HOW TO RESEARCH
Online & Offline
Using the German state of Hessen as an example.
Utilizing the links
provided by the Hessen website, you are
enabled to research anywhere
in Germany! Not just Hessen!
Remember: YOU can adjust your screen size, font (print) size, and brightness right there on your own computer! I don't have to do that for you!
So you've got a zillion advisors? Folks reinventing the wheel?
Hello, I'm Don Watson. Call me.
I know what to do......
(see Author's Note)*
then come back here
Herr Prof. Dr. Watson
(Don, take me to the Ten Commandments of the lowly Archivist. I promise to come right back here!)
Read and practice with the entire Q&A BEFORE you jump into your research! That offers you great insights for research anywhere in and for Germany, online and off! You can spend the rest of your life on a mailing list, in a chat room, in a forum, OR you can get serious about your research, starting right here..............
BEFORE YOU DO THIS......
|Folks just keep on coming to.......
These researchers can provide tours and be your
If you are visiting Germany and would like professional assistance
Another researcher, well-qualified as a researcher and tour guide, is Uwe Porten, at email@example.com. If you will go to his very professional website you will note how qualified he is in the English language, and discover his reseach qualifications, as well. http://www.genealogy-germany.de/. On that page he has a list of the areas he researches in, found as a list by clicking on "Regions".
A dedicated researcher who has been primarily involved in her own family research has developed multiple skills exploring church archives. She has completed inquiries for those of us in the USA who seek our ancestors in Germany. While her present research is in Nordrhein-Westfalen and Sachsen-Anhalt (North Rhine Wesphalia and Saxony-Anhalt), she will consider other research options. Please contact Gaby Richter at firstname.lastname@example.org. See her website at www.iffland-genealogie.de. Gaby speaks English, is retired, and can devote full time and attention to your research effort. GABY'S FOTO, CLICK HERE.
Sabine Tzschieter, genealogy-Tzschieter@gmx.de, has researched families for many years. She speaks English. Her research areas are Ostpreussen (East Prussia), Schlesien (Silesia), Pommern (Pommerania), and "die Neumark." Sie will also conduct research in Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony).
For northern Germany one finds Evelyn Bertholdt, email@example.com, a relative of Gaby Richter. She conducts genealogical research in the areas of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg; also speaks English.
Please refer to my other researcher links here: ./special.htm, but don't you dare get lost or fail to come back to Research 101!
Looking for a German Genealogy group to join. Say no more!
Planning a trip to Germany? Say no more! Type in the name of the city after wiki/ for a look at the location today.
Official German Vacation Planning Site: http://www.cometogermany.com/ENU/special_offers/special_offers.htm
PLEASE read my information (below) on HOW to send an inquiry to Germany!
THIS IS IT!!!!!!
Avoid losing your way after clicking on any of the many links presented here by using your back button (or close) to return to this page. If you really want to be successful in understanding German research, read and practice with the entire Q&A BEFORE you jump into your research!
For our Hessians: See ./index2.htm for a lead-in to this page, but hurry back here!
For those who are researching in the USA and for German records available here, consult http://www.archives.gov/genealogy, http://familysearch.org, and https://wiki.familysearch.org/en/Portal:Germany/Research_Tools !!
NOW THIS: GERMAN Research!!!
Who, where, when, their faith, what you already know, and what you need to know are the essential ingredients for research. Think about the research you have already completed. Now what? Where do I go from here? How will I share what I KNOW with others who want to help me, and at the same time tell them WHAT information I still need? Remember that when you ask others for assistance, you are asking them to take time away from their own research, their own priorities, their own families. They need some clues as to the ground you have already covered BEFORE you drop your research on them! That doesn't mean that you have to send a printout of your entire family tree to a mailing list! God forbid! Keep it simple! If you need more than one paragraph for where you have researched, and more than one paragraph for what you need to know, you're not keeping it simple! If you ramble on in an endless narrative, you are shooting yourself in the foot ~ you are asking someone else to sort it all out for you, and guess what? Yeah, you guessed it. YOU sort it all out, THEN present it in logical sequence.
