Finding Aids For German Records
|Germany Research Topics|
|Reading the Records|
|Local Research Resources|
- 1 Studying Your German Locality for Important Details
- 2 Determining the Location of a Civil Registration Office
- 3 Determining the Location of Churches
- 4 Preparing for an Area Search: Maps
Studying Your German Locality for Important DetailsEdit
- 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 RecordsEdit
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.
- Use Germany Finding Town of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
Germany has many "cultural regions" and "geographical landscapes", smaller, informal areas that were not political entities. You are might be familiar with the Black Forest, the Ruhr, the Saar, or Frisia (Friesland). Your ancestors might have left records or family traditions that they were from one of these areas. This list of "landscapes" by GenWiki can help you identify these regions. Once you know that the information is a cultural region not a town, you will know that you need to search further to narrow down your ancestros' town.
Determining the Location of a Civil Registration OfficeEdit
Research your town name in MeyersGaz.org 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 ChurchesEdit
1. Consult Meyers' Gazetteer for Parish InformationEdit
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.
- Use MeyersGaz, the digital gazetteer, to find the details you need, particularly:
- the province or duchy it belonged to
- whether it had its own Catholic and/or Evangelical Lutheran parish, and, if not,
- the closest Catholic and/or Evangelical Lutheran parishes
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
- Class: *Meyer's Gazetteer Now Online, Indexed and Fully Searchable!
- Here is part of another entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Wellheim, MeyersGaz.)
The most important facts here are:
This chart comes up:
We learn that the Protestant church for Wellheim is in Eichstätt. We also find other nearby churches.
Main Entry Page
Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)
The most important facts here are:
Main Entry Page
2. Consult Kartenmeister for parish information.Edit
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
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):
3. Parish Register InventoriesEdit
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 GuidesEdit
If you are at the FamilySearch Main Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, these excellent reference volumes will identify parish boundaries.
Other Religious GroupsEdit
To learn how to determine the location of other religious records, namely Jewish, French Reformed, German Reformed, etc., watch Hansen’s Map Guides: Finding Records with Parish Maps beginning at 48:00 minutes, to learn how to locate these congregations. Then go back and watch from the beginning to understand how to use the reference book. Also, you can read Map Guide to German Parish Registers. This video and handout teach you how to use a set of reference books found at the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. If you are not in Salt Lake City, use the Contact Us feature to request information from the books.
5. Ask the CommunityEdit
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: MapsEdit
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 MapsEdit
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.
The map will now show the locations of nearby parishes.
Kartenmeister Links for MapsEdit
Each Kartenmeister entry has a link to Google Maps (in blue) for the town and its vicinity.