Feb 112012

One of the best things about RootsTech was the availability of the Family History Library (FHL).  In fact, on Friday evening FHL stayed open until midnight to accommodate RootsTech attendees.  In addition to Friday evening, I was able to spend time on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at FHL.  I suspect that there will be a number of posts resulting from that research.  For this post, however, we begin with a test.

The following image contains a given name.  What do you think the name is?  A clue — the language is German. (Read further for the answer.)

About two years ago, I was in communication with a newly identified “cousin.” He had done extensive research on the ancestors of Johanna Catarina Venninger. He indicated that his research was all done via FHL.  His work, researching the FHL indexes, extended Johanna Venninger’s line back about 12 generations.  I had checked out a few of the references, was convinced that the data was likely an accurate reflection of the indexes, but was unwilling to claim the data as mine until I had done some further research — namely, viewing the records, not just the indexes.

The Venninger extended family came from towns primarily in Baden (now Baden-Wuerrtemberg, Germany).  Baden church records  — births / baptisms, marriages, deaths — are primary records.  “Between 1810 and 1870, the clergy of Baden had to maintain the church books as civil documents of the citizenry and every year deliver duplicates to the district officials.”  (“Baden State Archives” – translation of data from Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe.)  FHL’s microfilm for Baden church records is a reproduction of the Karlsruhe microfilms.

My son and I were able to find (and make digital copies of) the actual records for 91 events for Venninger ancestors in the towns of Adelshofen, Sulzfeld, Kuernbach, Ittlingen, Neipperg, and Stettin in Baden and Waiblingen, Wuerrtemberg. Our findings included the following baptismal record from Evangelische Kirche Sulzfeld (Sulzfeld Protestant Church) for Christoph Venninger.

Yes, the answer to the test is Christoph.  Were you able to figure it out?  Me, neither!  Fortunately, I was able to build on the work of a cousin who had the place / name / event / date already recorded.  After finding that date in the Sulzfeld church records, I was able to go back to the name and figure out which letters were which!

Christoph was born on 23 June 1739 and died on 17 July 1739. His parents were Johann Georg and (Mary) Margretha (Nast) Venninger.

Old German script is not easy to read.  Years ago I laboriously translated a letter to my great-grandfather from his uncle in Germany.  Yes, it was written in the old German script.  It took me a whole Summer to complete.  When done, I sent a copy of the letter and my translation to my Dad’s cousin who taught at a major state university. I asked her to check with someone in the German department to see if my translation was close to being accurate.  Upon seeing the letter the chair of the German department responded, “I can’t read this old handwriting.”  That’s one point for us hobby genealogists!

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