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Rhonda's Tips: Genealogy Questions Answered
by Rhonda R. McClure

June 27, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

German Birth Records

Q: I would like to know how I would go about getting a copy of my great-grandfather's birth certificate. He was born in Baden, Baden, Germany on September 12, 1850 and died in Portland, Oregon on November 18, 1908. He also lived in Kansas City, Missouri in 1892. -- Lynn

A: Vital records, or civil registration as it is better known in Germany, is not filed at any central location. As a result, it is necessary for researchers to contact individual towns or parish churches. When contacting the town, you will want to contact the Civil Registration District Office.

It is possible that the Civil Registration District Office does not have birth records for the 1850s. While some have kept vital records since 1809, record availability is much stronger after 1875. If it turns out that the Civil Registration District Office does not have the records in question, you will need to turn your attention to the parish records.

Generally the parish records are more useful if you know the parish in which the event took place. However, since that is not the case, your first step is to begin by going through the church records available on microfilm through your local Family History Center. The search could be narrowed considerably if you know the religion of your great-grandfather.

If your great-grandfather was born in Baden-Baden, Germany, you will find that when searching the Family History Library Catalog that you need to search under Baden, Baden, Germany.

When writing to the Civil Registration District Office, you may want to take advantage of the form letter available here on in German.

Ship Records

Q: Can you please tell me how I can find ship manifests or where to go to find the names of relatives who came here around 1905 from Italy, stayed until 1910, then returned to Italy. The problem is that they didn't come through Ellis Island. I guess that they came on a visa and had 3 children that were born here in New York. -- Steve

A: First, if you are basing your assumption that they didn't come through Ellis Island on the fact that you cannot find them on Ellis Island Records Web site, then do not exclude New York and Ellis Island in your search through more traditional records.

It would be a good idea for you to search all the eastern ports that are near to New York. While it is true that Ellis Island, or more specifically the port of New York City, was the busiest immigration port, ancestors also used other ports (even if they ended up in New York City).

The passenger lists are available on microfilm. While they are the responsibility of the National Archives, who created the microfilms, you will find that the microfilmed passenger lists are easy to get. The easiest way is through your local Family History Center, a branch of the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

When searching the Family History Library Catalog, you will want to search for "Emigration and Immigration" for the following cities: New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston. Those are the most likely ports given that your ancestors were living in New York.

The reason I suggested that you check the microfilmed index to the passenger lists for the port of New York, is that the names are grouped by Soundex. This allows for spelling variations (a problem when it comes to using the online index) as you must search each variant spelling separately.

Related to General John Stark

Q: I am writing to you about General John Stark. I just found out that he is actually one of my great-great-great-grandfathers and I want to find out just how we are related. My mom told me that her grandmother was either his daughter or granddaughter and I was wondering if you could help me figure out his kids' names and how to research this. -- Tina

A: Having lived many years in New Hampshire, General John Stark is a figure I know well. In fact, I believe he was my first official foray into writing about historical figures when I was in school. If you live near Manchester, New Hampshire, you will find that his house has been maintained by the Molly Stark Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, appropriately named after John's wife.

John Stark was born 28 August 1728 in Nutfield (now Londonderry), New Hampshire to Archibald Stark and his wife Eleanor Nichols. He married 20 August 1758 to Elizabeth "Molly" Page and they had eleven children born in New Hampshire:

  1. Caleb Stark, born 3 December 1759 in Dunbarton
  2. Archibald Stark, born 28 May 1761 in Derryfield
  3. John Stark, born 17 April 1763 in Manchester
  4. Eleanor Stark, born 4 May 1765 in Manchester, died 1767
  5. Eleanor Stark, born 30 June 1767 in Manchester
  6. Sarah Stark, born 11 June 1769 in Manchester
  7. Elizabeth Stark, born 10 August 1771 in Derryfield
  8. Mary Stark, born 19 September 1773 in Manchester
  9. Charles Stark, born 2 December 1775 in Derryfield
  10. Benjamin Franklin Stark, born 16 January 1777 in Manchester
  11. Sophia Stark, born 21 January 1782 in Manchester

This list should get you started. There is quite a bit of information available on General John Stark. If you haven't done so already, the World Family Tree database has a number of GEDCOM files on the ancestry and descendants of General John Stark.

You will also want to look for published family histories on the Stark family and other families. The Genealogy Library may have some of these scanned and available online.

Be willing to go more than just a couple of generations from General John Stark in your search for the connection. Given that he was born in 1728, there are a number of generations from him to the twentieth century. While you are searching his line forward, you will need to be taking your mother's lines back to find the connection.

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at

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