About 1997, I had convinced my mother to get an internet connection. I remember sitting at my computer to create a Yahoo! email address. To ensure that I had created it correctly, I decided to search for myself in the directory. I searched only for my surname Kottal. To my surprise, there were hundreds of hits and not only from Denmark. That is when I was hooked on genealogy! I had to know who these people were.
I just reviewed my research notes from the late 1990s. Unaware of the term at the time, I began doing a one-name study for the surname Kottal. I have long lists of people named Kottal in Denmark, the Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, and the US. I wrote letters to many of them - using paper and pen! I still have the drafts of the letters, and I made a note of when I sent each letter. Few responded, but those who did were immensely helpful.
My great-grandfather Maximilian Kottal came from Bohemia. I drew maps, plotting in towns where someone named Kottal lived. I made lists of glassworks in the area because Maximilian was a glass painter. I wrote a brief history of his hometown Stubenbach and the area surrounding it. I listed archives and sources. Essentially, I made a locality guide - another term I did not know then.
I seem to have been well-organized, but I know now that my research was not flawless, because I rarely questioned the sources and the information therein. I thought information in church books was always correct, and I believed what my relatives told me about our ancestors. For instance, I believed that the man in the photograph above is my great-grandfather Maximilian Kottal, but now I am not so sure.
Follow my blog to learn why I question the identity of the man in the photograph and to get a few tips for your own family history research!