Special Collections Library–tracing roots

Yesterday I had an opportunity to do what I’ve been wanting to do for nearly six years–research Charles A. Bottger and his family in Albuquerque.  I made a trip to the Special Collections Library at the corner of Edith and Central, and spent a fascinating afternoon there.

Special Collections Library
423 Central Avenue NE
Albuquerque, NM   87103
Hours:  Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

First, I have to say that the volunteers are very helpful.  They are there on Tuesday and Friday, and can help with anything from suggesting a starting point to showing how to use the microfilm machines.  I needed that.  The other days you’re on your own, but I think I can handle that now.

It was an amazingly busy place.  It appeared that a number of people were there tracing their roots.  I can only imagine how difficult that is in Albuquerque if your last name is something like Chavez.  At least Charles Bottger had a very unique last name.

I started with the indexes of newspaper articles because marriages and deaths were always published.  Then I cross-referenced to the large index books of marriages.  Census records are always good, although I found the 1910 Census to be nearly illegible.  Fortunately, the volunteer helping me had better eyes than mine, or at least he’s used to trying to decipher the records.  While the printed copy we made was completely unreadable, I was able to jot down the information that we could see on the microfilm.  The challenge is that the census is only taken every 10 years, and a lot can happen in the meantime.  For instance, one or more children can be born and die in that period and never show up on the census.

Here’s an interesting point:  The information taken by the census workers back then was actually written down by the census workers, not the people they were interviewing, perhaps assuming that people were illiterate.  However, what happened was that the census workers wrote down the names as they heard them phonetically, so names were spelled incorrectly a great deal of the time.  I found the name “Bottger” also written as Boettger, Botteger and Buttager.  And this is just one guy with a unique name. The 1900 Census had him listed as “Charley Botteger.”  No wonder genealogy research is so complex and frustrating.

By the end of the day, I had managed to find most of the dates of death of his family members and dates of marriages, and references to a bunch of newspaper articles that I will need to follow up later.  All of the newspapers are on microfilm in a different location.  At the end of the day, I realized I really need to get copies of the newspaper obituaries, since they often give a great deal more information and background.

I had hoped to draw a family tree, but Julia Bottger Gallegos alone had six children and 24 grandchildren.  Maybe I’ll just do a family “bush.”