01 April 2013

Grandma Baris-WHAT?

A few of my ancestors were drawn to Terre Haute, Indiana in the 1800’s by the lure of their glassblowing profession.  Others came to take advantage of the wide open spaces for farming nearby.  The Vigo County Public has done a marvelous job of documenting the area’s genealogical and local history. One of their databases is The Vigo County Marriage Record Database which documents marriages from 1818 to 1958. Not only can you search this database but you can view the original county marriage certificates and save them as PDF’s to your computer.
 I know very little about my Terre Haute/Vigo County ancestors. A few, like the Bischoffs, Gross and Ruckenhousers, were amongst the latest of my families to arrive in the United States. They arrived in Philadelphia from Germany in the 1800’s and made their way across states like Ohio and Kentucky to arrive at their final destination of Vigo County. The most allusive of this Vigo County bunch was my 3rd great grandmother, Barbara “Whatshername”, who married Johann “John” Joseph Bischoff on 4 December 1855. OK, so I don’t mean to be disrespectful but I had seen Barbara’s name spelled a million different ways: Sheck, Shenk, Schink, Sherk, Shirk, Shank…you get what I’m saying. What exactly was it?  There were families with similar surnames in the area but none fit date-wise as parents or siblings.  The Vigo County Marriages Database could be the key to Barbara’s last name.

I excitedly typed in Grandpa John’s name and boom; there was the link to the marriage license of John Bischoff and Barbara Scheck.  Her last name was Scheck! Surname confirmation complete! Then, I opened the marriage license PDF:

Barbara’s first name was what? Bariswzork? What? How does one even say that? And her last name was Jacop? But wait, the second time her name is written, it’s listed as Bariswzork Jacop with the Jacop crossed out neatly and Scheck written over the top. But wait! There’s more! By the final time her name is written on the certificate, it’s morphed into plain old Barbara Scheck.

By the time I finished reading the marriage certificate, I had more questions than when I started.  Was her real last name Jacop? Was Jacop a surname acquired by marriage? Was Scheck a surname acquired by marriage? What the heck is a Bariswzork anyhow? Oy! I’ve decided to call her Barbara Scheck for the time being.  With more research, I might get Grandma Bariswzork/Barbara sorted out.  Barbara Scheck is a step up from Barbara Whatshername.  I think.


  1. Another great example of "Americanizing" a name. I guess everyone felt pressured to simplify, so that those reading the name for the first time wouldn't say, "What!" Frustrating for genealogists, though!

  2. I remember Googling Bariswzork when I first found it and got no results. I just tried again and only got my blog in the search.I can only image the immigration office trying to write that one down.