Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So where did you say East Friesland was?

It's always especially fun for me when I start research on a new family, because I tend to find a lot of records fairly quickly and the discoveries come fast and furious.  And when the research is in areas that are new to me, I learn interesting new things.

In this family, the paternal grandfather was from East Friesland, an area of Germany considered to be somewhat backward and populated with "country bumpkin" types.  His adult grandchildren identify strongly with East Friesland because they were close to their grandfather and have visited his home town there multiple times.  They were quite surprised when I discovered that their paternal grandmother's father's side was solidly from Bavaria, the traditional antithesis of East Friesland.  Apparently it's kind of like saying that a North Carolina hillbilly hooked up with a Manhattan socialite.

I found the grandfather listed on a Hamburg ship manifest, where his nationality was listed as "Preussen" (Prussian).  What, they weren't German?  Following up on this led to the information that East Friesland was politically part of the Kingdom of Hannover (today the state of Niedersachsen [Lower Saxony]), which was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866.  So yes, the East Frieslanders were counted as Prussians!

And then there's the question of just how "Frisian" the East Frieslanders actually are.  Some current research hypothesizes that Angles and Saxons overran the area centuries ago and that the people there today have neglible or no Frisian heritage.

Isn't genealogy great?

16 comments:

  1. Hello, I seeing this article about East Frisia, I also noticed that you specialize in Jewish research. I was wondering if you know anything about the Jews in East Frisia?

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    1. I may be able to help you as I have a great deal of information (16,000+ people) about the former Jewish community of Ostvriesland (East Friesland). Mos tof my family came from either Norden or Aurich.
      Please send me what information you have and I will see if and how it might fit into the information I have. My e-mail address is: delowe at netvision.net.il.
      Jack de Lowe
      Raanana, Israel

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    2. Jack,
      Thanks very much for your generous offer. I hope my reader sees your message and writes to you.
      Janice

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  2. I have not yet had the opportunity to research Jews in East Frisia. Is that where your family was from?

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  3. Yes, I am trying to find out more information about Jews in East Frisa, but I can't find anything.

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  4. try to The first thing you need to do is learn what city/town your family probably was from, if you haven't already. Then you need to determine what country that place is in today, because many database listings go by current country borders.

    As I mentioned in this blog post, East Frisia was part of Prussia, so you can try looking for records under Prussia. You'll probably also need to look under Germany, because many databases, such as JewishGen.org, don't list Prussia as an option. And you'll also need to check under The Netherlands; for example, the Family History Library catalog doesn't list anything for East Frisia or East Friesland, but has Friesland as part of The Netherlands. (It also lists Prussia as part of Germany, which is an oversimplification.) Oh, the fun of changing borders!

    As an example, if you look under Friesland, Netherlands in the catalog, there are listings for Jewish history and Jewish records (https://familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=localitydetails&subject=152441&subject_disp=Netherlands%2C+Friesland&columns=*,0,0).

    I hope this has helped a little.

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  5. They were from Aurich, Germany.

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    1. If you go to the Family History Library catalog here:

      https://familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=localitydetails&subject=38861&subject_disp=Germany%2C+Preu%26%23xdf%3Ben%2C+Hannover%2C+Aurich&columns=*,0,0

      you will see the microfilms that the church has available for Aurich (in Ostfriesland). There are two categories of films for Jewish records. I checked, and none of these films have been digitized yet, but you can rent copies and have them sent to the FamilySearch Center closest to you.

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  6. I'm not able to go to a familysearch center anytime soon, but Is there any way I can find records besides that?

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    1. It is unlikely there are other copies of those records in the U.S. besides the ones filmed by the Family History Library. I have not found evidence that any of the records are online (Germany is very big on privacy), so your next choice would proably be to go to Germany.

      The only other thing I can think of is to ask the Family History Library if you can purchase a copy of the microfilm. I don't believe they do that, but it never hurts to ask. That would require you to have access to a microfilm reader to use them.

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  7. What about hiring a professinal genealogist?

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    1. I apologize, somehow I had the idea that you were interested in doing the research yourself. Certainly, hiring a professional genealogist is always an option. In this case you will want someone who is near a FamilySearch Center or Library and who can read the 18th- and 19th-century German (at least the catalog says the records are in German). It's possible the metrical records are in Hebrew to German. You can go to the Association of Professional Genealogists site at http://www.apgen.org/ and search there by research specialty. For this research it would probably be good to look for someone who knows German and Jewish research.

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  8. My wife's family name is Friese and I had read about Friesland. Now watching a show called the Baltic Coast I saw East Friesland. I bought her a shirt a few years ago with the Frielsand flag on it. I am guessing her ancestors came from that area.

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    1. Her ancestors certainly could have come from there. It's also possible that they originally had been from Friesland and an ancestor had moved somewhere else in Europe, where he was identfied as "Friese" because that's where he used to be from (i.e., the guy who came from Friesland). I'm sure it would be interesting to research it to learn for sure!

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  9. Ms. Sellers/Mr. Lowe:

    This is a shot in the dark. Since discovering the Star of David on my great grandparents's headstone in Drachten, Holland I have been researching the jewish history of Freisland. I have traced my family back to the mid 1700's without establishing a jewish link. The earliest family names I have found are Louwes and Zwarts with the records showing no indication of babtism of they or their only daughter. Their daughter's children were babtized (she married a 'Gal" -now spelled Gall, my last name). I noticed Mr. De Lowe's post and was wondering what information he may have on the history of the Lowe, or Louwe names in Freisland. My own grandparents immigrated to Canada in the 1920's and never practiced or discussed religion, although many of their ancestors were babtized according to my research.

    I would also like to ask Ms. Sellers for any leads or advice she can suggest. I am planning a trip to Holland this June and am wondering if there are resources worth exploring beyond the internet. Unfortunately my family came from very small villages around Drachten and Leeuwarden so I don't know how much would exist in terms of records. I understand family names were not even common before the 1800's and I can see that reflected in the naming pattern of my own family.

    Thanks, Adam Gall




















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    1. Adam,

      It is possible that the lack of a baptismal record could indicate your family members were not Christian. It could also indicate that they were baptised somewhere else and later moved to Friesland.

      As I mentioned in an earlier response, I have not researched Jews in Friesland. Mr. de Lowe seems to be an excellent resource, however. Just in case he doesn't happen to see this post to my blog, you also might want to contact him directly at the e-mail address he gave: delowe at netvision.net.il.

      You also could try searching in the Family History Library Catalog, available at FamilySearch.org, to see what records the church as available for Drachten and Leeuwarden. If you have not done so yet, I also recommend checking CyndisList.com to see what online resources she lists for The Netherlands, which is where I would expect her to place links for Friesland.

      One last thing to think about is whether the Star of David on your great-grandparents' tombstone was meant to indicate Judaism. Masons used the Star of David as a symbol sometimes. I don't know what the star looks like on the tombstone, but it's a possibility.

      The best of luck with your research.

      Janice

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