GG-Grandfather born in Estonia … NOT!

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This has nothing to do with Geelong & District but a general tip on how family trees on the web can go horribly wrong.

Anyone who has done some serious family research knows that a large number of family trees you find on the internet are peppered with mistakes.  We know that we should never accept what we find on these trees but use them to do the research ourselves to see if there is valid information worth pursuing.

My maiden names is FUSSEN – unique in Australia and not that common around the world.  My first FUSSEN immigrant to Australia was my g-grandfather George FUSSEN.  According to Australian documents that I have – naturalisation papers, marriage certificates, birth certificates of children, and death certificate – he was born 19 May 1852 [or 1853] in Tours in France.  Despite several attempts I don’t yet have any European documentation to support his place of birth or the various stories passed down through the family.  These stories came from my late great aunt Mary who remembered a lot of what her mother (my g-grandfather’s youngest sister) told her.   I have been able to prove that some of these stories have been extremely accurate and therefore put a fair bit of faith in her memory.

Now and again I check to see if someone connected with my ancestors may have done some more research and found details I haven’t yet found.  Over the years the number of trees including my FUSSEN family has grown – some are submitted by cousins, descendants of George, but others are unknown people who appear to be based in Europe.  Oddly enough they all appear to have photographs direct from my family tree!

Yesterday I got my first “oh my gosh” moment!  George was the son of Peter FUSSEN and Francoise GENISE – according the family trees on Ancestry Peter FUSSEN was born in Estonia!  This totally threw me – my family tree on my web site [not Ancestry] is quite out-of-date and desperately needs some work on it [that is on the drawing board when I get a break from work at Christmas!].  According to my notes and research I believe that Peter FUSSEN was possibly from Switzerland – that’s some distance from Estonia.

I couldn’t resist searching these family trees further to try to find the source of the information about Estonia.  ALL of them had Estonia as Peter FUSSEN’s place of birth BUT there was one clue that eventually hit me like a sledge-hammer.  Two of the trees did NOT show Estonia as his place of birth in normal text but had (Estonia) in light grey – in other words this was a HINT from Ancestry and NOT data entered in this particular family tree.

The sledge-hammer?  I use abbreviated prefixes when I don’t have specific dates.

  • Abt = means I have found a year of an event in an index – if for example a birth was registered in 1890 I will enter this as Abt 1890 because although it was registered in 1890 the actual birth could have been late in 1889 and not registered until the following year.  The “Abt” is removed when I find the actual date.
  • Calc = means a date has been calculated from another event – if for example a death certificate stated an age, then a year of birth will be calculated from that.  If the age may not be accurate and conflicts with other events then I will prefix the year of birth with Calc.
  • Est = means that I have no idea of a date / year but use the standard 25 years for a generation to give me an idea of roughly when the event might have occurred.

Worked it out yet?

Either a human being or a computer decided that “Est” was an abbreviation for Estonia!  And of course everyone else just copied the information into their family tree!  No wonder there are so many errors floating around in the multitude of family trees out there!

At this stage I have absolutely NO evidence to suggest that my FUSSEN family came from Estonia – oh well, it was nice for a few moments to think that someone else had done some more research.  Roll on Christmas when I’ll have time to do a bit more and update my family tree.

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  1. Jo Grant

    Love those abbreviations! I use GNU (Given Name Unknown) where there are children in a family group but I have no details of their first names. At our family reunion a chart was displayed showing one of these descendant families who had not supplied their information. (A good strategy to get them to fill in the gaps). A group who were studying this chart were intrigued and asked me if I knew why that family branch had named all of their children Gnu! Still laughing ….. Jo Grant

  2. Julie

    Susie, what a great surname; very unusual. Have you considered registering it with the Guild of one name studies?

    Sometimes, even the oddities can have a grain of truth, even if by chance. My own one name study us the surname of Orlando. It is an Italian name & the biggest occurrence outside of Italy is the US. Anyway, Italians would walk across Italy & France to board ships taking them to a new like, some came to the UK planing to earn more before heading to the US others joined the growing Italian communities in the UK.

    The 1881 index has an Orlando in London called Amelia born in Jersey, so I had a thought that yes it was feasible,Jersey is 14 miles from France so could have arrived with her family by boat from France & remained on the island before heading to London. As it is not a direct line I left it for a few months before seeking the originals. The original 1881 census shows an Amealia Deslandes not an Orlando at all!

    • Susie Zada

      Hi Julie … know all about Füssen and yes it’s a possibile lead. There are also more FUSSENs in Germany in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

      The point was that ALL of the other family trees have copied letter for letter ALL of my ancestors in my family tree – even down to a question mark in one of them. I know I did all of my entries from certificates and there is absolutely no reason for anyone to have purchased my parents’ certificates. My grandfather was the only son of George FUSSEN to have children and so continue the name in Australia.

      What has happened is that someone has entered Peter FUSSEN as Born 1828 – Est [MY term for estimated year of birth]. The Est has then been changed to Estonia.

      I understand all about people moving around the world – I have Prussian, Italian and French ancestors amongst. And some FUSSENs went to the United States. Until I find any documentation mentioning another country my focus is France as I have several certificates which all refer to France. George FUSSEN, son of Peter FUSSEN also spoke fluent French with a French accent and his daughter wife and daughter “knew” that her father was French.
      I can’t even contemplating registering the name with the GOONS – far too many things on my plate already!

      Interestingly Dad never spoke French – his father died when he was very young, but Dad insisted that I learn French at school because of the family background. And I am very partial to the French language – must be in the blood! ………. Susie Z

  3. Julie

    I had to do a Google, as I wondered if this had a Germanic feel to it or a link to the Prussia Empire- Fussen without any accents above the u could with a French feel be pronounced Fus sen. Add the little dot dodah across the u and you have a town in Baveria map&hl=en&client=safari&biw=320&bih=416&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=0x479c5f806866f409:0x41e48add78bf300,Füssen, Germany&gl=uk&ei=ng-QToHEK4a48gOLsM0m&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=image&resnum=1&ved=0CCIQ8gEwAA

    Hopefully that is a link to the map I spotted.

    Of course I maybe completely wrong, but do keep us posted on your researches.

  4. Tanya Honey

    Thank you, I really enjoyed this post. I have been using Abt. in some cases, but like the distinction between your other prefixes and will be trying to use them in future when recording details.

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