I had the most wonderful experience yesterday at the Virtual Genealogical Association’s conference. I’ve been fortunate in the last five years or so to be selected to present at conferences and to genealogy societies about my favorite topic. I’ve gotten to meet some very nice people. I’ve learned more about my own family as I’ve tried to come up with examples to demonstrate a technique or website. I’ve made a little bit of money to spend on my genealogical addiction. But my favorite part is having a captive audience who might have an answer to one of my own questions.
Yesterday I presented “Fraktur und Fremdwörter: Hacks for Reading Foreign Books & Newspapers” at the VGA conference. I had a chance to demonstrate how a hopelessly English-only reader can find an old German fraktur font newspaper article about their ancestor and easily, painlessly, and in only a few minutes, translate it into something they can read. I demonstrated the how-tos for all my favorite newspaper sites.
In addition to finding newspaper articles on websites, I think genealogists often have snippets of things in their family papers – perhaps an article pasted into a scrapbook. I have one such article from my Dad’s cousin Thelma with the notation “Translation? Appears it concerns Louise Hartman, Syracuse, N.Y.” I played around with finding a way to scan that article and convert it to OCR. None were terribly effective.
In my presentation, I showed my unsuccessful attempts with the caveat, “Sorry folks, on this kind of an item, you just might need to buck up and try to transcribe that article yourself. Unless…. If anyone knows some better way, I’d love to hear about it.” And in that captive audience, Mr. Miles Meyer piped up (in the chat box) and suggested NewOCR.com. From their website: NewOCR is a ”free online OCR (Optical Character Recognition) service, can analyze the text in any image file that you upload, and then convert the text from the image into text that you can easily edit on your computer.”
I’ll post again in the next few days about my attempts to transcribe my scrapbook article with my new-found tool. But in the meantime, thank you Miles, thank you Katherine Willson, Dan Earl, Linda Debe and the rest of the people at the Virtual Genealogical Association for putting on a great conference. If you’re interested, check them out. You might be able to be able to catch up on the recordings of the great sessions they have offered at their second virtual conference.
Sometime in the 1970s my dad’s first cousin Thelma Wooster Van Alstyne typed up some genealogy information on her great-grandparents, immigrants from Germany. Her two reports provided information on my great-great grandparents, two immigrants couples, Charles Kircher and his wife Augusta Frühauf who met and married in Germany before emigrating, and Johannes Springer of “Kappeln” in Bavaria and his wife Louisa Caroline Hartman of Hanover, Germany, who came to America separately and were likely introduced to each other by common friends in Syracuse, New York. Thelma’s charts gave the birth, marriage and death dates for these couples and all their descendants she knew about at the time she prepared the charts. In addition to the charts she wrote up a dozen or two paragraphs of “Notes” on each couple. There is not one source cited on any of the notes or descendancy pages.
Thelma must have had some documents. There are photocopies of some records from Germany for the Kirchers, including an 1849 passport from the Royal Prussian States and a couple of documents reporting on baptisms which were likely provided by the couple to the pastor who married them. Thelma had the documents transcribed and translated. With some of the other documents I only have copies of the translations, and no idea where the original documents are. God bless Thelma for doing as much as she did. Without it, much of the history would have been lost.
I’ve tried to go back and prove what Thelma had in the trees and notes. Most of it was accurate, at least to a degree. I have not found a Kappeln in Bavaria, but there is Kapellen, and using microfilm and digitized records from the Family History Library I found Johannes Sprenger’s baptism record. In fact, for three of those four immigrant great-great grandparents, I found original baptism records, and in several cases I’ve been able to work back another generation or two (or more!) on German soil.
But one of them had me stumped. Louisa Caroline Hartman of Hanover. Hanover is the name of a city, as well as a former kingdom, in what is now Germany. It is neither a small nor a very specific place.
Here’s all the information about Louisa I had from Thelma’s “Notes on the Springer Family”:
Johannes Springer had four brothers and sisters.
The Hartmans in Germany had money. Louisa’s parents didn’t want her to come to America, so she probably didn’t get any of the family’s money.
The Springer’s in Liverpool were poor. Grandma (Frances) and Aunt Amelia used to pick up sticks for fuel near the salt mine.
Relatives in Liverpool and Syracuse: Hartmans (Nellie, Fred, Nick, Amelia Hartman Klassi), Getmens, Bauers (Mrs. Bauer was a Hartman).
