Finding Your German Ancestors

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How do I get started?

Obtain a good, detailed map from the time period in which you wish to start: Meyers Ortslexikon; out of print but available online at:  [vol. I] [vol. II]

Bundesamt für Kartographie und Geodäsie,

     e.g. Ostpreussen, ISBN:  3-88648-105-0

Höfer Verlag, Postfach 1203; 63112 Dietzenbach Michelin Road Maps Map Section of an university library in the United States Das Postleitzahlenbuch (Directory of German Zip Codes, available for sale at most post offices in Germany or on the Internet at:

     [But useful only for localities within present day Germany]  

Have a fresh new binder with separators and tabs A section dedicated to copies of correspondence both sent and received A section for taking digital photographs of original documents A section for print outs from PAF and/or the New FamilySearch Get a large, oversized pedigree chart Get a digital camera Get a book or a table listing Old German Script Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents, Roger P. Minert, GRT Publications, 2001 ( or and then click on Research Helps and then click on Handwriting Guide: German Gothic and then download the PDF File in the top right corner of the screen Reference Book on Basic German Research Taschenbuch für Familiengeschichtsforschung, Wolfgang Ribbe + Eckart Henning, Verlag Degener & Co., Neustadt an der Aisch, 2001 The Atlantic Bridge to Germany, Charles M. Hall, Everton Publishers; Logan, Utah, 1974 Online Reference Helps FamilySearch Wiki GenWiki

Work from the Known to the Unknown

Examine written documentation Family Bibles Old Letters from the Old Country Social Security Death Index Any Existing Church Records Family Histories Old Passports and Immigration Records Military Records Cemetery Records

Considering Oral Histories

What is the family oral tradition? Have I interviewed my great-aunts or uncles? What do my first, second, third, fourth cousins living in the United States know that I don‘t know about my ancestor? Do I have any heirlooms (native costumes) that might determine where my ancestor came from?

What does my ancestor's surname tell me about him/her?

Was my ancestor‘s surname changed before or after arrival in the United States? Where do other Americans with the same surname (not necessarily related) believe that there family came from? Have I looked at the Deutsche Telekom‘s listing on the Internet for all persons registered in Germany with this surname? Can I discern a concentration of these people in a particular town or area? For a very interesting website, see,

How do I get free help from the LDS Church?

Talk to your local ward family history consultant Live Telephone consultation (toll-free number) 00 800 1830 1830 within Germany using local civilian telephone system with a Family History Church Service Missionary E-Mail: Regular Mail: Family History Support Office, Steinmühlstrasse 8, 61352 Bad Homburg

Where to find the address of the parish you want to write to?

Look online in the White Pages for Deutsche Telekom Look in the Internet under the name of the locality and the church (e.g. Google, Firefox, Yahoo, etc.) Check the reference books already listed above. Call the mayor‘s office (Bürgermeisteramt)in the locality where you are looking and ask for the address and telephone, e-mail of the parish office, where the church records are kept.

Sharing Information: a bargaining chip

Many Scandinavian and German researchers are fascinated to learn about those members of the family who emigrated to American during the 19th and 20th Century and what became of them. Almost universally they sense a need to fill in the gaps in their own complied records. Sharing knowledge and data from your own „American branch of the family“ can be used as a bargaining chip in exchange for data from the „Old Country.“

Exhausting other opportunities

If your ancestors came from upper middle class or nobility there will likely be additional records at your disposal which can extend well back into the Middle Ages: Wills and Probates Land Records Nobility and Peerage Lists (Heraldik) Matriculation Lists at German Universities Membership Lists from guilds (Zünfte) But even if your ancestors were common folk, there are other records to consider: Tax Records Search under „Kopfsteuerbeschreibung“ in Google in combination with the name of the locality you are researching Court Records somtimes contain additional information about the families of the buyers and sellers. Permission granted by the prince to emigrate to America Passenger Lists at the habours in Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck, etc. of those persons departing Germany for America. Census Records on a municipal or county level in some places as far back as the 1500‘s.