Monday, December 8, 2014

RootsTech Contest Winner: Finding the Hidden Record

The Ancestry Insider's Monday MailboxDear Readers,

We have a winner! I’ve selected Dusty Gorman as the winner of a free pass for full 3-day admission to RootsTech 2015 (a $239 value). You’ll find Dusty’s winning entry below. In coming weeks I’ll share a few other entries as well. Dusty, look for a message in your in box with your registration promo code.

Signed,
---The Ancestry Insider

Finding the Hidden Record

My great great grandfather, Reinhold, traveled to America with one of his older brothers, Carl, from Sweden in the late 1800's.  My great aunt, in her younger days, spent time working on our Swedish family history.  She tried to find the ship manifest for Reinhold and Carl and was unsuccessful.  Back then it required a stamp, envelope and patience to get most genealogy records.  Years later my mother and her sisters decided to research the Swedish family history.  I remember the trip they embarked on to go to Salt Lake City to visit the library.  Though they found many records, the ship manifest remained hidden.  They published what they found for the next family reunion and got busy with life. 

Almost twenty years later in 2007 I got bit by the genealogy bug.  I too started to research our Swedish family history.  Two years after I started researching I was looking for that missing ship manifest.  I knew it had to exist, there had to be some record of them entering the country, otherwise I wouldn't be in the United States.  My mother and her sisters had found the ship manifest for the lag of the journey between Sweden and England.  Because of the record they found I could make a logical guess as to the approximate time period they boarded a ship in England bound for America.  I had all these theories coming at me.  Maybe they stayed in England for a while to work, maybe they did not arrive in New York, maybe they arrived directly in Tacoma, maybe in California.  Places to use to search for the ship manifest were many.  I could use the Ellis Island website, I could use the Castle Garden website, I could use Ancestry.com, I had many more options to choose from then my great aunt when she tried to find the record.  I tried every which way I could think of to search the indexes.  Just a first name, just the last name (the one they used in Sweden and the one on the ship manifest showing their journey from Sweden to England), just the country and many more with no luck. 

I noticed on Ancestry.com that you had the ability to browse ship manifests page by page, line by line.  I thought okay I will try my search this way.  By that time I was realizing that indexing could have errors.  So I used the ship manifest my mom and aunts found and came up with a two month period that I would search for the ship manifest.  Even though we had no clue which port they came in through I started with New York, by that time I had been given the opportunity to visit New York and Ellis Island and had fallen in love with the city.  So I started going through the New York ship manifests.  I realized very quickly that many ships came into New York on any given day.  So I decided to focus my search.  I decided to only go through the ship manifests that originated in England and only look at the passenger names that came from Sweden.  I figured these were logical assumptions I could make and would make my search easier and quicker, but honestly I was just losing patience. 

Late one night I was sitting in front of my computer going through the ship manifests, my eyes were beginning to cross and I was about to give up.  I was beginning to think I was nuts for searching for the record this way.  There had to be an easier way to find the record.  And that is when it happened.  I stumbled across the record.  I could not believe it.  Three generations had looked for the record and finally it had been found!  I wanted to shout from the roof tops, but given that it was so late I decided to be nice and not wake the neighborhood. 

Stumbling across the record drove home several things.  At the time I was still a newbie genealogist and I am glad I learned it when I was still considered green.  The record was indexed incorrectly, but that was not the only problem.  There was also in error on the record itself.  The record had the brothers coming from GERMANY.  You may be wondering at this point how I found them if I was only looking for passengers coming from Sweden.  I have to say it was pure luck.  They were on the top of the page.  I happened to glance over at the names while the page finished loading.  I learned to be careful with your assumptions in genealogy, that indexing could have errors, that records are just as likely to have errors, to always be persistent when searching for records and, most important, I learned that you have to have patience in genealogy research. 

Sometimes records want to stay hidden, we have to dig deep to find them.

The Ancestry Insider is an official RootsTech ambassadorFor more information about RootsTech, visit http://www.rootstech.org.

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