Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tuesday’s Tip–Is My Source Lying to Me?

Question_GuyI am going to give two tips for this post and then offer a ‘what if?’ case study from one of my records.

1. Don’t always trust your sources at first glance especially secondary sources. Try and have at least two or more separate sources which tell you the same information. Of course, there are exceptions to this but I believe they are few and far between.

2. Get in touch with older or distant family members who knew the ancestor you are researching. Of course, this is not always possible depending on how far back you are researching. For instance, the record I’ll talk about below if for my great grandmother who passed before I was born. Her daughter, my grandmother, passed before I started researching so I can’t talk with her either. My mother knew her grandmother but didn’t know enough about her to answer questions that I had. However, when I started researching I still had great aunts, my grandmother’s sisters that I could contact. They have been a great help with stories and information that I just can’t get anywhere else.

So, if you don’t read anything else in this post, you have the two tips that I believe are priceless when researching your family history. For the rest of this post, I’m going to describe how those two tips combine to help piece together my great grandmother’s arrival in the United States and what could have happened if I did not follow these tips.

For the rest of this post I am going to be using the ship manifest which shows my great grandmothers arrival in the United States. You can read my initial post about that manifest here: Ship's Manifest. More specifically, I’ll be talking about the information given in the final destination questions on the manifest, shown in the picture below.


Manifest_Male CousinLooking at the final destination questions of the manifest it tells me that Anna was going to join her cousin Jakol Dorjak in Trenton, NJ. If I knew nothing else about Anna and where she was at different times after she arrived in the United States and I did not follow the tips I gave above, I would probably start a search for her in Trenton, NJ. She arrived in August of 1909, so I would start with the 1910 Census in Trenton. I would not only search for her but also the cousin, Jakol Dorjak. Before I start searching, I want to know this Dorjak name. I look through the family book of Anna’s home village and I cannot find a Dorjak so I suspect the spelling is a little off. I find a similar name, Doriath. I search through the nameManifest_Trentons and I can find a Jacob Doriath who is Anna’s cousin. I also find Franz Doriath who I suspect is the Franz Darjack traveling with Anna. The information on age and family matches what is said about him on the manifest. He has a brother, Josef, who he says he is going to join and their father is Josef, the closing living relative in country of origin. So, I’m pretty sure the Dorjak/Darjak names on the manifest are actually Doriath. I cannot find any Doriath or variant of it living in Trenton, NJ in the 1910 census so I expand the search to surrounding areas and other sources like city directories, etc… I’ll keep searching and expanding my search to maybe even trying to find the other Doriath lines hoping to find where Anna settled. As you can see this search could go on and on but I am not going to find Anna in New Jersey or the surrounding areas. Of course, I did not do all this searching for Anna because I followed my own advice above and checked different sources and I asked family members.

At the time I found the manifest I already knew that Anna was married and living in Detroit in 1914, I had a copy of my grandmother’s baptism record which showed this. Between 1909 and 1914 I had no idea where Anna was, where she met her husband or where she had her first two children. I had not found them in any census yet.

So, with the manifest and my grandmother’s baptism records it looked like Anna immigrated to Trenton, NJ in 1909. Then, in December of 1914 she gave birth to my grandmother. Everything in between was a mystery. This is pretty much all I knew about Anna at the time. If I had not followed my advice above and tried to contact family for information, I would have spent many countless hours searching as I described above. I did start to search in the Trenton area but at the same time I also contacted family, my great aunts to be exact, to see if there were any family stories about my great grandmother’s immigration. I was told that Anna immigrated with another family where she was going to tutor their children in English for room and board. They weren’t sure where she was lived for this but they also said that they believed Anna and John (their parents) met at Anna’s brother’s house, Adam Hinterhauser. But again, they didn’t know where this was. However, I had a knew clue to follow and a connection that I could make. I had found an Adam Hinterhauser in a ship’s manifest but didn’t know who this was and if there was any connection to Anna. Now I could make the connection that this could be Anna’s brother. In the manifest Adam said that his final destination was Youngstown, Ohio. To not drag this on too much longer, this is the final connection that put the pieces together. I found Anna and John in Youngstown, Ohio in the 1910 census, they were married. In fact, they were married in January of that year as I found out by writing to the Archdiocese of Youngstown and asking if they had a record of a marriage between Anna Hinterhauser and John Pakledinaz. They were very helpful, found the record of their marriage on 15 January 1910, and even sent me a copy of the marriage certificate.

With all this information, I believe that Anna’s final destination was probably Youngstown, Ohio where her brother already lived and she was going to be tutoring children in English. Things changed fast after she got to Youngstown. She met her future husband and they married just 5 months after she arrived in the United States.

Can I completely disregard the information about Trenton, NJ and her cousin? No, I can’t! I have two theories about this information.

1. The information recorded about her final destination was incorrect due to recorder error or maybe misunderstandings.

2. Anna, on her way to Youngstown, was going to stop and visit with her cousin for a while before moving on to her final destination with her brother. Jacob Doriath is Anna’s cousin and there is a Jakob Doriath arriving in NY in 1908 hailing from the same village as Anna, the ages match so this could be her cousin although is final destination is listed as NY. When asked what her final destination was she could have misunderstood and told them her next destination, which was to visit her cousin.

I would tend to believe that my second is more probable since her cousin is named in the document. This is just a theory and more investigation and research may lead to more proof that is concrete but I honestly doubt I will ever know the exact travels of Anna between New York and Youngstown, Ohio.

I made many mistakes in the early days of my family history hunt. However, in those early days I also read a lot of advice on how to conduct your research and the two tips I presented here are some of what I learned back then. I am glad I listened to that advice or I would have spent many useless hours searching for Anna in all the wrong places.

What was some of the best advice you remember from your early days of your genealogy journey?

Thanks for reading and keep diggin’ for that family.


Question Guy photo courtesy of: Scout

© 2014 Copyright, Christopher Shaw, All Rights Reserved.


  1. Good tips made better by your demonstration of putting them into practice.

    One tip that is really helpful (but I hate practicing because it's so boring) is using land and personal property tax records. They can help you figure out a birth year when a man starts paying taxes; a death year when a widow starts paying taxes; ancestors moving in and out of a county; family relationships.

    1. Thanks Wendy and those are good tips also, but I would agree they are little more boring than most records.