I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad…
— Oscar Hammerstein II, lyricist, My Favorite Things
There are times, in genealogy, when you can do all the right things… and still not find the answer.
When you can follow every bit of advice you’re given, and it simply doesn’t work.
And then you feel so bad.
It happens to every one of us, The Legal Genealogist included.
Case in point: one of my German ancestors, a second great grandfather by the name of Smidt. Jacobus Johannes Smidt, to be precise.
He was born on the 14th of June 1836 to Carl and Catherine Marie (Schöne) Smidt at home at Kleine Sortillienstrasse nr. 5.1 He married Johanna Henrietta Hüneke at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Bremen on 17 October 1861.2 My great grandmother, his daughter Juliane Margarethe Smidt, was born 12 November 1864 in the same house where her father had been born at Kleine Sortillienstrasse nr. 5.3 The last known child was born in 1870.4
We know that Jacobus Johannes Smidt was deceased by the time of his daughter Juliane’s marriage in 1884,5 but exactly when did he die?
The answer for the longest time was … I didn’t know.
Even though I’d done all the right things.
The Standesamt records for Bremen — the civil registrations from the City — for the years 1811-1875 have been microfilmed by FamilySearch. Today they’ve even been digitized. But they’re only available at the authorized locations like the FHL or affiliate libraries and the like. At the time I reviewed them, they were only on microfilm.
So I did all the right things. I identified every surname I might be interested in and made sure I copied the index pages for every one of those names. That way, if I missed copying one while I was there, it would be easy to get someone to get me a copy of that one page.
And I made doubly sure that I copied all the index pages where those surnames might be found — they’re alphabetical, so I have on my hard drive, right now, all the index pages for Bremen deaths from 1811-1875 with any surname starting with the letter S.
And I didn’t find any entry for the death of Jacobus Johannes Smidt in the Bremen Standesamt records for 1811-1875.
Which meant, I figured, it occurred sometime between 1876 and 1884.
So it was one of the 8,462 items on my list for the long-planned German research trip. The one that had me blocking off an entire month, making sure I didn’t take on any obligations that could interfere. I was going to be in Germany for the entire month of September.
That didn’t quite work out, did it?
And I feel so bad.
So… how do I find when Jacobus Johannes Smidt died if I can’t access the records?
I remember my favorite things.
Two of them in particular.
One is the website of Die Maus – Gesellschaft für Familienforschung e. V. Bremen, otherwise known as the Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen.6 Where there are links to both the older Standesamt records and to burial records for the City after 1875.
And sure enough there is a death recorded for one Jacobus Smidt. In 1917.7 Way too late to be my guy. There’s also a death of a Smidt with a similar name in 1871,8 but I’ve already looked at the death records for 1871 at the Family History Library and I didn’t find my guy.
And I still feel so bad.
The other is the collection of Bremen city directories — Bremer Adressbuch — at the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen, the City and University Library.9 Where my guy — sigh — can’t be found for the most part in the einwohner (residents) pages.
And so I still feel so bad.
But waitaminnit. Those directories also list people who live at specific addresses. And boy do I ever have a specific address! My guy was born at Kleine Sortillienstrasse nr. 5 in 1836; his daughter was born at the same place in 1864. Sounds like a place to look, no?
And sure enough — starting in 1862 and running all the way through 1871 is a J.J. Smidt or Schmidt at 5 Kleine Sortillienstrasse.10
And in 1872? It’s Smidt, J.J., Wwe.11 Wittwe. Widow.
So looking back at the Standesamt index at Die Maus, that Johannes Jacobus Smidt who died in 1871, well, he pretty much has to be my guy, doesn’t he?
And now I feel so bad.
Awful in fact. I mean seriously? It’s my guy in 1871, I have the index pages for all Bremen deaths starting with the letter S for 1811-1875 and I missed it?
Nope. Turns out he didn’t get indexed. I’m sitting here looking right at the index page for Bremen deaths, 1871. Ain’t nobody with a surname starting with the letter S recorded on page 73 of Band I for 1871. In fact, there’s nobody with the surname Smidt or anything remotely similar in that list for the entirety of 1865-1875.
Not finding somebody I should have found makes me feel so bad.
Not finding him because he got missed in the indexing? That’s not so bad.
And finally finding him?
That’s one of my favorite things.
Along with ordering a copy of his death record now that I know where it’s to be found…
Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “So bad… and not so bad…,” The Legal Genealogist (https://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog : posted 27 Feb 2021).
- Bremen Standesamt, Geburten 1836 no. 741, Jacobus Johannes Smidt; FHL microfilm 1344156, Salt Lake City. ↩
- Ibid., Heiraten 1861 seite 458, Smidt-Hüneke; FHL microfilm 1344201. ↩
- Ibid., Geburten 1864 no. 2367, Juliane Margarethe Smidt; FHL microfilm 1344173. ↩
- Ibid., Geburten 1870 nr. 2478, Johann Heinrich Smidt; FHL microfilm 1344178. ↩
- Bremen Standesamt, Heiraten 1884 Nr. 713, Nuckel-Smidt; record copy from Standesamt. ↩
- Die Maus — Gesellschaft für Familienforschung e. V. Bremen (Family History and Genealogical Society of Bremen (https://die-maus-bremen.info/ : accessed 27 Feb 2021). ↩
- Ibid., “Die Leichenbücher der Stadtgemeinde Bremen von 1875-1975” (Funerary Records 1875-1975), entry for Smidt, Jacobus. ↩
- Ibid., “Erläuterungen zum Bremer Zivilstandsreg. von 1811 – 1875” (Civil Registration records, 1811-1875), entry for Smidt, Johannes Jacobus, 1871, Band I, Seite 73. ↩
- Bremer Adressbuch, 1794 – 1980; digital images, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Bremen (https://www.suub.uni-bremen.de/ : accessed 27 Feb 2021). ↩
- Ibid., entries for 1862-1871. His stepfather was recorded there in earlier years. ↩
- Ibid., entry for 1872. ↩