While I'm not an expert on genealogy by any means, I have been researching for a number of years and have learned a few things along the way. Since 100% of my non-US research is in Germany, many of the things I've learned are about doing research in that difficult venue. Joining Ancestry and hoping for the best won't get you much of anywhere, I'm afraid. I'd like to share some of the resources I've tapped into in doing my German research, in the hope that it might help some who are just getting into it. Why is researching in Germany so hard? For one thing, the nation called "Germany" didn't exist before 1871 -- what we now think of as Germany was a group of loosely related kingdoms that shifted borders, had different systems for keeping records, and so on. Few civil records were kept; most records were in the hands of the various churches, Catholic, Lutheran, and Reformed. Many records were damaged or lost in the two great wars of the 20th
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I've been doing genealogy for about two years now, pretty seriously, and I guess I'm moving from being a brand-new beginner to a category like "experienced beginner" or "thinks she knows her way around but still has a lot to learn." Along with the elation I've felt when something clicks into place -- I find my great-grandmother's actual birth surname -- I've experienced many other emotions along the way. Do any seem familiar to you other semi-new researchers? 1) Frustration : You know there's got to be a record of your grandfather's mother somewhere. She existed, why can't you find any kind of record? Your great-grandfather lived in one city, but died about 130 miles away -- what was he doing there? Why did he die there, not at home? Unlike a brand new researcher, you know where to look, you have multiple places to look, and you come up with nothing. Just one example of the many, many ways you'll feel frustrated.
I wasn't sure I wanted to write this post. But I feel I should, not only as a cautionary tale but also as a way of remembering someone whose life was far from easy. Beginning genealogists get a lot of advice; don't take others' research as fact, check multiple sources, document everything, and so on. Sometimes, though, people also mention what I have to think of as the "darker side of genealogy" -- what happens when you find something out that is unsettling or even shocking? ewormuthphotography.com A number of people have written about this issue, to mention just a few: Sue Shellenbarger wrote in the Wall Street Journal about how people are affected when they find something disturbing in their history. hayden in Daily Kos has written about one of the ultimate shocks: How do you feel when you find out one of your ancestors owned slaves? And Lisa Alzo gives us advice on how to document troubling things we find out through our research. I'