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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Expand your Searches to find an Ancestor

Barbara asked about Charles Gebhardt born in 1879 in Manhattan, New York to parents Friedrick and Annie Gebhardt. She had quite a few interesting and challenging questions about a possible name change, census records etc, and at the end of her email, as a PS she wrote
PS--I have the Naturalization papers for Friederick Karl Gebhardt. He says he came to the US in 1872 but I can't find him. His wife had a child in Germany about that time but the last three children were born in NY.

Olive Tree Answer: Dear Barbara, I spent some time on your questions but will respond to those another time. Right now I want to answer your question about Friederick arriving in USA 1872. Search engines are wonderful genealogy tools but they offer more options besides searching on a full name and exact dates.

For example, if I'm using the Ancestry.com Search engine to look for ships passenger lists, I'm using wildcards! So FRIEDERICK becomes FRI* (the asterisk replaces letters). I would also try FRE* in case the name was mis-transcribed. Gebhardt can be mistranscribed or spelled incorrectly so I'm using GEB* (you have to have 3 letters on Ancestry before you can use the wildcard feature)

For year of arrival, I always allow a couple of years on either side of what I believe the year is. People forget, they can be out by a year or two. So I"m going to search for FRI* GEB* arriving between 1870 and 1874

Bingo! Up came this hit

Name:Friedr Gebhard
Arrival Date:15 Jun 1872
Estimated Birth Year:abt 1824
Age:48
Gender:Male
Port of Departure:Hamburg, Germany
Destination:United States of America
Place of Origin:Germany
Ethnicity/Race­/Nationality:German
Ship Name:Allemannia

A peek at the image reveals Friederick, his wife Anna and 3 children. Friederick's name is recorded as Friedr. His surname has no "t" on the end. The two boys have only their first initial recorded - G. for one boy and A. for the other. This is a really good example of other search techniques I've talked about previously - leaving off the names and looking under years of birth, locations or other known facts. You might be interested in reading O Where O Where Has My Ancestor Gone? which has some examples of actual searches and how to work around the dreaded "NOT FOUND".

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