Tuesday, October 25, 2016

SUCCESS!!! Finding My Immigrant Family in German Church Records!

Finding the village your ancestors came from is, in my understanding, the hardest part of tracing your family back to Germany and the associated countries. Even discovering the name of the village isn't enough. There are often many villages (and other places) with the same name with many spelling variations.

Just recently, I determined that my Peters ancestors most likely came from Bellin in present-day Mecklenburg-Schwerin. To know conclusively, I needed to find records in this small village. I ordered the kirchenbuch - or church book - records which had been microfilmed by FamilySearch. The film came in this weekend, and I was able to view the microfilm yesterday.

 Church in Bellin, disctrict Güstrow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

The first section on the film was the "taufen" or baptisms. I started by looking for the parents: Joachim Peters, born about 1814, and Henrietta Bingher, born in 1817. Disappointingly, they weren't there.

Next, I searched for the baptisms of their six children who were believed to be born in Bellin. Louise, born in 1843, was the oldest. But, she wasn't listed, either.

I continued to search each page for not only the known Peters children, but also any children with the Peters or Bingher surname. I wasn't finding anything. 

As I searched through the years when each child was born, my disappointment grew.

Eckard in 1845? Not there.

Carl in 1847? Not there.

Wilhelm in 1850? Not there.

Heinrich in 1852? Not there, either.

After searching for the parents and five oldest children, I had found absolutely nothing. I was daydreaming about hiring a German researcher to help me "cross the pond." But, then I came to the year 1854 when the couple's sixth child, Friedchen, had been born. And there, in the column for the father, I saw her father's name. I had found my family in Germany!

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 154, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993. Cropped.

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 154, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993.

This first page not only gave me Freidchen's exact date of birth and baptism, but also both of her parents' full names. It also shows her mother's maiden name as Bünger, not Bingher as we had in our records. And, before the word "Bellin" in the column of her father's name, is a word I need translated. I'm not sure what this means yet, but it could be important!

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 155, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993. Cropped

Evangelisch Kirche [Evangelical Church] Bellin, Kirchenbuch [Church Book], 1650-1873, page 155, item 10, taufen [baptism] of Friedchen Elise Johanna Peters; FamilySearch mircofilm #68993.

The second page shows Friedchen's full name: Friedchen Elise Johanna [Peters]. It also lists her three sponsors, two of whom appear to be relatives: Elise Peters and Johann Bünger. There are also additional words on this page which need translated and might prove helpful.

So, I've done it! I have found my Peters family in their German village! I'm thrilled! I even shared my news with the two librarians who were working and they celebrated with me!

Was Friedchen's baptism the only record I found in the church book? I'll save that information for another post...

P.S. If anyone can help with translating a few German words, I'd really appreciate it!

Do we have ancestors in common? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Where Did They Come From? (An Immigrant Family's Story, Part 7)

My Grand Aunt Beulah, who did genealogy research for many years, has "Gustrow, Mecklenburg" as the place of birth of our Peters ancestors. However, the Hamburg passenger list, which I doubt she ever saw, says the family was from Bellin, Mecklenburg. To find church records, which are very important in German research, we need to know exactly where they lived.

Meyers Gazetteer is a wonderful tool for locating places in present day Germany. At their website, I typed "Bellin" in the search box and got 5 results for "Bellin." Filtering for the region of "Mecklenburg-Schwerin narrowed the results to only one.


From the search results page, clicking on "Bellin" gives an informational page which is partially shown below.  

The "detail" section gives more information. One important note on Bellin's page is that it only has one church - an evangelisch Pfarrkirche - or Protestant parish church.

Clicking on the modern day map links you to an incredible historical map! Unfortunately, I cannot share it, but you can view it by clicking here. It shows both the small village of Bellin, and also the nearby city of Gustrow which is only 6 miles away!

Map of Mecklenburg (from Wikipedia). Gustrow is one of the major cities shown, which helps to explain why my ancestors might have said they were "from Gustrow" when they actually had lived in the small, nearby village of Bellin.
My theory is that the Peters family said they were "from Gustrow" in much the same way we say we are "from Houston" when we actually live in a suburb. People might know where Gustrow was located who wouldn't have a clue as to where Bellin was located.

