In my work as a research consultant in the Family History Library, I often have seen miracles occur in the lives of people who are searching for their ancestors. Sometimes, they have searched for years without success. Sometimes, the problem is solved when a minor misspelling of a place name is corrected.
I recall an experience I had a few years ago when I was working at the International Reference desk in the library. A patron explained to me how she and her mother had searched for 15 years for a particular locality mentioned in a marriage record, but they could not find it. The marriage had taken place in Germany and they had even traveled there 3 times, but had found nothing.
The marriage had taken place in the area around Aachen, and the priest in that town where the marriage took place could not help them either. The patron proceeded to show me photocopies of the entry to see if I could create some magic. The name of the town they were looking for was Rittersbeck and it was supposedly close to Klemmen or Klommen. I too had no luck finding these names in the German gazetteer or on the map.
Then the patron said that the priest she had spoken with had suggested they go to the “bisdom” (diocese) of Roermond and see if they knew something. The lady told me that when her mother heard the priest say this she threw her hands in the air and said she was giving up! As an elderly woman, she said she was just too tired and wanted to go home and that was it.
Well, because Roermond is in Limburg in the Netherlands, I suggested she look in an old gazetteer of the Netherlands we have in the Library and see if she could find the place there. This gazetteer has many volumes and mentions just about every little hamlet there is. She did this.
When there were no other patrons to help, I noticed that she was still looking, so I went over to see how she was doing. She still couldn’t find Rittersbeck, but I noticed she was looking in the wrong volume. We took the right one and looked under Rittersbeck, and there it was! It was spelled Rittersbeek, not Rittersbeck.
The entry mentioned where the place is located and how many hours walking it takes to places north, east, south, and west, and one of the places it was close to was Klimmen. Not Klemmen or Klommen, just Klimmen. Such joy! The place was found and tears flowed. We looked on the map to find it, and made a photocopy. We also made sure we knew where the records were located for this village so she could go on with her research.
When you are blocked in your progress because you cannot find a place name in a gazetteer or map of the area where you think it should be, try spelling variations. You just might find the doors to finding your ancestors suddenly open for you, almost miraculously.