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Researching in the Oberkaufungen Kirchbücher

The amount of information contained in these Churchbooks gradually increases from very minimal in 1573, to quite a lot by 1830. For example, the first page in the first volume containing the first 26 Baptismal Records of a total of 41 for the year 1573, the very first entry reads:

Hans Hanstein Juniori ein Meydlein.

This entry tells us three things. First, a baby girl is being baptized. Second, her father's name is Hans Hanstein. Third, there is more than one Hans Hanstein in this village; this father is the younger one. Note, unlike naming practices in the USA, to call this man "Hans Hanstein Junior" does not indicate that his father is "Hans Hanstein Senior". The designation 'Junior' and 'Senior' simply indicate their ages relative to each other. I've seen Churchbooks in which this indication is made by 'the younger' and 'the elder', instead. What is most noticeable about this entry is the information that is missing. No mention of the child's name is made, nor of her mother's name. Neither is there any indication when this child was born. There isn't even an indication of the date this baptism took place. Not all of these gaps in information will be repaired at the same time. Only the Baptism Records for 1573 and 1574 are dateless. From 1575 on, the date of baptism is given. For example, the very first baptismal entry for 1575 reads:

9tn. January: Hans Hanstein Juniori Meigdlein getaufft Bernhard Schule zu Geÿsmar Anna gehaben.

Now we are given the date of the baptism and the name of the baptismal sponsor. (And yes, its the same Hans Hanstein as in 1573.) This pattern, "father's name and baptismal sponsor's name" is maintained in the Churchbook until 1761. The only time additional information is given is when the child is given a name different than that of the baptismal sponsor. Unfortunately, some lapses in this pattern occur, cases where the child is given a name different than that of the baptismal sponsor, but the scribe recording the baptism fails to indicate this. It is not be until September 1761 that Baptism Records begin to give the child's name. At the same time (September 1761), the birth date of the child is given in addition to the baptism date.

Burial Records in the Oberkaufungen Churchbooks, which do not begin until 1609, thirty-six years after recording baptisms began, generate some of the same problems as Baptism Records. Unless the deceased is an adult unmarried child, the Burial Record usually indicates something like the following for married women:

Oberkaufungen Churchbook Vol. IX, Gestorbenen 1728: "den Junÿ Elias Staudens Frau alt 57. Jahr 4. Monath."

[on the 14th June Elias Staude's wife, age 57 years 4 months.]

And something like the following for children

Oberkaufungen Churchbook Vol. VIII, Gestorbenen 1710: "den Junÿ Elias Staude ein Töchterlein alt 4. jahr 3. Monath 17. tage."

[On the 10th June Elias Staude, a little daughter age 4 years 3 Months 17days.]

If the Burial Record gives the child's age, it isn't to difficult to determine which child has died. Unfortuantely many Burial Records for children look like the following, instead.

Oberkaufungen Churchbook Vol. IX., Getstorbenen 1751: "dn 10tn Martÿ Jacob Staudens Töchterln."

[On the 10tn March Jacob Staudes little daughter.]

Using this as an example, if Jacob Staude had more than one daughter, the Confirmation Records would have to be searched to determine which had died. In this particular case, Jacob Staude had only one daughter to whom this Burial Record could apply. But notice the daughter's Baptism Record doesn't help with her name:

Oberkaufungen Churchbook Vol. IX., Getauften 1750: "dn 20tn 8br: Jacob Staude ein Töchterl: taufen, und durch seine Schwiegermutter von Vollmarshausen Jacob Brinkmanns Ehefrau der H: t: vort:."

[On the 20th {October} Jacob Staude baptizes a little daughter and {allows her} to be carried through the Holy Baptism by his mother-in-law from Vollmarshausen, Jacob Brinkman's wife.]

Without access to the Vollmarshausen Churchbooks to check the Marriage Record for Jacob Brinkmann to determine what his wife's name was, this daughter of Jacob Staude remains nameless in my records. It is not until September 1761 that the Churchbooks give the child's, or a woman's, name in Burial Records.

But it will not be until 1771 that a death date is given along with the burial date.

