Monday, June 21, 2010

Jigsaw Genealogy

There are several steps to doing a jigsaw puzzle. First, you get all the pieces out of the box and turn them face up on the table. Then you start looking for pieces with similarities: bits of red probably go together, as do the edges. Eventually, the small clumps of interlocking pieces get joined to other clumps until you have enough to form a picture.

Genealogy is a lot like that puzzle sometimes. Currently, I'm trying to get some information on my great-grandmother Cecelia. She may be a Yost or a Jost. I do know she was born in 1892 Inzenhof, Austria, and that she came to settle in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania in 1909. By 1920, she was married, soon off to California. She died in 1931 leaving four children. My grandmother never knew her mother.

I do know that Cecelia had family in the Lehigh County area when she arrived from Austria. There is more than one Cecelia Yost/Jost in the area at that time, so a little more work is needed. 

Yesterday, I started taking the puzzle pieces out of the box and turning them face up. I am making a list of all the Yosts and Josts who immigrated from Inzenhof, Austria or its Hungarian neighbor town and/or listed Lehigh County, Pennsylvania as their final destination. I'm starting this daunting task with the site and going from there.

After that, I will look at all the Yosts and Josts residing in Lehigh County in the 1910 and 1920 federal censuses. I've also made a note to myself to check 1900 and 1930 if necessary.

Then I will do a quick check for newspaper articles and obits from the area for any mention of Yost, Jost and/or Inzenhof, Allentown or any of the little Lehigh County villages to which these folks immigrated.

So far in this task, I've already seen some similarities. I'm starting to put puzzle pieces together. I'm seeing possible siblings. I've also been able to eliminate one Ceceilia Yost/Jost as she was married to another man.

In all my personal research time this week (yeah, right) I'll continue to turn all the Yost and Jost puzzle pieces face up. This may be a big puzzle with a lot of pieces, but I don't know how else to approach this problem. I have no family information to go on. I've already struck out in the marriage record department (though I'm still trying). 

Cecelia was young and poor when she came to America and isn't in many records. I know she worked in a cigar factory before she was married. I also know she died too young. Her story deserves to be told and I am the only one in the position to do so. That's why I'm turning over all these puzzle pieces, with the hope that it will lead to a full picture of this branch in my family tree.


  1. Nice analogy to the jigsaw puzzle. Now I know why I like working them as well as genealogy:)
    You have a great plan for the research and I'm sure you'll get the pieces together soon.

  2. I agree with Becky -- you have drawn an apt analogy, and I also like jigsaw puzzles. Maybe that is a common characteristic of those of us who get deeply into genealogy: we love puzzles, we love detective work. Happy puzzle-solving!

  3. I hoping this jigsaw puzzle approach is going to work for me with my husband's family photos. My sister in law has given me many many photos and probably 95% of them are unmarked with at least 50% of those being of people we cannot identify. I just decided today that I was going to take over my large dining room table and lay them all out face up and try to organize them and see if I can recognize similar backgrounds and try to match some faces to faces that have already been identified. This is going to be a hard one! But I love the tuff stuff!

  4. "Her story deserves to be told" - I love it! When relatives ask me why I care about this stuff, that's the answer I give! It's kind of scary to think that if we don't tell the story, then maybe no one else will. Don't give up!

  5. I can't wait to hear the update on your puzzle. It's a great analogy and come to think of it - that's what I feel like I'm constantly working on.

    Waiting for "the rest of the story."

  6. Jigsaw puzzles! You are so right, I had never thought about how similar genealogy and jigsaw puzzles are, now I won't work on either again without thinking of your analogy. Thanks!

  7. I love this method, and I am glad to see someone else who pursues the genealogy puzzle this way.