Grab a couple of sandwiches, a thermos of your favorite beverage, take
the phone off the hook, and close the door. Don't come out for two days.
.....and remember, real person German>Eng>German translations!
Computer translations leave a lot to be desired, and they don't provide insights
into the culture and other impacts on the folks living at that
Q: Are all German archives online, including their census information? A: No. Regardless of where in Germany you want to research, there are no employees bustling back and forth between humming computers, laughing their way through a joyful day of answering inquiries about ancestry, from around the world. There are no 3x5 cards standing at attention at the fingertips of a gregarious librarian, bubbling over with generosity and a desire to be of instant assistance, eager to pull your ancestor's card from the drawer... "Ah, yes... Herr Weber... here you are, right where you should be!" Yes, there are computers in some cases, and German databases are coming online as fast as the Germans can build them. Microfilm and microfiche are being added almost daily.The latest development by the Germans (outstanding, to say the least), is found by Clicking Here. Another awesome example for Baden-Wuerttemberg is found by Clicking Here (click on the location in the left column in order to view ACTUAL documents online), and Here (click on the Department you are interested in for the English version). Type in the name of the town you are looking for. The result will be the archives for that location. Then there is the Pommern website, found by Clicking Here. They are at present the German language. One hopes for the English translation to appear next year. But for right now, more than likely, there are only dusty old registers, large 12x14 books or smaller with a hundred or more pages, written in ancient script, handwriting that is becoming less-and-less understood by the Germans themselves, as younger generations don't want to learn it. They are not in alphabetical order! Births, marriages, deaths are listed as they occur, one after the other. For an actual 1759 church register, Click Here, and for one that has been updated with year markers, Click Here, then use your back button (or close) to come right back here. In tiny church offices across Germany there may be a Pastor with a part-time secretary, performing marriages, christenings, funerals, and acting as a local social welfare office. Many of the small churches rely on someone in the community to come in to handle genealogical inquiries. That person is paid by the Pastor from church funds. Therefore, you cannot say "I will pay you if you find something." That person gets paid, regardless. The documents you want are probably in the basement, row upon row of aging books, like the one you just looked at. A spider peeks out here, a roach there..... And you want your answer right now? Before or after the Pastor conducts a funeral? Note: Ancestral German census data is statistical, not useful for surname research, and 20th century censuses are protected by German privacy laws. The Germans are working on extracting useable census data from historical records, but very little of that is available right now.
Your back button (or close) is your friend!
Q: You mean they don't have a centralized database? A: They don't. Various centralized locations are preparing data on the German "Genealogy.net", rapidly becoming a competitor for familysearch.org. German or English, here is a link that will be very useful: Click! It is impossible to search the existing handwritten registers in thousands of separate communities, villages, towns, cities, without knowing first of all the name of the town, then the date and type document you need, and the name of the person you are searching for. An exact birthdate is extremely important. However, if you can at least identify the year, you may find an archivist or hired researcher who is willing to look - maybe. Do your best to find at least the month of birth. There is an online incomplete central database to search for ancestors using only the surname, but otherwise it is non-specific. If your surname is Schmidt, whoa! That's like finding Smith in the USA! The closest thing to that for you is the German databases FOKO, GOV, and GEDBAS, found in our Table of Links (see the link just below the pirate with the shovel.) They are similar to the LDS files at Salt Lake City, or documents being posted by Ancestry.com, and others. Right now, you do not have to pay to see files that are available for free, online or through your area Family History Center (FHC) at the LDS genealogy library or through FOKO, GOV, GEDBAS. German civil and church archives obviously charge a fee for their services. The links you will follow here, in Research 101, offer the best assistance you will find anywhere on earth; make intelligent use of all of them, and don't overlook the GOOGLE search engine. Read the next question! Don't you dare get lost in research until you've read all of this!
