Thursday, January 31, 2013

Time Travel at the Microfilm Machine

So there I was tonight, visiting my local Family History Center looking at the microfilm I ordered from Salt Lake City.  It's church records from a little town called Triebswetter located in what is now western Romania.  These baptism church records were from the 1700s and in Latin so I was slowly cranking through.

Some of the clergymen wrote very neatly, some not so much.  The records are in date order and when a new year came along, sometimes the person who wrote it drew a few extra flourishes.

And then there was this guy:

How great is he?

And this is why genealogy is fun.  Suddenly, without warning, you remember you are looking at real people - not just records and dates.  Real people who lived real lives.

This clergyman sitting there drew that happy little house, what looks like a rose, a gravestone, a dove and what might actually be a dragon with a food bowl?

I love this guy.  :-)

The year is 1776.  It's the end of December in a small town in central Europe.  Long dark nights and cold short days.  No electricity, no paved roads, no hot running water.  Far away in the rebellious English colonies in the new world George Washington is crossing an icy river.

It's also the Christmas season - maybe there has been some genial imbibing to celebrate?  Or maybe my clergyman was looking forward with excitement to the new year?

Whatever the reason, this clergyman doodled the heck out of this paper when all he needed to do was write the numbers of the new year.

He not only doodled, but he doodled in the church baptism book - kind of important stuff!  It made me smile.

And as I was hunched over my microfilm machine looking at this sheet, hundreds of years away, this clergyman hunched over this book, drawing these figures.

It was a very cool moment.  :-)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In Which the Author Breaks a Brick Wall with a Mouse

The other day I had a huge breakthrough on my DOMELLE family.  I started doing genealogy in 1992 and I pretty much had the same information on them since that time - certainly I'd fleshed out some bits, but I never got any further back than my grandfather's grandfather.  That was it, end of the line.

Last weekend after putting the Domelle 1940 census info into my database, I decided to do a random search on the internet and suddenly there I was, in a transcription of information from the "home town" of Domelle's, and I was staring at my grandfather's grandfathers name - along with his wife.  The two names were exactly what family lore had always stated they were.  I had just never had any tangible proof that these two people really existed.

It was huge!!  I've worked on this line, on and off, for TWENTY, yes 2-0 years.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing!

So what did I do?

Like any self-respecting grown-up adult who has a job and owns a home and manages finances and has people at work who think she actually knows what she's doing, I burst into tears.


Because my grandfather passed away earlier this year.  One day shy of 5 months to the day that I sat at my computer looking at those two names.  I'll never get to tell him.

Ah well.  Such is life.  And certainly we genealogists know that is the way things go.

The good, the excellent news, is that my grandfather's brother is still alive.  I get to tell him all about this.  :-)

So here's how it all went down:

1. My grandfather's name is William Adam DOMELLE.  He was born to the immigrant William DOMELLE, who settled in this country in 1911 (his brother Nicholas came over as well).

Here's my great-grandfather William, probably around the year 1905-ish, give or take a few years:

And here is his brother Nicholas, probably around the year 1920-ish:

2. In naturalization papers, William annoyingly only stated that his birthplace was Austria-Hungary.  But his brother, Nicholas, bless his heart, named the town.  It was Nagy Osz in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

3. In looking this up, I learned all about the Banat and the Donauschwaben and also that this little village went by 3 names, depending on what record you were looking at.  If you were looking in current Romanian records, you needed to look up the village "Tomnatic".  If you were looking in Hungarian records prior to WWII, you needed to look up Nagy Osz.  But if you were looking at German records (because the settlers of this town were actually German), you needed to look up the village "Triebswetter".

This is a modern satellite photo of Tomnatic, Romania I got from Google Maps.  See how sweet and orderly?  From what I've read, it was laid out by a German.  Named Triebswetter.  :-)


4. My grandfather and great-uncle had always told me that their grandparents names were Adam DOMELLE and Christine REISER and that the family had actually originally come from the Alsace-Lorraine region.

