FAQ sgg

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Subject and intent

This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) list was written to help genealogists who are interested in German and German-American genealogy. It is oriented to those who are getting started, either with genealogy or with the Internet. "German" here means the German language. Therefore, this list should be useful for researchers of German, German-American, Austrian, Swiss, Alsatian, Luxembourger, Liechtensteiner, and Eastern European German genealogy. The latest version of this FAQ is available

on WWW:

   or in the USA at

via eMail:

   message body: send faqs/genealogy/german-faq/* 

via anonymous FTP:

   ftp rtfm.mit.edu
   Name: anonymous
   Password: Your@Email.Address
   ftp cd /pub/usenet-by-group/soc.genealogy.german
   ftp mget soc.*
   ftp quit 

How can I start researching my German or German-American family?

Beginners should do two things first: interview elderly or infirm relatives and read a good book on genealogy. The importance of talking with relatives before they pass away cannot be over-emphasized. Your local library probably has several books on genealogy. Check out the ones that seem best suited to you and read them. Don't ask how to do the first two activities; just do them.

Then you should gather and organize all the information you have from various sources. You may want some genealogical software to help in organizing your information. Document all your sources. Organization allows you to develop an overview of what you have so that you can better direct your research.

Next locate your local LDS (Mormon) FHC (Family History Center™). The genealogical collection of the LDS Family History Library (FHL) is unsurpassed, and much of it can be used at your local FHC. You need not be Mormon. You can probably find the LDS church in your phone book. A list of FHCs and some of FHL resources are at http://www.familysearch.org/. A partial list of FHCs can also be found at http://www.genhomepage.com/FHC/fhc.html.

You should also consult the online documents available on the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/ and may want to monitor the messages on the Usenet newsgroup news:soc.genealogy.german or its mirrored mail list gen-de-l.

The easiest way to make fast progress is to connect with research already performed by others. When possible, such information should always be verified from original sources. To find such research, go online, go to your local LDS FHC, visit your library, and join genealogy clubs.

Eventually your most important sources are likely to be German civil records and German church registers. German civil records start 1792 in Rheinland, 1803 in Hessen-Nassau, 1808 in Westfalen, in 1809 in Hannover, 1 Oct 1874 in Prussia, and 1 Jan 1876 in all of Germany. German church records start as early as the 15th century, but for many areas extant records start only after the end of the 30 Years' War in 1648, or later. Some older civil records and many church registers are available through the LDS FHC. Otherwise you must write to the German Standesamt (civil records office), parish of interest or to the appropriate archive.

Other important sources include Ortssippenbücher, which list all the families in a town, typically using church records as the source; the IGI, which is an index of extracted records; passenger lists; the ASTAKA, a collection of German genealogies; German state censuses; and Geschlechterbücher, which is a series of published genealogies.

Further documents are also available in German archives. Examples of available documents include tax rolls, emigration records, land registers, wills, and court cases. Many have not been filmed by the LDS and are available only at the appropriate archive. Catalogs of archival holdings are available in printed form in many US research libraries.

Keep in mind a general rule of genealogy is to go from the known to the unknown, and not the other way around. For example, if your name is Bauer, you should concentrate on expanding the tree of Bauers related to you by examining documents that refer to them. You should probably not research the genealogy of some other Bauer to see if he is related to you, because the chance of success is slight. Note that this general rule does not apply if you are researching a rare surname, or if you can pair the surname with a town or another surname.

Another general rule is to do as much research as possible locally. Use your local LDS FHC, library, interlibrary loan, genealogical society, etc. to their fullest extent before you write or travel to distant archives or churches. It is usually less expensive and oftentimes more efficient. It will make subsequent research more productive.

What introductory or general books should I read?

Here is a list of some useful books. Most of these works have bibliographies which will lead you to other useful references.

