Published November 27, 2017| | Leave A Reply
One of the most profound “good news, bad news” situations of German genealogy is finding an American record that mention a village of origin in the old country.
It’s good news, of course, because so many people searching German roots are stuck with documents that say only “Germany” or the only slightly more helpful “Prussia.”
But it can be bad news when the village name presented has been butchered in some fashion that makes it difficult to find it on the modern-day map.
When I was hosted last month by the Colorado Chapter of Palatines to America, their program chair Jean West took the lead in ferrying me around Denver and oh so casually mentioned that she had been stymied by a tombstone record from Pilgrims Rest Cemetery in West Bend, Wisconsin, that indicated her ancestor Valentin Weber was born in “Echlenwerder, Denmark, Deutschland.”
West has been doing genealogy for a while and is well acquainted with many of the resources and methodologies for clarifying the names of villages of origin.
She knew that “Denmark” was incorrect but couldn’t find “Echlenwerder” anywhere – either on the modern-day map or in the Second German Empire period during which Weber came to America.
Of course, I can’t resist a challenge so I took the documents West supplied and tried to find the village for her.
I knew my first move would be to look at the website MeyersGaz.org, which has taken German genealogy by storm during the last year by giving researchers the text of the leading geographical dictionary Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs, a comprehensive list of every place name in the Second Empire, which was in existence from 1871 to 1918.
A great step forward has been the recent addition of a “Sounds Like” Search feature that can be used when a village name does not come up in traditional search of MeyersGaz.org, especially if the researcher suspects the spelling is phonetic.
The MeyersGaz “Sounds Like” search uses the “Double Metaphone” algorithm, which is a way to index entries phonetically. The “Double Metaphone” was first used in 2000 as an improvement over the original Metaphone to better account for Germanic names.
With the “Sounds Like” feature, I was able to find Eichwerder for West (the “Denmark” on the tombstone was actually “Neumark,” the name of the district in which Eichwerder was found).
In addition to its important for helping identify villages of origin, the catalog of FamilySearch.org places German villages in their Second Empire political jurisdictions for purposes of accessing what is available in the Mormon system.
The free site is the result of more than 20 years of work by Marion Rainey, aided by computer programmer Brad Coleman, and pulls together a lot of information from sources outside Meyers, too. Let’s go step-by-step to show off the features of the new online Meyers.