Casefile Clues

29 May 2014

An Umlaut Problem, Original Data, the "Source," etc.


Part of analyzing sources is getting as close to the original as possible. This "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s" entry in Ancestry.com contains a reference to Wilhelm Metz who arrived in the United States in 1833.

Ancestry.com indicates that the "original data" for this entry is "Filby, P. William, ed. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s. Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012."  Searchers have been using Filby's for years, before the information he compiled was ever available in digital format.

While this is the original data for the Ancestry.com database entry, it is not the original source of the informtion contained in this entry. Filby's book indexes an article by Wilhelm Hauth which in turn was probably taken from original records of some sort. 

Because of the number of iterations between the original entry and the image shown in this blog post (which is actually from the Ancestry.com "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s"), it is desireable to obtain the original record if possible.  Genealogists are always advised to "get to the original."

And that's good advice, but it wasn't the problem that actually led to this blog post. It was use of the word "Blaetter" in the Ancestry.com description of the source Filby used to create his index that was the problem.

I searched for "Blaetter Familiengeschichtliche" as a keyword (without quotes) in the card catalog on the FamilySearch website. No luck. It took a little searching and finally I located the entry searching only for Familiengeschichtliche.

That was because "Blaetter" was spelled "Blätter" in the card catalog and the "variant" spelling with the diacritic was not recognized as being the same when I was searching.

When the diacritics are present in the word for which I'm searching it's easy to be aware of the fact that they could impact my search. The problem was that this time the diacritic was in what I was trying to find instead of what I already knew.

And I already knew that "ä" gets transliterated as "ae." But once in a while we all forget.