Lëtz Research – When A Record Doesn’t Want to be Found

Why Lëtz Research? Luxembourg is known as Lëtzebuerg by Luxembourgers (Lëtzebuerger) and this is about genealogy research in/for Luxembourg. So instead of Let’s Research…

Lëtz Research!

Genealogists who have Luxembourg ancestry are fortunate in that FamilySearch has the digital images online of civil records, church records, census records, and notarial records. Nearly all of these are image-only, i.e. have not been indexed and are browse-only.

Birth, marriage, and death records found in the civil records collection are the first and easiest to research. Although volunteers are working on them, only a little more than 100,000 of these records have been indexed. The birth and death records have four records per image while the marriage records have two records per image. There are 716,518 images. Let’s assume an average of three records per image = over two million records which need to be indexed.

There’s no need to wait until indexing is finished. Even if the collections have not been digitally indexed, there are internal indexes which can be used to find records. This is the case for most collections no matter where the location. For example, will books in U.S. counties usually have an index at the front or back of the book. Clerks did not have search engines back when…so they created a list of names so they wouldn’t have to page through registers.

Index for Year

For Luxembourg after the civil records were produced the town secretary made an alphabetical index at year’s end and included it in the registers (birth, marriage, and death) at the end of the year’s records. These are most helpful when you know the date and place of an event.

Tables Décennales

If a family lived in a town for a long period of time and had, let’s say, a dozen children there is an easier way to search for the births records.

To further simplify a search, the clerks also created lists at the end of a ten-year period called tables décennales (TD). They begin in 1803. Created in alphabetical order they are arranged in order: birth, marriage, and death for the periods 1803-1812, 1813-1822, 1823-1832, etc. to 1922 the last publicly available year. The lists include the name of the person as well as the date of the event. Marriages are in alphabetical order by the surname of the groom only.

Like the yearly index which was done at the end of the year, the ten-year index was created at the end of the ten-year period. One peculiarity of both the one-year and the ten-year indexes is that they were usually used the French version of the person’s first name. Peter’s birth record may have been created for Peter while the index has the name as Pierre (Katharina=Catherine). Most names are similar in German and French, however, there are some names which can cause a bit of head scratching. For example, Stephan (German) and Etienne (French) or Wilhelm/Guillaume. This is further complicated by the old handwriting they used.

As with all indexing, there is the possibility of a mix-up in names or dates in the ten-year lists. Some may not be in perfect alphabetical order. When I’m searching for a name in the tables décennales, I always take this into consideration.

When an Index Isn’t Good Enough

Recently while working on my post, Retraction of Allegations Made Against Maisy Vesque (1913-1969), another peculiarity of the tables décennales was brought to my attention. Something we should all be aware of with any index (handwritten or digital) we are working with – an omission! We may all know this but do we always remember this may be the case?

Tables décennales for Rumelange in 1903-1912

I had checked the tables décennales for the birth of Maisy VESQUE around 1913 in Rumelange as this was the town her father lived and worked in when he married her mother in 1910. I checked 1903-1912 and 1913-1922 as I had only an estimated birth in 1913. Maisy, as I well knew, is a nickname so I was looking for any female child with the surname VESQUE. None were found. (see image above for 1903-1912)1

With A Little Help from a Friend

In my retraction post, I included a plea for help. My friend Linda K., who has come to my rescue several times, took the bait. She emailed me the date of birth and birth name. I immediately checked the TD (tables décennales) to see why I had missed it. It had been omitted from the list (see image above) but was found on the 1912 birth records’ index (below).

1912 Index of births in Rumelange

The record for Maria Margaretha VESQUE was easily found with the record number 107 found in the index.2 The birth record3 also included the date and place of death of the child as well as the record number in the margin which would make it easy to locate the death record – if it did not fall under the 100-year law for civil records.

1912 Birth Record No. 107 for Maria Margaretha Vesque

A closer look at the document made me wonder if the clerk might have NOT completely filled out the record at the time the father came to report the birth and sign the record. Information appears to have been pencilled in and written over.

The lesson I learned was to check the yearly indexes even when a record is not indexed in the ten-year index as an omission is possible. The title of this post: When a record doesn’t want to be found could also read When we don’t do a thorough search to find a record. Sometimes we need to try harder to find them or admit we need help and ask for it.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1.  “Luxembourg, Registres d’état civil, 1796-1941,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L97V-9BCK?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-ZN1%3A130319501%2C130692102 : accessed 26 September 2018), Rumelange > Tables décennales 1883-1922 > image 109 of 220; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg. 
  2. Ibid., (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-9YM9?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-ZNL%3A130319501%2C130499501 : accessed 26 June 2018), Rumelange > Naissances 1898-1912 > image 786 of 789; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg. 
  3.  Ibid., (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-897V-956R?cc=1709358&wc=9RTB-ZNL%3A130319501%2C130499501 : accessed 26 June 2018), Rumelange > Naissances 1898-1912 > image 763 of 789; Archives nationales de Luxembourg (National Archives), Luxembourg. 

