Research Strategies for Schleswig-Holstein
Doing Research in Schleswig-Holstein
I. Gather all genealogical materials from family relatives and others such as:
information from Bible entries
II. Enter your data using software or record it on paper using family group records. Enter your sources, record also what has not been found, so you will not repeat unnecessary steps. Establish a research log so you have a comparison for later, when there comes a time to check dates and names for accuracy.
III. Compare your data with official documents created in the US states of residence.
Find ancestors in census records
Find ancestors in ports of entry records
Find them in land records
Find them in probate records
Find them in cemetery records
Find them in news papers
Research in area of origin of ancestor
I. This is in German!
What can I do to decipher a German record?
Who can I contact to help me with research in Schleswig-Holstein?
I have the state my ancestor came from.
I have the town my ancestor came from.
I have the region/cultural area my ancestor came from.
I just have a name.
I do not have any information, what can I do?
To know the correct location re. our ancestors is vital knowledge. Therefore, it is important to educate oneself about jurisdictions and gazetteers.Some villages with the same name are in different jurisdictions, state as well as church jurisdictions. Some place name might not actually be a definite place but rather a cultural area. If you do not have any German locality for your ancestor, please refer back to the preliminary steps explained above.
There are two villages by the same name, which one is my ancestor's home town?
If you are not sure about your ancestor's place of origin, you need to be aware of the following article.
I cannot locate my ancestor's town on a map.
You may want to look at the following article to understand maps and how to locate correct place names.
Where did my ancestor go to church?
Here is an article which will help you decipher to which parish your ancestor belonged.
From where did my ancestor leave Schleswig-Holstein?
A list of possiblities for emigration are found here
Does there exist a record of my ancestor's depature from his place of residence?
Most likely the ancestor in question will no longer be in census or in the church records. If an ancestor wanted to avoid military service he may have left the country without official permission.
What literature exists about emigration from Schleswig-Holstein?
V. Background knowledge
Where do I find a Schleswig-Holstein history online?
What happened locally in my ancestor's village at a given time?
This article will help you understand more about local history and how to obtain books about it.
Was my ancestor German or Danish?
My ancestors seem to have disappeared from the area. What now?
Is there not an easier way to find my ancestors?
You may want to try using census records online or other online services published by local societies or individuals such as genealogies, emigration lists etc.or hire a professional researcher.
VI. Research problems
What is Ahnenschwund (implex) ?
In order to secure and protect ones livelihood many young farmers adhered to the old saying “when falling in love don’t forget your head”. To support a family required more practical thinking, therefore it often happened that two brothers and sisters of one family married brothers and sisters of another Hence, property was preserved and remained in the family while old habits continued.
We see entries in church records where two sisters are married by two brothers or a widower marries the sister of his deceased wife. A few generations later the great grand children of these families may marry each other and by so doing cause Ahnenschwund (implex).
The search for ancestors sometimes can become quite complicated as the following scenario shows:
Andreas Krause marries Anna Meyer, who was a widow of Christian Braun. The children of Andreas and Anna marry as follows:
1. Elisabeth Krause marries Peter Weisdorf, who was previously married to Christine Evers, who died.
2. Christina Krause marries Heinrich Weisdorf, who was the widower of Catharina Lange. When Heinrich Weisdorf dies, Christina marries Joseph Katz. Joseph Katz had been a widower of Maria Flug, who was once a widow of Johannes Wahl.
3. Maria Krause marries Paul Weisdorff. After his death she marries Melchior Wisdorff.
4. Friedrich Krause marries only once, namely Gertrud Neumann.
Four girls had married men by the name of Weisdorf. They were all farmers in a close vicinity.
Whether these men were brothers or otherwise related, is to be investigated. Whether their many descendants had known their family ties is questionable.
Source: Oster, Heinrich. Geschwisterheiraten und Ahnenschwund in Die Laterne. Mitteilungsblatt der Westdeutschen Gesellschaft für Familienkunde. Jahrgang 3 Oktober 1950.
Have I come to the end of the line?
When children were born illegitimately and the father’s name is not known what research strategy is suggested?
