What Is Your Favorite Genealogy Find?

I have a question for you, my readers. I hope you’ll take the time to post your answers. What is your favorite genealogy find? If you could pick one, and only one, what would it be?

I thought for a few minutes, but it didn’t take me long to come up with mine. There are several ways to look at this question.

There is always the thrill of the first new discovery. For me, it was a letter writing requesting the death certificate of my 3X great grandfather, George Tarbox. While I can still actually remember opening the letter and looking in awe at the certificate, that WASN’T my favorite find. I don’t even have that paper anymore because it was a typed transcript. Now I have the image of the original record:

There are sentimental finds, too. I’m sentimental about Nammie’s rocking chair that passed down from my 2X great grandmother to my great grandmother, then grandmother and mother. It was actually in our house while I was growing up, so I can’t really call that a find.

Nammie’s Rocker in the 1930s in my Great Grandmother’s Apartment

Then there are those brick walls. And that’s where my favorite find came from. My brick wall was in Copenhagen, Denmark and was two layers deep. Cracking open the second layer is my favorite find of all time.

Finding my great grandmother’s family in Danish records was a 30 year long brick wall for me. When I finally found the baptismal record of my 2X great grandfather, Frits Wille Oscar Emil Jensen, in Copenhagen in 1845, I finally had the names of his parents, Johannes Jensen and Johanne Elisabeth Molin.

I thought I had it made with all those wonderful Danish records and delved into them. The Molins were actually Swedish and I had no trouble tracing Johanne’s line back three more generations.

Johannes Jensen, however, was another story. All the census records indicated he was born either in late 1809 or 1810 in Copenhagen. Yet, I could find no trace of a baptismal record for him.

I’ve written about him several times in the past, but the short version of this story is that his parents were unmarried at the time he was born on 27 April 1810 in the unwed mother’s hospital in Copenhagen and was given over to the care of the Master Tanner Zinn’s family. Mr. Zinn, however, died by 1815 and I think the master tanner’s widow turned Johannes over to the Copenhagen orphanage, rather than having an extra mouth to feed.

The old hospital, today an office building

His hospital birth record was linked to that of his mother’s record. Her record is my favorite find of all time:

Why? Well, the women who gave birth at this hospital had the option of remaining anonymous if they so chose. When Johannes was born, his mother did remain anonymous.

However, there was an unusual addendum to his birth record ten years later, whereby the birth father agreed to provide a suit of clothing for Johannes. It also said the birth mother, Kirsten Jorgensdatter, (estimated age included) still lived in the neighborhood.

From those bits of information, I was able to locate his mother in local church records, identify his father, who actually married his mother in 1824 and trace the line of his father, Jens Jensen Lundquist, back a couple more generations!

What I find incredibly sad about all this is that I am quite sure I know much more about Johannes’s parents than he ever did. I believe the orphanage knew who his mother was, which led to the statement that his father provided one outfit of clothes for his young son.

In spite of the fact that Johannes’s parents were well aware of their son’s circumstances, and they married when Johannes was 14, it appears that they never made any attempt to retrieve their child and give him a proper home.

While I’ve had other tremendous discoveries made through the years, the fact that it took me 30+ years to identify the Jensen family in Danish records, it took another 3 years or so to untangle Johannes’s life story.

I hope you’ll take a minute to leave a comment and share your favorite genealogy finds, too. 🙂

8 thoughts on “What Is Your Favorite Genealogy Find?”

  1. My Great-Grandparents on my father’s mother’s side are a mystery to me. They separated at some point and my GGM moved in with my grandparents while her husband lived on his own. I can’t find any documentation about their deaths. My greatest find was when I discover my GGM was buried with her son-in-law (my GF) and eventually with my GM. I’ve been tracking the GGF through city directories, and his final resting place is my brick wall.

  2. Johannes never knew his parents? This is a sad story and now I see why uncovering the full story, with twists and turns, is your favorite discovery of all. Congratulations on extending your tree back more generations!

  3. There is no way I could narrow this down to one single favorite genealogy find. I’d say every brick wall shattering discovery is a favorite, as well as a few that proved a particular theory I had. This is an interesting exercise though. I may come up with a series of favorite finds since I’ve been having problems coming up with blog posts!

    A few favorites off the top of my head:
    Proof that the infamous Tom Doran in Junction, Texas was my great-great-granduncle.
    The discovery of my great-grandfather’s parents and huge family tree next to the Black Forest in Germany.
    The discovery of the parents and grandparents of my great-grandmother, along with a couple of branches of her ancestry in New York and Bavaria.
    The discovery of my Miller ancestors in Wurtemburg.
    The discovery of my grandfather’s first cousin who was brought to Nebraska from New York on the Orphan Train. (What a sad story! At least it had a happy ending!)

  4. If I was absolutely forced to choose, I would have to say the discovery of what I believe to be the 1849 baptismal record of my great-grandfather, Władysław Basiński, in Kobiele Wielkie, Poland from 1849. Polish research is extremely challenging, especially when done online with only a little Polish and no Cyrillic. The record names his parents and godparents. I have yet to get any further back, yet this, in itself, is a huge triumph given that I was working from a hand-drawn tree my sister gave me from her school project in Grade 9.

  5. Oh gosh, my greatest find was uncovering a secret my great-grandmother took to her grave: the name of my grand-father’s father. It opened up so many doors and we’ve learned so much our family history!

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