Baerbel Johnson was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany and grew up in the neighboring city of Offenbach. She came to the United States by herself in August 1974. Soon after getting settled in beautiful Provo, Utah, she decided to get busy researching her family history. Armed with photocopies of pages from her grandparents' family book she made her first visit to the Family History LIbrary in Salt Lake City , which was then housed in the West Wing of the LDS Church Office Building. With lots of help she finally found the baptismal entry of her great-greatgrandfather Nikolaus Markert, born in 1809 in Boeddiger, Hessen-Nassau, Prussia. However, she couldn't read even one word of the old Gothic handwriting! Eventually she took the record to the reference counter for interpretation. The consultant's unsympathetic reply to Baerbel's statement that she couldn't read the record was "Then you'll learn, won't you?"'
Learning the Trade
So Baerbel began to learn by studying photocopies from the Boeddiger parish register until she was able to read most standard birth, marriage, and death entries. This process took about a year of Sunday afternoons, even with fluent German readng skills! It shows the truth of the old adage "If I can, you can too...". Bitten by the genealogy bug, Baerbel took every genealogy class she could at BYU and learned practical research skills by working for a professional research service housed on campus at the time. After a mission to Western Pennsylvania and two more years of college she finally graduated from BYU in April 1982 with degrees in sociology and family and local history studies.
Finding her place
For several years Baerbel continued to research her own family history as a hobby and help others with their research while raising her children, until the time came to secure gainful employment once again. After working as a professional researcher from 1992 to 1996 she accepted a position as reference consultant on the International floor of the Family History Library. She has a passion for solving research problems and tries to encourage patrons to learn all they can about their ancestral families. She also enjoys teaching in the Family History Library and at various family history conferences. In her spare time, Baerbel sings with the German Chorus Harmonie, crochets pot holders, and relishes Sunday afternoon dinners with her three children.
In family history we are all learning about new sources and research strategies all the time. Last week I learned the several Czech state archives are currently in the process of putting their church records on the Internet. [For more information, see the Czech Republic portal page.] My great-grandfather Moritz Klemisch was born in "Kostel near Vienna", in 1858. Some twenty years later I had finally figured out that this place is actually "Maehrisch Podivin", now Podivin, Moravia, Czech Republic. The records are in the Brno archive, which has been putting records online. So I decided to register and check the list of available parishes. A wonderful surprise: the baptisms and marriage for Podivin are available on the Internet. Ten minutes later I saw Moritz Klemisch's baptism record on the screen! The records include information about the parents of both mother and father of the child. I also found two siblings. One record included a notation stating that the parents had presented their marriage certificate to prove they were legally married. The marriage date and name of the parish in the outskirts of Vienna, Austria, were also included.
So - never, never give up!
Baerbel can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org