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Lesson 5: Evidence in Print: Local Histories and Biographies

It just happened again! Just yesterday I found renewed evidence of the value of local histories in locating an immigrant's town of origin.

Researching in rural Buffalo County, Wisconsin, I turned to the three histories and biographical sources published for that county. The biographical sketches were gold mines of information about the many immigrants (German, Swiss, and Scandinavian) who had settled that county. Many sketches indicated the actual town where the immigrant was born!

Of course the case I was researching was not quite that fortunate, but the families were in the histories! Indeed, although the biography of William Kuehn did not mention the German town where his father was born, I obtained crucial clues that did shortly lead to the birth place of his wife's parents.

William was not an immigrant, so I did not expect his biography to identify a German town for his father. However, it did identify the names of his in-laws, John and Mary Duerkop, and all four of their children. The Duerkop surname was uncommon. In checking the index, I noted another Duerkop entry, for Carl. Carl was the son of Henry who was born in Germany. Henry was not William Kuehn's father-in-law, but was of the right age to be John Duerkop's brother.

Noting this information, I continued to search. Among the other sources available were the German Lutheran church records for this small community. There, in the church burial records I found records for John and Mary Duerkop, as well as John's brother. All three listed the place in s where they had been born!

In this case, it was the county history that provided the key clue: The names of William's in-laws, together with their relatives and immigration data. Do not be dismayed when the local history's biographical sketch of an immigrant does not name the home town, directly. Read further, and elsewhere in the history for more clues.

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