Q: Wow! I didn't know! So what do I do now? A: The Germans very thoughtfully and kindly ask us to please check with our area Family History Center at the LDS church genealogy library. The LDS folks in Salt Lake City have microfilmed tons of documents on file in the churches and city halls of Germany and placed them on file in SLC. You have access to LDS records in the USA that are denied to Germans in Germany, due to privacy laws there. One helpful site has recorded FHC batch numbers for research in specific towns and cities. Check it out by clicking here. You can look up many of the microfiche at the Hessen website, regardless of where your ancestors are from. You can go to your local Family History Center and ask for a microfiche for anywhere in Germany which will contain all of the towns filmed to date. You then order the microfilm for the town you are interested in. You are allowed to view it for several weeks at their local library, for a rental fee of about $5.00. In some cases, the film is left at the local library for longer periods. Talk to the LDS FHC church librarian. Don't get in a hurry to jump overseas! The fiche and films available cover births, baptisms, marriages, deaths, and other information.
Q: What kind of background information will I need? A: The name of the town (Stadt), or at least the district/county (Kreis), plus the name of your ancestor, his or her birthdate, and his / her faith [normally, Lutheran or Catholic, usually listed as Evangelisch (Evangelical) or Katholische (Catholic), all critical to your search. You start with yourself and work back through the decades using the census data, family insights, courthouse documents, etc., in your country. You work back through local information and files, starting with living relatives, cemeteries, the courthouse, the Historical Society, the genealogy club. You need to discover your ancestors petition for naturalization, and the certificate. It will will be in a state, federal, or local courthouse somewhere along the way. There are samples of the Declaration of Intent here , then back button (or close) right back to here. With the petition your ancestor filed an application indicating where he/she was from in Germany. Please go to http://www.alltheweb.com/, type in "naturalization records", but don't try to analyze it now; find that back button (or close) again - come right back here. A naturalization book, "They Became Americans" is available through Amazon.com. You'll find Olive Tree Naturalizations here, but always come back here without trying to understand it now. Getting ahead of yourself will cost you much valuable instruction and time! If you can't find the petition and certificate, you must then turn to tracing your ancestor back to the port of entry into the United States. You need to find the ships passenger list for when they came over. While you are at it, you may want to check out the reasons they came over. Talk to every grandparent, aunt, and uncle in your family tree. Go to, or find online, every cemetery in your county, or another county where ancestors are buried. Hundreds of cemeteries are found online. Read the information on the gravestone, visit with the sexton, and drop by the local funeral home and newspaper office and historical society for microfiche / film of past newspaper items, especially the obituary for your ancestor. Check local early real estate transactions, emigration records, militia, civil war military records and pensions, birth, marriage, and death records, concerning siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, who may have come over before or after your ancestor. Don't overlook mailing lists in your country that cover your surname, or your area of interest in your country! Your ancestors came FROM Germany to your country, and settled there! Mailing lists are important to your search, but certainly not the ONLY tool! You need LOTS of background information before you even THINK about "crossing the pond" to Germany for research. Keep reading!
Q: Why don't I just hire someone over there? A: Without critical information, even hiring someone to do the research for you in Germany would be a waste of your money, since it is impossible to find them without a town for the researcher to start in, the birth and/or christening info, name, and faith of your ancestor. Far better to ask me or a German living in Germany. Again, for faith, it is Evangelical / Protestant / Lutheran for non-catholics, usually listed as "Evangelisch." For Catholics, it is listed as "Katholische". One cannot over-emphasize the importance of name, date of birth, place of birth, and faith. Please read the information at this website VERY carefully.....
But ignore any information about International Reply Coupons! Germans
do not use them! They normally will not accept them due to severe restrictions
on size and weight for the Germans to respond! Only the European Euro is
a form of payment. The going rate today is at least 40 Euro. See
Q: So how do I use my computer? I thought it did everything. A: The first online tool you should choose at this point is at our website: the FHL/IGI "Merged Index" link in our Table of Links. Click on that but don't try to analyze it ~ come right back to this Q&A. You can type in the first name and surname of the person you are looking for, choose Germany, and choose "all states." That will show you the persons with that name who have been placed in the FHL online database. Remember that surname and first name spellings have changed dramatically over the years, and many folks just wrote down what they heard. Observe different spellings in the responses you receive. Carefully note the town, city, district, duchy, or whatever political or church region they are in, for those matching, or at least close to, those of your ancestry. Hold it! There's more to read before you do all that!
