Saturday, March 10, 2018


DOLLER_John_headshot circa 1895 B&W

During my trip to Rootstech this year, I allowed a few days for research at the Family History Library (FHL).  Read about my preparation for my trip and all the fun I had in these two posts:

Rootstech Preparation - My First Time Attending and Rootstech is Over but We Had Fun

If you’ve been to the FHL you know that not every day will be a bonanza of finds (although we’d like that to be the case).  I’ve been fortunate to have been there 3 times now and my luck has varied from day to day. 

On Saturday afternoon, my friend Pam and I had done all we could at the Rootstech conference and decided to spend the last couple of hours of the day at the FHL.  We were on the 3rd floor (books) and I wasn’t having much luck with my ancestors, so, on a whim, I decided to go down to one of the International floors of the building.  I’d had some good luck with German records on a visit in 2015.  Why not try again?  So down to B1 I went.

I asked one of the volunteers if there was anyone available to help with German records.  I was directed to Elder Kirk. 

My question – Is it possible, with very little information to find any records for John Doller and his wife Bertha Keller?  These are my husband’s great grandparents.  I knew they’d immigrated from Germany to New York about 1890. 

Here’s what I had: 

John Doller born 25 Dec 1859 possibly in Dansig, Germany, immigrated about 1890, died 15 Dec 1935 in Buffalo, Erie, New York.  He married about 1884 in Germany, Bertha Keller, born 28 Jun 1865 in Berlin, Germany, died 6 Oct 1950 in Buffalo, Erie, New York.  I had 3 unknown children born to this couple, based on how many children were listed for Bertha in the 1900 census.  I had two known children, Irven/Erwin born 1885 in Germany and Freada born 1895 in New York.  Not much to go on.  I had no idea if the locations in Germany were correct or not.

Elder Kirk first asks if I knew the religion of this couple.  Were they Catholic or Protestant?  I said I didn’t think they were Catholic (based on the church attendance of descendants).  He begins pulling up sites on the internet that I had no knowledge existed.  My experience in German research is very limited.  Elder Kirk first tells me that the name Doller probably was the Americanized version of the surname.  We weren’t having any luck with John’s name so we switched to Bertha Keller, which Elder Kirk thought was a name that would not have changed. 

NOTE:  It was 4:30 and the FHL closes at 5 on Saturday.  We kept hearing the announcement over the loud speaker “the library will close in 30 minutes, the library will close in 15 minutes.”  So, both Elder Kirk and I knew our time was short and that on Sunday, the next day, the library is closed.

He told me that the area called Danzig was Eastern Pomerania formerly part of West Prussia and located along the Baltic Sea.  Here is a link to more about the area The Polish Corridor.  And here is a map.

Danzig corridor map

Now Elder Kirk took me to the PTG Pomorskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne (Pomeranian Genealogical Association) website.  Searching this site for Bertha Keller LOOK WHAT CAME UP!!!!


Remember those 3 unknown children that I said I had for Bertha Keller?  They would have been born between 1884 and their 1890 departure to America.  Their names were listed as Unknown 1,2 & 3 in my Legacy database.  Here they are!  Elder Kirk said that Tallarowski would easily have been John/Johann’s actual surname.  That when pronounced the first part of the name is very similar to Doller. 

The children are:

Laura Ida born in 1886 in Sobowidz

Otto Johannes born in 1888 in Sobowidz

Ida Bertha born in 1889 in Sobowidz

Next we went to another website that told us about Sobowidz/Sobbowitz.  Here’s the screenshot I took of that.  I only brought my iPad down to level B1 when I went so I was happy to be able to photograph these websites.

Time was running short for us so Elder Kirk pulled up the list of microfilms for the parish records, in hope we could locate both the births/baptisms of the children and the marriage of Johann and Bertha.

TAUFEN is a German word for Baptism and HEIRATEN is a German word for Marriage. We were off to pull film numbers 245765 and 245767. Wish us luck, the clock was ticking and the library would soon be closing.  Elder Kirk was so kind.  He said, you take one film and I’ll take the other.  We set up the film on adjoining microfilm readers and off we went.