  • Family History Library's research outline for Germany; inexpensive and excellent 52-page guide, also the LDS site
  • Brandt et al., Germanic Genealogy: A Guide to Worldwide Sources and Migration Patterns, 2nd ed., an excellent 517-page guide
  • Riemer, The German Research Companion, also excellent
  • Baxter, In Search of Your German Roots, generally available, 3rd edition
  • Ribbe and Henning, Taschenbuch für Familiengeschichtsforschung, 12th edition 2001, a standard German reference work
  • Burghardt, Familienforschung
  • Friedrichs, How to Find My German Ancestors and Relatives
  • Jensen, A Genealogical Handbook of German Research, vols. I-II, also available on the LDS website
  • Palen, Genealogical Research Guide to Germany
  • Glenzdorfs Internationales Genealogen Lexikon, vols. I-III
  • Schweitzer, German Genealogical Research
  • Thode, Address Book for German Genealogy
  • Thode, German-English Genealogical Dictionary
  • Dearden & Dearden, The German Researcher: How to Get the Most out of an LDS Family History Center
  • Bentz, If I Can You Can Decipher Germanic Records, guide to reading handwriting and script
  • Smith, German Church Books: Beyond the Basics
  • Barth, Auf den Spuren des europäischen Amerika-Auswanderers
  • Arbeitsgemeinschaft Ostdeutscher Familienforscher, Wegweiser, 4. Aufl., for East Germany and former German lands in Eastern Europe. Also in English translation.

Can you help me with surname ABCDEF?

Simple surname queries without any supporting information are strongly discouraged. For most surnames, there are simply too many individuals with the same name for a surname request to be useful. To make success more probable, you must supply as much information as you can, including the surname(s) and given names; place(s) of residence (in Germany and elsewhere); dates of birth, emigration, marriage, and death; religious affiliation; associated family names; and any other information you may have. Include also what sources you have consulted, successfully or not in your search. Be concise but informative. Make your question clear. Use an informative subject line like this:

SCHMIDT; Neustadt i.Holstein,SCN,DEU Boston, MA, USA; 1873-1924

Many people prefer that surnames be written in all caps to aid visual scanning. Make your placenames unambiguous (Neustadt an der Weinstrasse; Frankfurt am Main). Avoid imprecise dates like "the late 1800s" (does that mean 1850-1899 or 1805-1809?).

Be advised that it is unlikely you will find someone willing to do extensive research for you for free unless he or she is related to the subject of your search. However, you may receive valuable advice that may turn your dead end into a new lead. If you are lucky, you may find someone who is also researching along the same lines (same family, location, event, or resource) and then you can both profit by sharing notes.

Also, common courtesy would require that, when you receive advice or leads you act on them before repeating the query.

Where can I register/find my surnames?

Surnames are best registered on the Internet in several forms:

the RootsWeb Surname List 
RootsWeb WorldConnect Project 
The Gedbas project collects German genealogical data 
German surname listings are also made in the German GenWeb pages 
The Forscherkontakte (FOKO, researcher contacts) 
lists mostly German surnames, and can be searched at http://foko.genealogy.net/.

You can also register your research and interests with LDS.

What are the rules for given names?

Different areas/times/families had different naming conventions. No general rule applies in every case. Babies are often named for family members or baptismal sponsors, and sometimes a pattern can be found.

Often a person does not go by his first given name, especially if that first name is Johann or Maria. The name actually used (termed the Rufname) is often denoted by an asterisk or by underlining.

Where is the town/village Xyz?

The best places to look are:


Genealogisches Orts Verzeichnis (GOV) 
For modern and historical Germany. Gives geographical, historical, archival, and bibliographical information. http://gov.genealogy.net/
For modern Germany only. Send email to geo@genealogy.net with the name of the village in the body of the message you are researching. Further instructions can be received by using INFO as the name of a village, or from the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/geoserv.html
Yahoo Routenplaner 
GEOnet Names Server (GNS) 
For modern placenames anywhere outside the USA. http://www.nima.mil/gns/html/index.html
for central and eastern Europe, gives German and local names http://www.jewishgen.org/ShtetlSeeker/loctown.htm
Deutsche Ortschaften im 19. Jahrhundert 
incomplete, but covers Germany, Poland, Hungary, Rumania http://www.genealswiss.net/
For former German places east of the Oder and Neisse rivers. http://www.kartenmeister.com/
Atlas des deutschen Reiches 
1883 edition by Ravenstein with index. View at 400%. http://www.library.wisc.edu/etext/ravenstein/


  • Falk (formerly RV) Autoatlas (volumes for Germany and Poland). Available for ca. 15 EUR in German bookstores or from Interlink Bookshop, 3840A Cadboro Bay Road, Victoria, B.C. V8N 4G2 Canada, +1 (800) 747-4877, http://www.interlinkbookshop.com/ Prices may be subject to change.



1912 Meyers Ortslexikon 
(Meyers Gazetteer). For towns in Germany or lost by Germany after either WWI or WWII.
Ortsnamenverzeichnis der Ortschaften jenseits von Oder und Neiße 
(Gazetteer of Localities East of the Oder and Neisse) If the town was lost by Germany after the Second World War, this will give you the current name.

