With a little help, I've knocked down a brick wall. Another co-worker of mine asked if I could research her family. Her maternal great-grandparents came from Germany and settled in Nova Scotia. Their lives and in particular her great grandfather's is shrouded in mystery, one being the circumstances under which he came to Canada. I started the research about 8 months ago and it was a bit of a struggle to find any details about him through ancestry. He told the family that he came to Canada around 1899, went out west and then signed up and served in the Boer War. When he came back to Canada after the war, he said he was given the land in which he settled in Nova Scotia. I've yet to find any record of him serving and a few months after I started, my co-worker was able to get some of his land records which show he got the land well after the war, in 1914. His marriage record from 1903 stated his ethnicity to be German and his father's name was ßeth. With some creative digging and manual searches I was able to find him in the 1911 census where it was stated his ethnicity was Austrian. I was able to build the family tree for her very nicely from Canadian records but it was information her family already knew. They really want to know about his life in Germany/Austria and what might have brought him to Canada. I had come across a boarder crossing record for Johann in 1914 when he crossed through Maine on his way to Maryland. He stated his next of kin to be his brother Joseph in Vienna, Austria - strange that it was not his wife in Nova Scotia but I won't complain since now I had the names of both his dad and brother. I revisited the record a couple of weeks later and discovered that there was a second page. This page contained the country and town of his birth. The handwriting was really difficult to read but it looked like Masterlinek, Austria. I spent quite awhile trying to find anything close to the name of this town but no luck.
Fast forward 8 months. I am currently one of the admins of the Canadian research genealogy group on facebook - as well as the polish group If you haven't checked these groups out or the family search wiki lately, check them out. Everyone is very helpful and passionate about genealogy and sharing what they know. I've started to add content to the Halton County wiki page:
I'm going to plug these initiatives in another post to give them the attention they deserve.
Anyways, I decided to like the German/Prussia facebook group, provided the image of the town as written in the boarder crossing record and hoped for help. Karl-Michael Sala, a professional German genealogist and admin of the German/Prussia page, did some searches and could not find a match for this town or village either.
I sat down two nights ago and it occurred to me that perhaps Johann had provided the name of his birth place but not the spelling and/or the guard wrote what he heard phonetically (maybe without bothering to ask). There is a pretty good database on the JewishGen website which will do special soundex searches for towns/villages and cities in Eastern European countries called ShtetlSeeker. When I first found the name of the town I tried to use the engine to lookup the town without success. I decided to revisit it. I came up with nothing, no matter what spelling I tried. So in desperation I decided to try a long shot. About the only letters I was certain of in the name of the town was the Ma, the lin and the k at the end. I decided to try a soundex search of "lin" and I got thousands of hits. I found the ones in Austria and tried to imagine what town would sound like Masterlinek. I found one that I thought might be close but probably not- Matzling.
I posted a followup message to the facebook group, letting them know what I tried and what I came up with which I did not think was a match.
Well woo hooo, Karl-Michael told me it was the closest match I would get. Phonetically, Matzling sounds like Maeteslinck and so the brick wall has come tumbling down.
The next step is to try to determine which church/parish in Matzling Johann and his family would have belonged to so I can start searching microfilms (and get a crash course in German). It pays to think phonetically and to ask for some help when researching information for a country and in a language you are not familiar with!