Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire Genealogy

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Guide to Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire ancestry, family history, and genealogy before 1920: birth records, marriage records, death records, family history, and military records. In 1920, Elsass-Lothringen became Alsace-Lorraine in France. See those articles for further information.

Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire Genealogy
Alsace-Lorraine Germany Flag 1871–1918.png
Getting Started
Major Elsass-Lothringen Record Types
Reading the Records in German
Reading the Records in French
Additional Elsass-Lothringen
Record Types
Elsass-Lothringen Background
Local Research Resources

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

  • The Imperial Territory of ‘’’Elsass-Lothringen’’’ was a territory created by the German Empire in 1871, after it annexed ‘’’most of Alsace and the Moselle department of Lorraine' following its victory in the Franco-Prussian War.
  • It was divided in three districts:
    • Oberelsass (Upper Alsace), corresponds exactly to the current French department of Haut-Rhin.
    • Unterelsass, (Lower Alsace), corresponds exactly to the current French department of Bas-Rhin.
    • Lothringen, (Lorraine), corresponds exactly to the current French department of Moselle..
  • The modern history of Alsace-Lorraine was largely influenced by the rivalry between French and German nationalism. France long sought to attain and preserve its "natural boundaries", which were the Pyrenees to the southwest, the Alps to the southeast, and the Rhine River to the northeast. German nationalism sought to unify German-speaking populations. As various German dialects were spoken by most of the population of Alsace and northern Lorraine, these regions were viewed by German nationalists to be rightfully part of hoped-for united Germany in the future.
  • When the World War broke out in 1914, recovery of the two lost provinces became the top French war goal. French troops put the region under occupatio bellica and entered Strasbourg on November 21, 1918. The Nationalrat proclaimed the annexation of Alsace to France on December 5, even though this process did not gain international recognition until the signature of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Alsace-Lorraine (Wikipedia)

Getting Started[edit | edit source]

Getting Started with Germany Research

Links to articles on getting started with German research:

See More Research Strategies

Germany Research Tools

Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:

See More Research Tools
Ask the

Historical Geography[edit | edit source]

Elsass-Lothringen within the German Empire

German Empire - Alsace Lorraine (1871).svg.png

Elsass-Lothringen 1871-1918

Screen Shot 2019-06-22 at 8.33.02 PM.png For a larger map, click here. Click again with the magnifying icon.

Elsass-Lothringen Evolution
into Modern Alsace Lorraine, France

Alsace Lorraine departments evolution map-en.svg (1).png

History of Elsass-Lothringen in the German Empire
Geo-Political Differences Today
FamilySearch Catalog
(organized by 1871 Meyer's Gazetteer)
Wiki Pages

Alsace-Lorraine (Elsass-Lothringen)

1919: ceded to France (Map)


Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for Elsass-Lothringen[edit | edit source]

Most of the information you need to identify you ancestors and their families will be found in two major record groups: civil registration and church records. To locate these records, follow the instructions in these Wiki articles.

1. Find the name of your ancestor's town in family history records.[edit | edit source]

Records were kept on the local level. You must know the town where your ancestor lived. If your ancestor was a United States Immigrant, use the information in the Wiki article Germany Finding Town of Origin to find evidence of the name of the town where your ancestors lived in Germany.

2. Use gazetteers and/or parish register inventories to learn more important details.[edit | edit source]

Your ancestor's town might have been too small to have its own parish church or civil registration office. Find the location of the Catholic or Lutheran (Evangelical) parish that served your ancestor's locality. Find the name of the civil registration office (Standesamt) that serves your ancestor's locality. Use the Wiki article Finding Aids For German Records for step-by-step instructions.

You can also consult Elsass-Lothringen Parish Register Inventories to learn the Lutheran or Catholic parish that would have kept records for your town.

Germany was first unified as a nation in 1871. An important gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, "Meyer's Gazetter" for short, details the place names of villages, towns, counties (kreise), and higher jurisdictions used at that time. In the Research Wiki, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Historical Records, the records of Germany are organized using those place names.

Translating the German Town Name to French[edit | edit source]

When you look for church and civil registration records in the Department Archives of France, it will help to know the name of your ancestors' town in both languages. Use this gazettee4r:

3. For birth, marriage, and death records after 1792, use civil registration.[edit | edit source]

Follow the instructions in Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire Civil Registration.

4. For baptism, marriage, and death records, use church records or parish registers.[edit | edit source]

Follow the instructions in Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire Church Records.

More Research Strategies and Tools[edit | edit source]

  • Alsace-Lorraine - Activity, Answer Key
  • Alsace-Lorraine: Converting French Republican Calendar Dates - Instruction
  • Alsace-Lorraine: Department Archive Records Online - Instruction
  • Alsace-Lorraine: Translating German and French Names and Place Names - Instruction

Use this gazetteer to find the current French name of your ancestors' town:

German place names in Elsass-Lothringen and French equivalents

German Records[edit | edit source]

  • These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
Miscellaneous Vocabulary:
  • Fraktur Font -- Many forms and books are printed in this font.
German Given Names:

French Records[edit | edit source]