||Why the lack of interest in the LDS microfilms?
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[Comments from the editor (Tom Ninkovich) are in green, below. You can add your own comments by emailing us. Put "lack of interest" in the subject line.]
|From: Anonymous #1
I am one who is so grateful for these microfilms done by the LDS. I would not have any information past my grandparents who immigrated from Croatia. My research was started before I had access to the Internet and I have since gone to your page many times and always thought that you have done a great service with what you have provided to all.
When I first started I had heard that the Mormons had done filming all over the world, but didnt know how to access that information so I took a class1 at the local college that was taught by a lady who volunteered at the center here. I now have rented the films enough times to have them permanently located near me2 and I have every film from the area where my grandparents were born in Croatia (Gorski kotar area). I wish there was more filming being done from that area3. I will soon be traveling to Croatia not only to see the villages, but hope to fill in some blanks and meet some distant relatives4.
I wish I had had access to your site when I was first learning how to read the records. But armed with a Latin and Croatian dictionary I figured out what the words were - some on my own. Like when I saw the same words repeated every time a female was born - I knew that had to be daughter. I dont mean to say I know it all - have learned a lot from you. I especially have had problems deciphering the handwriting5 and seeing your page has helped. Sorry that I have never taken the time to thank you for the great service.
1. Excellent. There are many such classes being offered in communities all over the States. Sometimes the local genealogy society is involved in this. If nothing else, these classes teach you to be careful and patient, two virtues needed for the LDS microfilms.
2. Good point. I can't remember the exact rules but if you rent the films (or renew a rental) enough times, you can keep the films there. Your name is on them and you have access anytime you drop into the FHC.
3. Actually, all the church records in Croatia have been microfilmed. It's a long story that I'm still researching and will write about soon. But some of these films the LDS will probably never have access to. For right now, the only place you can access all these films is in the main archive in Zagreb.
4. You will have a great time. Be sure to stay a few days (at least 4 or 5 -- more is better) in the home village. That way you will get to know the place and your relatives. Croatians are very forthcoming when you spend time with them. But they are very wary of people (mostly Americans) who zip through in 4 hours and expect the earth to move for them.
5. This was the biggest problem for me too. That's why I try to have actual examples of handwriting on my website. And I'm looking for more. Do you have any good examples you can send me?
I just ordered about 10 LDS films, and was starting to hyperventilate just thinking about how I was going to make heads or tails of them! I was hoping that the dates would jump out as well as perhaps a surname -- that I could copy out the pages and then get someone to translate them for me1. Now I just might be able to do this myself (with a little help!)
As to why others seem uninterested in the LDS records or translating them, I can only guess, but my experience has been that way too many people are happy to collect the "easy" relatives (and rely on other people for that too). I say this because usually when I ask someone who has posted something online for a source, they say "oh I got that from someone else" and seem surprised that anyone is interested in proof in the way of documentation2.
While the Internet has proven to be a real boon for finding CLUES (like the transcribed church and cemetery records, etc. etc) it's a shame that so many people stop there -- accept that as fact and move on. When I suggest to someone that certain church records, etc. are on LDS film, I get either silence or sometimes a suggestion that I rent the film, transcribe and post the info to the net! You got to laugh! or at least chuckle!
Anyway, don't give up -- there are lots of us out here that appreciate your efforts (but who have gone on our merry way without thanking you!3).
1. Well, I suppose you could do this. I'm sure many people do. But I don't see much on the forums from people asking for this.
This is part of what I'm curious about (and the reason I have started these dialogues). What I'm really trying to do is find better ways of informing and encouraging the public about the LDS microfilms. Any comments to this would be greatly appreciated.
2. It's a question of education into the ways of genealogy. That's why a class, or at least reading a few good books on genealogy methods, is so important. But we all know that REAL genealogists need their sources.
3. You know this is getting embarrassing. I thank you for your praise. We all need praise but I get enough as it is. My need right now is to learn how to better inform the public.
I can think of several reasons for the lack of questions that you hoped/expected would come. Foremost is maybe those interested in resesarch don't know what to ask. I have records I am reading, and have found information which I don't know the significance of, if any, so how to ask the question? Or I am sure it is significant, but can't really figure out what the priest is indicating, and it is different than the other records... somehow... and again, don't know what/how to ask1.
Second, maybe they are getting what they expect/want. There are a number of guides, on the internet, etc, including yours, that help most people get the basics... names, date, event. They don't help if you can't find records (even if looking in the right place), but if one does, one can muddle through a reasonable translation -- even if not entirely correct2. Once they understand the headings for a particular record format (and get past the few words they need to look up), the rest is a matter of identiying records of interest and maybe a few more words.
Third, if they can't recognize the record because of inability to decipher the key name3 due to handwriting, or if the priest used a first name not recognizable as the correct name, but maybe a 'localized' version of it -- they are looking for Anton but Tomo is what priest writes at some point in time -- it is hard to ask a question on why they are not finding records. There are more possible reasons of not finding any records, like they moved, nothing happened, they did not go to the church4.....
