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From the Ancestry Daily News  
  Michael John Neill – 10/11/1999

From Immigrant Trunk to Toy Box

The subject line got my attention without appealing to financial or prurient interests. It simply read "Goldenstein genealogy." Messages containing any of my several unusual surnames get read quickly. This message was no exception and it essentially said:

"I have located a trunk that says 'Ahltie F. Goldenstein Keokuk Junction II5.' Would you be interested?"

Wow! Would I be interested? Altje was a sister to my second great-grandfather. The message indicated the sender would be happy to send me a picture of the trunk, so I quickly shot a reply back asking for the picture.

In the meantime, I scanned my files to see what other information I had on Altje. I knew she was born in Wrisse, Ostfriesland, Germany, in 1848 and that she married Hinrich Schuster in Adams County, Illinois, on 28 August 1870 in Adams County, Illinois, and that she died in Illinois in 1907. I did not have any information on her date of immigration to the United States, but assumed it was shortly before her marriage to Hinrich. The trunk was approximately 130 years old, possibly a little older. Upon seeing the picture, I determined that it did not say "II5" and the bottom, but that it said "Ills" an older abbreviation for Illinois.

Before I Bought It

I did some online searches for information about immigrant trunks in order to determine approximate prices based upon condition and age. My knowledge of antiques was minimal at best and I asked a lady at work who frequent antique shows if she had any suggestions. She pointed me in the direction of a local person who is somewhat knowledgeable on this subject. Sometimes I still like to communicate with a real person, especially when it comes to spending a fair amount of money.

Did I Get It?

The owner and I were fortunate enough to settle on a price and I picked up the trunk four days after the initial contact. Fortunately, I was presenting at a conference and the antique mall was right along the way. I really had to concentrate during my presentation. I picked it up on a Sunday afternoon and the lady at the antique mall said "tell me about it." There wasn't much to tell, but she did provide me with some general information about trunks of this type. I opened the trunk and inside was the most obnoxious red interior I have ever seen. "Probably used it as a kid's toybox" she retorted.

How Can I Determine If My Family Has Similar Treasures?

There is no good and fast way this can be done, especially if the items have left the family. This is what happened with the trunk that I purchased. The lady who sold it to me told me it had been covered with canvas and had a seat attached to the top. When she removed the canvas from the front she could see the writing. Just how long it had been out of the family is anyone's guess. Older relatives may have knowledge of family heirlooms that perhaps are still in the family or that have been sold. Estate records may indicate who purchased a specific item at a sale, but the sale may have been many years ago and the item may have changed hands many times. This is the first time in my nearly twenty years of genealogy research that I learned of a former relative's item that was for sale. Online auctions are a start, but it really is hit and miss.

How Did the Trunk's Owner Find Me?

The owner performed some type of Internet search and my page came up among the hits. A search for "goldenstein genealogy illinois" on turned up one page—an article I wrote for the Ancestry Daily News on 24 June 1999. Other search engines may also turn up various pages that I have created. You don't have to write for the Daily News to publicize your surnames or your genealogical interests and to have those items come up in the various search engines.

There are genealogy sites and non-genealogy sites where individuals can perform searches and obtain links to various pages. The difficulty in this case was that the individual searching for me was not using one of the major genealogy Web sites.

How Can I Publicize My Site?

There are many things you can do in order to publicize and promote your site. What follows are a few basic suggestions. The goal is to get some exposure to your site, not to make you a genealogical marketing expert. After all, for most personal genealogy related sites the goal is getting possible relatives to see your site, not getting hundreds of hits from people who could not care less about your family or surnames.

Search Engines

The best idea is to stick with the free promotional tools and to have your site included in the major search engines. Submit the URL for your main Web page to search engines such as:






Northern Light


Genealogy-Related Promotional Ideas

It's not a search engine, but submitting your link to the appropriate section of Cyndi's List will help you in your quest for hits to your site.

Of course there are others. I would not spend too much time submitting URLs to sites. You could very easily spend all your time submitting URLs to various sites and never get anything else done. After all, you do want to keep time to work on your site and to do genealogy work. To see if you favorite search engine allows you to submit an URL, do a "find" in your browser under "edit" and enter "url"(without the quotes). It's not one hundred percent, but that was how I quickly determined the web sites listed above allowed users to submit URLs.

Keep in mind that your submission will not appear in the index instantaneously. It may take from several days to several months.

Mailing Lists

Determine if there any appropriate mailing lists to which you can submit your URL. Please do not submit to every mailing list that crosses your browser window. Be selective and choose those lists that have something in common with your site.

There are many mailing lists hosted at RootsWeb that may overlap with the content of your site. Make certain that there is a logical connection between your site and the mailing list to which you post. Most of us on mailing lists don't like to get posts that are sent out to hundreds of groups.

A listing of Rootsweb's mailing lists is available. And remember you might get flamed for inappropriately posting to a list. If you have any questions or concerns about posting, contact the listowner first.

The New-Gen-URL mailing list is an excellent place to submit your URL if it is new or has been significantly revised. More information about this mailing list is available at John Gaunt's list of Mailing Lists.

Bulletin Boards

You may also wish to post a notice about your Web site on the message boards at

Again, make certain your post to those surname boards that are appropriate for your site. There are other ideas to be certain, but this will get you on your way and will keep more money in your pocket for other genealogical expenditures.

In an upcoming article, we'll see how to learn more about immigrants like Altje. Readers may see a picture of Altje's trunk at . The bright red interior can barely be seen. There are currently no Matchbox cars or Barbie dolls inside the trunk!

Copyright 2000,
This article reprinted with permission

Back to Immigration Articles by Michael John Neill

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