|Germany Research Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
Guide to German ancestry, family history, and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, family history, and military records.
Germany is a vibrant country with a rich history and heritage. As with many countries of Europe, Germany has seen dramatic changes to its borders and even its internal regions. Over the centuries, Germany consisted of numerous independent kingdoms, duchies, principalities, and states. Then in 1871 all German-speaking states except the Austrian states were consolidated into the German Empire.  This construct is still seen in Germany today.
Place-names and county, province, and state jurisdictions also changed, often more than once. Because of these changes, you may discover that it is difficult to find the name of your German ancestor's town on a modern map. You may also have trouble determining the jurisdiction where their records were kept. Various resources are available to help you find that information and will be included here.
Finding Research Instructions for Your Specific Locality
- 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.
- Details about the town will also help:
- the county or "Bezirkamt" of that town,
- where the closest Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church was (depending on their religion),
- where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was, and
- if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger town it was part of.
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 Gathering Information to Locate Place of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
1. If Your Town of Origin is in Modern-day Germany
If you know today's state in Germany, you can use the Clickable Map or the Jurisdictions - 1945 to the Present list. Click on the state you need. You will be linked to a detailed article on how to do research in that state.
Germany Clickable Map - Present
2. If Your Town Is in a Territory Germany Lost in 1919 or 1945
There are wiki articles explaining how to do research in former territories of Germany. Study the map below and click on the correct region in the List of Former German Territories, the Date of the Boundary Change, and the Current Country.
List of Former German Territories, the Date of the Boundary Change, and the Current Country
3. Finding Your Town in the FamilySearch Catalog
Prior to unification, Germany consisted of many duchies, principalities, provinces, and states. The records of towns in Germany are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog by their location in 1871. First, find your town in the online Meyer's 1871 Gazetteer. The jurisdictions listed in the gazetteer do not match today's states. For example, many small principalities were combined to make today's Thuringia. This list shows the location you will see in the gazetteer, but when you click on the link, it will take you to today's location and the correct research instructions.
Research Instructions by 1864-1871 Region
Germany Clickable Map - 1864-1871
More Germany Research Strategies and Tools
Emigration and Immigration
Church Records Tools
German Online Research Lessons and Tutorials
Handwriting and Vocabulary