 Church in Bellin, disctrict Güstrow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany
Church records are really useful in German research, so I have ordered Family Searches' micofilm number 68993 which contains the Evangelical Church records for Bellin. The register includes baptisms (1650-1732), marriages (1738-1873), burials (1738-1873), and confirmations (1835-1873)." I'm disappointed that the baptisms do not continue until 1873, but I hope to find records of my Peters family in the other three sections. Finding them would confirm that I have made that wonderful "leap" back to my ancestors' village!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Learning From the Hamburg Passenger List (An Immigrant Family's Story, Part 6)

I've discussed my Peters' family 1859 New York passenger list, but what additional information does their Hamburg passenger list tell us?

1859 New York Passenger List

"New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1897," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2016), entry for Joach. Peters and family, line 16, aboard Bavaria, Hamburg to Southampton to New York City, leaving Southampton 18 June 1859; citing microfilm M237, roll 193.

1859 Hamburg Passenger List

"Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2016), entry for Joach. Peters and family, line 50, aboard Bavaria, Hamburg to Southampton to New York City, arriving New York 2 July 1859; citing microfilm K_1707.

Hamburg Column Headings [Translated to English]

Using Family Search's "Hamburg Passenger List Terminology" and Google Translate, I was able to translate the column headings and most of the written words. The columns were as follows:
  1. surname and given name
  2. birthplace & place of residence
  3. country
  4. occupation
  5. age
  6. males
  7. females
  8. total 
  9. adults & children over 8 years
  10. children under 8 years old
  11. children under 1 year old 


The Hamburg list gives us the following information about the Peters family:
  • Joach Peters, master miller, age 44
  • Henriette, [occupation unreadable], age 36 [Note: her age is 40 on the New York list]
  • Louise, age 14
  • Eckard, age 13
  • Carl, age 10
  • Wilhelm, age 7, occupation: kinder [hard to read, means "child"]
  • Heinr, age 6
  • Friedchen, age 4

  • Joach's occupation is listed as Mühlenmeister, which means "master miller"
  • Henriette's "occupation" was unreadable, though it might refer to the fact she is Joach's wife as it looks similar to the word beside other wives 
  • Carl, my great, great grandfather, is the only family member with a "birthplace & place of residence" and "country" indicated

Although it appears Carl was born in Bellin, Mecklenburg, where did the rest of the family come from? 


Though I have looked at this Hamburg list quite a few times before, I could not figure out why Carl was the only person with a "birthplace" indicated. But, while I studied the list to write this blog post, I discovered something new: two heavy, vertical lines. 

One of these lines is between columns 1 and 2, and the other is between columns 3 and 4. I first noticed the line on the right while working with the "kinder" notation next to Wilhelm. I noticed that each family only had one child listed as "kinder." And then I saw the lines. I realized these lines were like our brackets and indicated that all of the people marked by the line were children!

1859 Hamburg Passenger list with yellow highlights added.
Note: The line probably should have extended to include Joach. Hopefully, additional research will prove this.
Then, I noticed a similar vertical line from Henriette to the youngest child. And, I realized it was showing that all of these family members were born in and had been residing in Bellin, Mecklenburg! What an exciting discovery! 

Of course, I would love to trace my Peters family back to Germany. But, even once you've found a village or town name, actually locating the correct place can be difficult. However, I think I've determined where this Bellin is located. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

An Immigrant Family's Story: The Steamship "Bavaria" and "Between Decks" Passage (Part 5)

In Hamburg on June 14th, 1859, Joachim and Henrietta (Bingher) Peters, my third great grandparents, boarded the steamship Bavaria to start a new life in America. Traveling third class, or “between decks,” they brought with them their six children: Louise (14), Eckard (13), Carl (10), Wilhelm (7), Heinrick (6), and Friedhen or "Freda" (4).

The Ship

According to The Ships List, the Bavaria was built in 1856 as the Petropolis and was a 2,405 gross ton ship. She was 282.1 ft long and had a 39.4 ft beam, which I understand means she was 39.4 feet across at her widest point. She was a "clipper steam" with "one funnel, three masts (rigged for sail), iron construction, single screw and a speed of 10 knots." According to Wikipedia, a clipper “was a very fast sailing ship of the middle third of the 19th century,” while a steam clipper “had auxiliary steam engines which could be used in the absence of wind.” 