Q: Is my ancestor going to be there? A: If you are blessed, your ancestor will be at the FHL in SLC. Be aware that not all of the information available there has been entered into the database, and that close spelling of the first and last name is critical to your success. If you do not find anyone by that name, type in only the last name, choose Germany, and "all states." You may get hundreds of names in response. When that happens you have to sort out the ones that are from your area of research. In order to do that you must understand the boundaries and postal (zip) codes, for example, of Hessen. That requires study of the maps available at our website in the Town Locator, the history of the area , and modern postal zip codes. It's all at the website in the Table of Links. One neat option is to GOOGLE the information, like this: Town Name Country Topic, for example: darmstadt germany church. You can try any number of variations on that theme. Don't go there now! You should spend the next 30 days absorbing everything you can about your ancestors and the lives they lived, where they lived, how they lived...... (your public library is not a bad idea if you need peace and quiet while you do that, and there are some books to evaluate here and here. Use the orange search engine to find 'genealogy' and 'german' books by title).
Too impatient to read all this? You need to find another hobby!
Q: Is there a list of surnames in Germany? Archives? A: You can go to the German telephone directory online, the only one complete with instructions. Choose the English language version, BUT use the German-language spellings. Type in the surname, and leave the rest of the data entry point blank. That will show you all persons by that surname living in Germany today. Try again, this time indicating the surname plus the town you are interested in. Didn't work? Try the advanced search option. Notice that you can use a postal (zip) code instead of a town name (but not both). You can even type in the surname plus the first 3 digits of the zip code, for all the towns in the region! What you are looking for is clusters of the surname in and around one city or town. If you discover that your ancestor's surname is found mostly around the city of Darmstadt, for example, that is where you should do your research. You can use the telephone directory to identify the local church and municipal archive addresses by typing in Kirchen (church) or Gemeindeverwaltung (town hall) or Stadtverwaltung (city hall) instead of the surname, and then the town name (all this is explained on EACH page you come to at the website). If the town name is not recognized, then the town has disappeared over the centuries, has been annexed by a larger town, or is being administered by an administrative city, which has the only post office. You can discover the "new" location of the town using Site #4 in the Town Locator, or the alternate site listed there, or the zip code link. Another great tool in this effort is the Surname Frequency Chart just below the German telephone directory. Stick with this Q&A! Don't get ahead of yourself!
Q: How do I access the German databases that are coming online? A: Go to the FOKO link to type in the information you have learned to date. Be sure to carefully read all of the instructions for the use of FOKO, then print out the translation of the German database found at the bottom of the page. In doing so you are trying to establish contact with a living relative in Germany who is researching the same family tree you are. That is much more productive than firing a shotgun into the air and trying to figure out where all the pellets landed! (You can do that, later, shotgun pointed toward your brick wall). You can also discover who else is researching your line by using the Rootsweb search routine found under Search Engines in the Table of Links. Just follow the instructions. On our home page you will see the GOLD BOX containing mailing lists you can join (both surname and location lists). The German database is here: "Genealogy.net". Another valuable link is found here: Genealogy Europe-Germany.
These are all time-consuming steps. They involve understanding the _systems_ initially. You don't drive to your destination, then pull out the map to see if you are there. Hmmmm? First there is offline research, followed by the online research steps I have outlined here. Make a super effort to understand this Q&A and our Q&A-2, along with our Hessen website, the tools of which can be used for any location in Germany. I personally navigate the website in seconds. You can too, if you are a serious researcher.
Research isn't easy, but its rewards cause spirits to soar. More and more information is coming online everyday, especially from Germany, thanks to Genealogy.net (the German databases). One day we won't have to leave home to discover it all. But not today. Today our motto is relentless pursuit - never give up!
