How to Find German Villages for Family History

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.)

Watch the Video

Show Notes

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

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

Search for:

  • 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
  • German phonebooks
  • Google searches

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:

  • Naturalizations
    Declarations of intent (“first papers”) Naturalization petitions (“final papers”)
  • Baptisms of children
  • Marriage Records
  • Church burial records
  • Tombstone
  • Obituaries
  • U.S. Census
  • Family Bibles
  • Family Registers
  • Fraternal societies’ records
  • Enlistment papers
  • Discharge Papers
  • Pension documents
  • 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?

Baden-Wuerttemberg 

Brandenburg: Frankfurt an der Oder 

Bremen Passenger Lists, 1920-39 

Brunswick, 1846-1871 

Mecklenburg (Institute for Migration and Ancestral Research) 

Niedersaechsen

Northern Friesland (search Friesland)

Rhein emigrants 

Schleswig-Holstein 1800s 

Westphalia emigration lists 

2. How can I help untangle the garbled name of a village of origin?

Meyers Gazetteer online 

Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein 1883 

GOV Genealogical Gazetteer (part of Genealogy.net supersite) 

Comprehensive gazetteer of German places east of the Oder and Neisse rivers 

3. How can I get in contact with possible relatives from my ancestor’s village of origin?

Das Telefonbuch (German telephone directory)

German National Tourist Board 

(Also – Google names of villages and find out which local tourist board the village is a part of – e-mail directly to them)

4. How can I find out about German archives?

FamilySearch wikifor guides to Germany and its component states 

Archivschule Marburg Portal D (list of archives) 

Resources

Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members

 

The Royal Irish Constabulary Records in New and Updated Genealogical Collections

New and updated genealogical collections for the Royal Irish Constabulary are just the tip of the iceberg this week. Scroll down for more cool finds for New South Wales, Scotland, U.S. marriages, and an update to the Freedmen’s Bureau collections at FamilySearch.

dig these new record collections

Ireland – Royal Irish Constabulary Records

You can now search the Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary Service Records 1816-1922 at Findmypast for over 486,000 records that uncover the details of your ancestor’s career with the R.I.C.

Each search result includes an image of the original document and a transcript. The nature of the information recorded will vary significantly depending on the subject and type of the original document. The following is a list of what types of records can be found in this collection:

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Auxiliary division general registers: These are nominal rolls that recorded member’s service number, rank, dispersed date, and company name. The registers also include division journals that recorded dates of appointment, promotions, and medical details.

Clerical staff: record of service and salaries: These lists of clerical staff include birth date, age at appointment, rank, department and salary.

Constabulary Force Funds: These correspondence registers are of members who paid into the fund with notes on whether they had been pensioned, died or received any rewards from the fund.

Constabulary lists: These are lists of chief constables created during the first year of the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Disbandment registers: These registers are of serving members who were with the force in 1922 when it disbanded after the creation of the Free Irish State. They also noted the number of years the constable served and their recommended pension.

General registers: Records of constables’ service history are contained in these general registers. The entries include the individual’s birth date, native county, religion, previous occupation, date of appointment, and promotions, as well as any rewards or punishments received and the date of pension or discharge.

Nominal returns, arranged by counties: Nominal returns are lists of all serving members of the Royal Irish Constabulary organised by county that recorded the individual’s number, rank, name, religion, date of appointment, marital status, and station location.

Officers’ registers: These registers are lists of Officers that include transfers and dates, favorable and unfavorable records, dates of promotions and details of previous military service.

Pensions and gratuities: Pension records reveal the constable’s rate of pay and the amount of pension calculated.

Recruits index: Lists of new recruits, their dates of appointment and arrival, and their company can be found in the recruits index.

Also at Findmypast, Ireland, Royal Irish Constabulary History & Directories has had a significant addition of over 43,000 records. You will be able to explore a variety of publications between the years of 1840 and 1921. These records will provide insight into the administration and daily operations of the police force.

Each record includes a PDF image of the original publication. The collection includes training manuals, codes of conduct, salary scales, circulars and staff lists that cover promotions, deployments, and rules & regulations.

Ireland – Valuation Books

At FamilySearch, the Ireland, Valuation Office Books, 1831-1856 are now available to search. These records are the original notebooks that were used when the property valuations were conducted between the years of 1831-1856. They are arranged by county, then alphabetically by parish or townland.

Land valuation records may contain the following information:

  • Land occupier’s name
  • Location, description, and monetary valuation of each land plot surveyed

New South Wales – Passenger Lists

The New South Wales Passenger Lists is a collection at Findmypast that contains over 8.5 million records. The collection includes records of both assisted and unassisted passengers. The assisted passenger lists cover 1828 to 1896 and the unassisted passenger lists span the years 1826 to 1900. Assisted passengers refers to those who received monetary assistance from another party or agency/government for their passage.