A different kind of problem occurs with the Marriage Records. Again, before 1761, a Marriage Record did not contain as much information as one would like. The form they took is illustrated in the very first Marriage Record in the Oberkaufungen Churchbooks. For the year 1579, we have Januarÿ. Christman Vinbach und Elsa Stöcker.

This particular entry doesn't create very many problems. But suppose the bride's name was Elisabeth Kreger and there are three Elisabeth Kregers of marriageable age at the time; or the bridegroom's name is Johannes (Hans) Hanstein, and there are two or three unmarried men with that name. In situations like these, which do occur, one hopes that baptismal sponsors for children of the marriage will bear some identifiable family relationship to the parent whose identity is in question.

There is an additional problem that occurs in these Marriage Records but only in the first forty years, from 1579 to about 1620. Consider this from the first page of Marriage Records (1579):

12tn. Augusti. Ludewig der Becker, und Catharina.

[12th August. Ludwig the baker and Catharina.]

This record illustrates a problem occurring at least once a year, sometimes more, at least until 1620: knowing that the bridegroom was "Ludwig the baker", doesn't guarantee that his last name was "Becker". Usually, baptismal sponsors in the Baptism Records of this man's children will throw some light on his family name.

Occasionally before 1761, there will appear a Marriage Record like the following from 1582:

Michael Spangebergk Und Else N den 2tn. Juli.

This record seems to indicate that the scribe of the Churchbooks doesn't know the last name of the bride. This happens occasionally, especially in the early years of the Churchbooks. If no clues as to the woman's family name appear in the Baptism Records of her children, we remain in the dark as to her ancestry.

Confirmation Records can be a real time saver for a genealogical researcher. Often they consist simply of a list of names of the confirmed. Usually, confirmation took place one a year, in the spring. And usually the children being confirmed were all approximately the same age. Finding the name of a person whom you are researching in a Confirmation Record can greatly reduce the amount of time needed to locate that person's Baptismal Record. Nevertheless there are three problem that I have encountered with Confirmation Records. The first problem is that the name for which you're looking just isn't to be found. You already have the child's Baptism Record; you know the child has not died because you also have the child's Marriage Record; yet there is no child of that gender with that family name being confirmed in any of the years from the child's twelfth to sixteenth year. This type of problem arises with Anna Catharina Rabe, wife of Johann Conrad Staude (V.3). I can think of only three possible explanations for this situation, with which I have had to deal twice: (1) the child was not confirmed at all, which I think is unlikely in a small village; (2) the child is confirmed in a neighboring village, which I think also unlikely unless the family has completely disappeared from all church records for that time period; (3) the child was confirmed in the appropriate year and the keeper of the books forgot to include that child's name, which I would like to think didn't occur, but may have more than we would like.

The second problem with Confirmation Records is that within the year span you are searching, there are several children being confirmed with exactly the same name for which you are looking. This happens during the years before 1761, after which the father of the child is also identified in the records. It is most likely to occur with family names common in the town, e.g. in Oberkaufungen the names 'Barchfeld', 'Kreger', 'Noll', 'Schäffer', 'Wentzel'. In cases like this, the "process of elimination" is the only solution: check the baptismal sponsors for the children of the adult child's marriage and try to match the names to siblings or other family members.