What's all this about date format? A: Make absolutely certain that
you ALWAYS use this date format in German genealogy: 01 Jan 1834. Do not
use month-day-year, or all numbers! ! Germans use this:
11.9.1911. That would be November 9, 1911 in the USA, but in the rest
of the world it is 11 September 1911! ! Now you know why we genealogists
use 01 Jan 1834, 11 Sep 1911, 14 May 1836, and so on. Clarity, and lack of
grief when our German friends say they can't find your ancestors records!
Q: I want to jump in, get my info, and get out. Why can't I do that? A: ALWAYS search ONE topic at a time. Ask yourself, "What do I want to know?" then pursue that ONE answer. Don't chase rabbits! Stayed glued to your ONE topic at a time. Example: "I want to know where on the map of Germany my ancestor's town is/was located." Using our numbered list, below, look ONLY for the Town Locator. Scroll through ALL its options. You'll learn to use primarily the first four, but you need to know what is there. Remember the glue! Your next question might be, "What is the history of Hessen, or Sachsen, or Prussia, or Bayern, or some other region? Where are the old maps?" Look, for example, for "Hessen history and maps," and the 16 states of Germany, and don't forget GOOGLE, the wonderful search engine. Stay glued to this ONE topic! Pursue ONLY those links that are applicable to your research area's history and maps. Make absolutely certain that you ALWAYS use this date format in German genealogy: 01 Jan 1834. Do not use month-day-year, or all numbers! EVEN IF YOU ALREADY KNOW the city or town and the address of the archives, the following steps will be very helpful to you in your research. Identify WHO you are looking for, WHEN (applicable dates), WHERE (remember the difference between regions, districts, and cities or towns!), their FAITH or confession, WHAT you already know, and then sum up with WHAT you need to know. Another great help is HOW you got to where you are in your search; WHAT documentation do you already have? Please - if you have already completed some of your family history for a particular area in Germany, let others know so that I will not duplicate your efforts. If you really, really, really want to find your ancestor, you'll use a comprehensive search strategy.
A note about acquiring birth, baptismal, marriage, and death records. The German Privacy Law was changed on 1 Jan 2009. Formerly, you had to prove that you were a direct descendant. That has changed. Read all about it here:
New German Privacy Law:
English Explanation of the new German Privacy Law:
The following doesn't repeat everything you've learned above. It may help you to jump start your search. Think of yourself as the choir director. The Table of Links is your musical score, and the information linked to is the choir. Your leadership is necessary to bring all of the parts in at the right time and in harmony with each other, leading to the grand finale and thunderous applause:
1. The FHL/IGI merged index Find your ancestors online.
2. The German telephone directory, Telefonbuch. Excellent tool for
finding living "cousins" and archive addresses.
3. The links in the Table of Links, for German Surnames , and the Surname Frequency Chart.
4. Use the
Foko, Gov, Gedbas, Metasuche, Hadis, and Vorfahren Suche links in the Table of Links. This is the German effort to equal the FHL Library at Salt Lake City UT, USA, and it gets better every day! For Jewish family research, see this LINK, Table #1. See online SEARCHABLE databases NOW! Click Here! Search Rootsweb mailing list archives NOW! Click Here and Here and Here and Here and Here and Here and Here!!!!!
5. While you are at it, you may want to order the
Vital Records Index and
to the New World. Take a look at
in America," as well! A fundamental world genealogical
website is found
Be sure to come right back here afterwards!
The idea is to compare all the above in order to arrive at a conclusion about surname frequency in certain areas. Uncommon surnames are relatively easy to search in this manner; common surnames practically impossible. Be prepared to sketch or print out a map of Hessen or your geographical area, and then circle the villages / towns / cities where your ancestral surname(s) is clustered. (See Town Locator, #7, below).