The descendency chart started with:
LOUISA CAROLINE HARTMAN M. 1st JOHANNES SPRINGER
B. June 3, 1836 (Hanover, Germany) B. 1835 (Kappeln, State of Bavaria)
D. May 1, 1905 (Buried in Union Hill) D. Oct. 3, 187- (Age 42) Liverpool, NY
Hanover... Ugh. But the notes listed some Hartman cousins in Liverpool and Syracuse. Nellie, Fred, Nick and Amelia Hartman Klassi. I like that Klassi name – unusual enough to hopefully be easy to find. Sure enough, found an obituary, “Mrs. Frank Klassi Dies at Daughter’s Home.” The article title is wrong, but the text is just what I was looking for:
At the residence of her daughter, Mrs Frank Klassi at No. 16- [?] Strong avenue yesterday occurred the death of Mrs. Abbie Frech Hartman, aged 73 years. Surviving her are three daughters, Mrs John L. Bauer, Mrs. Frank Klassi and Miss Nellie Hartman of this city and a son, Fred G. Hartman of Newark, N. J. Funeral services will be held privately at 2:30 o’clock tomorrow afternoon and burial will be at Woodlawn Cemetery.
As I searched more for this family I discovered through census records and obituaries the patriarch was Frederick August Hartman. (I think Thelma might have been slightly off listing Nick as a Hartman. He appears to be a cousin on the other, Springer, side. Nick Springer and Sarah Gettman were children of Johannes Springer’s brother Nicholas who lived next door to Louisa and Johannes in Liverpool.)
The pieces began to fit together. Louisa Hartman Springer’s daughter, Franklin Abelone was baptized on 14 June 1857 in Liverpool. Her godparents were Frederick Hartman and Abelone Hartman. Cousins. Godfather. Yes, Frederick Hartman was beginning to look a lot like he must be Louisa’s brother.
I ordered both Frederick and Louisa’s death certificates. Not cheap to get New York vital records, but surely one of them would tell me the parents’ names and the birthplace in Hanover… And the records came! Louisa was born in… Germany. Her father was Anthony Hartman, born in… Germany. Her mother was Mollie Hartman, born in… Germany. Louisa was 68 years [months and days not givene] at her death on 1 May 1905. Not exactly the specific details I hoped for.
What about Fred? Fred’k A. Hartmann, died 19 May 1902 at age 79 years, 3 months and 25 days. He was born in… Germany. He’d been in the US 55 years. His father was Anton and his mother was Amelia, both from… well, you know… Germany. But at least there was some math I could do. I calculated a birthdate of 24 January 1823. If, of course, the unnamed informant on the death certificate knew what they were talking about.
The details on the two certificates meshed well enough. Anton and Anthony seemed a solid fit. Mollie is not a far stretch as a nickname for Amelia. Both Frederick and Louisa named daughters Amelia.
And there things sat for a year and a half. I tried to work on the problem off and on. My attempts to find a marriage record in Liverpool for Johannes and Louisa met with stonewalling from the likely church where the baptisms of their children and probably their marriage occurred. I reached out to distant cousins, looking for a family bible which might say something. No bible, but my “new” cousin Amy had a fabulous photo album from Louisa’s daughter, Amelia. The album contained several Hartman pictures, including one of Abelone Frech Hartman with all her children, and one of Frederick and Abbie together.
But I’m afraid with the scant clues I had: - aprobable birthdate for Fred, first names for parents but no maiden name for Mama, a Kingdom comprising about 14,600 square miles (roughly twice the size of New Jersey), - and little in the way of online records, I just didn’t have the stamina to tackle that problem. So many ancestors, so little time…
In January I took a class at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) from Warren Bittner, Baerbel Johnson and Daniel Jones on reading Gothic Script and Fraktur. It was a delightful experience, one of the most fun weeks of learning I have ever had. Five days of “code breaking” flew by, not one moment feeling like work. But now I have the confidence to take on those “chicken scratch” records which used to scare me to death.
A couple of weeks after SLIG I had to go back to Salt Lake City for some meetings, and I built in some time for more research at the Family History Library. I was getting a bit of help from Daniel on a few bits I couldn’t read in a couple of records. Herr Bitter was there as well and I couldn’t resist sharing how excited I was about my new-found skills. I sat next to him later in the day and he worked at one computer and I at another, but every once in a while he offered a little advice on this or that. I saw him at the library several more times in the next few days. (I do hope I wasn't too much of a pest.)
