German family history research hints

Family tree magazine’s enewsletter recently offered some helpful tips when searching for German ancestors.

Changing Names. Your ancestor may have changed his surname after immigration. Also watch for regional customs, for example, patronymic surnames were common northern Germany around Ostfriesland.

Westphalians may have based surnames on farm ownership. If a man’s surname changed at marriage, that’s an indication his wife was heir to a farm.

Changing Places. European places of origin can be hard to identify and pinpoint geographically. Look for mention of the place in marriage and death records, obituaries, family Bibles and other papers, and family histories.

Research friends and neighbors in America who may have come from the same place as your ancestor. Note that European birthplaces given in US censuses are usually countries or regions, not towns.

Changing Dates. Dates in German records can be confusing: The abbreviations 7ber, 8ber, 9ber, and 10ber refer to September, October, November and December, a carryover from the Old-Style calendar, which started the year on March 25. Roman numerals also may be used: Xber and Xbr refer to December. But if the Roman numerals aren’t followed by -ber, -br, or -bris, they conform to the new calendar style, with X for October and XII for December.

Oren Frood and the Berlin Dutchmen, Stanley Cup 1910

Oren Frood, Citizen, March, 1910My first cousin, Oren Claude Frood, in the years before his service in the Great War, had an interesting, if short-lived, career in professional hockey.

In the years around 1910, the Stanley Cup was awarded to the top hockey team. Any team that won its league championship could challenge the team currently holding the Cup.

In 1910, the Berlin Dutchmen (the town of Berlin is now known as Kitchener) were the champions of the Ontario Professional Hockey League, and challenged the Montreal Wanderers for the Cup.

Oren played left wing, and scored one of the goals in what would eventually be a 3-7 loss to Montreal. The Ottawa Citizen reported on the game, and included a photo of Oren — the only photo I have of him! — in a photo spread labelled “Pembroke Hockey Stars Who Played For Berlin For Stanley Cup.” Beside his picture was one of Hugh Lehman in his Dutchmen hockey uniform — Lehman went on to have a career as both professional player and, for one year, as a head coach with the Chicago Black Hawks.

On his 1916 enlistment papers Oren lists his occupation as “accountant,” apparently finishing his hockey career when the Ontario Professional Hockey League folded.