Baerbel's column

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This column will be a place to post answers to research questions, suggestions, and other information for immediate access, until these items can find a permanent home elsewhere.

"Steinhausen, Germany"

Question: "My ancestor's U.S. church burial record stated that he was born in "Steinhause, Rhein Kreis, Bavaria" in 1780. Other records also identified his birth place as Steinhausen. He was Protestant. I would like to identify his birth place."

Answer: Technically the "Rheinkreis" was  in the Pfalz [Palatinate] region of Bavaria during parts of the 19th Century. However, when the term shows up in U.S. records it may also mistakenly refer to Upper or Middle Franconia. A search of the Bavaria gazetteer showed two localities called Steinhausen in the Kingdom of Bavaria. The population of both towns was Roman Catholic. A separate gazetteer for the Pfalz [Palatinate] did not list any entries for "Steinhausen".

However, it is possible that the town name included something else besides "Steinhausen", may be "Steinberghausen" or "Untersteinhausen" etc. A reverse-sort gazetteer is a good tool to check out those possibilities. This kind of book lists all localities in a certain region alphabetically, beginning with the LAST letter of the name. As a result, places with the same ending, such as "hausen", are grouped together. Roger P. Minert has published a whole series of gazetteers that include a "reverse-sort" section. For this problem I used:

Minert, Roger P., Palatinate place name indexes : identifying place names using alphabetical and reverse alphabetical indexes,Woods Cross, Utah : GRT Publications, 2000, ISBN 0967842026 (FHL 943.3 E2m 2000 copy 1 )

This gazetteer suggested two possible localities: Grosssteinhausen and Kleinsteinhausen.

The gazetteer on can also be used in a similar way. It will work for localities known to be situated in the former Federal Republic of Germany [West Germany before 1989], since the German part of this tool is based on a 1960 gazetteer. Use the JewishGen Gazetteer. There are four search options:

  • phonetically by Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex
  • is exactly
  • starts with
  • contains

The search can be narrowed down to a certain region or European country. In this case, choose "Germany". A search for place names in "Germany" containing "steinhausen" results in eighteen matches, including Grosssteinhausen and Kleinsteinhausen, both located in the Palatinate. 

Both Grosssteinhausen and Kleinsteinhausen belonged to Hornbach Reformed parish. Civil registration records beginning in 1798 were kept in Grosssteinhausen. The ancestor's marriage was found in the Grosssteinbach civil registration records.

Mystery Places

Identifying German places of origin recorded in U.S.  records can be challenging. Often checking a gazetteer or refererence book is not enough. It may be neccessary to study the history of a particular region and follow up on boundary- and place name changes.

Examples of decoded mystery place names

  • Maberschan = Mappershain next door to Kemel, Hessen-Nassau. [soft versus hard consonants, ending contracted]
  • Noerle = Noerdlingen in Swabia [place name abbreviated in dialect]
  • Baldange {from a U.S. citizenship record] = Buedingen in the Grand Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt [... dange" is a common French form of the German ending  "...dingen"]
  • Chattenbergen = Scharrachbergheim near Westhoffen, Alsace [Note the contraction "...bergen" vs - "...bergheim"
  • Stoppen in Holstein [U.S. church marriage record] = Stubben, Kreis Stormarn [vowel change plus hard/soft consonant]
  • Sanktmagelsdohn Holstein [parent's origin listed in a child's U.S. baptismal record] = Sankt Michaelisdonn, Holstein
  • Weilinstadt [U.S. passenger list] = Weil (der Stadt) in Wuerttemberg
  • Giengenheim, Hessen-D., or Gingenheim, Hessen  [U.S. civil marriage record]= Gau-Koengernheim, Hessen [the reverse-sort index suggested Koengernheim. There were two towns by that name in Hessen- Darmstadt. A search in the online telephone book for the known surnames suggested that Gau-Koengernheim was the correct place, which was proven through subsequent research.]
  • Giessingen [death record in Alsace] = Guinsing, Bettviller, Moselle
  • Deux-Ponts = Zweibruecken in the Pfalz region [place name translated into French]
  • Conisone, Pommern = Nieder- or Obercomsow, Kreis Lauenburg, Pommern
  • Frohnhoppen, Thronhoppen, Fronhoffen etc. = Fronhofen 

German Research on the Internet- handouts

New resources for German family history research appear on the Internet frequently. Since I teach several classes on using the Internet for German research, my handouts have become very long. Complete link lists from several handouts are now posted on the FamilySearch Wiki for easier access. These lists will be updated periodically:.

  • German Research on the Internet- an Overview
  • [Internet_Resources_for_Finding_19th_Century_German_Emigrants|Internet Resources for Locating 19th Century German Emigrants]]
  • [German_Town_Genealogies_and_Parish_Register_Inventories_on_the_Internet#Bibiographies_of_Town_Genealogies|German town genealogies and parish register indexes on the Internet]]

Finding "displaced persons"

Question:“We understand German people from the Northern Poland (Pomerania or Pommern) area were sent out of the country to Germany when Russians moved in after WWII. Is there any way of knowing where these Pomeranian people settled?

Answer: Towards the end of World War II, the Germans had to flee from the advancing Russian troops, mostly on foot, to the West. Many families were split up along the way. These displaced persons eventually found new homes all over West Germany. Some eventually emigrated to the United States, Canada, and other countries. The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen was created to document all victims of the Nazi regime and to facilitate bringing families back together whenever possible. Its collection includes much information about displaced persons. You can learn more about this organization through its website Recently the ITS made its material available to the public for research.

The genealogical society for Pomerania, the Pommerscher Greif, has volunteer research specialists for many Kreise [counties], who know about available sources and strive to encourage dialog between researchers. A contact [Ansprechpartner] list is found at .

Heimatkreise, or “homeland organizations” exist for various Pomeranian counties in Germany today. They strive to preserve both the cultural heritage and historical materials, and facilitate communication among their members through regular get-togethers, newsletters, and special interest groups. Members include those who were born in the respective Kreis or had their permanent residence there, as well as their descendants. Many groups have homepages on the Internet ( usually in German), which can be located by entering “Heimatkreis + [county name] “ in a search engine such as The Heimatkreis may be able to help you locate relatives or others who came from the same area as your ancestors. See for an example of a Heimatkreis homepage. Reunions of former residents of various villages are listed in a calendar. This page also includes links to village pages and pages of interest to the genealogist.

Similar homeland organizations exist for the various Kreise in East Brandenburg, Posen (Poznan), Silesia (Schlesien), East Prussia (Ostpreussen), and West Prussia (Westpreussen). The Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ostdeutscher Familienforscher [Work Group of East German Family Historians or AGoFF] can also point you to various helpful organizations and web links for each area.

The Kirchlicher Suchdienst (Tracing service of the ecclesiastical Welfare organizations) can also help in locating relatives who were displaced after 1945. More than 20 million persons are included in card files arranged by the town of origin known as "Heimatortskartei". Information about the Heimatortskartei Pommern is found here.