Show Notes & Video: Finding your German ancestor’s village is key to finding the genealogical records you need to go further back in your family tree. In this session you’ll learn:
How and why it is important to know the “Heimat” because many records are kept on the local level.
How to de garble a village name that is handed down to you (a common problem!)
Records to search for village names.
Resources for finding those records.
My guest presenter is James Beidler. He’s an expert on German genealogy and was gracious enough to share his expertise in the Genealogy Gems booth at Rootstech a few years ago. Visit James Beidler’s website. Get the book: The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany. (Thank you for using our affiliate link which supports this free content.)
Researching your ancestors deep into Germany simply doesn’t happen unless you know the name of the village of origin. This presentation goes over the sources to tie your immigrant to a Heimat and then find the village and its records! HIghlighted in this article are the strategies and resources referred to in this video.
German Methodologies Review:
Your first job is to find every document of the immigrant ancestor or that mentions the immigrant ancestor:
Prepare for surname variants
“Redundancy” is a virtue (e.g., obit may well have something tombstone does not)
Even items such as letters and diaries might give clues!
Be prepared for village names to be corrupted
Familiarize yourself with German maps / gazetteers
Look for “patterns of association” with other individuals
Process any piece of information that might distinguish the immigrant (e.g., occupation, names of other family members, etc.)
Utilize “whole family” genealogy
If specific records don’t exist for your ancestor, try others in family
Look for published sources
1700s families: Burgert / Jones / Yoder / Hacker
1800s families: Burkett / Germans to America / Emigration indexes
Search International Genealogical Index
References to individual
References to clusters of the surname if it is not common
References to shipmates
References to “associated persons”
Look for other sources of immigrant information:
Heitmatstelle Pfalz immigrant card file
Hamburg embarkation lists
Use the “concentric circles” strategy
If a village is found for the above categories of people (surname, shipmates, associated persons) but your immigrant is not found …
… work out from that village in “concentric circles” to other surrounding villages
“Things found on the way to something else”
Machmer / Magemer / Mahomer example
Never turn away luck!
Types of records that might yield a place of origin:
Declarations of intent (“first papers”) Naturalization petitions (“final papers”)
Baptisms of children
Church burial records
Fraternal societies’ records
Letters from relatives
Postmarks on letters
Internet Websites Resources for German Research
The resources listed below can help us answer some of the most common questions we ask as genealogists. Some examples of the questions and Websites that will help:
1. What was the village of origin for my German-speaking immigrant ancestor?
Rylee says she’s grateful to have found the podcast and she shares a story of genealogical discovery that she hopes will inspire others. Rylee asks “How do I find sources for these people? I have searched all over ancestry and Family Search and have had no luck again. I really want to believe that the people I have as Adam’s parents and siblings all the way through his 2nd great-grandparents (paternal) are truly his family but I need to get more information. Where can I go for help with German records and where can I continue my search?”
Lisa’s comments: You’re absolutely right, what you found are just hints. It sounds like it’s time for you to move on from the “Genealogy Giants” (Ancestry, FamilySearch, etc.) and into German records websites, libraries, and archives to find real sources that nail down the family tree.
In a way, today marks the 175th birthday of the World Wide Web. Only it was electro-mechanical, not digital. On this date in 1844, Samuel F.B. Morse activated the first telegraph line, sending a dots-and-dashes code message from the U.S. Capitol building to a receiver in Baltimore.
By the late 1850s, the first telegraph cable had been laid across the Atlantic Ocean, and in 1861, the telegraph spanned the continental United States. Over the ensuing decades, the wires wrapped around the world.
From the 1844 demonstration, telecommunications today has grown into a half-trillion dollar a year industry, and employs more than 1 million workers in over 59,000 industry establishments.
You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at www.census.gov.
Joseph Nathan Kane, Kane’s Famous First Facts, Fifth Edition, H.W. Wilson Co., New York, NY, 1997, #7692.
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008-09. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.
Episode 27: Find Your Family History in Newspapers, Part 1
Newspapers offer such a unique perspective on history in general, and our ancestors specifically. You can find everything from birth, marriage and death announcements, to school and club event, crime stories, land transactions, sports activities and just about any other activity that your ancestors were part of that made the news. So let’s get started and “Read all about it!”
