Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My article for the 22nd Edition of Carnival of Eastern and Central European Genealogy

When I first received the email from Al Wierzba asking me to write a genealogy article, I was very excited by the idea. The article would be included in the 22nd edition of The Carnival of Eastern and Central European Genealogy. The topic of this edition is roadblocks and breakthroughs.

I immediately began to think of which family line I would write about. I have several lines of ancestry originating from Eastern or Central Europe. As I was thinking about the article and which line I would write about, it dawned upon me that I really haven't had very many roadblocks in my European research. I finally decided on one specific family, thinking the significance of this family would give a sliver of hope to others.

My decision rested upon my 2nd-great-grandmother, Anna Weishaupt, and her family. Anna was born in 1867 in Bohemia to Joseph Weishaupt and Maria Anna Kasper. She was one of eight children. Anna married my 2nd-great grandfather, Johann Phillip Stuempges, 20 years later.

When I initially started my research about 7-8 years ago, I knew very little on Anna and her family. Not long after I began, I obtained a 'family story' written in the 1960's by Erma Stuempges Kerska, about the Stuempges and Weishaupt families. The story went into great detail about the personalities of every family member, passing on the memories she remembered as a girl. As I read, I finally came upon information on Anna's parents. It had stated that her father, Joseph Weishaupt, had been a soldier in the Austrian army prior to the family's immigration.

This tiny piece of information would finally lead me to find out where the Weishaupt family had come from in Bohemia. I then went to my local FHC and ordered a microfilm containing Bohemian military personnel records for the years 1820-1864. On these records I found exactly what I had been hoping for! The record listed his name and birthyear (which was correct), along with his birthtown and the county it was in, in Bohemia.. Graber, Leitmeritz, Bohemia. Graber is known today as Kravaře, Litoměřice, Czech Republic.

Using that information I then proceeded to check the Family History Library Catalog for records for this town. Nothing existed. Further research along with correspondence with the Leitmeritz archives revealed that the records had never been filmed and there were no plans in the future for them to ever be filmed. Knowing that informtion, I figured the only way to research this line was to physically go there and do the research or hire a professional. Neither of those would have worked at 17 years old; I never could've afforded either! I had completely given up on that line for good.

Six years passed and the LDS released great news that they were beginning to digitize and put online their mountain-full of microfilm. Knowing the records for Graber had never been microfilmed, I didn't give much hope or thought to the idea of Bohemian or Czech Republic records appearing on the LDS's new website, RecordSearch. Now boy was I surprised when I logged onto RecordSearch one day in late 2008. I saw Czech Republic records from the Litoměřice archive! I immediately clicked on the database and scrolled through the list of towns and villages and saw neither Graber or Kravaře.. I had gotten my hopes up for nothing! It wasn't until six or seven months later when RecordSearch updated the database a second time, when Kravaře finally appeared!

Now the records available on RecordSearch ended in 1833/1834, so I knew I couldn't find Anna's baptism or even her parent's marriage record. Thankfully, I knew both of her parents full birthdate.. her father Joseph being born in 1827 and her mother being born in 1834 (how lucky was I that it wasn't after 1834!) I've now been able to trace at least 6 generations of ancestors for Anna and her siblings

I know this article isn't necessarily a brick-wall or a roadblock, but it is by far a breakthrough. Researchers all over the world are now gaining the capability of knocking down brick-walls, that we never would've imagined possible.