My Hartmann problem in the back of my mind, I thought I’d see if Warren had any ideas. I guess I was right about the size of the problem. When he asked who I was looking for and I said “Frederick Hartman in Hannover,” his response was a brief two words. “I’m sorry.”
But a little later he wanted to see what I had on him and I showed him the 1855 New York census for Frederick in Syracuse. It showed he’d been in Syracuse 5 years. He was married and living with his in-laws who reported being in Syracuse 3 years, so it pointed pretty strongly to an immigration year within a couple of years of 1850. Warren said, “Why don’t you look for a passenger list for Frederick. You might find a few, you might find a lot. But it’s worth a shot.”
Yeah, right, I thought. My experience with passenger lists has rarely been fruitful. I don’t know the name of the ship my guy came on, I don’t know when, I don’t know if the list for the ship he did come on survived, I don’t know if it was microfilmed… or indexed… or digitized. Was it legible enough that the indexer could come up with a reasonable approximation of the name? If it made it through all those hoops would it say anything more than “Frederick Hartman, age 25, laborer from Germany?”
Below is my “typical” passenger list. The columns are: Number on the manifest, Name, Age, Gender, Occupation, The country to which they severally belong, and The country in which they intend to become inhabitants.
The name, age and gender columns at least have a bit of variety. The other three are laborer, Germany and U.S. of America. Even a 2-month-old baby on the next pages was a “laborer.”
So, no… I didn’t jump right on Warren’s suggestion. But after a few more days of research, I’d exhausted the questions on the other “findable” lines and so I thought I’d at least give it a shot. I searched in Ancestry’s New York Passenger Lists database for a Frederick Hartman arriving in 1850 +/- two years. I got only 20 hits, so not too many to go through. Some I could immediately throw out based on the passenger’s age. Only one had a birth year of 1823, so I checked that one first. The Columbus arrived 6 April 1850 from Bremen. What I saw on that list had me drooling.
The column headings might be a bit hard to read due to the ink splotches, but they are: Name, Last Dwelling Place, Occupation, Age, Destination, [no heading, but the entries show number of boxes of possessions] and Sex.
Look at those letters! Thank you D. Meyer, Master of Columbus. You are my hero! Your second grade teacher who taught you that beautiful penmanship is my hero, too!
So what do we have here? Frederick Hartmann, from Makensen, a farmer, age 27, uncertain about his destination, one box, male. Next line, Caroline Hartmann, [ditto, also from Makensen], 22, destination Pitsville [?], 1 box, female. Could this be Louisa Caroline? She’s a little old from what I know about Louisa, but if she subtracted a little in her later years (many women did) and added a few on this manifest (maybe she worried about appearing too young to support herself, so she tried to be a little older) she might be within range to be Louisa. But I’m pretty sure Frederick and, Caroline aren’t a married couple because they’re not going to the same destination. And look at 8, 9 and 11 lines below Caroline – Wilhelm Benzinger, Matthias Zimmermann and August Zimmermann – all three of them are going to Syracuse, where Frederick wound up.
Imagine if you will, a ship full of people, lining up to give super scribe, D. Meyer, their particulars. Frederick really can’t decide where he’s going but there’s a trio just a bit behind him in line, all of them talking up the many opportunities of Salt City and Frederick is convinced. Do I know this is really what happened? Nope. But hey, it makes sense, right?
I really like this passenger list. I could find it. It is legible. It has really specific information like Makensen and Syracuse. I sooooo want this list to be mine!
Allow me a little digression… When I was a kid, I chewed a lot of Bazooka bubblegum, the pink stuff with the comics inside the wrappers. Often hard as a rock, but enough spit and you could get a pretty good chew. I cannot tell you much about the comics. But one, for some obscure reason, has stuck with me the last 50 years. Bazooka Joe is on his knees beneath a street lamp, clearly looking for something. His friend offers to help. Next frame his friend asks if this is where Joe lost his thingamabob. “No,” says Joe. “I lost it over there.” “Then why are we looking here?” “The light’s better over here.”