It didn’t take long.  He had the film with the baptisms and was able to quickly locate records for all 3 children, Laura, Otto and Ida.  I had the marriage film and with some help from Elder Kirk we located the marriage record for Johann and Bertha.  THESE WERE SUCH HUGE FINDS!  The records were all in German.  I asked Elder Kirk what a particular word was, listed on the marriage record and low and behold, it translated to Mason.  If I wasn’t certain before this, that was the point where I wanted to hug Elder Kirk.  John Doller had been a Mason in every record I found for him in the US records. 

With 5 minutes to go until the library closed, I had to take pictures of the microfilm finds as quickly as I could.  I would normally have taken a picture of the beginning of the film, the number etc.  But, I can always do that on my next trip.

Here’s an image of the marriage record for Johann Tolarowski (spelled many different ways in various records) and Bertha Keller on 7 Sep 1884.

Copy of IMG_1463-marriage annot

The baptism and death record for Laura Ida.

IMG_1465 - Copy

The baptism and death record for Otto Johannes.


The baptism Ida Bertha.  There is no death date because she died either on the ship or in New York.

IMG_1474 - Copy

This is what I like to see on an Family View in Legacy.  Filled in information.  At this point we are missing or only have partial names of Johann and Bertha’s parents, but I’m hoping I can locate them.DOLLAR family

The discovery of John’s German name has lead to me finding more information about this family.  I need to stop writing before this gets too much longer.  Don’t stay away, more on this story coming very soon.

Happy hunting,

Michigan Girl


  1. The city of Danzig was originally named Gdańsk, which is a Polish name. Tolarowski is a Polish name as well. Most of the inhabitants of Danzig were of Polish extraction and spoke both Polish and German. Poland controlled the Pomerelian Duchy, of which Gdansk was the capital, until the end of the 11th century, and reclaimed the Duchy in the 12th century. In 1308 Gdansk was taken over by the Teutonic Knights of the Teutonic Monastic State of Prussia when they were asked by the city's Pomeranian judge, Bogusza, to help raise a seige of the city of Gdansk being undertaken by Margraviate of Brandenburg. The Teutonic Knights never relinquished the city and slaughtered many thousands of the residents when they rose up against the takeover. Danzig was adopted as the name of the Germanic city. In 1440, Danzig joined the nearby Hanseatic cities of Elbing and Thorn (Toruń) to form the Prussian Confederation, which in February 1454 seceded from the Teutonic Order's rule and recognized the suzerainty of King Casimir IV of Poland. Aside from seven years under the rule of the French when Napoleon seized the area, Danzig was part of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1793 until 1919. It was declared a free city in 1920 and that continued until 1939 when it was annexed by Nazi Germany.

    1. Pretty much what I read too John. We learn so much history while researching our ancestors. Not to mention all the fun we have.

  2. I can never sing the praises loudly enough of all the staff in the Family History Library. So many of the tough successes I've had are due to their expert help and guidance. Congratulations on a wonderful discovery.

    1. I couldn’t agree more Linda. The man that helped me was a wealth of knowledge as to German records and also spoke the language. On each visit, I too have enjoyed the kindness and generous help of the staff at the library. P.S. So nice to have finally met you in person at Rootstech.

  3. I love success stories like these Diane, they're so encouraging. Congratulations on your finds.

    1. We all have these moments Dara....just often enough to keep us going, right? Thanks for your comment and best of luck in your research.

  4. Oh Diane! This is so amazing. I love reading stories like this. It's so easy to think I only have an hour and not enough time to find anything. Such an exciting find!!

    1. Thanks Michelle. That's so true. What can we do in an hour? As we've all learned over the years, quite a bit. I'm still feeling the excitement of this find. And, it really made my hubby's cousins (direct descendants of John Doller) happy.

  5. Wonderful! What an exciting find! This is the stuff that keeps us going. The Eleventh Hour find, I've had a few myself. Thank you for sharing your success with us!

    1. Isn’t that the truth? So much fun. Thanks for your comment.

  6. How VERY exciting Diane!! What an amazing find!

  7. I am the great grand daughter of John Doller. My dad was Kenneth Doller son of Irven Doller which was John Doller’s son.

    1. Hi again Julie. We’re you surprised to learn the family name was Tolarowski? I know my husband and his cousins were very surprised. I’m sure they’d all be pleased to know about you, meet you or correspond with you. Please get back in touch with contact information, if you’d be willing to communicate.


I look forward to reading your comments. If you have any connection to the people mentioned in this blog, please let me know. I write about mine and my husband's ancestors and would welcome new information or meeting a new cousin or two. Thanks for visiting and come back soon.