Thursday, February 16, 2017

(Tip: Look at the front pages of FHL microfilms!) Finding My 3x Great Grandfather's German Baptismal Record

Evidence suggested that my great, great, great grandfather, Gunther Werther, was born in 1819 in Berka in present-day Germany. However, locating his baptism on an FHL film proved quite difficult. The film covered dozens of villages and included baptisms, marriages, and death records.

Yesterday, I returned to search the film for the second time. This time, I decided to start at the beginning. I saw a typed listing of what appeared to be villages. And, on the next few pages, I saw handwritten, numbered lists of what also appeared to be village names. Did one of these lists show the order the church registers appeared on the film?

The librarian suggested the handwritten list probably indicated the order the villages were shown on the film. We were fairly certain that the 11th entry on the second grouping appeared to be Berka. As I scrolled through the pages, each village church's records had a title page, but I was rarely able to read the name of the village. In fact, the first one I recognized was #7 on this list. And then, two churches later, I recognized #9. It looked like this list did, in fact, show the order of the churches on the film!

Kirchenbuchduplikat [church book duplicate], 1813-1846, Berka, page 1, item 2, Geboren und Getauft [born and baptized], record for August Gunther Werther; FamilySearch microfilm #1194309. [left side]
When I got to Berka, the first section was the baptisms. And, there on the first page, listed as the second baptism, was my ancestor: August Günther Werther! 

From past research, I was pretty sure the next column was the father's name, but the only word I could read was the second word of the second line: Werther. [If you haven't done German research before, you can probably see how difficult it is to read this old German script!]

A very exciting discovery was the next column which says something about the 8th of February, 1815. Could this possibly be his parent's wedding date? If so, could I find their marriage record!

Kirchenbuchduplikat [church book duplicate], 1813-1846, Berka, page 1, item 2, Geboren und Getauft m Jahre 1819 [born and baptized in the year 1819], record for August Gunther Werther; FamilySearch microfilm #1194309. [right side]

When I got home from the library, I posted the two images to the Genealogy Translations Facebook group. They are incredible! When I woke up this morning, I was thrilled to see two women had transcribed and translated this record. And, not only was the 1815 date his parent's wedding date, but the record also said he was their 3rd child. So, I also will be able to look for at least two siblings for Günther.

Here's the translation with a special thanks to Facebook volunteers Brigitte Eggerstedt and Monica Wuestefeld: 
  • Day and hour of birth: 17th May 1819 at 5 a.m.
  • Day and place of baptism: May 20, at home
  • Name of the baptized: August Gunther Werther
  • The father, whose status and residence: Johann Friedrich August Werther, resident here, [probably] farmer of a full-sized farm or horse groom of an estate
  • Marriage and number of children: 8th February 1815, 3rd child, first marriage
  • Mother, her origin and number of her children: Johanna Wilhelmine Friedericka born Hahn, 3rd child, first marriage
  • Witnesses of baptism: "Anspanner" August Gunther Bohnhardt
Are we related? Do you have any questions, comments, or corrections? I'd love to talk. Please leave a comment or email me at


  1. Your point is a very good one. I tend to get so excited when viewing a microfilm I just received that I skip gleefully ahead to the part I think will show my ancestor. Now I'm going to slow down and study the front first. Thanks for this excellent tip!

    1. I am the same way! In fact, that's why I spent several hours looking at this microfilm a few weeks ago and didn't find what I was looking for. I usually just jump right into the film, book, online database, etc. But, our searches often will be much more meaningful and successful if we take the time to read the notes about the item or look at those first few pages.

  2. How clever that you figured out the system despite the language barrier. I can imagine how thrilling it was to find your document translated overnight! Facebook really redeems itself by providing a place for serious groups to meet and share.

    1. Thanks! And, Facebook has some incredible groups that are really helpful to genealogists.


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