10 May 2015

Do You Make Certain the Digital Images are Complete? Christ Lutheran Church in Gothenburg at Ancestry.com

[all discussion is current as of 9 May 2015]

I easily found the 1882 christening for Tjode Anna Goldenstein in Gothenburg, Nebraska's Christ Lutheran Church by searching for her name in the index to "Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940" at Ancestry.com. It was easy.

To streamline my search for her younger Nebraska-born brothers, I decided to expand my search of the database to include all Goldensteins in Nebraska. After all, there should not be too many Goldensteins in the database with an event in Gothenburg, Nebraska.

There weren't many. 

There was only Tjode. 

And that was strange. It was strange because four of Tjode's younger brothers were born in Dawson County, Nebraska. In fact, years ago I wrote the church directly and obtained a transcription of their baptismal entry. So I knew they were there. 

Because the church was small it was decided to manually search the records. I started with the entries for 1882 which started on page 29 of the baptismal register. That's the place to start as Tjode was the oldest child in the family. Page 29 is Ancestry.com's image number 15 in the digital images from Christ Lutheran Church.

When I moved to image 16 I realized why I could not find the entries for the other children in the database. There were gaps in the baptismal entries. Image 16 contained page 36 of the baptismal register and contained entries beginning in April of 1887. Image 15--which contained page 29 of the register contained images through early December of 1882.

There is a gap in the records as displayed on Ancestry.com. At this point, I'm not certain if that gap is from:
  • a gap in the original records--were pages gone from the register when it was filmed?
  • records that simply were not filmed--Ancestry.com did not microfilm these records. 
  • an digitization error on the part of Ancestry.com
As this point, I'm inclined to not believe there is a gap in the records The records were microfilmed in 1984 by the American Lutheran Church (according to the title sheet in the image set for Christ Lutheran Church which does not indicate any gap in coverage). The American Lutheran Church was a forerunner of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). It is possible that there was some irregularity with the filming. The records were still extant in 1986 when I wrote to the church requesting information from the baptismal records. 

We'll see if we can get to the bottom of this missing baptismal record mystery.

The general lesson here is to search manually when necessary and check for the completeness of the records. One cannot find what is not there.

Stay tuned. We'll post an update when we've got one.