How do I find an address or phone number?

For German phone numbers, the best resources are CD-ROMs or the DeTeMedien website.

Telefonbuch für Deutschland, PC/Mac/Linux. http://www.teleauskunft.de/
PowerInfo Auskunft 2001, Windows 95/98/2000/NT4. http://www.powerinfo.de/
D-Info 2001, Windows 95/98/NT4/2000/ME/XP. http://www.dinfo.de/

For Austria, three CD-ROM listings are available:

  • Herold ATB CD - expensive and limited retrieval methods
  • O-Info - ATS 299, similar to the Herold edition
  • A-Info - ATS 299 and very flexible

and a website at http://www.etb.at/

For Switzerland, try the online directory at http://tel.search.ch/ and Several CD-ROM listings are also available: Telecom CD (PC), TwixTel/lite (PC), and Quick 111 (Mac).

French (including Alsace and Lorraine) addresses and telephone numbers can be had at http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/ Enter the following département numbers:

     Alsace (Elsass)          Lorraine (Lothringen)
       67      Bas-Rhin         54      Meurthe-et-Moselle
       68      Haut-Rhin        55      Meuse
                                57      Moselle
                                88      Vosges

For the Netherlands (Holland), try:

US addresses and telephone numbers can be found at http://www.switchboard.com/ There are also many online directories at http://www.infospace.com/

How can I find out what village my ancestor came from?

This is sometimes easy, perhaps quite difficult and sometimes impossible. This is the general order of resources to be used in finding the German origin of German-American families:

  • Narratives from older relatives
  • Previous family research, notes, etc., if available
  • Family documents or mementos from the "old country".
  • US census (1930 and earlier) - can learn immigration and/or naturalization year
  • IGI, for uncommon names, if the birth or marriage date is known, or if two names in combination are known
  • Passenger ship records, and indexes such as the volume series Germans to America
  • Naturalization records - usually held at the county level in the US
  • Obituaries, especially in German-language newspapers
  • American church records
  • County histories/genealogies
  • Local historical/genealogical societies
  • Local fraternal and other ethnic or cultural organizations
  • Tombstones or cemetery records
  • German state emigration records and indexes, including citizenship release papers, passports, estate and debt settlement papers, property sales, departure taxes, expulsion papers, and records for transportation of minors
  • US Social Security records, for individuals living after 1935. Note the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is only a start.
  • Probate records
  • US Civil War pension or other military records, if appropriate
  • Ahnenstammkartei (ASTAKA)
  • Individuals in Germany with the same name, but only if the name is very unusual or if you know approximately where your ancestor came from
  • Neighbors in America, because sometimes unrelated families emigrated together
  • Contemporary newspapers, which often printed passenger lists and emigrant correspondence

Search these sources not only for the German immigrant, but also his or her spouses, descendants, and other relatives. There is an excellent and concise list of resources for German-American immigration research available on the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/emig/ The FHL also offers a research outline entitled Tracing Immigrant Origins, available at your local FHC or online.

What about the German census?

The German central government conducted censuses in 1871, every five years from 1875 to 1910, 1919, 1925, 1933, 1935 (Saar), and 1939. West Germany had censuses in 1946, 1950, 1961, 1970, and 1987. East Germany had censuses in 1945, 1946, 1964, 1971, and 1981. Except for the 1939 census, these censuses are not useful for genealogical purposes; available data are of a statistical nature only. Each of the states conducted their own censuses at other times. Some of these censuses are available via your local LDS FHC and are quite useful genealogically. The central German census authority can tell you if certain censuses exist and where they can be found:

   Statistisches Bundesamt 
   Gustav Stresemann Ring 11 
   Postfach 5528 
   65189 Wiesbaden 

How about German cemeteries?

German cemeteries are not as useful for genealogical purpose as those in the US. Normally gravesites are leased for 20-25 years, after which they may be renewed or usually revert to the cemetery owner (church or town) and are reused. Some gravesites are sold to a family and used for generations, but even then the site is reused within the family. Some gravestones of historic importance are retained for the long term. Gravesites are maintained by the families. Sometimes cemeteries are converted to parks, but retain their cemeterial nature. Graves in 20th-century military cemeteries are not reused, but are maintained by a commission as a reminder of the honor of soldiers and the horror of war.

What does my German surname mean?

