I am familiar with the Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe at https://www.sggee.org/ as in 2009 FEEFHS and SGGEE shared a conference in Milwaukee. I frequented their website in the early years of my research as there was very little online about Lutherans in Russian Poland.
An early reader of this blog, Al Hirsch, shared the following information with me:
I found most of the Seirijai church records I was looking for…online!
Al: The Polish Archives has now filmed them and put them online for viewing and copying on my own computer. I found them at http://www.sggee.org under “Lutheran Records in Russian Poland.” It lists records for many Lithuania and Poland places and many churches.
They have the Seirijai Evangelical Lutheran church records from 1826 to 1875 and the Seirijai Evangelical Reformed church records from 1852 to 1912. Unfortunately the records for the years 1800 to 1825 (which contain my great-great grandfather Karl Hirsch) are…missing. And, of course, someone has to know Polish and Russian and has to figure out the old place names – which I can almost manage.
Professor Cynthia Vakareliyska told me she saw these Seirijai records at the Suwalki Archives around 2003 when she was researching her paper. Her German Protestant ancestors are also from Seirijai and Kalvaria, and she has visited the same places in Seirijai and Kalvaria that I did last summer.
I went to SGGEE and was very impressed. A lot of people have gone to a lot of work to make these selected records go online. Yes, these are easier to use than microfilm but you need to be an experienced researcher to use these well. You’d have to have a pretty good idea that who you are looking for is there, but Al discovered some unknown people.
So just for fun I asked Al to give me a name and a year of someone he found to me see how long it took me to find the record.
Al wrote: Look for my grandfather, Andrei (Andreas) Hirsch, born in 1864. Hint: there is an index, but the numbers don’t seem to be correct. You will also see an August Adam Hirsch who is an cousin of his, now that I know HIS father.
I used the alphabetical register to find the name and then went back to the record.
I wrote back: First I went to the Lutheran records as I did not remember about the Reformed church until I couldn’t find them in the Lutheran records. There were not a lot of names. I wondered why I could not find them so I looked further. The penmanship looked familiar. Of course, it was by Brueggermann, the same pastor as Vilkaviskis where I had researched the Spurgats. I noticed these were “duplikat” records.
Then I went to the Reformed records for 1864. I found the index, noticed that there was only one number, not two, like I am accustomed to seeing on Family History Library microfilm, one for the record number and one for the alphabetical placement in the register. I took the number to be for the number of the actual record. Of course, I was wrong. I didn’t find them in record no. 6 or record no. 10. Then I looked through every record from start to finish from no. 1 to the end. I thought I found them but didn’t understand the numbering system. Then when I went back to the alphabetic register, I noticed more than one record was labeled 6, etc. and so I realized the pastor had recorded the page number with more than one record on a page. Then I did it page by page. I went with the original page number as that is what the pastor would have gone by; only the page number is only written on the upper right. So once you have the system down, it went pretty fast.
August Adam Hirsch’s record no.15 is on page 6. Andrei (Andreas) Hirsch’s record no. 23 is on page 10.
I noticed that several of these people could write their own name!
I also found the Hirsch name in record no. 10, lines 15 and 19; no. 25 and no. 26 maybe as witnesses or godparents.
This experience makes me remember how hard this work really is! But for Al,
Now I’ll be able to fill in a lot of blanks in my tree since all four grandparents and their ancestors are in these records.
My final thought had to do with using page numbers (SGGEE) rather than a record number and a number in the alphabetical register at the end of each year (FHL Microfilm). It is likely that because of the pattern of layout–birth records, alphabetical register; marriage records, alphabetical register; death records, alphabetical register–that the records were copied at the end of the year and sent to the higher authority after the alphabetical register was made. If so, as researchers we must always be aware when examining a new set of records that our prior experience cannot impede our new research strategy. Fresh eyes for new material.