Your Guide to Finding German Ancestors
Many German ancestors did not reside in present day Germany. German boundaries have fluctuated over time and the hardships associated with these power changes sometimes caused Germans to settle in non-Germanic neighboring countries.
Your first goal will be to identify the name of the town (Stadt), or at least the district/county (Kreis) from which your ancestor emigrated, then determine the family's church affiliation her faith [normally, Lutheran (Evangelisch/ Evangelical) or Catholic (Katholische/Catholic). You may also have to find a different family name, as the Americanized version may differ from that of the family in Germany.
Wikipedia: Germany includes a brief historical summary. For each portion there will be a link to the main article. If you click that link you will get a great deal more information about that specific time period.
Wikipedia: German Empire 1871-1918
ProGenealogists.com: The Anatomy of the German Empire 1648-1918
German research guides on the internet:
Books, articles etc. on doing German research
Bookmark or print out these general guides:
Search the Family History Catalog: Germany to identify German records that have been filmed. As always, click "view related places" in the upper right hand corner to get a list of German states, then once you have a list of the records for the state, another click of "view related places" will show you if there are any records at the town, city or village level. You want to check all three jurisdictions. In the FHL catalog the German collection is organized according to the political boundaries that existed between 1871 and 1918, as described in Uertecht. Meyers Orts-und Verkehrs-Lexicon des Deutschen Reichs. For more information see the FamilySearch Wiki entry Gazatteers Germany
Search the IGI Region: Germany State: select from the dropdown: All, Unknown*, Baden, Bayern (Bavaria), Hessen (Hesse-Damstadt), Preussen (Prussia), Sachsen (Saxony), Thurengen (Thurengia) or Wuerttemberg.
For an overview, with advice about contacting, see the Family Search Wiki: Archives and Libraries Germany
Bookmark or print out these three FHL booklets.
On the internet
Consult one of these books:
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This page last updated September 19, 2009