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Friedrich R. Wollmershäuser, Oberdischingen, Germany

Finding the irretrievable

This lecture deals with cases in which an entry cannot be found where it is supposed to be. It does not discuss dead ends because of entirely lacking information or missing sources.

If an entry cannot be found, then
(1) verify your source which indicated that the entry ought to be there,
(2) extend the scope of your research.

Verification of the data
- How much could the writer of the source know about the piece of information he has registered?
- How thoroughly did the writer of the source work?
- Has the source been read properly?
- Has a foreign-language-source been translated properly?
- Is oral tradition reliable (about the country of origin, the circumstances of emigration, other family members etc.)?

Extension of the scope of research
- Place of the event: does the hint refer to a town or a territory? Are there other towns by this name? Possible traps:
* Village names do not exist after the villages merged into a city.
* Village names have been altered or been used differently.
* Village or province names may have been corrupted.
* The name of a capitol may refer to the whole country.
* Check for credibility of the birth place if orally indicated.
- Religious denomination: Did you check all parish registers of all denominations?
- Sovereignty: Has the place been in the territory or district you assume, or did the borders change?
- Time of the event: How precise is the available date?
- Ages given in the US census and other sources are often wrong.
* Ages given by year, month, and day are often incorrect.
* Birth dates in American sources are often exactly one year off.
* Watch time difference between Julian and Gregorian calendar.
- Are you searching for the correct name? Changes may have occurred
* by translating the given name,
* by using nickname forms,
* by translating the last name,
* by changing the last name.
- Do the available data refer to the wanted person at all?
* People by the same name may have been confused.
* Pictures and other artefacts may be referred to the wrong person.

Compiled in 1999 by Friedrich R. Wollmershaeuser