I was sitting in front of my computer screen working through a conundrum on an elusive ancestor: Charles Pfannenmueller, son of Charles and Bertha. I knew little about him except that he had been born in Germany in 1861 and came with his wife to New York from Bremen in 1887. If I was to extend his pedigree, I needed to identify and document his parents and family. What records would provide the desired answers? Passenger lists of that day revealed only names and ages without detailed origin information. Naturalization records only listed “Germany” as his birthplace. To further complicate the problem, Pfannenmueller is a very uncommon name, and can be spelled many different ways from Phanmeller to Fann. Where was I to find him? Germany is a country with millions of people and tens of thousands of cities and parishes. Where to begin? This seemed to be “a needle in a haystack” kind of a problem that was likely to require considerable time and effort to resolve.
I decided with such an uncommon name I would first search online indexes of German record sources to determine what communities “Pfannenmueller” appeared. With that known I could then begin the laborious task of searching for the desired names… place by place, in the available records of the Family History Library here in Salt Lake City, Utah. I chose the index collections on www.FamilySearch.org, the website for the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, because their growing databases are drawn from the millions of original records available in microfilm. These indexes for Germany include nationwide collections of Births/Christenings, Marriages, and Deaths/Burials.
As I anticipated, only a relative few entries appeared for the name Pfannenmueller; and I began to list the communities where it was found. But there to my surprise, in a matter of minutes, I ran across the entry for “Karl Friedrich Julius Pfannenmueller”, born May 5, 1861, in Ueberlingen, Baden, Germany; the son of Karl Friedrich Pfannenmueller and Henriette Albertine (Bertha) Mueller. “Karl” is the German equivalent of “Charles”, and this entry fit our ancestor with name, surname, parents, and date. As a genealogist I knew I couldn’t accept this as our proven ancestor just yet, but now I had a likely choice to study more closely, and possibly solve our ancestral quest.
Personal Revelation in Genealogy
As I pondered this minor discovery, I realized that finding this information in such a manner was as if I had received a personal revelation from God. As a Latter-day Saint I believe in such revelation, and know that such communication from heavenly resources is real and not merely serendipitous as the World might see it. We believe in personal revelation… guidance from the Spirit of God relating to our personal lives and situations. We also believe that revelation is granted to a living Prophet to guide the members of the Church (and the whole World as well) toward Eternal heavenly principles and concepts. Within this concept of heavenly communication, I believe our Heavenly Father provides guidance and information quietly and step by step for the benefit of all people.
In the matter of ancestral research, I believe this is “genealogical revelation.” As a youth, and a budding genealogist, I remember being taught that as we sought out our ancestry, new information would be given to us through the inspiration of God. As I grew and became a professional genealogist, I had the opportunity to serve the Family History Library in seeking out new record sources throughout the United States for which microfilming could be done, to bring new information to the genealogists of the World.
New Archives of Genealogically Valuable Records
Today I marvel at the growing new archives of these genealogically valuable records being digitized and made available to the public by means of the Internet. FamilySearch.org and commercial resources like Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, Genealogist.com, and literally hundreds of other data sites around the World, are putting such information into our hands in ways we have never had before.
These wonderful new resources not only provide new information and documents; they provide new methods for retrieving data. Whereas genealogists were previously limited to searching for ancestors by their surnames, today’s digital archives can be accessed by surnames, parts of names, given names, ages of people, dates of events, names of spouses, names of parents, locations of events, wild card searches, and many other ways for looking at new information.
I remember the day when a genealogist could only search for names on a census record by searching the census page by page and name by name. It was long and tedious work, but it was all that we had. Today I can log onto the 1900 Census of the United States and request a search for all of the Henrietta’s by any last name, in Kossuth County, Iowa, who were born between 1855 and 1860, and receive a list of possibilities in the matter of seconds. Then I can search for the particular person that I want and view the original record instantly. I can locate my father on the 1930 Census of Ogden, Utah, when he was a little boy, and view the names of every person who lived up and down both sides of the street where he lived; and then share those names with him, and listen to him recall friends that he played with and people he admired in his youth.
Genealogical Revelation of New Archives
Step by step as we work through the research process to identify and document our ancestry for family history work, new information is being revealed as new archives of genealogy; from the discovery of long lost records to the development of new technologies which have come into our lives seemingly out of nowhere. I believe this is genealogical revelation, personal revelation provided to the genealogist in all of us by a loving and interested God, our Father in Heaven, helping us to fulfill His commandment to seek out our kindred forebears, to connect the generations with love, and bring all of his children home.
If it is so important to our Heavenly Father to provide us with such knowledge and assistance to accomplish this great work, how can we resist turning our hearts to those whom He loves, and share our testimonies through our research and service. This is the purpose of genealogical revelation, and we draw closer to God by accepting his invitation to serve. May we all do so with more intent and fervor in this coming year.
James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”. He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (www.Heirlines.com), the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing US and International genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.
For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including free genealogy, LDS Family History advice and expert answers to commonly asked ancestry questions, visit Jim’s website <a href="https://www.
Heirlines.com/”>www.Heirlines.com for free consultations and ordering custom family tree research services, and his genealogy blog ProfessionalGenealogy.com.