Presentations: I was scheduled to give three presentations: Two were in a “Beyond the Basics” strand:
Brick Walls in Genealogical Research
Writing and Publishing Family History in the 21st Century
As part of the Onsite/Travel Research I was to give
Using DNA and Local Guides for Overseas Research (Much of the content of this presentation is on the blog as I discussed the July 2013 Family History Tour.)
I was able to talk with my professional translator, Marek Koblanski, for the first time in four years. I shared the story of our 2010 great find in the Purwiniszki post on November 21, 2013.
I was able to meet with other researchers, speakers, and former speakers, many of whom have been instrumental in my success with researching Suwalki Province ancestors.
There were four people with Lithuanian connections: one Jewish, a professional genealogist; two ladies who were searching for Roman Catholic records in Lithuania, and me searching for “Germans” in East Prussia as I already had the records for my family in Suwalki Province. I was able to help one of the two ladies with locating two villages with the Gazetteer of Lithuania http://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Lithuania_Gazetteers and then an online Lithuanian map http://www.maps.lt. She had the correct spelling of both villages from immigration records and family papers which she had brought with her, and we located the two villages near Vilnius where she thought her ancestors were. I also helped her find one village in the Family History Library Catalogue (to be known as the Family Search Catalogue in September 2014.) https://familysearch.org/catalog-search. When those records ended before the era of her family, I suggested that she contact the Roman Catholic Diocese in Lithuania in order to research the availability of parish records for her village as it is my current understanding that Roman Catholic records have not been filmed by the FHL. She seemed appreciative of my efforts.
The most unexpected and exciting bit of research at the conference for me came from Diane Afoumado, PhD, chief of the ITS (International Tracing Service) Research Branch at the Holocaust Survivors and Victims Resource Center at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D, C. https://www.its-arolsen.org/. After a quick survey meeting with her on Tuesday afternoon, I compiled a list of the Spurgats in Lithuania that I knew were relocated back to northern and southern Germany after WWII. When I met with her for one hour on Wednesday, she was able to locate people with the Spurgat name in Lithuania, especially Wylkowiszki. Although many of them could not be found because they were in the Soviet sector for which they do not have records, a few records did intrigue me. The Adolf Spurgat who was born in September 25, 1894, was the son of Johann Spurgat and Maria Laurinat of Wylkowiszki. He died in Essen in 1944 of unknown causes. His address and burial information were also given. This was amazing to me for two reasons: First, I have this Adolf Spurgat in my Spurgat book; from extractions from the Archivum Patriae in Warsaw, the birthdates match but the names of the mothers do not. Maria Matutaitis is the mother’s name along with the names, birthdates, and death of two other siblings. Second, the parallels to my family were astounding: my grandfather was also named Adolf Spurgat; his father was also named Johann Spurgat; they both lived in Wylkowiszki (spelling the German way as Wilkiwischken; and my grandfather Adolf Spurgat lived in Essen from 1900 to 1905! Perhaps this is the Johann Wilhelm who was the older brother of my grandfather Adolf!
Diane gave me instructions on how to get further records by e-mailing her specific information about each individual that she could pass on to each member of her staff who specializes in various areas. My big questions is: If these Spurgats were in the Soviet area, how did they ever get released to re-settle, some in southern Germany and some in Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany?
I also read Growing up in War-Torn Lithuania and Germany by George P. Blum, a book recommended by two researchers who follow this blog, and the subject of a future post. It was so appropriate to be reading this book during the conference and while researching at the Family History Library, the subject of the next post.