How to find places

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Where is the town/village Xyz?

The best places to look are:


Genealogisches Orts Verzeichnis (GOV) Gives geographical, historical, archival and bibliographical information for modern and historical Germany.

GEOserv For modern Germany only. Send email to with the message body the name of the village you are looking for. Further instructions can be received by using INFO as the name of a village.

Yahoo Routenplaner


GEOnet Names Server (GNS) For modern placenames anywhere outside the USA.

ShtetlSeeker gives German and local names for central and eastern Europe.

Deutsche Ortschaften im 19. Jahrhundert incomplete, but covers Germany, Poland, Hungary, Rumania.

Kartenmeister For formerly German places east of the Oder and Neisse rivers.

Atlas des deutschen Reiches 1883 edition by Ravenstein with index. View at 400%.


  • 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,



  • 1912 Meyers Ortslexikon : (Meyers Gazetteer). For towns in Germany or lost by Germany after either 20th- century world war. Probably at your local LDS FHC.
  • 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 can I find out what village my ancestor came from?

This is sometimes easy, sometimes 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 (1920 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 like 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 that the Social Security Death Index 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 The FHL also offers a good research outline entitled Tracing Immigrant Origins, available at your local FHC or online.

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