Monday, June 25, 2012

Almost Lost in Translation

I have said for some time that I need to learn German. My grandfather spoke French and I took it in high school, so I can manage pretty well when it comes to searching French documents. However, the other half of the family is German and when it comes to understanding German.... it is Greek to me.

 Recently I attended a webinar about  German research. It was really great, especially when he said how easy German was to learn. Sure I thought, I can do this. He gave several examples and I wrote them down enthusiastically, thinking, I am going to remember all these clues and when I search my German ancestors it is going to be so much easier. I even looked into learning German on tape, I mean this was serious business. I was determined to do this thing! Then yesterday happened to show me I really should pay more attention to phonetics......

The presenter of the webinar gave some phonetic clues and suggestions about how many German words are the same or nearly the same in English. Such as:  paar for pair; ost for east; neun for nine; vater for father, and so on. If only I would have headed these clues, I would have saved myself a whole day of research and a terrible headache. When I realized my simple phonetic mistake it was like a window opening to a whole new world of research opportunities.

The German surname I was researching was Baker. My great great grandmother was Augusta Baker, born in New Orleans, La to German immigrants, Jacob Baker and Magdalena Kisner. I knew this because I have Magdalena's birth certificate. I also have the date of immigration for Jacob Baker, 1859. I found them in the 1870 census all listed as Baker, with children Frank, Anna, Peter, Augusta, Lena, and John. I have Augusta's marriage record to  Phillip Roth in which she is listed as Baker. Magdalena Kisner died between 1873 and 1874 because in the 1880 census, we now have Martha as the wife of Jacob. In searching the marriage records, it lists a Jacob Becker and Martha Theis as marrying in 1874. Yet, in the 1880 census it says Jacob and Martha Baker with children Eva, Rosa, and Jacob. All following census also say Baker. So, I was at a loss, and could no longer find anything outside the census records and I decided to walk away for awhile and work on another line.

Then yesterday, I decide to work on my great grandmother, daughter of Augusta Baker. I came across a little news clipping from 1937. It says that Mrs. Eva Ladner entertained guests from New Orleans this week, and goes on to name them. Her aunt, Mrs. K. Becker, and son Jacob, and granddaughter Thais and Nick Noriea, Mrs. F. Becker and daughter Doris, Mr. and Mrs. W. Muhl, and sons George and Billy, Mrs. L. Muhl all of New Orleans.
This gave me pause, because first I thought, "Yay, new names to look up for clues" then I realized it said Becker as her Aunt. I knew Eva's sister had married a Becker, could they have mixed that up? I decided to just look into all these names and see what may happen.

  1. Mrs. K Becker- listed as Aunt of Eva Roth, father's side not an option since they are already well documented by myself. This means it had to be her mother Augusta's sister or a sister in law. 
  2. Jacob Becker- there are so many Jacob Becker's listed in New Orleans during this time it was a headache going throuh them all to find one that had a mother or father with a K name or a daughter with the name Thais. 
  3. Thais Becker-this was an unusual name and it would be my starting point as it would stand out. A thought was nagging me about the name since this was the surname of Jacob Baker's second wife, Martha Theis and they had a son named Jacob. Could the paper have meant Baker, not Becker? 
  4. Nicholas Noriea- a quick search found him married to Thais Becker in 1938
  5. Mrs. F. Becker- Jacob Baker and Magdalena had a son named Frank could this be his wife, surname possibly mistaken?
  6. Doris Becker- quick search showed a Doris Becker Wenker's obit as the daughter of Frank Becker and Harriet White. 
  7. Mrs. W Muhl- another good starting point as it is an unusual name, search came up with William Muhl as well as George and Billy
  8. Mrs. L. Muhl- this search along with the above came up with a family tree on ancestry for Magdalena Becker aka Lena Becker married to George Muhl. Augusta Baker also had a sister named Lena. However the owner of this tree had as parents of Lena Becker, Conrad Becker and Elizabeth Fresch. 
  9. Conrad Becker and Elizabeth- search for their family shows a daughter named Magdalena, two  sons Jacob and John by another spouse, Catherine Ellerman. Dates off from birth index and census records for the two Magdalena Becker. Not the same Magdelena.
So with these nine points to go from, I found an obit for Thais Becker Noriea, it listed her parents as Jacob Becker and Eulalie Saucier.  From here, I found the obit for Eulaie Saucier Becker. Not long after I found the obit for Jacob Becker with parents Frank Becker, and Catherine Koch. This alerted me to the fact that I already had Catherine Koch in my tree as the wife of Frank Jacob Baker, brother of Augusta Baker. Something is really wrong with my tree and I pride myself on documentation. I can not believe I have gotten this far off.

  • The Aunt K. Becker could very well be Catherine spelled with a K.

  • Mrs. F. Becker and daughter Doris: in Harriet White Becker's obit it says her husband was Frank J. Becker.

Now, I start going back through the birth index for New Orleans, I take note at how many children are born Baker and Becker to Jacob and his two spouses. Years ago I would have never thought there was anything to this because, I knew Augusta's birth record said Baker, and thought the Becker was a typo. Now, I start thinking Baker is not very Germanic sounding, and Google Baker/Becker in German surnames. Here I see, that the name Becker means baker, and generally this was the persons profession. Guess what Frank Becker's profession was listed as in the census, yes he was a baker. Then I think, oh my gosh the phonetic sound of Baker, Becker!! ARGGGHHH I have been working on this all afternoon trying to figure it all out and it was the same name just a different translation.

So, now with the right searches for Becker, instead of Baker, produced so many hits and took out many chunks in that brick wall.

Hopefully this will also help with the research for finding Jacob Becker and his family before his immigration to Louisiana.

I still want to learn German for fun and to help with research, but for now I will pay closer attention to the phonetic soundings of the German words.

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