13 December 2009

To the FHL for research

In 2002 I went to Salt Lake City with a friend for a week of research at the Family History Library. We went with the NGS group, which was nice as it gave you someone to meet for meals, discuss problems or finds and just chat. The members of this group came from all over the US. We found it interesting how some of these people headed straight to the US Census films. For them, this was a goldmine!! (There was not so much content on the Internet back then.) Since we had all the census near to hand at home, we headed out for filmed local records.
I had prepared for the trip by searching the FHL catalog from home and found my own goldmine. Since my family is all Dutch, I had one specific area to work. Lucky for me - zillions of records from the Netherlands are filmed. Also, they have civil registrations of births, deaths and marriages starting quite early (relatively speaking!). When Napoleon took over the Netherlands, he instituted a system of civil registrations. For most of the country these began in 1811. A couple years later, Napoleon was out but the civil registration stayed. For a few short years (it seems to vary by locality), the records are in French, but then revert to Dutch.
So there I was, with thousands of rolls of microfilm covering all the areas of the Netherlands I was interested in. And many of them have indexes! In many cases they have other films called tienjarige tafels - literally ten-year tables, or indexes covering 10-year spans.
Of course, you do need to know where the person or family of interest lived. There was no overall index for the country. Now there are many online sources, but most of these are for a province or smaller area. The most comprehensive is Genlias (www.genlias.nl) which has indexed records from many parts of the country (though not all). Many more sites are now adding digital images of the records. But when I started this, film was the way to go.
And I was in seventh heaven! I was going back and forth from microfilm reader to printer, saying "thank goodness for Napoleon!" and "Gotta love bureaucracy!!" for making so much material available for research. And also, of course, thanks to the Genealogical Society of Utah for filming these records and the records keepers for allowing that.
And so, armed with names and dates from the North Holland Church register, and a place name from the gravestone of Willem Morren, I looked for the birth registrations of the children, including my great-grandmother.

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