Sunday, November 15, 2009

Searching For My German Ancestors - Some Resources

For this upcoming edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy, I've decided to write about some of the resources and records that I have used to research my German ancestors. Since I have just begun to research in German records, most of my resources will be of American records; however, I will also list resources that might assist people in researching their German ancestors. Here are the resources I have used:


When I first began my research into my German ancestors, I read a couple of books on the topic to uncover the possible problems in researching German genealogy and how to research my German ancestors. One of the books I read, and bought, was A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Germanic Ancestors by Chris Anderson and Ernest Thode, and I gave a brief description of the book here. There are other books, so one does not have to buy or check-out this book. I just happen to own a copy of the book.

Another book that I highly recommend one has for doing German research is a German-English Dictionary for obvious reasons. Two other useful books that I wish I owned are Following the paper trail : a multilingual translation guide by Jonathan D. Shea and Deciphering handwriting in German documents : analyzing German, Latin, and French in vital records written in Germany by Roger P. Minert, both of which I wrote about here. (I should note that Following the Paper Trail is also useful for other countries, and if I remember correctly, has information on translating records in Polish, Russian and Lithuanian as well as French and other languages that I cannot recall at the moment.

Census Records

I've used censuses not only to determine where my ancestors lived and the names of family members, but also to determine where they were born or when they came to the United States. I've also used the information to determine if they were naturalized and how many in the household at a given time came to the U. S. Obviously, I am referring to U. S. census records, but some of this information might be found in the censuses of other countries.

Vital Records

Vital records from the locations where my ancestors resided have been useful as well. I've been able to determine when and where my ancestors married, died or sometimes, when they were born. Of course, most of the vital records I have uncovered have been American records, although I have started to do some research in German vital records, especially for Trippstadt, Germany.

Death Notices

Another American source that I have used to trace my German ancestors is death notices. Death notices are similar to obituaries, except that they are fairly short, and do not include any biographical details. They only list when a person died, the time of the funeral and the survivors. Of course, the information is still valuable, and so far, I have only found death notices for my ancestors in the newspapers. I haven't found any obituaries for my ancestors yet.

Naturalization Records

I've also used naturalization records, but my experience has been limited. Depending upon the place and time, the naturalization records might contain vital information on your ancestor.

Passenger Lists

I've also used passenger lists to determine when my ancestors came to the United States. Depending upon the time period, one can uncover the age, birthplace, occupation and next of kin, although for the earlier years, one might only uncover the name, age and occupation of a person.

Church Records

So far, I have only researched my ancestor in German church records, but I've still been able to confirm or uncover important information on my ancestors and their siblings. I do hope to use church records in America when I get a chance as well.

Well, those are some of the records I have used to uncover my German ancestors. I haven't listed all of the records I have used so far due to being busy, but these are the main resources. I hope this helps someone in researching their German ancestors. What records do you use? As always, you can leave a comment with your opinions or experiences. Thanks!

1 comment:

Nancy Fermazin said...

I liked your article. Very informative and helpful.

Yes I was lucky enough to find the marriage applications in Kane County Illinois which gave "Schubin" as the place of origin for my ethnic Germans in Poland. My ancestors lived there when it was Posen, Prussia before WWI.
When I checked the ship records, one record gave the village and I was off and running.
As I researched the FHL films it took me on a their history of the places where they lived.

Germans in Hessen
In another article my great grandmother's sister's obituary gave the German village of origin. I wrote directly to the archives as these particular records in Hessen were not filme by the LDS. After I received the records it took my paternal great grandmother'sline and my great grandfather's line back to the 1600's with the name of all the villages and their occupations!

Thanks again for a succinct, informative article.