Finding Aids For German Records

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Studying Your German Locality

Studying Your German Locality for Important Details[edit | edit source]

  • To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from Germany will not be enough to use the records of Germany. Records are kept on the local level, so you will have to know the town they lived in. Even when you know the town, the records for that town might be stored in the records of a church in a nearby town.
  • Here are important details you must identify about your ancestors' town:
    • if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger municipality it was part of.
    • the county (Kreis) snd the province or duchy governing that town,
    • where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was and now is,
    • where the Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church overseeing that town was (depending on their religion),
    • Eventually, you might need to know the names of neighboring towns and the churches who served them. When you come to a dead-end in your research, you will need to look at the records of near-by towns. People tended to not move very far away, and sometimes you will be able to pick up the research again in these towns.

Finding Evidence of Your Ancestors' Town in United States Records[edit | edit source]

If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Determining the Location of a Civil Registration Office[edit | edit source]

Research your town name in to find the location of the registry office (Standesamt). It is indicated by the abbreviation "StdA".

However, some of the offices were merged in 1970's, so the record location might be different than that listed in MeyersGaz.

  • For a small town within a larger municipality:
  • To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box. An article about the town will start with a first line such as: "Besse with about 3200 inhabitants is the largest district of the municipality Edermünde in Hessian Schwalm-Eder-Kreis ." It is probable that the Standesamt is now located in the municipality (in this example Edermünde).
  • Email the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there.
  • From the town article, click on the name of the municipality that links to that article.
  • There will usually be an infobox on the right side of page that lists the address and the website of the municipality.
  • From the website, look for Kontakt (Contact) information with an email address. Send a message asking whether you have the correct office for your ancestors' home town.
  • For larger towns:
  • Follow the same instructions above.
  • The infobox with the website will appear directly on a this page.

Determining the Location of Churches[edit | edit source]

1. Consult Meyers' Gazetteer for Parish Information[edit | edit source]

To find out where the Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church overseeing your ancestor's town was (depending on their religion), start with Meyer's Gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, the gazetteer on which the FamilySearch catalog for Germany is based.

Example #1[edit | edit source]

  • Here is part of another entry from (The whole entry can be studied at Wellheim, MeyersGaz.)

The most important facts here are:

  1. Wellheim is in Eichstätt Bezirksamt (BA).
  2. It is in Regierungsbezirk (Administrative District) Middle Franconia (MFranken) (RB)
  3. In 1871, It had its own Standesamt (StdA) or civil registration office.
  4. It has one Catholic parish church (kath. K.).
  5. In the gray bar just under the title, click on the "Ecclesiastical" option:

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 5.18.51 PM.png

This chart comes up:

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 8.16.02 PM.png

We learn that the Protestant church for Wellheim is in Eichstätt. We also find other nearby churches.

Main Entry Page


Example #2[edit | edit source]

Here is part of an entry from (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)

The most important facts here are:

  1. Heusenstamm is in Offenbach Kreis (Kr).
  2. In 1871, had its own Standesamt (StdA) or civil registration office.
  3. It has its own Catholic parish church.
  4. By clicking on the "Ecclesiastical" option, we learn that there are nearby protestant churches at Bieber, Dietzenbach, and Offenbach.

Screen Shot 2019-04-14 at 5.08.21 PM.png

Main Entry Page


2. Consult Kartenmeister for parish information.[edit | edit source]

For the provinces of East Prussia (Ostpreussen), Posen, Pomerania (Pommern), Silesia (Schlesien), parts of Brandenburg, and West Prussia (Westpreussen), areas which no longer belong to Germany, the online gazetteer Kartenmeister most efficiently tells you parish information:


Kartenmeister Search Engine

To use Kartenmeister, simply enter the German name of the town in the search field.

Kartenmeister search.png

A Typical Kartenmeister Record

The most important information points here are the

name of the Lutheran parish, the name of the Catholic parish, and the location of the civil registry office (Standesamt):

Kartenmeister entry.png

3. Parish Register Inventories[edit | edit source]

A parish register inventory is a reference book which lists all the localities in a region and then identifies the Catholic or Protestant parish that served them. Some are available online. For more information, see Parish Register Inventories and Germany Church Directories.

If you are able to visit the FamilySearch Main Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, go to the international floor of the library. Consultants at the help desk there are familiar with their large collection of parish register inventories. They will be able to assist you in researching which parishes served your ancestors' town.

4. Hansen's Map Guides[edit | edit source]

If you are at the FamilySearch Main Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, these excellent reference volumes will identify parish boundaries.

5. Ask the Community[edit | edit source]

The Germany Genealogy Research Group is a community of volunteers with experience in German research.You can post questions on their website, and they can assist you with tracking down these details.

Preparing for an Area Search: Maps[edit | edit source]

As you are gathering records from a church or civil registrar, when you come to a dead end, your next step will be to search the records of neighboring towns. Maps of your town and its surrounding area will be found in several reference aids:

Meyer's Gazetteer Links for Maps[edit | edit source]

Notice the map in this example of an entry from Meyer's Gazetteer....

This is a clickable link, which will expand to show you a detailed map of your town and its vicinity as it was in 1871.


Use the "Toggle Historical Map" feature to create a map of nearby parishes.


Kartenmeister Links for Maps[edit | edit source]

Each Kartenmeister entry has a link to Google Maps (in blue) for the town and its vicinity.

Kartenmeister entry.png