The meaning of a German surname can often be found in a German-English dictionary (e.g., Schmidt means smith, Müller means miller). Sometimes spelling modifications, pronunciation shifts, or dialectal origins hide the original meaning. In such cases, a general or specifically German name lexicon can be useful. Three standard German works are:

  • Deutsche Namenkunde by Max Gottschald,
  • Deutsches Namenlexikon by Hans Bahlow, also available in English as Dictionary of German Names, and
  • Das grosse Buch der Familiennamen by Horst Naumann.

Please note that name interpretation is often speculative.

Is my family from a town with a name like their surname?

Assuming that the family name is a place name perhaps with the common suffix -er (as in Oberheimer), then it is very possible that the family did indeed come from that place (Oberheim) originally.

But they probably left that place before they acquired the surname, which invariably was before the earliest extant records. You may likely never be able to prove it. Also note place names are often shared by several towns. A surname may be related etymologically but not genealogically to a place name.

How can I learn about German noble families?

The standard series of books on German nobility is the Gotha series, which has appeared under various titles since the late 18th century. Look in your library catalog for a title similar to Gothaisches genealogisches Taschenbuch der adeligen Häuser or Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels. The latter has an online surname index at http://www.rootsweb.com/~autwgw/sgi/index.htm

Herbert Stoyan has an excellent online resource for noble genealogy called WW-Person at http://www8.informatik.uni-erlangen.de/html/ww-person.html Paul Theroff has an online Gotha at http://pages.prodigy.net/ptheroff/gotha/gotha.htm

Please be advised, however, that stories of noble relations in American families are often exaggerated.

Where can I find German military records?

All personnel rosters and card indices (Stammrollen und Karteimittel) of the Prussian Army, the transition army (Übergangsheeres), the Army (Reichswehr), and the Imperial Navy (Kaiserlichen Marine) were burned in an air raid on Berlin in February 1945. Preserved are medical records of those soldiers who were being treated in military hospitals (Lazarett). The records, most with personnel roster extracts (Stammrollenauszügen), for those born from 1870 on are stored at

   Krankenbuchlager Berlin 
   Wattstrasse 11-13 
   13355 Berlin 

and for those born before 1890 are stored at

   Bundesarchiv - Militärarchiv 
   Wiesentalstraße 10 
   79115 Freiburg/Breisgau 

Lists of Prussian and other German officers are generally available in book series with titles like Rangliste der Königlich Preussischen Armee. These books were published roughly annually since at least 1796; some have been reprinted.

An overview of the Prussian army and its military church records can be found in Lyncker, Die Altpreussische Armee 1714-1806 und ihre Militärkirchenbücher, and Die preussische Armee 1807-1867 und ihre sippenkundlichen Quellen, and also in Eger, Verzeichnis der Militärkirchenbücher in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

A list of pre-1914 Imperial German military units can be found at http://users.hunterlink.net.au/~maampo/militaer/milindex.html

Many German state military records are available at their respective state archives. These generally cover up to 1920.

World War II German military personnel may have service records at

   Bundesarchiv - Zentralnachweisstelle 
   Abteigarten 6 
   52076 Aachen 

or at

   Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) 
   Eichborndamm 179 
   13403 Berlin 

WASt holdings center on those reported to be prisoners of warn (POW), missing in action (MIA), or killed in action (KIA), and also on members of the navy, though other records are also held.

The Bundesarchiv has no records for navy personnel. Requests for information may be sent to either office; they will be forwarded as needed to the appropriate office.

German military cemetery listings for World Wars I and II can be found online at http://www.volksbund.de/

For civilian records, one must write to the appropriate agency or ministry archives (e.g., justice, finance, railroad, post). Those who had relatives in NSDAP positions can request information from the Bundesarchiv or, soon, the US National Archives.

How do I write to a German Standesamt, parish, or archive?

For archive addresses, see the question on archive addresses. For most towns, the Standesamt or parish address would be simply

   Standesamt or ev. Pfarramt or kath. Pfarramt 
   ????? Town-name 

where the second choice indicates Protestant, the third choice Catholic. The five question marks need to be replaced by the correct postal code. For larger towns, there are likely to be several churches, but the above address will often work anyway. For cities, you will need to know the section of the city to find the correct Standesamt or church; inquiries at a main office are sometimes forwarded correctly.

You should write in German and include €5 to cover postage and basic fees. There may be further expenses billable to you; extensive research will not usually be performed for a small fee. Make sure you indicate how you are related to the sought persons. Sample letters are available from the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/letters/ or make use of the German genealogy volunteer translation service. There is also an excellent letter-writing guide on the LDS site.

