A doc illustrating the difficuties of finding an historic place name.

+5 votes

This url tracks one search for a place-name and illustrates the kinks found in just the search for Mosbach.

Philipp Bauer of Mußbach

[Mussbach], Rhineland Pfalz, Germany


I've been learning genealogy for only 6 or 7 years. My biological German relatives are found in several places in Germany, including all border changes during and after wars. Town names changed. Switzerland and Holland relatives are also in that part of my tree.
in The Tree House by Living Berg G2G6 Mach 1 (19.3k points)
The years long stall in my finding records is frustrating, and at this point, the search for Mußbach above, is not relevant to my search. It must have made sense to me at the time. My German family names are very common ones. That's a problem. My paternal gf is an unnamed Ashkenazi Jew. My gm immigrated to CT in US, and my father bore her surname until he was adopted through her marriage in CT. She was b. in Karlsruhe, my father in Frankfurt am Main. So what does one do after years of looking?

1 Answer

+3 votes

It may not be relevant to your research anymore, but maybe some thoughts in general how to approach the search for hard to find towns can help others:

  • Sometimes it helps searching the language-specific Wikipedia for the towns, There tend to be way more villages or districts of larger towns listed. For Germany and German speaking areas outside Germany that is de.wikipedia.org.
  • Particularly the German Wikipedia often lists the name also as it sounds in the dialect of the area which can be completely different from the formal German name and hence end up in a completely different misspelling in English documents. Examples: Stuttgart - Schduegerd, München - Minga, Freiburg - Friburg, Aachen - Oche.
  • Consider umlauts - search results will differ whether an umlaut is used or not. Consider variant ways of rendering an umlaut: For a that can be ä, ae, æ, ae, depending on the time and type of document.
  • The use of the "long s" ſ can change the pronunciation depending on time and region: ſſ in Bohemia is pronounced sch, in Germany it would be only in the middle of a word and make the preceding vowel short, at the end of a word it would be written as ſs. Written in the middle of a word that would be similar to ſz making the preceding vowel long.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (552k points)

Helmut, Thank you for your notes above. I must ask a couple of questions, for myself and for the many others who may be in the complexity of looking for similar items.

       What are the letters in English in the use of "the 'long S' or 'long s'"? [Yes, I've seen them  in type for years, surely. And wouldn't the the term or item be spelled in English as SS, or ss?] You represent them, I see your notes, as "Sometimes it helps searching the language-specific [to] Wikipedia for the towns, but I have confusion trying to figure out any similarities between the ones you speak specifically about and the ones that simply appear.

I'm not all too familiar with the use of the "long s" in English, my hunch would be to assume a "long s" was simply used in the middle of a word and a "round s" at the end. It would, therefore be correct to simply replace it with a modern "s" in transcriptions.

German dialects are quite different in their pronunciation from Hochdeutsch, the written German, to the extent that people from different areas in Germany with different dialects would have a hard time understanding each other if they wouldn't speak Hochdeutsch but their respective dialects. If some recent immigrant in the 18th or 19th century would have been asked where s/he was from and answered with the name of a town in his/her dialect the resulting record might look quite different from what we would expect knowing the official name.

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