Where were we with Kate Birkenstock’s marriage? I discussed in my earlier post, Birkenstock Project, Part 3, that I was renting the Ruhlkirchen German Catholic church records on microfilm from the Family History Library to locate a marriage record for Katherine Birkenstock and Martin Kuhn. Recently I had my first look at one of the three film rolls that arrived from the FHL.
To view the microfilm I went to the Genealogy Society of Marion County (Indianapolis), the local history center where the microfilm was sent. Since I estimate the marriage date to be 1834 to 1836, I chose to begin with film #939230, Mainz Diocese, Ruhlkirchen Parish, Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths, 1830 – 1860. Within a few minutes I was reminded that deciphering Gothic script and then translating from German to English is quite a challenge. But wait! I also have to remember to be patient and take this step by step, getting the most that I can from what I have. The films are on a 60-day rental. So I’m going to call this first viewing my overall introduction.
I came to the library armed with my German research references that contain Gothic script alphabet samples and German words commonly used in church records. Since I am a novice, having only read German church records once several years ago, I knew I needed quite a bit of help. My references were of great assistance for understanding the basics of what I was viewing. For instance, for the headings on the pages I was able to translate ort und tag to place and date; die Trauung to the marriage, braut to bride, and so on. I was able to get a start with searching for the Birkenstock name in the marriage records for a particular year.
From the first few rolls forward on the microfilm of Ruhlkirchen church records I was excited. Wow! There’s an index and I can actually read the Birkenstock name in the list. If this is how it’s going to be, I thought I would get directly to what I wanted and possibly decipher enough of the Gothic script to find my marriage record. Take a look at the photo and you’ll see the Birkenstock’s on a page from the church book.
From this beginning I was optimistic about finding Kate and Martin’s record. I could see reference numbers next to the names that might indicate pages. Well, that’s not exactly how this search progressed. I advanced the microfilm through some pages of baptism (taufe) records until I saw the marriages. There I found that the person(s) who wrote the marriage records had a decidedly less readable script than I viewed in the index. And the reference numbers next to those Birkenstock names don’t seem to be easy to find either. Oh well, I’ll have to work with what’s there. I snapped photos of several pages so that I could look at them more casually, translate the page headings and make a plan on how to proceed. Below is an example of a page of marriage records from 1834 so that you can see what I mean about the script.
So far, I’ve had success with translation of the page headings. For instance, a summary of the above marriages page, columns left to right, are:
Place and Date — Church Proclamation — Date, Place, Witnesses — Remarks
Other information about the bride and bridegroom would be listed on the facing page to this one.
What did I learn in this first look inside the Ruhlkirchen church records?
--- There is a good possibility I am in the correct church, judging from the Birkenstock family history and the many Birkenstock names listed.
--- It’s more workable for me to use photographs of the microfilm taken on screen with my camera. Then I can study them at home using my computer rather than sitting in front of the reader for long periods of time.
What should be my next steps?
--- I'm reviewing the first few screen shots of the 1835 marriages, comparing entries, deciphering a few words and getting used to these records before I have another day of viewing.
--- When I go to read microfilm next, I’ll open the other rolls first to determine whether there are 1835 or 1836 marriage records. Just in case they are written in a script that could be easier to read.
--- I’m planning to photograph all of the 1835 and 1836 marriage pages to examine them closely for Katherine Birkenstock and Martin Kuhn.
Overall, I am still psyched to find some news on Kate and Martin’s marriage. I’m determined not to become discouraged in sifting through the Ruhlkirchen church records. It’s interesting to put my eyes directly on these pieces of 1800s family history, even if I can only decipher a fraction of it. One thing that comes to mind is how someone would read my writing almost 200 years from now. Will they know what the terms are that I’m using without doing some research and consulting? Do you think anything that we write down will survive that long…or will future family historians be looking at only digital records? Or none at all?
Meanwhile, I’ll keep researching on the Birkenstock Project. If there are suggestions from anyone on my path, I am happy to hear them.
Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,
Related Stories You May Want to Read:
Taking My Research To Church, Birkenstock Project, Pt 3
Ruhlkirchen and Neustadt in Hesse, Birkenstock Project, Pt 3
When and Where Was Katherine Birkenstock Married to Martin Kuhn, Pt 1
Copyright © 2016, Nancy Niehaus Hurley