Many local parishes have deposited their older church records in the corresponding church archives; in these cases communication with the local parish may be forwarded to the appropriate archive, answered with an indication of the appropriate archive, returned, or ignored, all at the option of the parish office. Furthermore, strict privacy protection laws in Germany very often prohibit official release of personal information to individuals unless they can demonstrate direct descendance from the person to be researched or unless there is a legal entitlement to the information, for example for matters of inheritance. Some archives may also have requirements on the age of the information before they allow release, even to direct descendants.

How do I find German postal codes?

German postal codes (Postleitzahl or PLZ, equivalent to US zip codes) are available on the Internet from http://www.plz-suche.de/ and http://www.informatik.uni-frankfurt.de/plz/plzrequest.uk.html They are also listed in German postal code books. For towns with only one postal code, you can also consult the Michelin red guide, the RV Autoatlas, or Arthur Teschler's geographical server.

I don't know German. What should I do?

The best overall solution is to learn German. Often such a large investment offers rich rewards. You might consider taking courses at your local college or Goethe Institute http://www.goethe.de/

In the meantime, you can make use of the German genealogy volunteer translation service (Transserv) administered by Arthur Teschler. Send e-mail to trans@genealogienetz.de. The first line of the message body should read:

   #GER>ENG (for a German to English translation,) 
   #ENG>GER (for an English to German translation, or) 
   #S (for a snail mail/fax translation, fee by arrangement). 

The rest of your message should be the text to be translated, no more than 40 lines. For the snail mail/fax service, you mail or fax a copy of the original document to the translator, and receive a translation by e-mail. For more information see Transserv.

For larger documents or for guaranteed precision, professional translation is recommended.

Computer translation programs are normally not recommended; their clumsy translations usually requires human correction.

A good German-English dictionary, available in most libraries and bookstores, is usually needed for translations. Sometimes a good German dictionary or encyclopedia is a better resource. There is an online German-English dictionary at: http://dictionaries.travlang.com/GermanEnglish/ (US mirror) http://dict.leo.org/ (Europe).

I can't read German handwriting. What should I do?

There is of course no one German handwriting, but often German documents are hard to read. It takes practice to read handwritten documents, and each hand is different, often requiring some study even for the practiced eye. Try to figure out words from context. Most genealogical documents have a limited vocabulary. Look at other entries in the same hand to help you decipher the hardest parts. Often the best approach is to ask another knowledgeable researcher at the library or archive where you encounter the difficult document. There are also several books that can help teach you how to read German handwriting; these are available from genealogical supply firms or good bookstores. Or use the German genealogy snail/fax translation service outlined above.

The German genealogy server has examples of old German handwriting, Windows software for learning German handwriting, and a bibliography of texts on the subject at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/scripts.html

What is the basic German genealogical vocabulary?

   birth; born         Geburt; geboren, geb.
   (il)legitimate      (un,ausser)ehelich, (un)eheleiblich
   baptism; baptized   Taufe; getauft, get.
   marriage            Heirat, Hochzeit, Trauung, Vermählung,
                       Eheschliessung, Verehelichung, Kopulation
     marry             heiraten, verheiraten, verh., vermählen, verm.,
                       trauen, getr., verehelichen, verehel., kopulieren
   death               Tod, Sterbefall, Todesfall, Ableben
     died              gestorben, verstorben, gest.
   burial              Beerdigung, Begräbnis
     buried            beerdigt, beerd., begraben, begr.
   widow; -ed          Witwe, Wwe.; verwitwet, verw.
   divorce; -ed        (Ehe)scheidung; geschieden
   father; mother      Vater, V.; Mutter, M.
   parents             Eltern
   husband             Mann, Ehemann, (Ehe)gatte, Gemahl
   wife                Frau, Ehefrau, (Ehe)gattin, (Ehe)weib, Gemahlin
   married couple      Ehepaar, Eheleute
   son; daughter       Sohn, Söhnlein, S.; Tochter, Töchterlein, T.
   child; -ren         Kind, K.; -er
   male; female        männlich; weiblich
   brother; sister     Bruder; Schwester
   siblings            Geschwister
   uncle; aunt         Onkel, Oheim; Tante, Muhme
   (great-)grandfather (Ur)grossvater
   grandson; -daughter Enkel; Enkelin
   grandchild          Enkelkind, Grosskind
   nephew; niece       Neffe; Nichte
   cousin (m;f)        Vetter, Cousin; Kusine, Cousine, Base
   cousins             Geschwisterkinder
   sponsor, godparent  Gevatter, Gev., (Tauf)pate, Taufzeuge
   day of the week     Wochentag
   days of the week    Sonntag, Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch,
                       Donnerstag, Freitag, Samstag (Sonnabend)
   month               Monat
   months              Januar (Jänner), Februar (Feber), März,
                       April, Mai, Juni, Juli, August,
                       September, Oktober, November, Dezember
   year                Jahr, Jahreszahl
   date                Datum
   place               Ort
   residence           Wohnort, Aufenthaltsort, Wohnstätte
   village             Dorf
   town                (Land/Samt/Gross)gemeinde
   city                Stadt
   county              (Land)kreis (modern), Grafschaft (noble)
   (grand) duchy       (Gross)herzogtum
   principality        Fürstentum
   kingdom             Königreich