Each result will provide a transcript and image of the original record. The information included on the transcript will vary depending on whether your ancestor was an assisted or unassisted passenger, although most will include your ancestors name, passage type, birth year, nationality, departure port, arrival port and the dates of their travels.

Scotland – Parish Records

The Scotland Non-Old Parish Registers Vital Records 1647-1875 found at Findmypast is a collection of registers created by churches outside of the established church. It contains over 12,000 transcripts of births, marriages, and deaths.

Non-old parish registers are different from the Church of Scotland’s old parish records.

Though these are only transcripts and do not include a digital image of the original, you may find the following information on the records included in this collection:

With each result you will be provided with a transcript of the details found in the original source material. The detail in each transcript can vary depending on the event type and the amount of information that was recorded at the time of the event. Here are some of the facts you may find in the records:

  • Name
  • Birth year, date, and place
  • Event year
  • Event type – birth, marriage, or death
  • Register name
  • Parish and county

United States – Freedmen’s Bureau Records

FamilySearch has updated their magnificent collection of United States Freedmen’s Bureau, Records of Freedmen, 1865-1872. Records found in this collection include census returns, registers, and lists of freedmen. They also include letters and endorsements, account books, applications for rations, and much more. Many of the records will hold valuable genealogical data.

For a complete list and coverage table of the full collection, click here.

United States – Marriages – Oregon and Utah

Ancestry.com has recently updated two marriage collections. The Oregon, County Marriages, 1851-1975 and the Weber and Piute Counties, Utah, County Marriages, 1887-1940 have some new records. Marriage records will often provide many helpful genealogical details. Depending on the year, you may find:

  • Name of the groom and bride
  • Date and place of the event
  • Birth dates and places of bride and groom
  • Names of parents of both bride and groom
  • How many previous marriages and marital status
  • Place of residence of bride and groom

United States – Washington – Newspapers

Washington State historic newspapers added to their digital collection of newspapers this week. With nearly 50,000 digitized pages from historical newspapers based in Centralia, Eatonville, Tacoma, and Spokane newest titles include the Centralia Daily Hub (1914-16), The Eatonville Dispatch (1916-61) and Den Danske Kronike (1916-17), a Danish-English publication based in Spokane.

The Centralia and Eatonville papers were added this month and Den Danske Kronike was added last summer, along with the Tacoma Evening Telegraph (1886-87).

You will be able to search this newspaper collection for free from the Washington State Library website.

10 Top Tips for Beginning German Genealogy

Show Notes & Set Your Reminder to Watch the Show

Click the video player below to watch 10 Top Tips for Beginning German Genealogy now. 

Episode 52 Show Notes 

Researching ancestors in another country can be a little daunting. Challenges include foreign languages, moving boundaries, and spelling variations. This is certainly true for German genealogy.

If you’re new to German genealogy or your research has stalled, this episode of Elevenses with Lisa is for you. In fact, even if you don’t have German ancestors I think you will still find the principles and ideas covered very helpful.

Translator, author and German handwriting expert Katherine Schober shares her 10 Top Tips for Beginning Germany Genealogy. These tips are packed with tools and resources that you can start using right away.

Katherine Schober is a German / English translator, specializing in the old German handwriting. She is the author of “The Magic of German Church Records” and “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”, as well as the creator of the online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” And this year she will be one of the featured speakers at this year’s virtual International German Genealogy Conference.

Click the video below to watch the show. Then scroll down below to get all of the show notes. Premium Members will find the downloadable ad-free show notes cheat sheet PDF in the Resources section at the bottom of the page.

Mentioned in this video:

International German Genealogy Conference July 17-24, 2021.
Use special code EARLY until April 30 to get $50 off the package of your choice.
Registration here

Reading the Old German Handwriting Course online with Katherine Schober
Register for the course here

Use Coupon Code GEMS for 10% off the course.

Watch the video Finding German Villages for Genealogy and Family History with James M. Beidler ​  at the Genealogy Gems YouTube Channel

BOOK: The Family Tree Historical Atlas of Germany by James Beidler at Amazon.

10 Top Tips for Beginning Germany Genealogy

1. Start with What You Know about Your German Ancestor

Resist the temptation to start searching online immediately. Take the time to talk to your relatives, starting with the oldest. Review family documents, photo albums and other materials around your home. You may be surprised how much you already have, and the light that other relatives can shed on the family tree. Every step of the way its critically important to document everything!   