In this episode, you’ll hear from Jane Knowles Lindsey at the California Genealogical Society. She is currently the president there and often teaches on this subject. Our conversation on newspaper research continues in next week’s episode!
Here are some take-away thoughts from this episode, along with some updates:
Determine which newspapers existed for your ancestor’s hometown and time period. Look for ethnic and neighborhood papers, too. The most comprehensive U.S. newspaper directory is at Chronicling America. This site does let you search by language, ethnic background, labor group and more.
Look for these newspapers at digitized newspaper sites, starting with the free ones. In the U.S., this means starting with Chronicling America and state digital newspaper project sites (search on the state name and “digital newspapers”). These sites came out of the government digitizing program mentioned in the show.
Digitized newspaper searching is done with OCR (optical character recognition), which doesn’t pick up everything in tough-to-read historical print. Try searching with different spellings, a first name in a particular timeframe, or other people or terms that may have been mentioned.
Ancestry has put lots of newspapers on their website—but not everything, and for only limited time periods. Notice what time period is covered for a specific newspaper. Ancestry has since launched Newspapers.com.
If you’ve found the name of a newspaper that probably covered your family, but you haven’t found it digitized, search the name of the newspaper in your favorite web browsers. Most newspapers are on microfilm somewhere and web directories will likely list holdings. Also, some newspapers have also been indexed on USGenWeb or other sites.
State archives and libraries are often a great resource for newspapers. Local libraries may have unique clippings files or scrapbooks.
Several websites and databases now focus on obituary content. You can target a search for these.
I loved this topic so much I ended up writing a book on it! How to Find Your Family History in Newspapers walks you through the process of finding and researching old newspapers. You’ll find step-by-step instructions, worksheets and checklists, tons of free online resources, websites worth paying for, location-based newspaper websites and a case study that shows you how it’s done.
6 Top Newspaper Research Resources
Some of the digital newspaper collections mentioned in the episode are available by library subscription, like The Early American Newspapers collection the and 19th century Newspaper Collection from The Gale Group. Check with your local library.
Are you researching German genealogy in the States? If so, you will love what we’ve dug up. German death lists are just the start. Also in this week’s new and updated genealogical record collections, Irish Quaker records, UK pensioners records, and a new product support announcement for Family Tree Maker software.
By Photos by Donna Hyatt (United States Army) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
German Genealogy in the States – Kentucky
You may not realize there was a large German population in Louisville, Kentucky, here in the United States. Our Book Club Guru, Sunny Morton, brought a new found website to our attention called German Genealogy Group. Among many other things, the German Genealogy Group has recently added newspaper death listings from the Louisville Anzeiger, a German newspaper from the Louisville, Kentucky area, to their website. The years covered are 1849-1865. Though only an index, the information provided will help you locate the newspaper itself.
Ireland – Quaker Birth Records
With over 302,000 new birth records from all over Ireland, you may finally find your Irish Quaker ancestors birth information. Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) births collection may help you uncover generations of your family tree. The amount of information listed on a birth record in this collection will vary, but most will include the child’s name, birth date, birth place, parish, and address. Most will also contain the parents’ names, addresses, and occupations.
Ireland – Quaker Marriage Records
Also at Findmypast, a collection titled Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) marriages has been updated. In fact, there have been over 20,000 new additions. These records will likely include data such as an occupation, parents’ names, and who attended the ceremony. As well as the names, address and marriage details of the newlyweds, parents’ names, an attendee list including names and dates of birth, and even details of the meeting may be found.
Ireland – Quaker Death & Congregational Records
By Holmes after Honthorst in 1654 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. George Fox, Quaker founder.
The Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) deaths record collection at Findmypast has over 24,000 new additions. This database contains death records that date back to the 1600s. Because of the large time span, information will vary. In most cases, you will find the deceased’s name, when they died, when they were buried, where they were buried, and the names of those they left behind. Some records will also reveal parents’ and/or spouse’s names. Additional notations may be also included in images of the original documents, such as “a young child” or “widow” or “an aged woman.”
Findmypast collection, Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) congregational records offers a wealth of knowledge about the role your ancestor might have played within the Quaker community. An additional 250,000 Irish congregational records have been added. Details of meetings and activities are just a sampling of what you will find. These records include a transcript as well as an image of the original handwritten record.