Silhouette of the Bavaria created by Jon R Stewart

When the Peters family boarded the Bavaria, she was part of the Hamburg-American Line. She was designed to hold many more passengers than she carried on that trip. Although she was designed to carry 310 third class, or "between decks" passengers, she was only carrying 257. The cabin passengers were even less filled with the second class carrying only 42 of a possible 136 passengers, and the first class carrying only 7 of a possible 50 passengers.

Between Decks (aka 'Tween Decks, Third Class Passage, or Steerage)

Image from Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851, seen on Smithsonian site with credits to the Mariners' Museum

Although nothing specific has been found about the conditions the Peters family faces on board the Bavaria, the Smithsonian's American History website has an “On the Water” page which describes travel during the 19th century: "Most [immigrants] crossed in the steerage area, below decks. Conditions varied from ship to ship, but steerage was normally crowded, dark, and damp. Limited sanitation and stormy seas often combined to make it dirty and foul-smelling, too. Rats, insects, and disease were common problems." The site goes on to say, "Rich or poor, many travelers alternated between anxiety and boredom on long ocean crossings, depending on the weather."

Another section of the "On the Water" site describes the conditions in steerage in more detail: "Steerage passengers slept, ate, and socialized in the same spaces. They brought their own bedding. Although food was provided, passengers had to cook it themselves. On rough crossings, steerage passengers often had little time in the fresh air on the upper deck. If passengers didn’t fill steerage, the space often held cargo." From the previously discussed New York Times article, we know that the Bavaria was carrying merchandise. 

Burned at Sea

As told in the following two newspaper accounts, the Bavaria departed New Orleans for Liverpool in early 1877. Along with her crew and passengers, she was also carrying cotton, seed cotton, and barrels of resin valued at half a million dollars.

Sadly, on February 6th, 1877, amidst a heavy sea and a northeast gale, she caught fire "fore and aft." The passengers and crew boarded the ship's boats and were saved by the bark Dorothy Thompson. Nineteen hours later, the survivors were back on dry land at Beaufort, South Carolina. No lives were lost, but the Bavaria and her half a million dollars of cargo were burned at sea.

Perils of the Sea, The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, Louisiana, 11 February 1877, page 4, column 5, 
digital image, newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 October 2016).
Burned at Sea, The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio, 11 February 1877, page 4, column 6, 
digital image, newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 10 October 2016).

Monday, October 10, 2016

An Immigrant Family's Story: A Custom Map (Part 4)

As I continue to share the story of my Peters ancestors' 1859 immigration, today I'm sharing a map my dad made using Microsoft Digital Image Suite 2006 Editor. In a post last week, I discussed the various places their steamship, the Bavaria, passed on their journey. The details of the journey were found in a New York Times newspaper. In this post, I am retelling their journey as more of a story. I will continue to add details as I discover them.

Map created by Jon R Stewart

On June 14th, 1859, Joachim and Henrietta Peters boarded the steamship Bavaria in Hamburg with their four sons and two daughters: Louise (14), Eckard (13), Carl (10), Wilhelm (7), Heinrick (6), and Friedchen or "Freda" (4). They first took the short trip to Southampton where they probably stayed a few nights while merchandise was packed on board. Then, four days after leaving Hamburg, the Bavaria set sail for America. Shortly after leaving port, however, they evidently saw the American ship, Sonora, and "signalized" her.

It only took nine days to cross the Atlantic Ocean with "strong westerly winds throughout the passage." At that time, they came in site of Cape Race, Newfoundland who telegraphed New York letting them know the Bavaria had been sighted. "No ice" was seen.

Five days later, at 6 a.m. on the morning of July 2nd, the Bavaria passed Sandy Hook and entered New York Bay. Almost two hours later, she arrived at "The Battery, the 25 acre waterfront park at the tip of Manhattan." [Source: castlegarden.org]

The Peters family had dreamed of America, and now they were here.

[A huge "thank you" to my dad for creating this map! It took many hours of work, and I think it turned out wonderfully!]

The source of the newspaper article: Arrived, The New York Times, New York, New York, 4 July 1859, page 8, column 5, digital image, newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 28 September 2016).