A more complete vocabulary guide can be found on the LDS website.

What are the German umlauts and genealogical symbols?

Umlauts, etc.:

   ASCII     TeX  850  8859  Mac  HTML     Postscript   Name
   _____     ___  ___  ____  ___  ____     __________   ____
   "A,Ae     \"A  142  0196  128  Ä        Adieresis    A umlaut
   "O,Oe     \"O  153  0214  133  Ö        Odieresis    O umlaut
   "U,Ue     \"U  154  0220  134  Ü        Udieresis    U umlaut
   "a,ae     \"a  132  0228  138  ä        adieresis    a umlaut
   "o,oe     \"o  148  0246  154  ö        odieresis    o umlaut
   "u,ue     \"u  129  0252  159  ü        udieresis    u umlaut
   "s,ss,sz  \ss  225  0223  167  ß        germandbls   eszet
   "y,y,ij   \"y  152  0255  216  ÿ        ydieresis    y dieresis
   "e        \"e  137  0235  145  ë        edieresis    e dieresis

850 refers to the IBM code page. IBM code page 437 is identical for these characters, except it lacks the eszet. IBM code page 819 is ISO 8859-1 compliant, while Windows code page 1252 is a ISO 8859-1 superset. All numerical codes shown are decimal. The y dieresis is really a keyboard shortcut for an ij ligature.

To type these characters on a PC, hold down the alt key and enter the 850 or 8859 keycode on the numeric keypad. On a Mac, for umlauts type option-u and then the letter to be umlauted. For eszet, type option-s.

Genealogical symbols:

   ASCII  Typeset                          Meaning
   _____  _______                          _______
   *      asterisk                         Born
   (*)    asterisk in parentheses          Born illegitimately
   +*     cross and asterisk               Stillborn
   ~,=    single or multiple water waves   Baptized
   Y      communion cup                    Confirmed
   o      ring                             Engaged
   oo,&   linked or touching rings         Married
   o|o    separated rings                  Divorced
   o-o    separated rings                  Illegitimate union
   !!     two exclamation marks            Pastor
   +      cross or vertical dagger         Died
   X      crossed swords                   Died in battle
   +X     cross and crossed swords         Died from battle wounds
   [],±,# box                              Buried
   ++     two crosses                      This line extinct

How can I send money to Germany?

The most convenient and economical way to send money overseas is to use a credit card for payment. Then you avoid bank fees and get a good exchange rate. For small amounts you might consider sending European cash, which you should be able to procure at most banks, with a somewhat worse exchange rate and also an exchange fee. For larger amounts you might want to send a bank wire. Checks drafted in foreign currency may also be obtained from International Currency Express Inc. for a US$5 fee. See http://www.foreignmoney.com/ or call +1-888-278-6628.

In Germany, International Reply Coupons (IRCs) can only be redeemed for postage, and even then only one coupon per piece of outgoing international mail. Thus IRCs are not a general means of payment. International postal money orders are not accepted in Germany.

What is the IGI?

The International Genealogical Index is maintained by the FHL and is available on microfiche or CD-ROM at your local LDS FHC, and online at http://www.familysearch.org/. It contains millions of birthdates, christening dates, marriages, etc., indexed by surname. It is by no means a complete index to all records, however. Furthermore, it should be considered to be just an index; you should always consult the source documents for IGI entries of interest, as they may contain more information and the IGI may have errors in transcription.

Where can I find passenger lists or ship information?