6. Learn how to use the Archive/Pay for it links in the Table of Links. Before you write to an archive, make sure you know which one (church or civil), how to pay their research fees and buy postage stamps, and write personal letters in their language. You can also review several languages for letters at click here, but the former asks lots more questions. AND NOW, with low, low international telephone rates, if you speak German, you can call anyone in Germany that you think you might be related to and talk for 5 minutes using 10-10-987 or 10-16-868 or 10-10-297. If you don't speak the language, find someone who does. If there are 10 persons with your surname in the German telephone directory in the location your ancestors came from, you can call them ALL for $15.00 to $20.00, TOTAL! One of them may be your "cousin"! This method removes all the questions about return postage, sending cash, and so on, when writing personal letters. It can even be used to telephone a church or civil archive. Just make sure you speak German or know someone who does; that you have your information ready: name, date and location of birth, parents, children. DON'T GET WINDY! Be brief! And make sure you remember that Germany is NOT in your country's time zone! Don't call ANYONE in their middle of the night! Whoa! Not a nice way to make friends and influence people! See this page for a world time clock.
7. When you arrive at a conclusion about the general area the surname will most likely be found in, go to the Town Locator. Study the benefits of each item there. Site #1 Option #1 allows you to search for towns within 30 miles of any single town (after you determine its coordinates), using the distance-radius calculator. This is an excellent tool for searching villages and towns near to where you think your ancestor came from Maybe .. just maybe .. they actually came from a village 2 miles away! The names of the towns are as they were prior to 1960. I prefer the maps at Site #2, Option #1. The names of the towns there are as they appear today, and you discover which state a town or city is in. Don't overlook Site #3. Site #4 has zip codes, an incredibly valuable tool to keep towns with the same name separate. Avoid confusing towns! Just click, then click on the German colors. There are lots of sites listed in the Town Locator Index, including the INTRODUCTION, which you should not overlook!
8. Now jump to LinkTables and check out the many items under Table #2. The registers listed have been maintained by every village, town, city in Germany for centuries, and are available for research. One of these links to 140 Ortssippenbuecher!! In many cases you can find the registers using the GOOGLE search engine. Simply type in, for example, "ortssippenbuecher", or "ortsfamilienbuecher". Try this (include the quotation marks and plus signs): "ortsfamilienbuch" +darmstadt +genealogy. Now try the German language option, "ortssippenbuch" +darmstadt +genealogie. Notice the German language spelling for genealogy is genealogie. Notice that Ortsfamilienbuch is singular, and Ortsfamilienbuecher is plural. Very important for GOOGLE, a wonderful tool! GOOGLE also has an "advanced" feature which you can explore. Simply type in what you are looking for. If it is in the search engine's list of things to look for, you'll be shown where it is located "out there" on the world-wide web. For a great GOOGLE tips visit http://genealogy.about.com/library/print/n052902a.htm and http://searchforancestors.com/archives/google.html . But come right back here afterwards!
9. Using the Searchable Indexes found under Search Engines, among which is the rsl-database and the Rootsweb search feature, will indicate others researching the surnames. Add this to the surname and location lists available in the Gold Box. Just follow the instructions.
10. In the Table of Links History, Hessen & Misc. Maps learn everything you can about Germany over time. Your area public library, genealogy club, and historical society, will also be helpful in this regard. Be prepared to spend long hours learning about and understanding the many boundary and allegiance changes from 1600 until today for "Hessen". Find Coat-of-Arms and similar information in LinkTables. A great history (not necessarily genealogy) purchase for Hessen can be found at this LINK.
11. The Google search engine. (Why are we doing this, again? GOOGLE is an AWESOME tool!). For example, type the surname you are interested in, plus the word genealogy, like this: +schmidt +genealogy. When you use the plus sign +, do not use quotation marks. There are other combinations of search words you can use, as well. You may (and this has happened) find a website that contains a portion or all of your family tree, being researched by a cousin here or in Germany. Example: +schmidt +family +genealogy +hessen +germany (or if you know the name of the village, town, city, or region, insert it instead of, or with, "hessen" and "germany"). Use the information acquired via GOOGLE in concert with information at the Hessen website. Most search engines will accept "schmidt family genealogy" or +schmidt +family +genealogy or "schmidt family genealogy" +heppeheim (if you know the city or town or village). When you use quotation marks the program looks for that precise language. With plus signs +, the program understands that each of the words must be somewhere in the document. Without quotation marks and plus signs, you are at the mercy of the computer - it will cough up everything imaginable, and most of it will probably not be of interest. Use http://google.com for the Declaration of Intent and the naturalization record. Refer to the Q&A section, above, for links.
