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German genealogical research Central New York Genealogical Society Dewitt, NY April 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "German genealogical research Central New York Genealogical Society Dewitt, NY April 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 German genealogical research Central New York Genealogical Society Dewitt, NY April 2008

2 Introduction Establishment of the country - As a modern nation-state, the country was first unified amidst the Franco-Prussian War in 1871- preceded by hundreds of minor states, each with their own records. Emigration - several periods - colonial to America (Palatines); after wars; etc Records remaining - emigration lists at ports; in archives; permissions to leave; books compiled by Germans today; filmed parish records.

3 German immigration in the 19th century to the US:

4 Almost 25 per cent of the US claims some Germanic ancestry. In the 1990 US census, about 60 million people did so.

5 The key thing to keep in mind is that while Germans are very good record keepers, these records were designed for administrative purposes, not genealogical. You need to find the exact town of origin in Germany (or Austria, the Banat, or other German speaking areas such as western Poland) in order to continue research overseas.

6 Where do you look? These are most often at the local level. But where do you find this out? Learning this information (your ancestor’s home town) is usually accomplished by researching the first person in your family to come to North America from a German state. Records in the U.S. or Canada may name the home parish. The second challenge is accessing the registers. This is often done overseas by ordering films from the GSU. American church records are also available through that system Churches are in the church business, not genealogy.

7 The most popular source of records in Germany is parish registers. Unlike the US, most Germans belong to some church and records can be found for them, sometimes going back to the early 1500s. And, church records here in the US can often point the way to the German town of origin. That may appear in the marriages entries or even the death entries a few years or even 50 or 60 years after immigration.

8 Sprechen Sie deutsch? Reading them can be a challenge - they are handwritten, most do NOT have indexes, and even pagination is sketchy. They may be chronological, or not. Most often people use films made by the GSU, and these can be filmed in quaint and curious ways.

9 Other ideas… You will want to check naturalization records, passenger arrival lists, marriages, court cases, military enlistments and pensions, domestic church registers, obituaries, and a host of other records, including family sources, to find this information. There is NOT one master index to all German records regardless of what commercial databases would have you believe

10 Baptisms (Taufregister) or Geburt Register These are usually done within a day or two of the birth. However, birth certificates as we know them today in the US do not exist for the most part, even tough the records may go back to the 1500s. But sometimes they will have “the fifth child, third son” which helps build a family group. They tend to give all parties to the event - parents, the child, witnesses, godparents, etc.

11 Sample birth

12 Another sample

13 Marriages (Heirath, Kopulations) or Verbindung Register …are very helpful - they give the bride and groom, their parents, and whether those parents or living or dead (hinterlassen or gestorben); what the man does for a job; whether this is the first marriage or not and if a widow or widower. Of course, they include the date and place.

14 marriages

15 Death registers (Gestorbene) These give the date of death, and often the age. They do not often give cause of death or where - unless the person died far away and was brought back for burial. Remember, that embalming was usually not done back then. Not the least, graves are often leased for a while, and then the grave is dug up and reused. It is not usual to find cemeteries with stones for regular people going back more than 75 years or so.


17 A sobering commentary Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind while searching for death records is that many of our ancestors died young. One writer around the end of the eighteenth century concluded that only seventy-eight out of one thousand people would die old of age. The rest would die before their time and by chance. In Germany, for example, the average life expectancy remained below thirty well into the 1800s. You will find many of your ancestors’ death records within a few years of their birth. High infant mortality rates plagued communities throughout Europe until the beginning of the twentieth century. Even in the middle of the 1800s, a quarter of all babies born in many European countries died before their first birthday. At the start of the nineteenth century in France, less than one half of children lived to be ten years old. Another group hit hard by death was women who were bearing children. Childbirth presented serious hazards to both the mother and child. In the mid 1700s, there were about 1,000 to 1,200 maternal deaths per 100,000 births. Given that the average woman had about five or six children, the cumulative probability of dying during childbirth came to between five and ten percent Written by Leslie Huber.

18 But of course that would be too easy if it were all easily arranged and described.…

19 Sample emigration permit

20 Where did the ancestors come from? Start by using US sources, unless you know for sure from a reliable source Examples – censuses, death records, passenger lists, naturalization records, marriage records. Beware of misspellings -

21 Ellis Island can be wrong…

22 Info from Wikipedia: Many of these were supposed to be Novi Vrbas or Neu Werbass Vrbas (Врбас) is a city and municipality located in Serbia at 45.57° N 19.65° E, in the South Bačka District in the province of Vojvodina. Neu-Werbass was a German Settlement 1785-1945

23 Many of those variations refers to Neu Werbass in the Banat. Orrosphee was Oberosphe, and Belgental was Boelgenthal Bladen was in Silesia and appears in the FHC catalog as Germany, Preussen, Schlesien, Bladen and also as Wlodzienin, Opole, Poland! Alsatian records have the same thing – they bounced back and forth between France and Germany, and so do the languages – unless they were Catholic, where the records could be in Latin

24 Use Internet resources, web sites, and others, reference books such as “Meyers” Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs / with researcher's guide and translations of the introduction, instruction for the use of the gazetteer, and abbreviations by Raymond S. Wright III. Publisher: Baltimore, MD : Genealogical Pub., 2000.

25 Things to remember Identify key words and phrases Read the records Note calendars changes and naming conventions

26 Transcribe or copy records (upcoming new Familysearch) Translate from German to English, online at Altavista or through Google

27 The who what where why of records Who created them -what jurisdictions What types of docs are available Where are they kept today - Bruhl v. Rudolstadt. When were they created Why they should be used.

28 Accessing records Church records Civil registrations esp in Alsace. Census? Court records, here and there. Things that can be used here and there -

29 Common places to use Family history centers Internet US records Peripheral research

30 Message boards County and local histories Military records in US Alien registrations and naturalizations

31 Histories of settlement – Palatines or as recent as 1900. newspapers

32 Locating archives in Germany Doing research there Schools and universities - here or there Guild and occupational - my be in the Rathaus Der Schlussel -

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