Success Story: Otto Prinkaln’s Record Found at

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By Judy Levy Pfaff – Michigan State University

My great success story with World Vital Records occurred with my nephew’s family, the Prinkalns. The first generation American Prinkalns were WWII refugees from Latvia. The family had fled into Germany after the war and spent approximately 2 years in a displaced persons camp. They were able to come to America. The family story I remembered said that the father of the family was working in an orchard picking fruit. This was soon after their arrival to America. He could not speak English. At the end of the day, he was missing. They found him dead under a tree. He possibly had a stroke or heart attack. I did not know his first name, or which state he had died in. I knew his wife’s name, first name, and the children’s names and approximate ages.

My work had turned up nothing useful. I could account for all the current Prinkalns in the public databases. The man would not have worked or collected Social Security. I thought he had died in Georgia harvesting peaches, but that turned out to be the wrong state. I thought he had died about 1949, but that was a guess.

I put the last name in the search box for World Vital Records. There were 4 returns. One was a fictional character in the book Sharkman Six by Owen West. By an odd coincidence the grandson of the man I was looking for has the same name. Another was a mention of my sister-in-law in the Michigan State Alumni Magazine. Another was in a book titled Latvijas revolucionāro cīnītāju pieminas grāmata, by Sigurds Ziemelis, published 1987 in Latvia. There is a copy available in Ann Arbor, Michigan. This may prove useful later.

It was the first entry under Birth, Marriage and Death from Find A Grave that proved to be my great find. Marie V. had submitted a photograph of a gravestone of Otto B. Prinkalns, 1903-1949, in Macpelah Cemetery, Prince William County, Virginia, photo added on Nov. 8, 2006. I was pretty sure this was the man I was seeking.

I have since followed up by contacting Marie V. She gave me a lead on an archivist for the county and a local genealogy librarian. These leads proved without a doubt that I had the right man. He died July 15 or 17, 1949 and survivors were the same children. Now, I have some needed information for further work on this family.

Thank you World Vital Records, and Marie V., a volunteer for Find a Grave, for getting me started on my latest quest.

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