1. Check who the witnesses were at birth of child. Likelihood is that there might be a relationship
There might exist a separate section in the church book for illegitimate births.
2. Check whether the mother marries the father later and the child became legitimized by the father’s acknowledgment .
3. Check confirmation records.
4. Find school records to see if school fees were paid for the child and by whom (Search in School records . One possibility “Kirchenvisitationen”, “Schülerverzeichnis”)
5. Was the child adopted? (Search in court records, key word: “ Adoptionen”, “Vormundschaft”)
6. See if a will exists in which the child was bequeathed money or property. (Search in court records for “Testamente”)
When parents came from a city unknown what would be the research strategy?
1. Check the witnesses at the children’s baptisms. Witnesses might be relatives and there may be a place name which could give a clue.
2. Check citizenship records of present residence (Search for” Bürgerrolle”, “Bürgerbuch”, “Bürgerliste”,” Bürgerverzeichnis”, “Einwohnermeldeverzeichnis”)
3. Check for journeymen or servants records (Search for “Geburtsbriefe”, “Gesindebuch”, “Heimatscheine”, “Wanderbücher”, “Gutsarchiv” records)
4. Check census records. Search for “Volkszählungen”.
5. Check guild records. Search for “Innungen”
6. Check neighboring church records to see if parents appeared as witnesses.
When given and surnames are present more than once in a parish and additional persons cannot easily be assigned to each other, what would be the research strategy?
1. Establish whole families. See who has married whom and had what children.
2. Compare findings in church books with court records. 90% of the population in Germany were dependent farmers. They did not own their farms but had usufruct , for which they were taxed and recorded in administrative records. Parents would bequeath, sell , lease or retire, and children inherit personal property. All such actions were recorded in court records. ( Search in archival records, such as ”Schuld- und Pfandprotokolle”)
3. Check tax lists. Twice a year people were required to pay taxes. See if the same heads of family pay each time. If the head of household dies, the widow continues to pay taxes until her child becomes of age and takes over or she remarries. (Search for “Steuerlisten”, “Steuerrollen”, “Amtsrechnungen”).
When different spellings exist for a family name what would be the research strategy?
1. Be aware that spelling rules are not set until the early 1900s. Dialects can apply when writing official records. Some consonants and vowels are interchangeable. The name Triebenbach can be spelled Driebenbach, Treubenbach, Drübenbach.
2. Names can be Latinized: The name Keller becomes Cellarius, names can sound as if they are Latin, such as Debelius.
3. The priest simply made a mistake
4. Consider looking at neighboring parish registers
5. Always compare the spelling of a name with other documents available for the time period. (The most common ones are taxlists, in German “Steuerlisten”, “Steuerrollen”).
When church records from a parish cannot be located what should be the research strategy?
1. Check if the correct parish was chosen. A good source to check is a gazetteer.
2. Have parish jurisdictions changed?
3. Check with the diocese (Bistum) or deanery (Dekanat) if a duplicate record does exist and where it was deposited.
For Evangelical records see
for availability of records in Kirchenkreis Flensburg see
for Catholic records
When church books no longer exist because they were destroyed what should the research strategy be?
Gather information from other records:
1. Tax records (Steuerlisten, Schatzungslisten) – located in state archives
2. Debt registers, citizenship records, fire insurance registers (Schuldenregister, Löscheimerlisten, Brandregister, Bürgerlisten) – located in city archives, mayor‘s office
3. Guild records, notary records, land records (Innungslisten, Zunftbücher, notarielle Akten, Grundbuchsachen – state archives
4. Kataster, Bannbücher (cadastral , absolvent books) – state archives, cadastral offices, finance departments
5. Tax records of parishes (Lagerbücher) – church archives
6. House lists, address books, house ownership lists, military records, vaccination records (Häuserlisten, Adressbücher, Hauswirtslisten, Stammrollen, Impflisten) – city archives
7. News papers (Zeitungen, Amtsblätter) - city archive, state archive
8. Emigration records, census records, Wählerlisten (Auswanderungsakten, Volkszählungen,
voting records) – state archive
9. Cemetery records (Gräber, Gottesacker) – city archive, city administration
For archive holdings see the following link.
If you have a question about basic research in Germany try this link