Tuesday's Tip: if I can't find a record of my ancestor does it mean it's not there?

So, today's Tuesday genealogy tip is: think outside the box. The question is: if you can't find a record of your ancestor, does it mean it isn't there? Getting existential here...

The problems with looking for genealogy records are manifold: the record never existed, it doesn't exist anymore, it's not online, the handwriting is illegible, the transcriber made an error, the indexer made an error, your ancestor liked to use many names and many spellings, and so on and so forth. So how do we find any records of anybody?

First, do an exhaustive search before you give up and declare that the family history record is not online. And if you've given up, come back again in several months to check again, because it might have been added since you stopped looking. What does an exhaustive search look like? If you're looking for John Smith, born 1843 in New York, do NOT limit yourself to those facts!! Look for them, but also look for J. Smith, just Smith, Smythe, Smithe, born anywhere between 1840 and 1850, born in the United States, leave some facts out, use your BOOLEAN search function, where different characters (*, ?, _) substitute for letters or letter groups. So search for Sm?th* and you'll get Smith, Smythe and Smithe all in one search.

I feel like sharing this tip today because I finally found a record I had been searching for for years - the immigration record for Hulda Lindemann Wolbern, who we've been talking about in this blog recently, and my third great-grandparents (and her parents), Casper and Eva Margarethe Lindemann. Casper and Eva came to America from Germany in the late 1800s with their children Reinhold, Augusta (my 2nd-great grandmother), Hulda, Augustine (Lena), Charles, Amanda and their grandson Richard. There were many conflicting accounts of when they emigrated but couldn't find anything according to any of the dates I had. After looking for Lind*man* family members all weekend, I finally started searching for Amanda tonight. Not Amanda Lindemann. Just Amanda. I knew she was born in 1882, and I knew she was here by 1892, because she's in the 1892 New York census. So I looked for Amanda, born 1880-1884, emigrated between 1882-1892. And lo and behold, an Amanda popped up. Not Amanda with a last name - just Amanda. So I checked out the image (Tuesday's tiny genealogy tip - ALWAYS check the image, not just the index, because I have often found transcription errors in the index) and there was an Amanda, traveling with a Richard, a Carl (Charles was also known as Carl), an Augustina, a Hulda, an Eva and a head of household whose name was completely lost in a decaying crease on the page. Jackpot. All the names and ages were right. Because I knew this was them, I could make out the "Cas" in Casper and the L in Lindemann in the cracked part of the page. But because it was the head of the household whose name was lost completely, and his was the only one where the last name was written, the rest of the family members also lost their last names...so they were there, in the record, but a search for Lindemann would never turn them up. Funny how easy it was after years of being so hard.

So, these members of the family (my Augusta and her brother Reinhold apparently traveled to the U.S. separately) sailed into New York on July 2, 1891 aboard the Rotterdam, a Dutch ship, which took on passengers in Boulogne, France and Amsterdam, Netherlands. That seems to strange to me, only because all my German ancestors before this have all sailed out of German ports. I have information that Augusta Lindemann was born in Stedtlingen, in central Germany far from any ocean ports, but even though I know the family was there in the 1870s and 1880s, I don't know where they were after that fact, so maybe Amsterdam or Boulogne were the closest ports to where they were...did they spend any extended amount of time in either of these areas? Which port did they embark at? This is the way genealogy goes - answer one question, find five more questions. But I'm happy. I know very little about Casper and Eva (who also went by Margaret) and so this is one new tiny piece of their puzzles that I get to fill in!

The Lindemann family sailed into New York July 2, 1891 aboard the Rotterdam.