Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mouga Schouch


I love family history research. I started working on my family tree back in the 1980s – when you had to travel to far flung official places in order to research the various and sundry records that are now gathered so neatly together on Ancestry.com. Thank you, LDS Church. Yes, I have the deluxe Ancestry.com membership, and I am amazed at how much information is available now for research.

One blogger, in a comment yesterday, said that family history research is like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. She’s right -- and that combination of puzzle and family history is what makes it so intriguing to me. The thrill of the hunt – and what you turn up are your very own ancestors!

My great-great-great grandmother was Mary Ann Schanck, nee Hall. She was married to Jacob Schuyler Schanck, a farmer in Monmouth County, New Jersey. In trying to trace their son, William Gordon Schanck – my great-great grandfather – I must, of necessity, trace Mary Ann and Jacob as well. A specific thorn in my side is that I’ve had no luck locating William in the 1860 U.S. Census, so I pushed back further to look for Jacob and Mary Ann in that same census – for perhaps William, then unmarried, was still living at home in 1860. Alas, I could not find Jacob and Mary Ann through an Ancestry.com search, either.

I knew they had to be there because another record had told me so – but that record came from a compiled index, so you can't view the original entries. I was going to have to access the actual 1860 census schedule in order to see the names of everyone living in the household. So I went back to my old sleuthing techniques, pulling up – through Ancestry.com -- the entire census schedule for Freehold, New Jersey, in 1860. 98 pages long. That’s a lot of people to read through (and they aren’t alphabetized – the census was written down house by house).

But I was equal to the task.

Lo and behold, I only had to go a mere 16 pages in, and there they were, plain as day on line 27: Jacob S. Schanck and his household. No William, although the other sons, Nelson and Schuyler, were still there. Ah well. I did notice that Mary Ann’s name was rather badly handwritten, but that didn’t explain why Jacob’s household didn’t come up in a regular search of Ancestry’s database for the 1860 census.

What you must realize is that Ancestry.com, bless their little hearts, has transcribed EVERY individual entry of EVERY census into their own database, and then cross linked each and every entry to an image of the original census schedule (all of which are handwritten). So, when you search in Ancestry on the name of someone specific, you are actually searching Ancestry’s own database. Once you have located the entry, you can click on a link that will show you the image of the original census schedule page. I can promise you that this was a time-consuming process for the LDS volunteers and staffers who do this on behalf of their church. They’ve had to transcribe millions and millions and millions of handwritten entries from hundreds of years of records from all over the civilized world.

So, I guess they can be forgiven for turning “Schanck” into “Schouch.”

You see, now that I had the original census schedule, I still wanted to know why the entry wasn’t coming through the Ancestry database. I finally searched on Jacob's son’s first name of Nelson (which was clearly written), using no last name, specifically in that town in 1860. The search yielded two Nelsons.

One of which was Nelson..... Schouch.

Huh?

Schouch is not even close as a "spelled like" or "sounds like" kind of thing (which Ancestry does provide when you do a search). Thus, Jacob had never appeared, even in the broadest of searches on his last name.

And so we come to the title of today's blog entry. Guess who got transcribed as “Mouga Schouch?” That’s right. My great-great-great grandmother, Mary Ann. Really, an educated guess at the original handwriting would arguably have yielded “Mary A.” And a guess by someone inexperienced might have yielded a literal “Mosf A.” at worst. But “Mouga?”

Mouga Schouch.

I laughed until I cried.

- Catherine. (Great-great-great granddaughter of Jacob and Mouga Schouch.)

3 comments:

bensrib said...

Perfect. We'll all change our names. Too funny.

Christy said...

That's great - very funny! Reminds me of the time my niece, Megan, decided her name was spelled, Mogey. Then she told her teacher her brother's name was Whiskey (it's Ryan). She had some serious explaining to do after that day of kindergarden!

Christy said...

Make that "kindergarten." Ugh.