The third problem with Confirmation Records is when you have already correctly identified the child's Baptism Record, but in the years the child would be confirmed, no child with the name for which you are looking is listed. But unlike the first kind of problem, there is listed a child with the same family name who is of the correct gender, but the first name of the child is different. I have encountered two different variations of this problem. First, in Oberkaufungen, and in the other areas of Germany in whose Churchbooks I have researched, children were usually given two names. The most common first names for girls was 'Anna' or Maria': almost every girl in Oberkaufungen baptized in the eighteenth century had one of these as a first name. The second name was usually what the girl was called. Thus there world be 'Anna Catharina', 'Anna Christina', 'Anna Dorothea', 'Anna Elisabetha', Anna Gerdruth', 'Anna Louisa', 'Anna Martha', 'Anna Magdalena', 'Anna Sophia'. Replace 'Anna' with 'Maria' and you have here almost the entire repertoire of female names in Oberkaufungen. Occasionally, the two first names would occur together, in 'Anna Maria', but never in 'Maria Anna'. Occasionally 'Catharina' will be used as a first name, followed by one of the others, e.g., 'Catharina Elisabetha', 'Catharina Dorothea'. It is extremely rare to find any other variation, although there are three in the sixth generation of the Staude line: Christina Judith Staude (VI.1.3), Johanna Dorothea Lange (VI.8.7), and Susanna Maria Roda (VI.9.2). (Given the preference for 'Johann' as a first name for boys, it is surprising how rare the name 'Johanna' is used for girls. 'Judith', 'Sophia', and 'Susanna' are extremely rare in Oberkaufungen..) This naming practice can allow for a child's Baptism Record to suggest the child's name to be "Anna", e.g. if we are told the baptismal sponsor is the mother's sister Anna, while the Confirmation Record list the child as "Magdalena". What is hidden from the researcher is that the mother's sister's name was actually "Anna Magdalena". The same problem can arise with males. The large majority of males baptized in Oberkaufungen receive 'Johann' as a first name, although it is sometimes listed in the form 'Hanß' ('Johann' = 'Hanß'). Other names can occur as the first name, e.g. 'Henrich Georg', 'Georg Martin'. Single-named children are much more frequent among boys than among girls, especially for the names 'Andreas', 'Elias', 'Ludwig', and 'Valentin'. 'Johannes' all by itself can also occur. And as in the case of the girls' records, a boy's record may suggest one name in his Baptism Record and a different one in his Confirmation Record, e.g., 'Georg' in the Baptism Record and 'Henrich' in the Confirmation Record: if after the "process of elimination", no one else fits both records, the conclusion to be drawn is that the child's name was either 'Georg Henrich' or 'Henrich Georg' (both forms occur in Oberkaufungen).

The second variation of this third problem occurs when the name of the baptismal sponsor does not include the name the child seems to have in the Confirmation Record, and yet no indication is given in the Baptism Record that the child is to be named differently than the baptismal sponsor. This form of the problem is much more difficult to resolve. We will encounter this problem with the very first child born to a father of the fifth generation (Elias Staude [IV.2.1] and [VI.1]). As will be discussed in the next section, the only explanation I have for this problem blames it on the scribe of the Churchbooks.

We have now discussed the format of each type of record and problems that can arise with each for the genealogical researcher. I want now to make a short comment about the format of the Churchbooks themselves.

Starting in 1761, additional information is provided in the Churchbooks. In Baptism Records, starting in 1761 we are given: Child's name, Father's name, Mother's name and maiden name, date of birth, date of baptism, and name of baptismal sponsor. Starting in 1773, the time of birth is added. Starting in 1782, an index for baptisms is added. In Confirmation Records, starting in 1762, the yearly age of the child is given. Starting in 1771, the father's name is also given. Starting in 1774 the child's age in years and months is given. And starting in 1786, the child's birth date is given. In Marriage Records, starting October 1761, the names of the fathers of the bride and groom are given as well as the names of the three Sundays on which pre-marriage proclamations ("bans") were made in the church. Starting in 1822, many of the entries give the name, including maiden name, of the mothers of the bride and groom. In Burial Records, starting in 1761, the name of the person buried is given, whether it is a man, a married woman, or a child. In addition, almost every record includes the age of the deceased. Starting in March 1771, the date of death is given in addition to the date of burial. Starting July 1773, with a new scribe, a woman's maiden name is also included in her Burial Record. Starting in 1774, the hour of death is given in each record, as well as the cause of death. Starting in 1819, a deceased child's mother's name is give as well as the father's.