In the end, it is sometimes easier to ask general questions about ancestors lives if one can't find the facts about them. Or perhaps they know about their ancestors, and their interest is raised on how they lived.
Maybe you (and others) are doing a better job than you think in assisting others in researching family5.
I've been working with someone born in one of the towns of interest for my family who has taught/shown me alot about the records available in the FHCs, plus those not available there, but are in churches, and other archives6. I've learned quite a bit now about what various information beyond the basic fact means that is found, or not found, in the records of various parishes.
I am currently trying to figure where some of my families came from that were in Croatia during 19th century -- and it wasn't in from that general area. In Croatia, they lived in an area heavily settled by Czechs -- and all indications are that for a couple generations back, the women were Czech, as well as the male line7. What looking at this information/records is telling me is that the quantity of information found in the records varies over time and distance (parish) and is very dependent on the whim (or maybe diligence and thoroughness) of the priest doing the recording!8
1. I like to think of it as if you are in a library or the local church office and there is someone knowledgeable looking over your shoulder. Your natural reaction is to point to the troublesome text and ask a question about it. I think of the various Croatian forums as the same thing, maybe even better because there are hundreds of experts. But no one is asking questions on the forums about how to read text. You can even scan the text and send it with your question (on some forums). But very few people do this. I need to know how to better inform the public about how to get help in reading those records.
2. Hoo, boy. This brings up a real can of worms. Sooooo many errors get embedded into family histories and genealogies as the gospel truth. To err is indeed human. It's really important to present or interpret any given fact as a possible mistake. This may seem obvious at first but I can't tell you how many people I've annoyed (and that's a nice word for it) by implying that their genealogy might contain a mistake. Just for a quick example: a man had the wedding date of his g-g-parents in Croatia. He even had a photocopy of the marriage record hand-written by the presiding priest. He found this record by looking for hours through LDS microfilms. Well, I knew that village because I live near there when I'm in Croatia. And I knew both names of his g-g-parents were very common in that village. So I told him that just because both first names and last names match, that doesn't mean he has the right record. So when I was back in Croatia I checked and, sure enough, those weren't his g-g-parents. In fact, I even found a third couple with those exact same names. All 3 of these couples were married within 5 years of each other. The point is, double check everything and STILL don't assume you got it all right. I recommend to everyone that if at all possible (if you can afford it) have all your work looked at by a professional.
3. This is a great point. Though I've never seen Tomo and Antun being interchanged, I've seen lots of others. And the names can even vary from book to book within the same church because different languages were used at different times (Ivan = Giovanni = Ivo). Or the one that can cause no end of problems: Natale = Boz"o = Edward (in the States). Or Vlaho + Charles (in the States). And lots more. You can see more about some name variations here.
4. If you mean you might have records from the wrong church, then yes. But if you mean they wouldn't be registered in the church because they didn't go to church, then you would be wrong. The Catholic church was mandated by the government to record all vital events (birth/marriage/death) in most of Croatia. There was no civil recording of such events until after WWII. The Catholic church even had to record vital events for nonCatholics.
5. So you are saying that we are doing such a great job that no one has any questions to ask. I wish that were true but I know better. The interpretation of those records is too difficult to be explained easily. I will know I am doing a better job of informing the public when more questions are being asked on the forums on how to read those records.
6. You are very lucky indeed. Everyone needs such a local source. They are not easy to come by. The local priest is the easiest "expert" to find but even he can get it wrong. After all, genealogy is not part of his training.
I have found that almost every part of Croatia has some resident expert or local historian. But finding them is another matter. And corresponding with them is even harder if they speak no English. For example, in Dubrovnik there is a local historian who knows every rock on the island of Mljet. He has written 5 books on Mljet. He knows every document on Mljet in the Dubrovnik archive. And he's even willing to help people. But no one knows about him. He's not on the Internet, he doesn't have email, and he speaks no English. And there are hundreds more local experts just like him all over Croatia. (If you want his name and address, just email me.)
The best way to find such experts (other than going to Croatia and living there for a few months) is to email various public offices in the region of your interest and asking. The public library, the local archive, the tourist bureau, the local museums, etc. One way to find emails in a particular area is to pretend you are a tourist who will soon be visiting and use Google. Search under "museum", "tourist bureau", or "archive", and then put in the name of the town or village. Like this: museum +[name of town]. Also, if you have a fax machine, you can try the Croatian on-line phone book. Often fax numbers are given there.
7. Or were the names just written in Czech for a while in the church book?
8. This is a very important point. Not all priests are created equal. They didn't all do a great job in recording information. I have seen many, many mistakes made by priests. For my own lineage I checked all the records I could find: Matic"ne knjige (2 types), Stanja dus"a, even some Bishop's records, to make sure. I found and corrected many errors. And came up with some unanswered questions, too.