I feel that way a lot in genealogy. Some record isn’t from where my ancestor was from, and it’s probably not them, but the “light” is better on the record. It’s legible. It’s got places - “Makensen!” and “Syracuse!” That is some great light! It just HAS to be my people. Please, please, please, genealogy gods, can this be my people? Pretty pretty please. The light is so good on this one.
Well, I have absolutely no idea if the Hartmanns on the Columbus are my people. But Warren has given me the name of Detlef, a researcher in Hannover, who used to work at the Landeskirchliches Archiv Hannover. I’ve already emailed Detlef about a baptism record on a family in Einbeck, maybe he could look for a Mackensen record, too. So I gave Detlef those details, and crossed my fingers.
Three days ago I heard back from Detlef. The microfiche from Mackensen was horrid, difficult to read and not worth taking a picture of. But it was legible enough at least to find some relevant entries. He found two baptisms on that crummy microfiche. Two children of Heinrich Anton Hartmann, a Schumacher [shoemaker], and his wife Johanne Amalie, born Schollens. Friedrich August Hartman, born in Mackensen 24 January 1823. And Johanne Dorothee Caroline Hartmann, born in Mackensen 14 March 1828. Frederick’s was exact date calculated from his death certificate. That informant did know what they were talking about!
Caroline’s baptism name doesn’t include the name Louisa. The birthdate is consistent with the Columbus passenger Caroline Hartmann, but the birthdate does not match Thelma’s details on Louisa Caroline. I think this might be another sister. My experience with my German families indicates children are often christened with three or even four names. The “first” name is often the name of a godparent, but the child may be called by one of the other names. When you’re doling the names out three-to-a-kid you run through them pretty quickly, so often the “extra” names are used for multiple children. So Louisa Caroline’s baptism record is still waiting for me to lay eyes on it, but I’m pretty darn sure I’ll find it in the parish registers of Mackensen. Can’t wait!
 A note on the names – the records in Germany use the spelling “Sprenger.” In America they use “Springer.” I will use the Springer variant unless I am talking about a record which uses Sprenger.
 Liverpool is a small town on Lake Onondaga, northwest of Syracuse, where Johannes and Louisa settled.
 “John” Sprenger died 3 October 1867 in Liverpool. His gravestone says he was 42 years old. This is close to the baptism record I found for Johannes Sprenger, born 30 April 1827, son of Jakob Sprenger and Elisabeth Scheib in the church register for Drusweiler, FHL microfilm 1457537
 “Mrs Frank Klassi Dies at Daughter’s Home,” Syracuse Post Standard, 3 December 1909, p. 7, col. 3; digital images FultonHistory (http://fultonhistory.com/Fulton.html : accessed 22 February 2019).
 Monroe County, New York, death certificate no. 114 (1905), Louisa Bowman; Office of Vital Records, Rochester.
 Onondaga County, Verified Transcript from the Register of Deaths, Register no. Vol. F, p. 101 (1902), Fred’k A. Hartmann; Office of Vital Statistics, Syracuse.
“Hannover,”GlobalSecurity.org (https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/de-hanover.htm : accessed 22 February 2019).
 “Size of States,” State Symbols USA (https://statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/national-us/uncategorized/states-size : accessed 22 February 2019).
 Utah Genealogical Association, SLIG - https://ugagenealogy.org/aem.php?eid=36
 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : accessed 14
December 2018), manifest, Bark Davenport, 9 May 1849, page not numbered, lines 125-130; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), microfilm publication M237 (1820-1897), Roll 79. age 2 months; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), microfilm publication M237 (1820-1897), Roll 87.
 “New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” digital images, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : accessed 8
February 2019), manifest, Columbus, arrival 6 May 1850, page 1 > New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 > Roll M237, 1820-1897 > Roll 087 > image 451.
 Ibid, pg. 3, image 453.
 According to Meyersgaz.org, the standard spelling is Mackensen.
 Detlef Baehre, Hannover, Germany [(E-Address for private use)], to author, email, 19 February 2019, “Re: Christian Friedrich Gottlieb Kircher 1789 birth record at Kirchenbuchamt on Hildesheimer Str.”
When you’re looking for someone on the census, and you can’t find them, but you know they MUST be there, be willing to expand your search a little. You can expand the age range. You can expand the geographic parameters. And maybe, when all else fails, try to expand your gender possibilities. Such was how I finally found my great-grandmother, Frances Springer.
