How to start with my research

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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 most likely has several books on genealogy. Check out the ones that seem best to suited to you and read them.
  • Don't ask how to do the first two listed activities; just do them.

Then you need to organize all information you have received from various sources. You may want 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 do not have to be Mormon. You may find the LDS church in your phone book. A list of FHCs and some of FHL's resources can be located at:

You should also consult the online documents available on the German genealogy server at

The easiest way to proceed quickly 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
  • go to 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
  • 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

Further documents are also available in German archives. Examples of these include:

  • Tax rolls
  • Emigration records
  • Land registers
  • Wills
  • Court cases

Many of these 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.

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