Finding Your Ancestors’ Pre-Immigration Origins: A Three-Step Strategy – Jay Fonkert

March 10th, 2019 by National Genealogical Society Blog Editor

TITLE: Finding Your Ancestors’ Pre-Immigration Origins: A Three-Step Strategy

SESSION: T204, TIME & DATE: Thursday, 9 May, 8:00 a.m.

J.H. “Jay” Fonkert

One of the most exciting moments in family history research is finding an ancestor’s origin in the home-country. For the first time, we can visualize the places the ancestor called home. But, it is also a practical research milestone because knowing where our ancestors lived puts us in position to follow the family back in home-country records.

Migration stories are my favorite part of genealogy research. I have matched dozens of North American families with their European origins and followed them back in English, Dutch, German, Norwegian, and Swedish civil and church records. Online tools like Google Earth now allow us to visualize ancestral places without leaving home, but there still nothing to top the experience, should we be lucky enough, to stand where our ancestors stood across the sea.

This lecture will illustrate an orderly three-step process for linking your North American family to a family in the home-country. We will explore North American records that give clues to home-country origins, learn about emigration records that link emigrants to home parishes, use online gazetteers such as the GeoNet Name Server to find obscure places, and systematically match families across the sea in preparation for working farther back in home-country records.

If time permits, I will share the fascinating story of how immigration research helped me pull together multiple strands of an early 19th-century southwest England family and illustrate how their relationships helped identify their early 18th century origins.

I’m really excited about this presentation. It is full of colorful geography and intriguing characters. I look forward to seeing you in St. Charles!

BIO: J.H. “Jay” Fonkert, CG®,  has spent 25 years researching migrations of Midwestern families. He knew nothing of his European origins when he started, but has been lucky enough to stand where his and his wife’s ancestors lived in Sweden, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, and England. He is president of the Minnesota Genealogical Society.