5. In doing a random internet search on "Triebswetter", I stumbled into the middle of a site for people who will do research for you in Romania.  The specific page I found was the middle of a discussion around how trustworthy some published transcriptions were.  From that discussion I learned that there are these "Family Books" from various villages that list out transcribed church records.  I also found a link to something called "Das Treffil Buch" which is a book of the personal notes kept by a gentleman named Peter Treffil who lived in Triebswetter (b. 1858 d. 1934).  He basically kept track of who lived in what house in the town, along with notes of children and dates and interesting side notations on some people.  He was the town amateur genealogist/historian basically.  Apparently, some people discount this little book, they say it's in a little used German dialect and how can you trust some guys notes about people.

In my personal opinion, I think that fact that he kept these notes because obviously, he LOVED keeping track, makes it actually very valuable information, no more or less than any "official" church records.  I think we genealogists all know that no matter how official a record is, you can still have a typo or human error of some sort.

So keeping in mind typos and all that, here I was, starting at Adam and Christine

It was too much of a coincidence.  I started to believe it was true.

6. And I kept looking through this little Treffil Buch.  Not only was Adam there, but it said who his father was, and who his siblings were!  And it spelled the last name mainly like this: DOMMELE.

So now I had more info on my line than I ever had before:

William Adam DOMELLE, son of
William DOMELLE, son of
Adam DOMMELE, son of
Baldasar DOMMELE

I used the heck out of Google Translate that day because everything is in sort of German, not to mention abbreviations.  Google Translate gets most of it believe it or not, but sometimes it stumbles here and there.  I don't care.  I still remember what it was like looking at old records in other languages back when I started researching.  :-)

7.  There was also one part of my new favorite book that stated a little precious gem of information - it said that Adam's father, Baldasar, came to the village of Triebswetter in the 1830s from the village of Glogowach.

In my google-german I figured out it says something roughly like this about Baltasar DOMMELE:

"The father came here in the 1830s as a blacksmith's apprentice with a knapsack on his back from Glokowacz, his native place, hereafter Triebswetter.  He was very efficient in crafting, felt loved, decided here to stay and married Mary of No. 16.  They had a blessed marriage and healthy children."

Now honestly, can anyone have written anything nicer?  I'm so grateful to Peter Treffil for keeping his little book about his neighbors.

8.  But what about this hometown which was spelled about nine different ways in his notes?  Turns out it's Glogowach - now there is a mouthful!  But guess what, it's actually another village in the Banat.  In Romanian, it's Vladamirescu.  In Hungarian, it's Glogovac.  In German, it's Glogowach.

9.  And sure enough, after another wonderful internet search (oh how I love you internets!) I found actual other people who had done extensive research on the DUMELLE family of Glogowach.  Especially here and here.

Yep, they spelled it DUMELLE, but it was the same family - and my Baldasar was right there.

10.  So not only had I broken down my brick wall, but I had found other relatives who had already done extensive research.

They've hit a collective brick wall with going back further than Glogowach - but even their brick wall matched my verbal history - their ancestors had also stated that the family originally came from the Alsace Lorraine region.  No one is quite sure where yet.


Even though there is a new brick wall, I get to revel in the fact that I've added 3 generations back for my DOMELLE line.

I also get to revel in the fact that I got my grandfather's DNA tested and in theory, his male DNA should go straight back to that first DUMELLE that showed up in Glogowatz.  Just imagine!

My final revel is in the fact that these records gave me new surnames for the wifes of these new DOMELLE ancestors!  I now get to add REISER, WOLF and KLEIN to my surname list.  And there's info on them too!  I just didn't list in this post since I'm focusing on DOMELLE.

And what did I learn from all this?  Keep doing those searches that never came up with anything before.  You never know what will pop up on the Internet that will save you from making a trip to Romania.