A Visit to the Kreisarchiv Bitburg-Prüm in Bitburg, Germany

On Friday I took another one of those wonderful excursions with my genealogy society luxracines. I’d been looking forward to this trip for a long time.

In the morning we visited the District Archive of Bitburg-Prüm or Kreisarchiv Bitburg-Prüm in the city of Bitburg where we were greeted by Tabea SKUBSKI, the district archivist.

Tabea SKUBSKI, Kreisarchivarin

She presented the archive to us with great enthusiasm. Inaugurated on 19 April 2007 it is run full-time by Tabea SKUBSKI and her colleague Gaby THOMASER.

It is a joint archive for the Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm, the five Verbandsgemeinden (Arzfeld, Bitburger Land, Prüm, Speicher, and Südeifel), as well as the city of Bitburg. Eifelkreis Bitburg-Prüm is the district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. A Verbandsgemeinde is a low-level administrative unit typically composed of a small group of villages or towns.

Previously found in Koblenz, the original records of the municipalities of this district were returned to the district archive and are in very good condition. For an annual fee of 15 euros, permission is granted to take photographs of the records without flash. It is advised to use gloves and/or sanitize hands before and after handling records. Gloves and a hand sanitizer are found in the reading room where beverages and food are not allowed. The only writing utensils allowed are pencils. First-time users are required to fill out an application form for the use of the archive and another permission form for photography.

Mrs. SKUBSKI explained the archival content, the geographical boundaries, opening hours, and use and handling of the records before taking us behind the scenes into the actual archival storage area where specific climatic conditions are regulated to best suit the preservation of the records.

Enough time remained after the presentation to browse through the registers, reference material provided, and even to do some serious record searches.

Many Luxembourgers have family roots in the Eifel as it was once part of Luxembourg. In 1815 as a compensation for damages suffered by the French this area became part of Germany (darker green area in the map below).

By Spanish_Inquisition (LuxembourgPartitionsMap_english.jpg) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
My main interest is the civil registers of the towns in this region. They are of great importance to my family history research as my maternal grandfather came from Ernzen, Germany. The registers available to the public are available from about 1798 for births, marriages, and deaths. Due to privacy laws, the BMD records are accessible only up to a certain year: for births older than 110 years, marriages older than 80 years and deaths older than 30 years.

After filling out the required forms I asked for the last Bollendorf birth register which would include the year 1906 when my maternal grandfather Nicolas WILDINGER was born in Ernzen. The village of Ernzen had their own records only until 1854 and then it was included in the registers of Bollendorf. Unfortunately, this register had already been requested by someone else in our group. However, on a closer perusal of the list of BMD registers for the Standesämter (civil registration offices) showed that Bollendorf births are only available at the archive up to 1900. Several years before the 110 years cutoff for births have not yet been deposited with the archive as they are included in a register which ends after the cutoff.

I’d come well prepared and had a list of more records I wanted to access. I decided to go to the bottom of the list and check on the earliest birth record. I requested the Ernzen birth register (1799-1825) and photographed the entries for two 3rd-great-grandmothers: Elisabeth WELTER 1807 and Catarine SCHRAMEN 1812. I was a bit stumped when I couldn’t find Hubert WEIMANN’s 1805 birth in Ernzen. Either I was too excited and missed it or I have the year and/or place of birth wrong.

Then I asked the archivist to pull the next Ernzen birth register (1826-1854) which is huge. Seeing my surprise she said it is one of the largest books in the archive. In it, I found my great-great-grandparents Bernard WILDINGER 1838 and Maria WEIMANN 1839.

My last request was for the Mettendorf birth register which would include the years 1842-1843 and was given the 1834-1850 book (below). In it, I found the 1843 birth record of Mathias PÖPPELREUTER (as spelled in the record, later spelled PÖPPELREITER) and the 1842 birth record of his wife Magdalena WAGNER.

Geburtsregister Burgermeisterei Mettendorf 1834-1850

Time flew and it was time to take a short walk to the restaurant we had reserved. After a leisurely lunch in the heart of Bitburg, we gathered for an official group photograph.

luxracines members who participated in this field trip.

Following a short walk through the beautiful pedestrian zone, we continued our trip to Irrel to visit a World War II bunker.

Photos by Rob Deltgen used with permission.

To be continued…

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

I Hit the Jackpot with Four Births and a Death!

or How to use the (online) Municipal Archives in Metz, France

Things have been a lot busier than normal for me since the New Year. I haven’t had the time to go to my WordPress Reader and read the blogs I usually follow. Luckily most of my favorite bloggers use Facebook, Google, and Twitter and I see them as I go through my feeds. A few days ago I had a bit of time and began reading the most recent (unread) posts on my Reader.

