Learn about different places in Pommern with the same names and other confusing and frequently mixed-up locations. This podcast will give you the tools to verify your ancestor’s place of origin, also explaining why it is so important to take a few extra minutes to look into the accuracy of your information.Show transcript
Hey, welcome back to the Pommern Podcast on MyPomerania.com. Today, we’re going to be talking about the importance of verifying place names, especially on Ancestry.com. Many times, a family’s place of origin in Pomerania is misindexed either because the name was misheard or because of the prevalence of a village name in multiple different locations in Germany. Learn how you can distinguish correct information and fact from fiction. Keep listening for more in just a minute.
(Pommern Podcast intro)
Okay, guys. So today, we’re going to go over the importance of substantiating places in your family tree, especially if they’ve come from secondary sources or have been recorded in records outside of Pomerania.
The first thing I want to mention is that Pommern, or Pomerania as it’s called outside of Germany, is not in Rhineland-Pfalz. A common mistake of family historians is to let Ancestry or Family Tree Maker auto-fill place names as you type them in. Pommern is not the same as Pommern in Cochem-Zell in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Pommern in Cochem-Zell is over 800 kilometers from the former capital Stettin. For you Americans out there, that’s over 500 miles! An eight hour drive on the Autobahn–and you know how fast Germans drive.
If for some reason you have happened upon this podcast by mistake and your family really does come from Cochem-Zell, stop listening immediately, go to the “Groups” page on our website, and navigate to the “Pfalz-L” research mailing list. For our audio listeners, please note that that’s “Pfalz” with a “P.” However, it is rather unlikely that a Pomeranian family would have originated there before immigrating, especially with the consideration that it’s current population is around 495 people. See what I’m saying? Not very likely.
For many of our listeners, I can hear you moaning, “thank you!” Trust me, I’m just as annoyed by this very common, but all-too-often occurring mix-up in our research.
Now, to get back to the point. If this first example hasn’t convinced you of the importance of verifying your ancestors’ places of residence, perhaps this next one will. My grandfather’s cousin lived in Kreis Belgard. Typically Belgard Stadt–the city–was referred to as Belgard an der Persante. This was to differentiate it from the city of Belgard in Kreis Lauenburg. That city was also known as Belgard an der Leba. It is important in these cases to establish that the Persante and the Leba were rivers that these cities were banked upon. Sometimes, you will see the abbreviation “a.d.” after a city name. This is the same thing. Interestingly enough, the city Körlin by Belgard also had a doppelganger in Kreis Schlawe. This was not unusual, but it makes for a complicated researching experience.
To make your life easier, the Meyers Gazetteer will be of the utmost help. On the webpage, you will be able to search for all instances of a place name, even utilizing a soundex for possible misheard names.
And there are mistranscribed names quite often. Belgard, for example, has been written as Balgard, Belgrad, Belgart, and Belgrade. I’m not even going to begin to explain some of the blatantly obvious problems this creates.
This next sound clip you are about to hear is of my grandfather’s 96-year old cousin mentioning Belgard in an interview I did with him in 2014.
In case you didn’t catch all of that, let’s just focus on the keywords here: Belgard an der Persante.
As you can tell, it sounds quite different, especially if your ear is not attuned to the different German dialects. This is also evident in another possible relative’s death certificate in 1939. The gardener, Paul Gustav Albert Sturm died of a heart-attack. In the death record. It lists his birthplace as Belgard. Unfortunately, his mother–and possibly a relative of my family, it still has to be proven–was said to have died in “Bego bei Flensburg.” The problem with that? “Bego” does not appear to be a real place, and certainly not by Flensburg. Even more troubling about this is that I have the mother’s death certificate from 1890 as witnessed by her daughter. Recorded in the Standesamt, the mother died in Belgard, not by Flensburg.
This same problem has marred my research for many years, including the village of Podewils, which has been incorrectly called “Brovadels,” “Podewiltz,” and “Podewitz.” A few towns over, the village of Groß Rambin was incorrectly referred to as “Grosser am Wien” and “Gross Rombin.” Another spelled it with an “-ien” ending.
Finally, there’s the issue with places in different Kreise having the same name. Great examples are: Roggow, which can be found in Belgard, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Regenwalde, and Saatzig; Wussow, which can be found in multiple Kreise, and others like Damen, Muttrin, Rogzow, Damerow, and Lenzen, just to name a few.
One of the worst examples of place-name mix-ups is with the community of Rohrbeck which used to be in Neumark territory. At the time of my ancestors’ immigration, they came from the Königsberg area. Ancestry indexed this immigration record as Königsberg/Kaliningrad. I didn’t question it at first. East Prussia is close enough, so I didn’t think too much of it. Then I found an obituary that said the family originally lived about 80 miles from Berlin. That puzzled me a bit. After a lot of time spent researching, I came upon my answer: Königsberg was a district in Neumark. Now to make matters even more confusing, there were two villages named Rohrbeck around that same time: one in Kreis Arnswalde, which was also very close to the Neumark district, and then the other Rohrbeck which my family came from, which was closer to Berlin. All the pieces fit and the mystery was solved, but not without a lot of struggling beforehand.
So, to summarize this episode, always be sure to double-check your records if you have doubts. Look for other sources to clue you into where your ancestors were really from. Borders and boundaries changed. Some sources might say “Germany” while others called it “Prussia.” Sometimes you get lucky and the documentation refers to Pommern as its own territory. If you can find a village name, even if it’s misspelled, the odds of pinpointing ancestral villages can become much easier. Even if you don’t find the exact village, you might come across the name of a nearby village and have more luck searching within the vicinity. Just remember–it’s not Pommern in Cochem-Zell!
Well, that about wraps it up for today. Thanks for listening, and we’ll talk more about family history and resources in the next podcast. Until next time, keep plugging away!
The Pommern Podcast is produced by the creators of My Pomerania as an educational and historical resource. All rights are reserved.