12. Check the free Rootsweb site, http://worldconnect.genealogy.rootsweb.com
13. Check Passport Applications, Germany to the USA. Check Ships Passenger Lists, especially the ISTG link. There is exhaustive information at this site. Don't get in a hurry. Check as well at http://google.com by typing in "naturalization records" and "ships passenger lists". Include the quotation marks. Those leaving Germany were required to unregister in the town they were from, register at "police posts" along their route, and register with the police at the port they left from. An example of this is found by Clicking Here. Police records are on file at the FHL at SLC. Familiarize yourself with Germans to America, as well.
14. Compare and contrast online information with documentation that you
have already developed, beginning right where your ancestor last lived: living
relatives, family Bibles, the burial site, the court house, the public schools,
the church records (especially early German churches in your country), the
public library. Look for petitions for naturalization and certificates of
citizenship, ships passenger lists. What other families are buried in the
same area of the cemetery where your ancestor is buried? Check the census
records. Did these same persons live next door? Same neighborhood? Who are
their ancestors? Descendants? Are they still listed in today's telephone
directory? Is there a surname or location mailing list to check? On a map,
trace the route of your first ancestor after arrival in your country. What's
in the Family Bible, or the various Bibles that family members owned? Old
letters? Do you need someone to read that German inscription on the back
of a photograph, drawing, or article? After you have exhausted living relatives,
cemetery information, old Bibles and letters, you'll need to visit, either
online or offline, the federal, state, and county courthouses, the State
Historical Society, your area FHC and genealogy society / club. Make a list
of WHO you are searching for, WHEN, WHERE, WHAT you already know, their
FAITH or CONFESSION, and lastly, WHAT you need to know, before you start
out. Take a small tape recorder or indexed notebook with you, and pencils
with erasers. I searched for 20 years before I finally found letters written
by my great-grandfather, in the most unlikeliest of places. For the REALLY
serious researcher, bent on writing a book that will rival "ROOTS!", there
are hundreds of documents on file across your county and country: Adoption,
Military, Holocaust, Patient files, Diaries, Licenses (marriage, drivers,
fishing, to name just 3), Funeral Home, Coroner's Inquest, Asylum, Orphan
Asylum, Nursing Home. In one instance I discovered that the Chief of Police,
who kept records on everything, had traffic citations back to statehood -
alphabetized! Imagine finding my Dad, who ran a stop sign, back in 1947!
But it had his birthdate and address, valuable tools for a researcher. Take
a loooooong look at this website for insights into how to develop and pursue
your background information:
Here. While you are at it, don't overlook the archives for
Use the Gold Box and other links at the website as follows:
1. In the upper right corner, choose any or all mailing lists to search for a group researching your surnames, and, once you have zero'd in on a certain region, a location mailing list. Be careful: How many spelling variations are there for a surname? What was the usual spelling in Germany? Where did the spelling change, and when? You'll also find several query boards in the Gold Box. You'll find first name and surname information in Table of Links. CAUTION: Germans changed their surname (or had it changed) like you change oil in your car! Watch for clues! What was the name of the region, and of area towns, in those years you are interested in? What is it now? What were the transitional names? (History lesson? Public library visit?). Apply this to specific towns, as well. Watch out for towns with the same name! They are everywhere! That is why the modern zip code is VITAL to your success!! Add it to the town(s) your ancestor came from - you won't end up in the wrong place ever again, and neither will your family and friends helping you with your project, or children and grandchildren who carry the torch!! How about a visit to your local public library, your area FHC, your genealogy society, for local assistance in understanding offline research?