Ship passenger lists appear in two basic types: embarkation and arrival lists. German emigrants after 1850 typically embarked in Hamburg or Bremen; before the 1830s the usual ports were Le Havre, Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Amsterdam. The Bremen passenger lists of 1832-1872 were destroyed in 1875 by governmental decree owing to want of storage space. Thereafter only the current and two previous years were kept, until the destruction ceased in 1907. The lists of 1906-1931 were placed in the Statistisches Landesamt Bremen, which was bombed on 6 October 1944, resulting in the destruction of the remaining Bremen lists. An incomplete name index of the lists for 1904-1914 is held at the Bundesarchiv Koblenz, with microfilms available via your local LDS FHC. The Bremen Handelskammer archives has an apparently complete duplicate of the lists for 1920-1923,1925-1939 and a few lists back to 1834. These lists are online available (incl. ship pictures and informations): http://db.genealogy.net/maus/gate/index_en.html

The Hamburg embarkation lists 1850-1934 are available on microfilm via your local LDS FHC. They are indexed and usually indicate the last residence of the emigrant, an important datum for researchers.

A few Bremen and Hamburg embarkation lists otherwise unavailable were published in the Allgemeine Auswanderungs-Zeitung (1847-1871, Rudolstadt). Some of these have been republished by Clifford Neal Smith and others.

Arrival lists are available for many American ports, but are not quite as useful as the embarkation lists in determining place of last residence. The US arrival lists are available at the US National Archives, many large research and genealogical libraries, and through your local LDS FHC. Many of the New York City arrival lists in the period 1892-1924 are available online at http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/ The arrival lists are also partially indexed in the book series Germans to America.

See also the pages at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/emig/ and http://home.att.net/~arnielang/shipgide.html

Some passenger ship information can be found online at http://www.geocities.com/mppraetorius/ http://www.cimorelli.com/pie/emigrate/emigmenu.htm http://www.fortunecity.com/littleitaly/amalfi/13/ships.htm and http://www.CyndisList.com/ships.htm

What is Germans to America?

Germans to America is a book series devoted to indexed transcriptions of passenger lists of vessels carrying Germans to America. It presently covers the period 1850-1891. It does not index all Germans who emigrated to America, and it does have problems with its inclusion criteria and transcription fidelity. But it is very easy to use and often quite helpful. It should be considered to be just an index; you should always consult the source passenger lists for entries of interest, as they may contain more information and the index may have errors in its transcription of the source information. Note also that 000 means either Obermoellrich or (usually) an unknown place! The volumes that have appeared so far are listed on the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/emig/GermansToAmerica.html The books themselves are not on the Internet, but they are available at many large research and genealogical libraries. A list of holding libraries is available on the same server. A portion of the series is also available on CD-ROM.

What German archives and/or genealogical organizations are there?

Andreas Hanacek maintains a list of German archives of genealogical interest as part of an excellent offering at http://www.bawue.de/~hanacek/ Information about archives is also available in the regional pages on the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/reg/ Polish archives are listed at http://www.polishroots.com/genpoland/index.htm

There is a list of German and German-related genealogical organizations on the German genealogy server at http://www.genealogy.net/misc/verbaende.html

How do I find a book about abc or xyz?

If you know the title and author, go to your favorite library and ask the librarian for help. They can often get books through interlibrary loan; fees may be involved.

If you don't know exactly what you are looking for, try browsing one of the online library catalogs. Some of the best are

Harvard University 
University of California (UC) 
US Library of Congress (LOC) 
Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut (DBI) 
Karlsruher Virtueller Katalog (KVK) 
http://www.ubka.uni-karlsruhe.de/kvk.html, Search engine for a number of German online catalogs.

For lists of other such online catalogs, and there are many, try

To find German-language books in print, use the Verzeichnis Lieferbarer Bücher at

To purchase books from Germany, try an online German bookseller:

Lists of publishers and bookstores with an Internet presence are at:

Should I buy a surname/crest/family history book sold by mail?

Be careful. Some unscrupulous firms offer books that are compiled mostly from phone lists you can get for free on the Internet. The books also contain some general and often erroneous information on the origin of the family name and a crest. More information is available from the National Genealogy Society's Consumer Protection Committee at http://www.ngsgenealogy.org/

Where do I go on the internet for German genealogy?

The first place to go is the German genealogy server at

It offers many useful articles, reports, reviews, and links to other Internet resources.