I follow Laura Aanenson’s where2look4ancestors. In her post Catherine Brun; My 6th Great-Grandmother she mentioned her favorite French website to go to and wrote:

Then a funny thing happened.

The Moselle Departmental web site was completely revamped!

This is a site I’ve used and it’s bookmarked on my Firefox toolbar as 57, the number the department is known by. Less than two months ago I consulted the site when working on  52 Ancestors: #47 The SCHLOESSER-CONSBRÜCK Family. I wrote:

It wasn’t very sporting of my 3rd great-grandfather Johann Joseph SCHLOESSER to spend the last years of his life in Metz, France. It’s not fair he chose to work, live, marry, have children, and die in Metz. You ask why?

While most French departmental archives I’ve consulted have civil records online, at this time, the Archives départementales de la Moselle doesn’t. They have the Tables décennales from 1792 to 1952 (10 years lists of births, marriages, deaths) and the pre-1792 parish records online but no vital records.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel as an article I found online suggests they were to go online before 2015. On the Archives de la Moselle homepage there is a message which translates: Gradually, the microfilms of vital records will be unavailable from 17 November 2015. Users are advised to inquire before planning a trip to the archives. None online and may not be available in the archives? Hopefully this means they are pulling the microfilms to make digital copies for the internet. I’ve subscribed to their newsletter so I won’t miss the big announcement when they go online. I promise to be a good sport until they do!

So far I haven’t received any newsletters but thanks to Laura’s post I went to the site for a quick look around. I clicked on: Recherches > Archives en Ligne > Registres Parroissiaux > Concernant Metz et ses nombreuses paroisses. I was surprised to find a notice about the municipal and departmental archives being complementary and only the images of the departmental archives were on the 57 site.

For the municipal archives of the city of Metz I followed their link which took me to the Ville de Metz – Archives Municipals. I had to jump through more than a few hoops before I got to the page which took me to the records I was interested in. The site is entirely in French (I did not find a Translate button) so I’d like to share with you how I found my way to the records.

How to get from A to B on the City of Metz’s Archives Municipals Site

metz1sm
Click 1
metz2sm
Click 2
metz3sm
Click 3
metz4sm
Click 4
metz5sm
Click 5 to open parish & civil records and ten years lists.
metz6sm
Click 6 to open the registers of the civil records.
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Click 7 to choose the civil records for Metz.
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Click 8: scroll down to correct year and click Etat-civil 1840-1842.
metz9
Click 9 until….

This is where it starts getting interesting. Metz was divided into 5 sections so there are 5 batches of birth, marriage and death records for each year. I was searching for Jean Joseph SCHLOESSER’s death record. I knew from the 10 years lists (Tables Décennale) that he died on 24 November 1841 in Metz but not which part of Metz. We can leave out a few clicks here (I checked section 1, then section 2 and would have continued through 5).

Note: If at this point you realize you are not in the right time period and you use your back button or their Page précédente button to go back to the Plan de classement des Registres you will have to repeat clicks 5 through 8 as the list collapses when you go back.

metz9a
Click 10 to see the death register for section 2 of Metz for the year 1841.
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Click 11 and 12

Click 11: Most registers have an index at the end. The site is not slow but it’s faster to click on 1 (see image above) and choose the last or second to last image to get to the end of the book. Click 12: After choosing the image number you have to click on 2 (see image), an “eye” to view the image.

metz12smThis is a screenshot of the the 2nd to last page (zoomed and pixelated*) in the register of deaths for 1841. The index shows my 3rd great-grandfather’s death record is number 194. Since he died the end of November I chose a page I thought would be in the area and then went forward/backwards until I found record number 194. This is similar to using images on FamilySearch (before their new feature was added) where you had to “play the numbers” to get to the page you were looking for.

*Due to the terms and conditions of the archives a license (free) must be obtained for non-commercial online use of images. I have pixelated parts of the index page to be on the safe side since I have not applied for a license.

After finding my 3rd great-grandfather’s death record I went on to search for the birth records of his four daughters who were born in section 2 of Metz in 1836, 1838, 1840, and 1841.

Now the work begins. I’ve picked out the most important items in the records (to be sure they are for the correct individuals) but a full transcriptions of each might turn up some little known clue. On item I found very interesting was the name of the street the family lived on was mentioned in each record. I’ve already taken a virtual visit of the street, rue Saulnerie in Metz, courtesy of a French blogger, Marc de Metz.

Un grand merci à Laura Aanenson for mentioning her favorite French website where I found the information about the Municipal Archives of Metz!

© 2016 Cathy Meder-Dempsey