Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finding a German Hometown

One of the benefits of testing the DNA of family members for genealogy purposes is meeting other researchers online to exchange information and expand the family tree.

A genetic match to cousins of my paternal grandmother provided me with a fantastic link, providing me with a German hometown.  (Thank you D. L.)  My cousins' Wrage line had me chasing alternate spellings in New York because of the silent W and the German pronunciation.  Without a specific place or town in Europe, finding and identifying the correct Wrage family in a German area in 1850 (if it even was Wrage in Europe) was futile.

1869 Passenger List- Hermann Wrage and son, Hermann Wrage.
This was not the older Hermann's first trip to New York.
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957, database online

The genetic cousin alerted me to a wonderful book online (The History of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York, from 1853-1903 by Hugo W Hoffmann at GoogleBooks) containing a picture of the immigrant Hermann Wrage, along with his birthplace, father's name, and a glimpse of his life as a soldier in Europe and then a pastor at the Church in New York.

Hermann Wrage  1831-1882

Hermann Wrage was also a published author of grammar and language books.  The advertisements for his books can be found in newspapers in the 1870s and 1880s and the actual books today are online at GoogleBooks.

Very importantly, I found out Hermann's town of origin in Europe:  Flensburg.  This is so much more helpful than working with "Germany" or "Prussia" as the place of origin.  Flensburg is currently in Germany on the northern border with Denmark.  Genetic cousins of Danish heritage in the DNA databases could be related through this Wrage branch.

Google Maps
Hermann Wrage's hometown, Flensburg, is in Germany, but next to Denmark.

23andMe: Genome of Cousin B. D.
The match on chromosome 1 with Danish and Swedish ancestry could be related through B. D.'s Wrage branch.

Next I searched for the surname "Wrage" for a geographical genealogy.  The surname is concentrated in the present-day State of Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, near Denmark.  This is the area of Hermann Wrage's stated hometown, Flensburg.  I can expect to find more records here.
GeoGen Surname Mapping for surname WRAGE

Another great feature at GeoGen is the Name Graph, which provides alternate spellings for a surname.  Wrage might appear with or without the W, and could even start with a vowel.  Finding and confirming records on this line will be tricky at times, especially if the family was Danish and became German before coming to New York.

Alternate spellings for surname WRAGE

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