Saturday, October 27, 2012

Genealogy Lessons on Jumping the Pond-- Lesson 1

Recently, I went to a family history conference at my local family history center.  One of the seminars I attended was on researching Irish ancestors -- I am not Irish by the way.  I am not a beginner, so it was pretty basic information for me. The seminar focused on researching in the U.S. first, which was nothing new for me; however, it was new to many in the audience who had some very basic questions, and I realized how much a beginner really needs to learn.  Therefore, inspired by the presenter, Randolyn, at the Apex Family History Center in NC, I decided to promote the information she gave and add in my tidbits by starting this new series.  When we get to actually "jumping the pond," then it will mostly be solely based on my experiences.

Lesson #1

Location, location, location.  Jumping the pond and researching records in your country of origin will most likely not be possible unless you figure out where exactly your ancestor lived.  You will probably need to know the exact town, county, parish, etc. People who try to find an ancestor at the country level will hit a brick wall, and usually the first lesson is that what may seem like a unique name and surname in the U.S. is often very common in the country of origin.  So how do we begin our search?

Start with what you know!

1) Fill out a pedigree chart.  Begin with yourself and fill out your parents', your grandparents', and great-grandparents' information.  Include information on siblings, if you know it.

Tip: Many beginners make the mistake of focusing only on direct family lines, but in fact, records for siblings of grandparents or great-grandparents may have the tidbit of information you cannot find in the records belonging to your direct ancestor.  

2)  Interview your family members, starting with the oldest members first.  If I had a dime for every time I wished I had interviewed my grandparents or their siblings before they died, I'd be rich by now.
  • Videotape or record them, if you can.  
  • Ask about marriages, deaths, births, traditions, immigration/emigration stories.  
  • If you google "family history interview questions" you will find several links to help identify the best questions to ask.
  • Go through family albums and record your family members' memories.  
  • If friends or neighbors are available, ask them questions as well.

So get started, and stay tuned for Lesson #2.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Searching for Graves at Bryn Kirkegård

A few months ago, I searched the Norwegian Gravminner database to see if Bryn Kirkegård (Baerum, Akershus) cemetery records had finally been uploaded.  To my delight, I found that the records were available and searchable.  Immediately, I looked for the name "Jordbærhaugen" to see if there were any graves I was not aware still existed.  "Jordbærhaugen" is a rare name in the area, belonging to one farm, and as of the mid-1800's my ancestors have lived there.  I did in fact find my great-great grandparents, Jonette and Olaus, listed in the database with the precise location of their graves (numbers 4 and 5 in section 004).  Surprisingly, the database did not say the graves were "slettet" or deleted.  In Norway, once graves become too old and are not supported financially, the plots are recycled.  In this case, Olaus died in 1915 and Jonette died in 1922, so the removal of the headstones was to be expected.  But one can always hope.  Furthermore, my father had no recollection of his mother visiting her grandparents' graves, and he believed they could no longer be in existence.

Olaus and Jonette Jorbaerhaugen are located next to the church
Luckily, my friend and previous president of the Oslo/Akershus Chapter of the DIS-Norge/Norwegian Genealogy Society, Laila Christiansen, offered to investigate for me.  She contacted the church office and was helped by a very nice lady.  Apparently, the church records needed some updating, and there were several names listed in the church database for the same plots.  She searched for the people who were currently leasing the grave plots, but they were on vacation.  She then went to the site to look for herself and saw that my great-great grandparents' headstones were no longer there.  The headstones belonged to a family that is not related to me.

In the end, all is not lost!  Olaus and Jonette may no longer have a marker at the cemetery, but I am pretty sure their remains were never moved.  Next time I visit Bryn Kirke, I can at least visit the area of their resting place.

Thank you, Laila, and thank you Bryn Kirke for your help.  I really appreciate it.

Laila also blogged about the experience, so please check out her piece since it has more facts and general information about the burial database.