Since my primary research goal is to locate any records of my paternal and maternal ancestors in East Prussia, I try to go to the Family History Library in Salt Lake as carefully prepared as I can to achieve this goal. The results of this research which started in 2010 was summarized in posts in November 2016 to February 2017. It is easier to say, “I have eliminated a lot of possibilities” rather than “I have not found a single clue.”
Two family stories indicated Eydtkuhnen in Kreis Stallupönen as the best place to look. Ironically, I found no Spurgats or any of the other names I was seeking in all my research, mostly perusing indices, so I had moved to adjacent kreise, Gumbinnen and Insterburg as possibilities. In checking my research, I discovered that I had missed a parish in Kreis Stallupönen, so that should be my next target. Without a trip to Salt Lake in 2016, I ordered films from one parish in Kreis Stallupönen that I had apparently missed, Pillupönen.
This post briefly summarizes eight, three hour sessions, I spent examining these three films.
I use two parameters for this type of research:
• 16 names: birth records of great grandparents and great-great grandparents from who may have been born in East Prussia from 1809 to 1843, based on their ages in their marriage records in the Russian Empire.
• 6 names: marriages of great-great grandparents from 1830 to 1845 based on their ages in the birth records of their children in the Russian Empire.
So I ordered three films online from the Family History Library:
Evangelische Kirche Pillupönen (Kr. Stallupönen)
Taufen 1779-1805 (r. & l. S.) — Taufen 1806-1821 (r. & l. S.) 1813200
Taufen [1806-1815 (2. Kopie), 1821-1832] (r. & l. S.) 1811031 Item 2
Taufen 1833-1850 (l. & r. S.) 1810624
Remember: the wealth of information the FHL catalogue description gives: brief history of the kreis and names of all the tiniest of places the parish records cover.
The columned records were fairly easy to read and I concentrated on finding the father’s and mother’s names. Some were very light; some were smeared and blotchy; some handwriting was easier to read than others.
I looked at the names of the witnesses for quite a while. When I realized that the population of this parish was very stable through the repetition of names and the formation of families, I decided that I was not going to read witnesses as I doubted witnesses would travel very far; they had to live close.
The 24 hours of research can be summed up in the following way: the three films included the variety of names associated with the various ethnic groups in the eastern half of East Prussia. Common “German” names like Opperman and Zimmerman are intermixed with the usual Lithuanian suffixes- aitis, -eitis, -tis, -eit, and -in for the suffix of feminine names. This should be expected as the demographic descriptions of this area by multiple sources should remind the researcher that Germanized Lithuanians dominated this part of East Prussia through acceptance of the German language and religion.
In an interesting twist, I ran once again into the Hotop/Hutop/Hotopp family that had been featured in an early edition of Alt Preusssische. https://suwalkigermans.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/german-language-genealogical-periodicals-altpreussische-geschlechterkunde/
I was able to match the birthdates of some of the same children on the film as in the article. It made me realize that others had already perused these records over 90 years ago to preserve their family history. Maybe that was a research strategy to pursue: contact with German families who had already worked on their family history–placing a query on East Prussian websites. Has anyone had success in doing that?
Because of way these records had been filmed, you had to keep track of whether you were reading the left hand side or the right hand side in order to find the single birth record you are seeking. First the right hand side of the kirchebuch was filmed for a given year or series of years. Then the left hand side of the kirchebuch was filmed, easy for the photographer but not the researcher!
What does one do when all one has done is to eliminate possibilities? Think hard.
1. If any of the 16 names I am searching are not in East Prussia, they were in the Russian Empire Lithuania by this time.
2. If William Gustave Spurgat’s and Adolph Spurgat’s fathers came from Eydtkuhnen, they had to be in East Prussia until this time.
3. Should be able to find birth of great-grandmother Anna Ber/Berz/Bers as she was born in Prussia in 1838, but don’t know location.
4. Check all locations in Kreis Stallupönen again and see if there are records without indexes to look at as only looked at indexes in East Prussia.
5. Do a complete review of records in East Prussia looked at. Did you just look at indexes or did you look at actual records for the names and dates specified?
6. Dawid Spurgat, relationship unknown, was born in the district of Karole in 1795 so some people named Spurgat were born in New East Prussia before it became part of the Russian Empire.
7. Make a chart of all birth information you know about Spurgats, regardless of relationship.