German Empire Topics
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Cultural Areas and Place Names[edit | edit source]
It is sometimes hard to pinpoint a place of origin for an ancestor because what seems to be a village name is in reality not. Ancestors may have given a cultural area as a point of reference, i.e. they came from Probstei, Holsteinische Schweiz or Dänisch Wohld.
In such a case one might want to try using the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency database at https://geonames.nga.mil/gns/html/ and conduct a GNS search.
Typing in “Probstei” for instance, will give five options to search by latitude and longitude as well as feature types. Choosing “Probstei region” gives the co-ordinates of 54˚25’00” N and 010˚20’00”E. With these measurements one can consult a good map in order to locate the Probstei by figuring the degrees.
Another option to do this would be to consult Map quest online, choosing International, Germany and the button for latitude and longitude (Karte suchen nach Breiten- und Längengraden). Entering in the appropriate spaces degrees, minutes and seconds will find the applicable map. Enlarging the image will show details. This procedure does not define the cultural area as such it just shows its approximate location. To define a cultural area, Google (Image search) will usually provide a map with such features.
The above described procedure works also for topical features such as lakes, rivers, mountains and places.
A list of German cultural areas can be obtained online through genealogy.net, choosing regional and then geographical regions or see the map at http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:SLH.landscapes.png&filetimestamp=20080805140735
For a more comprehensive understanding of gazetteers, study the article Germany Gazetteers.
Germany Nationwide Gazetteers[edit | edit source]
The Family History Library uses one gazetteer as the standard guide for listing German places in the catalog. Regardless of the various jurisdictions a place may have been under at different times, all German places are listed by the jurisdictions used in the following reference:
Uetrecht, E. Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs(Meyers Place- and Traffic directory of the German Empire). Fifth Edition. Leipzig, Germany: Bibliographisches Institute, 1912-3. (FHL book Ref 943 E5mo; films 496,640-1; fiche 6,000,001-29.)
Meyer's gazetteer (often referred to as Meyers Orts) lists the names of places as they existed in Germany from 1871 to 1912. It gives the name of the state or province where each town was located at that time. The gazetteer is written in Gothic print, which can be hard to read.
Meyer's gazetteer is available in digital form.