Saturday, February 11, 2017

New Approach to West Prussian Censuses

At least it's a new approach for me - maybe it's old hat for a lot of you.  But I thought I would share it in case you haven't ever used it before.

I have a brick wall in the person of my five-greats-grandfather, Gerhard Fast #660202 (1739-1828).  It's going to be a tough one to break through that will probably require finding new record sets.  But before I embark on the expense of archival research to find more record sets, I thought I should organize the information about the earliest Fasts that is available in the area where he lived, the Gross Werder in West Prussia.

I even realized that Gerhard's father or mother might be mentioned in the 1772 or 1776 censuses - but if they are, I wouldn't recognize them because I don't know their names.  Since Gerhard's oldest known sibling was born ABT 1737, his parents might have been born about 1715, which would make them about 60 years old in those two censuses.  So it would be quite possible for one or both of them to be listed there.

I started with the 1776 census for three reasons:  1) Glenn Penner had already extracted the data, so it was easy to work with, 2) it was specifically of Mennonites, and 3) I had copied all the pages of the census from LDS microfilm #105655, so I can check the original.
Source:  1776 Special Consignation of Mennonite families, West Prussia, II. HA, Abt. 9, Materien, Tit. CIX, Nr. 1, Vol. 1, p. 17-125, Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, Germany.  Accessed on FHL film #1056552. 
I have worked through five of the thirty-one Fasts in the census, and I have made a lot of connections with their children who were in Grandma. 

Abraham Fast might be #1350958
Anthon Fast #932518 (1732-1782)
Claas Fast #706529 (1745-1820)
Cornelius Fast #932218 (ABT 1722-1807)
Gerhard Fast #660202 (1739-1828) my ancestor
Jacob Fast #531527 (ABT 1752-1808)

None of them solved my brick wall, but they are all someone's brick wall.  Since Mennonites lived in clusters, I highly recommend this technique for whatever region you are stuck.  Try to piece together the families of the other people with the same surname living in the same Mennonite cluster - there is a good chance you will find relatives there.

I'll post more on specific results from this project as I go along, but I wanted to get some preliminary results posted here to motivate others to do the same.

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