Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Harburg Bible

Yesterday was an awesome day out visiting the National Archives, both as researcher and as tourist, and meeting with experts at the Smithsonian to learn about conservation/preservation of the family bible I recently acquired.  This bible was sent to my great grandmother Marie Bierdümpfel Jurgens from Germany after she had migrated to America.

German Bible from 1575

More images of the bible can be found at

The short answer - find a local book conservator ( and commission them to build a box specifically to store the book. For this particular book, given that it appears to still be in its original binding and in good shape for its age, I was advised not to try to get it restored, but to protect it as is. Although several pages at the front and back have had attempts at repair in the past, at this point those attempts are also historical. History within history! :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reviewing Family Documents and Heirlooms

More genealogy wonders - I have been looking through the treasure trove of documents and pictures provided by my aunt (my mother's sister) on Saturday, which includes my great-grandfather William Jurgen's US naturalization certificate and Masonic tie pins and clips, and a necklace pendant of my great-grandmother Marie Bierdümpfel's family (supposed) arms. 

Pendant of Bierdümpfel Arms

Names written on the backs of pictures confirm info I discovered online, which means I made good guesses!  Whether the Johann von Bierdümpfel who earned these arms has any relation to my Bierdümpfel family is another question, however.  My great-grandmother had these pendants made for her two children, my grandfather and great aunt, so they are not long-time family heirlooms.

And now that I have my great-grandfather's naturalization certificate, I can request the rest of his papers using the naturalization date and the name they were filed under: Heinrich William Otto Jurgens.  The requests for William Jurgens have not yielded results - now I think I know why.  :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trip to the NJ Archives

I spent a couple of days this week doing research at the New Jersey State Archives. This was my first on-site trip to any kind of archives, but I had a buddy to meet up with who has been down this road before, so that helped. My preparations were good - I completed orientation and received my official researcher card, and then it was on to the microfilm. It's been years since I've used I microfilm reader, but apparently it's like riding a bike. :)

I made awesome discoveries on my first day - 10 birth, marriage, and death records! These included my father's mother as well as both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles (my grandfather was born in NY, but most of his younger siblings were born in NJ).

Then I took a couple of days to spend with family and review what I had found to make plans for round two. My second day's find at the archives - Dad's Irish grandfather, James Carroll, was a railroad engineer! Yeah, that explains a the basement filled with model trains growing up!  Now, of course, he needs to find out which railroad - maybe his favorite Erie Lackawanna line will be replaced with a family affiliated one.  :)

My father never knew his grandfather - Dad's own mother died when he was 9, and her father died at the age of 33.  So Dad never even knew his name before.  It was great to be able to tell my father about his grandfather, and make a family connection to the trains he's been fascinated by his whole life.