Finding Aids For German Records
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Finding Aids For German Records 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, that town might be part of a large parish headquartered in a nearby town. So the parish where their baptism, marriage, and burial records were kept is found in catalogs and archives under a different name than the town of their actual residence.
- Here are important details you must identify about your ancestors' town:
- if you have only a village name, the name of the larger municipality it was part of,
- the county (Kreis) and the province or state governing that town,
- where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was during the German Empire, and where it is now,
- 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.
- Use Germany Finding Town of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
Cultural Regions[edit | edit source]
Germany has many "cultural regions" and "geographical landscapes", smaller, informal areas that were not political entities, for example, "The Black Forest" or "Frisia". 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 ancestors' town.
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. They can assist you with any of the processes for tracking down these details.
The FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]
If the records you need have been filmed and/or digitized by FamilySearch, a quick search in the FamilySearch catalog can provide you with many of the details you need. Type in the name of your town in the "Place" field of the FamilySearch Catalog. It will automatically add the province of any German towns by that name. After you select a your town, look for the topics "Church records" and "Civil registration" and click on the links.
Many microfilms have been digitized for online viewing. Gradually, everything will be digitized, so check back occasionally. Some have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
If you find a likely record, look in the "Film Notes". Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. . The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.
Details in Major Gazetteers: Meyersgaz.org and Kartenmeister.com[edit | edit source]
Meyers' Gazetteer (Meyersgaz.org)[edit | edit source]
Use Meyer's Gazetteer to find the Kreis, the state or Prussian province, 1871 Standesamt, and the location of the Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church overseeing your ancestor's town: Meyer's Gazetteer (Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs). This is also the gazetteer on which the organization of the FamilySearch catalog and FamilySearch Historical Records are based.
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
- Class: Meyer's Gazetteer Now Online, Indexed and Fully Searchable!
Example #1[edit | edit source]
- 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
Example #2[edit | edit source]
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
Kartenmeister[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. It also gives Kreis, province, and Standesamt.
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):
More on Determining the Location of a Civil Registration Office[edit | edit source]
Research your town name in MeyersGaz.org to find the location of the registry office (Standesamt). It is indicated by the abbreviation "StdA". 'This is the Standesamt location you will use when searching for civil registration records anywhere in the FamilySearch catalog and collections. Ancestry.com collections will also use this location name. Records in archives will use this location prior to the consolidation of registration offices in the 1970's.
However, some of the offices were merged in 1970's, so the modern record location might be different than that listed in MeyersGaz. When writing for records, first find the modern registrar for your town.
- 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...." It is probable that the Standesamt is now located in the larger municipality (in this example, Edermünde).
- For larger towns which constitute a municipality:
- To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box.
- This type of article will not state that the town belongs to another municipality, because it is itself a municipality.
- To e-mail the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there.
- Consult this address list for the exact contact information, which should include an e-mail address: Standesamt.com. In the horizontal menu bar, hover over "+registry office" or "+Standesämter", then the name of the modern state, for a drop-down list of links to modern cilvil registrars.
- Send a message asking whether you have the correct office for your ancestors' home town. You can also use e-mail to request records and arrange payment. Use the German Letter Writing Guide to write your questions in German.
More on Finding Church Information[edit | edit source]
1. 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.
2. Archives Inventory[edit | edit source]
- Pdf Archive Inventory: "Part 1 of 2: Church records in Archives" - is an inventory of localities and the location or archive where their records should be found. The sixth column, "Archives", gives a number. To find the name and contact information, look up that number in the second column of this .pdf: Part 2: Archive Addresses. It is not clear how up-to-date this handout is.
3. 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. You will also use this guide learn how to determine the location of other religious congregations, namely Jewish, French Reformed, German Reformed, etc.
- Hansen's Map Guides - Instruction, Activity, Answer Key
- 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.
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.
The map will now show the locations 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.