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Funeral Sermons [Leichenpredigten]
Funeral sermons include remarks (eulogies) made by ministers regarding the life of a deceased person. In Germany, these sermons were often collected and published. The middle and wealthier classes were more likely to have sermons for their dead, but sermons can occasionally be found for farmers, printers, or soldiers. Protestants started the practice and made the most funeral sermons, but Catholic priests also followed the custom.
Published funeral sermons were most popular from about 1550 to about 1750. They usually contain information such as names, dates, places, relatives, life histories, and sometimes pedigrees for many generations. Eulogies are subject to error because the information was given by relatives who did not always remember facts accurately.
If you find a phrase like “with sermon” [“mit Predigt”] in a burial record, check for a published funeral sermon. If you suspect a funeral sermon was given for one of your ancestors, you can contact archives in the area where you ancestor was buried, asking for help finding the sermon. Published abstracts are often available. Two helpful lists of funeral sermon collections and indexes are listed below:
- Wentscher, Erich, and Hermann Mitgau. Einführung in die praktische Genealogie (4. Aufl.) (Introduction to practical genealogy [Fourth Edition]). Limburg/Lahn, Germany: C. A. Starke, 1966. (FHL book 943 B4gg v.1.) See pages 92 to 93 of the book.
- Jensen, Larry O. “Leichenpredigten (Funeral sermons).” German Genealogical Digest 8 (Fourth Quarter 1992): 119-24. (FHL book 943B2g.)
The following source indexes abstracts of over 40,000 funeral sermons:
- Katalog der fürstlich Stolberg-Stolberg'schenLeichenpredigten-Sammlung (Catalog of the funeral sermon collection from principality of Stolberg). Leipzig, Germany: Degener, 1927-1935. (FHL book 943 B4b v.2; films 477,802-4.)
Funeral sermon abstracts available in the Family History Library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
GERMANY - OBITUARIES
GERMANY, [STATE] - OBITUARIES - GERMANY, [STATE], [TOWN] - OBITUARIES
The German Center for Genealogy has an index of about 324,000 names from records of the 1600s to the 1700s.
The original records are from about 450 repositories. The index is called the Union Catalog for German Collections of Personal Writings and Eulogies (see the “Archives and Libraries” section).
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