Different birthplaces in records of great grandparents

+4 votes
168 views
My great grandparents on my mother's side are John Ellis(h) Sr and Julia (Bruziki*) Ellis

**Her name is always spelled different so these are alternate spellings: Brusinski, Prusinski, Bruzenski, Pruzenski, Pruziki

I've found different records that list them as being from Poland, Hungary, and Austria. One record I found for Julia she listed her parents birthplace as Germany. And a record for one of their kids lists his parents birthplace as Holland. How am I supposed to know which one is correct? And how do I find out who their parents were and so on?
WikiTree profile: John Ellis
in Genealogy Help by Emily Green G2G1 (1.0k points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
The history of Poland is mean and dirty. At times the country was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Parts of it were claimed by Russia and parts of it were chewed up by Imperial German rulers. And, in fact, Germany wasn't Germany . So depending on where, when  the records were made and who wrote, translated or transcribed them, you get different interpretations of data

3 Answers

+2 votes
I assume that the records you refer to are immigration-related records and census records from the 19th and 20th centuries. Changes in the political geography of Europe could resulted in a place being part of different nations at different times, and people from that place would have dutifully reported whatever nation was in control at the time they were asked. On top of that, sometimes other family members (or even neighbors) were answering the questions, and they might have reported an incorrect location because they didn't know or didn't remember.

I suggest that you use your great grandmother's profile here to document the details of every individual record that you have for her. Indicate the date of each record, how her name was recorded, and any other information that it contains (such as age, birth place, family members' names and ages, and the name of the informant if an informant is identified), and provide complete citations to each source. When you see all this information in one place, in chronological order, you may start seeing some patterns that can be related to European history.

Also, please don't assume that one particular spelling of her name is the "correct"  one and that all other spellings should be rejected. In her biography, document the spelling that you find on each record for her (or that you think is for her). The LNAB on her profile should be the name from her birth or baptism record (if you get so lucky!) or a source that you appears to represent the name the family was using when she was born. Other spellings of her last name that you find on  records should go in the "Other Last Names" field, separated by commas. Keeping track of the spellings that were used on her actual records may help you with your research. See https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Help:Name_Fields for more information on this.
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.2m points)
I wrote down the year of each record and the country

1900-1910- two records for Poland

1920s- 9 records for Austria

1930s- 7 records for Poland; 1 for Holland

1940s- one for Poland; two for Hungary

Still have no clue how knowing this would help. I have literally no leads or info. No birth certificates or death certificates. And I've searched for days. I don't think I'll ever find anything more about them.

A lot of places had several variations on their name, depending on which country claimed the area at the time. An example would be what is now Ivano-Frankivsk, which was called Stanisławów in Polish and Stanislav in Russian, as well as Stanislau in German when it was part of Austria and Stanyslaviv during the first Ukrainian Republic.

+1 vote
The one area that could fit all locations but Holland is Galicia. It was very early on briefly Hungarian (14th century), always bordered on Slovakia which was under the Hungarian crown, it was Polish/Lithuanian until 1772 and then Austrian until 1918. The name under Austrian rule, Königreich Galizien und Lodomerien, is derived from the brief Hungarian period.
by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (544k points)
0 votes

Glad I’m not the only one with this problem. My maternal grand parents claim to have been born in Germany, Austria, Russia, and other countries depending on the census year. I finally used my grand mothers Petition for Naturalization to show her birth place. My grand father never submitted a Petition as far as I know. Both were very young when immigrating to Fayette County, Texas and married after growing up.

Even my paternal GGG grand father’s children all born in the America give places where their father was born ranging from Pennsylvania to North Carolina. I at least have a record showing he lived in Middlesex, NJ at one time.

by William Hull G2G2 (2.1k points)

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