kirche Großniedesheim (BA. Frankenthal)
Germany, Bayern, Großniedesheim - Civil registration ( 1 )
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.