This column will be a place to post answers to research questions, suggestions, and other information for immediate access, until these items can find a permanent home elsewhere.
Question: "My ancestor's U.S. church burial record stated that he was born in "Steinhause, Rhein Kreis, Bavaria" in 1780. Other records also identified his birth place as Steinhausen. He was Protestant. I would like to identify his birth place."
Answer: Technically the "Rheinkreis" was in the Pfalz [Palatinate] region of Bavaria during parts of the 19th Century. However, when the term shows up in U.S. records it may also mistakenly refer to Upper or Middle Franconia. A search of the Bavaria gazetteer showed two localities called Steinhausen in the Kingdom of Bavaria. The population of both towns was Roman Catholic. A separate gazetteer for the Pfalz [Palatinate] did not list any entries for "Steinhausen".
However, it is possible that the town name included something else besides "Steinhausen", may be "Steinberghausen" or "Untersteinhausen" etc. A reverse-sort gazetteer is a good tool to check out those possibilities. This kind of book lists all localities in a certain region alphabetically, beginning with the LAST letter of the name. As a result, places with the same ending, such as "hausen", are grouped together. Roger P. Minert has published a whole series of gazetteers that include a "reverse-sort" section. For this problem I used:
Minert, Roger P., Palatinate place name indexes : identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes,Woods Cross, Utah : GRT Publications, 2000, ISBN 0967842026 (FHL 943.3 E2m 2000 copy 1 )
This gazetteer suggested two possible localities: Grosssteinhausen and Kleinsteinhausen.
The Shtetl Seeker on www.jewishgen.org can also be used in a similar way. It will work for localities known to be situated in the former Federal Republic of Germany [West Germany before 1989], since the German part of this tool is based on a 1960 gazetteer. Use the ShtetlSeeker-Town Search. There are four search options:
- phonetically by Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex
- is exactly
- starts with
The search can be narrowed down to a certain region or European country. In this case, choose "Germany". A search for place names in "Germany" containing "steinhausen" results in eighteen matches, including Grosssteinhausen and Kleinsteinhausen, both located in the Palatinate.
Both Grosssteinhausen and Kleinsteinhausen belonged to Hornbach Reformed parish. Civil registration records beginning in 1798 were kept in Grosssteinhausen. The ancestor's marriage was found in the Grosssteinbach civil registration records.
Identifying German places of origin recorded in U.S. records can be challenging. Often checking a gazetteer or referernce book is not enough. It may be neccessary to study the history of a particular region and follow up on boundary- and place name changes.