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Newspapers printed during your ancestor's lifetime may contain birth or marriage notices. Death notices and war casualties are especially common in old German papers. Death notices typically list birth and death dates and burial places. Sometimes they list the birth place or immediate family members. Newspapers may also include notices of property and estate sales, business licenses issued, intentions to emigrate, patent applications, and other official business. Historical information, such as local events, grocery prices, and advertisements can help you understand your ancestor’s world and add color to your family history.
Some digitized newspapers are full-text searchable, but many still have to be searched page by page. Since few indexes are available, you must know the approximate date of the newspaper to search. Newspapers became more common in Germany after 1855, when a tax on paper was lifted.
German terms for newspapers
The standard term for a newspaper is “Zeitung”, but other terms are often used in the name that may allude to the publication’s primary purpose, frequency, or intended audience.
· Amtsblatt/Amtsblätter (official newspaper/s)
· Polizeiblatt/Polizeiblätter (police newspaper/s)
· Intelligenzblatt/ Inteligenzblätter (intelligence paper/s – „intelligence“ = „news“)
· Gesetzblatt/ Gesetzblätter (law paper/s, publish government information)
· Kurier/ Amtskurier (Courier- disseminate information)
· Rundschau (newsy, often includes entertainment sections)
· Presse (publication)
· Tages-, Wochenblatt (daily-/ weekly publication)
· Anzeiger (literally: notices)
· Beilage – (supplement)
Resources for German Newspapers
Some historical background and links to pages describing German-language newspapers in various states are found in this Wikipedia article. Some state libraries and universities also offer online digitized newspaper collections.
Effective Newspaper Research
A good resource for learning about effective research in newspapers and links to online newspaper collections is TheAncestorHunt. Articles cover important topics like the difference between “picture-only” and searchable images, and effective search strategies (Search not only by name!). Links to numerous helpful articles and online newspaper collections are also included.
German Papers in the United States
Newly arrived immigrants and their home towns are often listed in old newspapers.
Recently published guides include:
- Beidler, James M., The Family Tree Historical Newspapers Guide- How to Find your Ancestors in Archived Newspapers. Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2018.
- Thode, Ernest, Historic German Newspapers Online, Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2014. This book includes links to approximately 2,000 German-language newspapers available online.
For a bibliography of about 5,000 historical German-interest newspapers and the repositories, see the following source:
- Arndt, Karl J. R., and May E. Olson. The German Language Press of the Americas, 1732-1968: History and Bibliography = Die Deutschsprachige Presseder Amerikas, 1732-1968: Geschichte und Bibliographie. 2 vols. München, Germany: Verlag Dokumentation, 1973-1976. (FHL book 973 B33a1976.)
In most places where Germans settled around the world, they published a German-interest newspaper.
The directory below lists modern newspapers by language and title:
- Wynar, Lubomyr R., and Anna T. Wynar. Encyclopedic Directory of Ethnic Newspapers and Periodicals in the United States, 2nd ed. Littleton, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 1976. (FHL book 973 E4w.)
The “Advanced search” options allows searches by state, county, or town, name of a specific newspaper. Other search terms include ethnicity, language, and specific time periods.
A search for German newspapers published in German in Iowa brings up numerous titles with the publication places and dates. Many newspapers were only published for a few years. The full entry also includes other details: intended audience, alternate titles, political editorial line etc., and which libraries have copies. Some of these publications can be accessed on the Chronicling America website.
Search engines like google.de can be used to find out which newspapers existed for a given town and time period. For instance, a search for “Zeitung Görlitz 1825” brought up references to two newspapers available online, the “Görlitzer Anzeiger” and the “Oberlausitzische Fama”. The Anzeiger was more of an official paper, while the other also included entertainment and short news items.
Increasingly, online newspapers are text searchable, so searching for specific names, places, or topics may bring up helpful articles.
This website contains link lists for several types of newspapers, including government news bulletins and regular news.
- Government newspapers list all kinds of official business, along with the names of the parties involved. They may include names of young men who failed to show up for muster, legal and illegal emigrants, probate notices, and more. The WikiSource pages for many German states include links to digitized government newspapers.
- The link list titled “Amtsblätter der preussischen Bezirksregierungen” (Official papers of the Prussian regional governments) includes links to various 19th Century online editions of official papers from most regional capital cities. The lists keep on growing, and better search engines yield many a fortuitous find. These types of papers often include lists of people intending to emigrate and of young men who did not appear for muster.
- The link list titled “Gesetzblätter” (law newspapers) provides a link list of digitized papers listing the published laws, decrees, ordinances etc. These can provide helpful background information for a family history. It is very interesting to learn about local “Ordnungen”, which may include rather detailed directives on which types of fabrics are permitted for each social class, rules about weddings and other celebrations or gatherings (how many guests, appropriate foods etc.), requirements for inheritances, gaining personal freedom (manumission) etc.
- For links to lists of digitized newspapers, see the lists provided in the German WikiSource article “Zeitung” (newspaper) and the associated web links near the bottom of the article.
Libraries and Archives
To find newspapers in German repositories, use this source:
- Hagelweide, Gert, ed. Deutsche Zeitungsbestände in Bibliotheken und Archiven = German newspapers in libraries and archives Düsseldorf: Droste,  (FHL book 943 B3h.) This book covers the years 1700 to 1969, citing 2,018 papers from 222 towns and stored at 579 German and foreign repositories. It does not list every paper ever published, but it is still an excellent list.
- Benn's Media Directory International. Tonbridge, England: Benn's Business Information Services, annual. (FHL book 011.35 B439.) This is arranged by the nation and city of the newspaper.
- An online newspaper directory is available at German Newspaper databank. The intro page says it "does not contain contents, i. e. journal articles", however, the site also links to many libraries that provide free access to the newspapers online. To browse a list of newspapers available online, in the Newspapers section -- select a country from the drop-down list, select "Digitisation of newspapers according to original layout" and perform a blank search. (German language, click on British flag at top left for English)
Digital Issues Online
- A helpful website for some digitized newspapers can be found here digitized newspapers (German language)
- Digital historical newspapers portal on the CompGen website
- List of digital libraries
- Another website for newspapers comes from Aachen and can be located at this link: Internationales Zeitungsmuseum. (German language)
- The Digitale Bibliothek has many interesting newspapers including occupational papers, such as locomotives and Germans in Argentina, etc. (German language)
- Historic German Newspapers Online. images
- World Newspapers Online
- Wochenschau - German Newsreels.
- EuroDocs Historic German Newspapers and Journals Online
Family History Library
The Family History Library has virtually no German newspapers. A few related items may be found in the Place Search of the catalog under the name of the town or state and the topic NEWSPAPERS. For example, copies of the Augsburgisches Intelligenz-Blatt 1797-1827 and the Intelligenz-Blatt und Wochentlicher Anzeiger von Augsburg 1827-1899 can be located in FamilySearch.org in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under Germany, Bayern, Augsburg - Newspapers. The Amts-Blatt der Koenigl. Bayer. Stadt Augsburg 1900-1917 is listed under Germany, Bayern - Newspapers.
- "Newspapers, Unique Sources for German Family and Local History, Part II," German Genealogical Digest, 3 (1987): No. 4.