The Federation of Eastern European Family History Societies has lots of information useful to German researchers, including maps, at http://www.feefhs.org/

The German GenWeb project is at http://www.rootsweb.com/~wggerman/

Gary Horlacher's site contains many useful articles: http://www.horlacher.org/germany/index.html

Adalbert Goertz has written several regional German FAQs: http://www.mmhs.org/faq/faq.htm

Many regional German genealogy e-mail lists are available. See

The Virtual University German Study Group has materials at http://thorin.adnc.com/~lynnd/vudeu.html

For lists of German genealogy sites, see

What are soc.genealogy.german and soc.genealogy.surnames.german?

The two Usenet newsgroups of interest to German genealogists are soc.genealogy.german and de.sci.genealogie.

If you are trying to understand something, find a resource, get advice, or find relatives, post to soc.genealogy.german.

If you prefer to read German-language postings only, then read de.sci.genealogie.

Soc.genealogy.german is an unmoderated Usenet news group for queries and discussion of all matters relating to German genealogy. "German" here refers to language, and thus explicitly includes German, German-American, Austrian, Swiss, Alsatian, Luxembourger, Liechtensteiner and Eastern European German genealogy. The newsgroup is available at news:soc.genealogy.german and its original charter can be found at http://www.genealogy.net/faqs/cfv When posting, only simple text should be used; MIME, HTML, enclosures, binaries, and pictures should be avoided. Commercial postings should go to soc.genealogy.marketplace, not soc.genealogy.german. New posters automagically receive a warm and informative welcome e-mail.

For those without news access, soc.genealogy.german is mirrored to e-mail lists in digest, message, and index mode. Subscription requests should be sent to GEN-DE-D-request@rootsweb.com if you want individual postings combined into circa 32KB digests as MIME attachments (normal digest mode), to GEN-DE-NMD-request@rootsweb.com if you want the 32KB digests sent as one long message (non-MIME digest mode), to GEN-DE-L-request@rootsweb.com if you want messages sent individually (mail mode), or to GEN-DE-I-request@rootsweb.com if you want only message subject lines in a daily index (index mode). Put the word "subscribe" in the message body, no quotes. You will receive a confirmation and additional instructions. To unsubscribe, send the message "unsubscribe" instead, with no quotes, to the request address for which you are subscribed, from the account that is subscribed. Postings by e-mail (not subscription requests) go to GEN-DE-L@rootsweb.com. See also http://www.genealogy.net/misc/listserv-e.html

The gen-de archives from 8 Dec 1995 onwards may be searched online at http://searches.rootsweb.com/gen-de.html Postings may also be viewed online in threaded format at http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/index/GEN-DE/ There have been short periods when the gen-de to soc.genealogy.german mirror has failed, resulting in the existence of a few messages only in the newsgroup and others only in the e-mail lists. Thus you may also wish to consult a Usenet archive such as Google.com: http://groups.google.com/groups?group=soc.genealogy.german

Soc.genealogy.surnames.german was an automoderated Usenet newsgroup with strict subject line requirements. It has not functioned since 22 June 2000. Its archives are still useful, however. See http://www.rootsweb.com/~surnames/

De.sci.genealogie is an unmoderated German-language-only Usenet newsgroup for genealogy and related subjects, regardless of geographical region or ethnicity.

Are there other online resources for genealogy?

Lots. Here are a few excellent starting points:

There are also online resources for general German information:

How can I possibly repay you for all your help?

Please repay help freely given by helping other genealogical researchers to the best of your ability. Publishing your results, perhaps by submitting them to the FHL, is an excellent way of helping others. A thank you would also be nice.


Thanks go to the following people: Nate Blaylock, Henning Boettcher, Ed Brandt, Heinz Bredthauer, Cynthia Dean, Steve Dhuey, Adalbert Goertz, Manfred Groth, Andreas Hanacek, Kjell Ove Nybø Hattrem, Rick Heli, Reinhold Herrmann, Gail Hitchcock, Bob Kuehl, Friedrich Lehmkuehler, Brigitte Gastel Lloyd, Lynn Main, Christel Monsanto, Joachim Nuthack, Marianne Muthreich Southworth, Michael Palmer, Detlef Papsdorf, Fred Rump, Bernhard A. M. Seefeld, Wolf Seelentag, Johannes Sempert, Uwe Sentner, Joan Somers, Gunthard Stuebs, Arvo Tars, Arthur Teschler, Rolf Ulbing, Julie Vigna, Don Watson, Robert Weinland, William Westphal, Alan Wiener, Paul Zebe, and the many contributors to soc.genealogy.german.

Suggestions for additions or improvements should be sent to the author, Jim Eggert mailto:EggertJ@crosswinds.net.

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