In 1830, several changes in the Churchbooks take place that make them exciting sources for research. The first change is in the "make-up" of the Churchbooks themselves. Before 1830, the Churchbooks start out as bound, blank books. The scribe "guesses" how much space each of the four types of record will need, divides the book and starts recording. If he runs out of space, for Baptism Records, e.g., he'll either jump towards the end of the book and continue the Baptism Records there, or start a new book for them. Because of this procedure, the different types of records in a particular volume of the Churchbooks do not have the same "start date" or the same "finish date". Starting in 1830, the scribe of the Oberkaufungen Churchbooks has at his disposal preprinted books, one for each type of record, with forms printed on the pages for recording the information. Thus, the Baptism Records starting in 1830 are written in the Tauf-Buch, the Marriage Records in the Trauung-Buch, and the Burial Records in the Tod-Buch. A Baptism Record will be recorded in columns across two pages, with the column lines and headings preprinted. On the left-hand page there are five columns: the first column numbers sequentially the entries in that volume of the Tauf-Buch the second column gives the place of birth and, where relevant, the street and house number. If one did not know already, this column reveals that Oberkaufungen viewed itself as consisting of three communities: the village community ("Dorf-Gemeinde"), the Stift-Gemeinde ("Church-Community"), and the "Freiheit-Community" ("Freiheite Gemeinde"), which I believe is the area directly outside the walls of the Convent and church grounds. The third column gives day and hour of the birth; the fourth give day and month of the baptism; the last column on the left side of the book give the gender and name of the child. There are three columns on the right-hand side page: the first gives the name and occupation of the father of the child and the birth name of the mother of the child; the second gives the name of the God-parents and any relation born to the parents; the last is for remarks, and often gives either death date or marriage date, or in some cases, both. In the Marriage Book, the left-sided page has three columns: the first for the sequential number of the entry in this particular book; the second gives the following information for the Bridegroom — .name, occupation, "status" (i.e. illegitimate child?, single or widowed?) parents (both), date of birth, place of birth, age, "confession", i.e. religion, and place of residence; the third column gives the exact same information for the bride. On the right-sided page, there are four columns: first for place and date of marriage registration; the second gives the three Sundays the "Banns" were "posted" and where; the third column gives place and date of marriage; the fourth is for remarks, and often isn't used. The Burial Book (literally "Dead-Book") has three columns on the left-hand page: one for the number of the entry in this book; the second for the community and house number of the deceased; the third is for the name, status (child of, wife of), occupation of the deceased. When it is a child, both parents birth names are given, when it is a wife, her birth name is given; if it is a man, his wife's name is given. On the right-hand page, there are four columns: the first gives date and place of the deceased's birth; the second gives date and place of the deceased's death; the third gives date of burial; and the fourth is for remarks, and isn't often used. Confirmation Records from 1830 on were not filmed by the LDS, so I do not know how they appear.

A final comment on researching in the Oberkaufungen Churchbooks needs to be made about spelling. I'm not sure when spelling was standardized for German, but I'd be surprised if it were before the mid-nineteenth century. And it shows in these records. As you might have noticed at the beginning of this "Intermission", the first two Baptism Records quoted spelled 'Maidlein' differently; in fact, on that first page of the Oberkaufungen Churchbooks (1573), 'Maidlein' is spelled six different ways —on a single page! Most of the time, phonetic spelling isn't a problem for a researcher in old Churchbooks: if one can sound out the word, one can usually understand what word it is. The problem with what I am calling "phonetic spelling", by which I mean the scribe writes it as he hears (or says) it, arises when trying to match records with the same family name. I have, for example, in my Oberkaufungen lines, a family whose name is pronounced "ROAD-ah". In the records of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, this family name is spelled at least three different ways!: 'Rode', 'Rohde', 'Rhode', and sometimes one of these variants appear with an 'a' at the end instead of an 'e'. (And, yes, I am sure it's the same family and can prove it.) What is interesting is that some of these variant spellings occur as separate families in today's Oberkaufungen. A second family name with variant spelling, but which one would think would be phonetically distinguishable, is 'Schaefer: it can appear in the Oberkaufungen Churchbooks as 'Schaeffer' 'Schäffer', 'Schaffer', 'Scheffer', and all four ways with a single 'f'. While some of these variants should sound differently, these spellings can all refer to the same family. The moral of these remarks is that when working with old Churchbooks, do not be rigid in your expectations, but check other records and compare.

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Comment by Ruth Ann Sakala on October 17, 2010 at 5:13pm
I am researching my Landefeld ancestors from Oberkaufungen and have viewed the church microfilms at the LDS which contained much information. I am curious as to which church these records (protestant) were from. I note there is a church named St. George's Chapel -- would this be where these records are from? Thanks. Ruth Ann Sakala


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