My Line of Descent:
  • Joachim Peters (~1814-~1894) m. Henrietta Bingher (1817-1874)
  • Carl "Charles" Peters (1847-1910) m. Fredericka Werther (1847-1888)
  • Emil Peters (1877-1955) m. Myrtle Mae Coppenbarger (1880-1970)
  • Hazel Peters (1910-1975) m. Edward Stewart (1910-1972), my grandparents

Do we have ancestors in common? I'd love to talk! Please leave a comment or email me at drleeds@sbcglobal.net

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An Immigrant Family's Story: The New York Passenger List (Part 3)

As I continue to share the immigration story of my family, I watched Devon Lee Noel's video tutorial: How To Make Blog Titles. Then, using Photoshop Elements, I created a graphic for this series about immigration. I've tried Photoshop Elements before, and got quite frustrated. But, I'm sure it'll get easier with tutorials and practice!

In my first post, I talked about how to find a newspaper article documenting your ancestor's ship's arrival. And, in my second post, I talked about the various places which were mentioned in my ancestor's article and how they tied in with their trip. In this post, let's go back to the beginning of my research.

When I started genealogy in 1998, my Grand Aunt Beulah shared her files with me. One of the documents she had was the 1859 New York passenger list for our Peters immigrants. That document is now easily accessed on Ancestry.com.

"New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1897," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2016), entry for Joach. Peters and family, line 16, aboard Bavaria, Hamburg to Southampton to New York City, leaving Southampton 18 June 1859; citing microfilm M237, roll 193.
As you can see, the family is listed with their names, ages, sex, and "occupation." The next column indicates they "severely belong" to Germany. And, the final columns says they "intend to become inhabitants" of the United States. The information for the family members is as follows:
  • Joach. Peters, age 45, male, farmer
  • Henriette Peters, age 40, female, his wife
  • Louise Peters, age 14, female, child
  • Eckard Peters, age 13, male, child
  • Carl Peters, age 10, male, child [my great, great grandfather]
  • Wilh. Peters, age 7, male, child
  • Hein. Peters, age 6, male, child
  • Friedchen [sp? she went by "Freda" in the U.S.] Peters, age 4, female, child
There are two more columns on the page. One column is to list those who died on the voyage, though there appear to be no deaths on this crossing. The last column indicates the "part of the vessel occupied by each passenger during the voyage." For my family, this section is labeled "betweendecks." I will share more about "between decks" on another post.

Going back to the first page of this passenger list, the heading gives us more information. In fact, this is where I first learned the name of the ship the Peters family crossed the Atlantic on: the Bavaria.

"New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1897," database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 October 2016), entry for Joach. Peters and family, line 16, aboard Bavaria, Hamburg to Southampton to New York City, leaving Southampton 18 June 1859; citing microfilm M237, roll 193.

District of New York - Port of New York
I, H[?] Taube, Master of the Str Bavaria do solemnly, sincerely and truly swear that the following List or Manifest, subscribed by me, and now delivered by me to the Collector of the Customs of the Collection District of New York, is a full and perfect list of all the passengers taken on board of the said Steamer at Hamburg &Southampton from which port said Steamer has now arrived; and that on said list is truly designated the age, the sex, and the occupation of each of said passengers, the part of the vessel occupied by each during the passage, and also the country of which it is intended by each to become and inhabit; and that said List or Manifest truly sets forth the number of said passengers who have died on said voyage, and the names and ages of those who died.     
H[?] Taube So help me God.
Sworn to this 2 July 1859
Before me [unreadable signature]
List or Manifest of all the Passengers taken on board the Steamer Bavaria whereof H[?] Taube is Master, from Hamburg &Southampton burthen 2300- tons.

The manifest is 7 pages long. The first 5 pages list those in the "betweendecks" area of the steamer. Though the majority of the passengers are from Germany, there are a few from Ireland, Sweden, Holland, France, and a few who are returning to the United States.

There are 208 passengers in the "between decks," 42 in the "second" class cabins, and 7 in "first" class cabins. Many of the "between decks" passengers were farmers. Both the first and second "cabins" were primarily occupied by merchants, some of whom had their families with them. The total number of passengers is 257, which matches perfectly with the newspaper account.