I am building off of work I had done in 1998.
I have really been fascinated by my great-great grandmother, Magdalena Rimmels, since I learned more details about her. She came from an area of southern Germany called the Rheinland Palatinate, although I was told by a late granduncle that that branch of the family originated in the Alsace.
Before Ellis Island was a center of immigrant processing by the American government, there was a department at Castle Garden in Brooklyn. I was able to find her information through the website there. She left Germany when she was “only” 21 years old.
She was born in 1862, and passed away sometime in the 1940’s. She married Frederick W. Brand in 1885 at a church on the upper East side, and was known generally as “Lena Brand”. My parents have an old chest with the initials “LB” inside, which was handed down from her.
When I first went to research Lena Brand in 1998, I remember contacting someone from the Rimmels side. They didn’t know me, but they kindly passed my e-mail on to cousins of theirs, and someone wrote me back. He said he knew exactly who Lena Brand was and exactly who I was! I had been asking about “Tante Lena” (Aunt Lena), who he remembered from his childhood days.
Tante Lena’s younger brother was Richard Julius Rimmels, who had made his way to America about 10 years after her. Courtesy of the Mormons, I have a list of a number of the Rimmels kids of the mid-to-late 19th century:
It is said that in places where Napoleon had conquered, there are very good civil records of vital stats. (It’s also said that this was done primarily for conscription!) Since the town my great-great grandmother was born in was very small, I always wonder if the Rimmels who did not leave there are still around.
It was also good fortune that New York City kept records of vital stats but in a more progressive fashion. In a city where thousands of newcomers were appearing month after month, it made sense to have a record of who was who.
A number of online genealogy buffs find that the easy searching ends once you hit up against the fact that most jurisdictions did not keep records. At that point, you really need to hope you can identify a church, and that that church didn’t suffer any fires or other bad thing that destroyed what they had kept.
[Update 11/30/11: My screenshot above didn’t show my great-great grandmother as one of the baptized Rimmels. But an IGI record lists the same parents and the same town. Sometimes it is a matter of one letter being read wrong (Rimmels, Remmels, Rimmele, etc.)]
[Update 12/2/11: The front of the marriage certificate, out of New York City.
From the information on the back: