Ancestry Shaking Leaf vs. Genealogy Brick Wall. Which is mightier?
The Ancestry shaking leaf is mightier than my brick wall.
I didn’t realize it, but for nearly a decade, my Austrian research
has been complicated by looking for a “vagabond” family.
With one Ancestry shaking leaf, that ten-year-old Austrian brick wall fell and a leafy branch sprouts on my tree in its place.* So, I have a lot to say today. You may want to get a snack – or better yet a sleeping bag – for this long post.
One special Ancestry leaf popped up in my tree. The Romania, Vital Records from Selected Regions, 1607-1914database linked to a marriage record for Nothburga Schenk and Johann Georg Hann in 1852. Those are my Austrian great-great-grandparents’ names. The date is right. But the place is crazy – 1300 kilometers away in Romania. This can’t be right. But then again, how many Nothburga Schenks were there in the world?
Does the Nothburga Schenk in this record match the person in my tree?
But in the lyrics of a famous Austrian, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
But Gottfried’s mother (and my great-great-grandmother) Nothburga Schenk remained a mystery. Also, there was no baptism record for Gottfried in Ladis, but there was a confirmation record.
Here the story stops for three years. Until that Ancestry shaking leaf appeared in my tree a few weeks ago.
In the Ancestry.com Romanian database, I finally found my great-grandfather Gottfried’s elusive baptism record. He may have been born in Romania, but considered himself Austrian because they moved back to the Tyrol when he was young. I found the baptisms of Gottfried’s siblings, Ignatius, Maria Aloisia, and Joannes.
And then I found Nothburga’s death record. She died at 38 of tuberculosis, leaving four small children and a widower behind in Romania. And her death record (at the beginning of this post) gave the farm and village where she was born.
Mag. Pfeiffer then searched the Schönwies Catholic parish records for me and found Nothburga’s baptism and the names of her parents. Leonhard Schenk and Theresia Tragsail journeyed from the Tyrol to Rome to be married. The fathers of Leonhard and Theresia are recorded. Mag Pfeiffer notes that Leonhard and Theresia moved around a lot and practiced several trades, in addition to being devout Catholics.
And this is where I fainted and my husband had to get the smelling salts at the news that there were three generations behind that brick wall of mine, all found in one day.
So, thank you, Mag. Pfeiffer, for finding records in the Innsbruck diocese for me. Your persistence and skill and good humor wins the day. And thank you Ancestry for the ferocious algorithms that matched my Ancestry tree with that specific database.
Now I have a complete six-generation chart (in six European countries) at last and a complete seventh isn’t too far behind. Join me in the genealogy happy dance!
*Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of the shaking leaves. I’ve seen too many friends and clients use them without understanding them. Result: complete confusion and snarly gnarly trees full of errors. But now I must admit one paid off for me. For more about using Ancestry’s shaking leaves successfully, click here.
Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”