Ireland – Quaker School Records
Over 9,000 new records have been added to the Findmypast collection titled Ireland, Society of Friends (Quaker) school records. This collection covers six different schools and dates back as far as the 1700s. The records are compiled from various Quaker school registers and lists. Each entry includes both a transcript and an image of the original document. Details contained in each record will vary, but most will list the pupils name, age at last birthday, school and department, admission year, leaving year, parents’ names, and their occupations.
British Newspaper Archive Announcement
The British Newspaper Archive has recently announced a major new milestone in their project to digitize up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s vast collection of historic British & Irish newspapers. Following the addition of a newspaper for the country’s smallest county, Rutland, the Archive now covers at least one title from each of the country’s 48 counties and is now available to search and explore.
The collection contains records for British soldiers (not officers) who received a pension from the British Army. They typically do not include records for soldiers who died in service or who were discharged early and did not receive a pension.
Some records contain more information than others, and pension documents after 1883 typically have more details regarding the soldier such as, information about next of kin, details of marriage, and children. Common details may include age, birthplace, service details (including any decorations,) physical description, previous occupation on enlistment, and the reason for discharge to pension. Documents that are most common include:
On Fold3, the records in this collection are organized as such:
For the period 1760-1872, the documents are arranged alphabetically by name within regiment, including militia to 1854.
From 1873-1882, the documents are arranged alphabetically under cavalry, artillery, infantry and corps.
From 1883-1913, two alphabetical sequences for the entire army for discharge papers are arranged by range of surname and date 1883-1900 and 1900-1913.
United Kingdom – Leeds – Cemetery Burial Registers
Not everything is on the Genealogy Giants (meaning Ancestry, Findmypast, FamilySearch, or MyHeritage.) The Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index is free and available to search online. This database of transcriptions covers all entries in the burial registers of the Leeds General Cemetery and covers the years of 1835-1992. There are 97,146 entries in the index. Digital images of the registers are available to view alongside the transcribed data.
Search by surname of deceased or surname of the parents. Information found on the record will vary, but you are likely to find the name of the deceased, date of death, age at death, parents names, occupation, and cause of death. This is a great resource if you have been having trouble finding a civil death record.
United Kingdom – Sheffield
If you had ancestors who lived in the Sheffield area, you will find this next website a great help to your research. The Sheffield Indexers website provides full, online, searchable indexes to numerous collections, for free. These collections include, but are not limited to:
1841 Sheffield Census
Be sure to check out their extensive indexes!
Family Tree Maker Announcement
Last year, Ancestry.com announced the purchase of Family Tree Maker desktop software by Software MacKiev. Their goal has always been to maintain the capability to share your family tree data between files on your computer and your personal Ancestry online trees. They’ve been working on a new Ancestry gateway with Software MacKiev to use in their Family Tree Maker 2017, which will be available soon.
What you should know (hat tip: Ancestry.com):
TreeSync will be replaced by Software MacKiev’s FamilySync™. In the new FamilySync, Ancestry’s search, merge, and Ancestry hints will all work as they do now for users who sync with their Ancestry trees.
FamilySync will be available only in Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker 2017 edition, which will be released on March 31, 2017.
The upgrade is free for all users who purchased a copy of a MacKiev Family Tree Maker edition since March 1, 2016. Those with previous Ancestry editions, or who got a free copy of Family Tree Maker 2014.1 or Mac 3.1, are eligible for discounted upgrades. The pre-order upgrade is $29.95 for those who sign up for Software MacKiev’s mailing list before March 29 and the upgrade will continue to be a discounted price ($39.95) for a limited time after March 29.
Between Wednesday, March 29 and Friday, March 31, there will be a short period where syncing functionality may be interrupted as Software MacKiev rolls out their new syncing technology.
As of March 29, 2017, Ancestry will no longer be supporting TreeSync, given the introduction of Software MacKiev’s FamilySync™. Software MacKiev will continue to handle all related customer questions for Family Tree Maker. Visit Software MacKiev’s Family Tree Maker Support Center at support.familytreemaker.com if you have questions.
More on German Genealogy in the States
German Newspapers in America is a virtual conference OnDemand video class by Jim Beidler. Stateside ethnic newspapers are a revealing resource for those searching their German ancestors. In this video you’ll learn:
Did you know that some museums also house archives? Yes, that’s right! Museums aren’t just for artifacts and historical objects. They sometimes house documents, photographs, and ephemera. Here’s how to learn about archives at your favorite museums...