I was pretty sure the family had to be in Onondaga County. The record in her bible said that my great-grandmother, Frances Abelone Springer was born in Liverpool, New York on 13 February, 1857. Her father’s Civil War draft registration from June, 1863 indicates he was living in Salina, Onondaga, New York. The family should be pretty easy to find on the 1860 census, right?
Part of my problem might have been the names and the date of death for Johannes. The family genealogy done by a distant cousin (not sourced, of course) showed my great-great grandfather as Johannes Springer, born 1835, died Oct 3, 187_ at age 42, married to Louisa Caroline Hartman, born June 3, 1836. And I think at one time I had heard that my great-great grandmother was known as Caroline (but in retrospect, I think I must have been under a wrong impression. My bad.)
In any event I looked for Johannes and Louisa and their daughter, Frances, in the 1860 and 1870 census, and try as I might I couldn’t come up with the family. But then I found the Civil War registration for John Springer, and I knew they had to be somewhere in Onondaga County, so I expanded my search. Often when I can’t find a family in the census under the parents’ details, I look for the children.
There are several reasons this trick works for me. For example, an adult of age 30-ish could “look” somewhere between 25 and 40, a 15 year spread. But a three year old child is not likely to be listed as age 1 or age 10. She might show up as age 2, 3, 4 or maybe 5, a considerably more precise age than her parents.
Place of birth is easier to pin down, as well. Perhaps the parents were born in “Germany.” But the census might show Bavaria, Hannover, Germany,… who knows. But with the child who is only 2 or 3 years old, she is likely - not certainly, but likely - to be living near where she was born, and appear on the census with a birthplace near where she was living. So if I know my great-grandmother was born in Liverpool, NY in 1857, she’s probably going to show up as born in NY on the 1860 census.
So I begin to look for a 3-year-old girl, Frances Springer and there are none to be found in Onondaga. OK, maybe try the middle name, Abelone. Maybe she’s Abby or some variant. Nope. But… but… but, they HAVE to be there (says the genealogist, stamping her foot!) So… maybe Johannes is something else… hmmmm…. John? And could I let go of the “Caroline” and try Louisa?
In 1860 I did find a family, John and Louisa, both born in Germany, and their 2-year-old son, Frank. A son. Not my family.
Then I checked the 1865 New York state census. John and Louisa Springer, both born in Germany, and now three children appear – sons, Frank and Charley and daughter, Amelia. My great-grandmother had a brother, Charles, and a sister, Amelia. This is looking more like my family, but my great-grandmother is still a boy. Interestingly, the household enumerated immediately prior to John and Louisa on the 1865 census is headed by a Nicholas Springer, born in Germany. And finally, on the 1870 census, Louisie Springer is the head of household (that family genealogy I talked about earlier was wrong – John died in 1864) with her three children. Nicholas Springer, again, is right next to her on the census. And her children are now two daughters, Francis and Mina (Amelia) and only one son, Charles.
Why all the confusion? Maybe my great-great grandmother told the census taker her child’s name was Franke in her German accent, and the enumerators assumed Frank must be a boy. I don’t know… but I’m glad she finally turned out to be a girl, because otherwise, I wouldn’t be here to tell this tale.
So, when you’re stuck and can’t find that family on the census… Hey, babe. Take a walk on the wild side. Maybe that she was a he. On the census, anyway.
 Die Bibel, gift to Frances Springer from her mother, December 1872, in possession of Mary Kircher Roddy, Seattle, Washington
 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshall General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collecioin Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); ARC Identifier: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 3 of 3. Record for John Springer, 23rd Congressional District, Salina, Onondaga, New York. Accesses from Ancestry.com
 Year: 1860; Census Place: Salina, Onondaga, New York; Roll: M653_829; Page: 99; Image: 18; Family History Library Film: 803829, household of John Springer, family #106
 "New York State Census, 1865," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVNJ-NRGX : accessed 13 July 2016), John Springer, District 01, Salina, Onondaga, New York, United States; citing source p. 29, line 19, household ID 214, county clerk, board of supervisors and surrogate court offices from various counties. Utica and East Hampton Public Libraries, New York; FHL microfilm 860,900.
 FindAGrave memorial for John Sprenger, date of death 3 October 1864, Find A Grave Memorial# 23987756.
 Year: 1870; Census Place: Salina, Onondaga, New York; Roll: M593_1061; Page: 622A; Image: 81217; Family History Library Film: 552560, household 108
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.