You may be just starting out in your family history research or you may be knee deep in file folders. Either way, at some point you are going to hit a brick wall. In my German genealogy research I have hit many; but none that have bothered me quite like the Riddlestine family!
My grandmother Ruth (Riddlestine) Clark has a family history book her sister Margaret wrote. Margaret Riddlestine was the family historian. She had made this family history book before she died, which she passed out to all the siblings and nieces and nephews. She never had any children of her own so genealogy was a passion she devoted a lot of time to.
In that book was a one page story my great-grandfather wrote outlining the events that led them to settle in Seven Mile Creek, Wisconsin. This is the only place there was ever a mention of where they were from. In the story he said that his father Lewis Riddlestine came from Dusseldorf, Germany at the age of one.
Type in “Riddlestine” into Google and you get 432 search results.
Most are currently living Riddlestine relatives in Wisconsin and fewer are some of our earlier relatives that settled here in Wisconsin. No where could I find the “Riddlestine” linking us to Dusseldorf. I searched every website I had access to; Ancestry, FamilySearch, My Heritage, WorldGenWeb, and MANY MORE but no matter where I searched I found absolutely nothing! I searched Riddlestine, Ruddlestine, Rueddlestein, and endless variations but to no avail. I thought about having my grandmother do a DNA test, and even bought one for her to try, but as she was in the early stages of dementia at the time- getting her to spit an inch worth of spit into a small tube was out of the question. (little did I know Family Tree DNA has a swab DNA test!! How awesome is that?!)
Years passed but I never gave up on the Riddlestine family. Always were they in the back of my mind when doing research… and occasionally I would do another search, just for good measure. One day I happened to be doing some research on FamilySearch and typed in the name “Lewis Riddlestine” (my gg-grandfather) into the search box… and BAM! There was a birth record for Ludwig Ruedelstein, son of Christina and Mathias living in Bedburg Bergheim Erft, Rheinland, Prussia which was only 20 MILES from Dusseldorf! His birth record had just recently been indexed by Family Search which would explain why I couldn’t find anything on them before. Let me break it down what can be learned from one simple record!
Info I started with:
Birth: 12 Sep 1859 in Germany
Father: Mathias Riddlestine
Mother: Anastasia C Zindorf
Corrected info that I found from ONE German birth record!
Birth: 12 Sep 1855 Bedburg Bergheim Erft, Rheinland, Prussia
Father: Mathias Ruedelstein
Mother: Christina Zuenndorf
This find opened so many doors! I started with enough information that I could confirm with fair certainty that this was indeed my relative. From here I now had the “German” spelling for my ancestors and had a better chance of finding more records for them. I then could search for Ludwig or his mother and father. I found their parents as well as a sibling that I didn’t know Ludwig had! I searched his birth place for photos and maps. I could even look for specific publications from the town in which he was born and search for Ruedelstein’s in the town publications.
Sometimes brick walls take days, months, and even years to break down! There are new projects and documents being indexed every single day on every major genealogy website. This is great news for all of us as it gives us the motivation to never give up and just keep swimming on our genealogy journey!