2. Look for Resources in America Before Jumping Over to Germany

  • Photos
  • Family Bibles (Watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 29)
  • Census Records
  • Local church records
  • Passenger Lists (Watch Elevenses with Lisa episode 34)
  • Newspapers
  • People

Read Katherine Schober’s article Before You Cross the Pond: Five Places to Find Your Ancestor in America.

3. Identify the Correct German Town

Records in Germany are kept at the local level. Make sure you have the right town in the right state.

Meyers Gazetteer
About the Meyers Gazetteer from the website: Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs “is the most important of all German gazetteers. The goal of the Meyer’s compilers was to list every place name in the German Empire (1871-1918). It gives the location, i.e. the state and other jurisdictions, where the civil registry office was and parishes if that town had them. It also gives lots of other information about each place. The only drawback to Meyer’s is that if a town did not have a parish, it does not tell where the parish was, making reference to other works necessary.”

Learn more at Genealogy Gems about Meyers Gazetteer – read 5 Expert Tips for Using Meyers Gazetteer for Your German Genealogy

The Historic Gazetteer at The Genealogical Gazetteer provides “The precise identification of places is essential in genealogy. Unfortunately, too few researchers care in identifying places. The project “GOV” was initiated to help historians and genealogists with the management of place references and to provide high quality data for anyone.”

4. Identify Available Records for the Town in Germany

  • FamilySearch Library Catalog
  • FamilySearch Wiki – click on region and see what is available.

5. Take Advantage of German Resources at the FamilySearch Wiki

6. Get Familiar with the Old German Handwriting.

  • Books
  • Reading the Old German Handwriting Online Course: https://german-handwriting.teachable.com/

7. Use German Church Records.

Katherine mentioned these websites:

8. Search for Vital Records

Vital records began nationwide in 1876, though it may be possible to find earlier records in certain locales.

9. Be Prepared for “Creative” Spellings.

Some pairs of letters can find themselves interchanged in German words. Understanding which ones were commonly swapped can save you a lot of frustration as you attempt to interpret documents. Examples of commonly switch letters include B and P, and K and G.

For help with common German spelling variations read Katherine’s article called Think Like a German: Spelling Variations in Genealogy Documents.

Geogen v4 offers genealogists a way to discover the areas of Germany where a surname appears most frequently. Type in your ancestor’s German surname and press Enter on your keyboard. Try variations that you have come across in records to compare the results.

geogen v4

Geogen v4 offers genealogists a way to discover the areas of Germany where a surname appears most frequently. 

10. Use the Genealogy FAN CLUB

If you get stuck, use the FAN CLUB principle by looking at Friends, Associates, and Neighbors. These are the people who interacted with your ancestors in important ways. They will come in particularly handy when you run out of records for your German ancestor. By reviewing the records of those closest to your ancestor you may find new clues that can move your search forward and lead back to your family tree.

Elevenses with Lisa Archive

Visit the archive of free Elevenses with Lisa episodes. 
Visit the archive of Premium Elevenses with Lisa episodes. 
You can also find them through the menu: Premium > Premium Videos > Elevenses with Lisa.

Learn More at Genealogy Gems

Lisa’s Guest: 

Katherine Schober is a German-English genealogy speaker, author, and translator, specializing in the old German handwriting. She is the author of “The Magic of German Church Records” and “Tips and Tricks of Deciphering German Handwriting”, as well as the creator of the online course “Reading the Old German Handwriting.” Katherine lives in St. Louis with her Austrian husband, and can be reached via e-mail at language@sktranslations.com or via her website, www.sktranslations.com.

Resources

 

 

WorldCat for Genealogy: 40 Million Records and Digital Gateway

The 40 millionth record has been added to WorldCat, the enormous multi-library catalog that helps people find library materials all over the world.

Even cooler, that 40 millionth record was harvested to WorldCat through the WorldCat Digital Collection Gateway. This gateway allows for “unique, open-access digital content” to be brought into WorldCat, according to owner OCLC. “Once there…collections are more visible and discoverable to end users who search WorldCat as well as Google and other popular websites.”

If you haven’t used WorldCat for genealogy, you may be missing out on a lot. Like published history books (regional, county, local, ethnic, religious and more). And published family histories (search by the surname as a subject). The holdings of the enormous Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah are now included in WorldCat, too (click here to read a blog post on that).

The idea that digital archives are integrating into WorldCat–hence becoming more searchable for us–is fantastic. What kinds of digitized materials might be cataloged here? Well, the Arizona Memory Project is the digital archive that provided that 40 millionth WorldCat record. The Arizona Memory Project “provide(s) online access to the wealth of primary sources in Arizona libraries, archives, museums and other cultural institutions including government documents, photographs, maps and objects that chronicle Arizona’s past and present.” Good stuff!

Remember to also search ArchiveGrid, WorldCat’s sister search interface for archival materials, for original family history documents.

 

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