2. Read the FAQs, Q&A info found via the Gold Box. Look for the red buttons. The Gold Box includes the world's largest DNA database for identifying your family through DNA. It is based in Geneva, Switzerland.
TABLE OF LINKS / LINKTABLES
3. Don't overlook "LinkTables" (spinning chain). It includes (but is not limited to) Hessen Emigration A to Z, and Hessen Emigrants #1 and #2. Interested in 18th century emigration (1700-1800)? Click Here. LOTS of reference material.
4. Remember that at our language translation site everything from old German script to modern German can be translated. We have some old script examples at Link Tables. You can't trust electronic translation! Electronic translation gets sentence structure wrong, uses the wrong words in the right place and vice-versa, and does not understand the nuances and peculiarities of language. Don't be embarrassed!
5. Once you have an understanding of HOW to research, you can zero in on specifics. For example, say that you want to know all about Hessen-Nassau. Head for the LinkTables, Table #1. Waldeck? LinkTables, Table #1.
6. Click Here for insights into Search Strategies for Hessen, and you'll definitely want to spend some time at This Link for Germany, as well. (Scroll down to Germany; it ought to keep you busy for a while!) Still excited? Click Here for MORE search strategies! Have an interest in MILITARY information from around 1400 until the present? Check out Military. Another great site for tons of research info is located Here. Want some great insights into German research? Click Here! for the .pdf version.
16 GERMAN STATES
7. Click Here for the 16 German States. Where the 15 states other than Hessen are lacking in tools and support, you can always come back to the Hessen site to use as many of the tools as possible.
While this website's creator has retired and is no longer able to offer
24/7 assistance, he might be able to assist in some circumstances [ dwats
at cox . net ], especially with
One more site you may find useful is ........ http://www.german-way.com.
For a description of state, county, town or city, and church districts,
and other links, such as archive, Q-A, and Q-A2, and this FAQ.
8. Two valuable research tools based in Germany (#9 follows them):
for the massive German Genealogy Network!
of the Past!
(World-Wide, not just Germany)
9. When you hit a bump, read these search stategies. Please don't overlook the website Q&A and Q&A2 file! Read that again! AND - you can also take a peek at THIS LINK, which sort of repeats what you have already learned, but this one is by another author. Another site to look at when you still haven't penetrated your brick wall is at THIS LINK.
Q&A covering all of Germany.
Time on your hands? See Genealogy Geek Elite genealogy directory and portal.
You've seen what I can do, in assisting thousands of researchers; now
here is a guy who has researched his entire family. Check him out!
And I served this one for last, since it is more descriptive than
Remember, the Germans have to pay a monthly fee, an access fee, and a tax, then pay for every second they are online using E-Mail. Some of the persons you contact may be working on their own family tree. Don't be disappointed if they say "no" to your request for assistance, even in their language, by telephone or E-Mail. They may not be willing to stop constructing their own tree to help you construct yours.
As always, Happy Hunting! Relentless Pursuit, Never Give Up!
Author's Note: In the 1970's genealogy became the #1 hobby in the USA. By the 1990's, the frenzy had subsided. Then the internet hit; the frenzy began all over again. It was difficult then to get the Germans onboard. Now, the frenzy in the USA and elsewhere is winding down again, while Germany is building genealogical databases faster than one can imagine, jumping into genealogy with both feet. Sadly, they are now onboard, and the rest of the world isn't - not like it used to be (too many gave up rather than read carefully Research 101). Genealogical research now seems to be moving to individual contacts rather than mailing lists and forums. Even chatrooms have fallen out of favor. Contact me about translations. I speak, read, and write German. Don Watson.
The search engine on the right, "Search Hessen.de", is a German search
Click here to go back to the Intro
GO TO INTERFACE
Ten Commandments of the lowly Archivist
1) Thou shalt be brief.
2) Thou shalt not complain about using microfilm. Thou cannestnot
haveth the original documents.
3) Thou art perfectly capable of finding the restroom on thine own.
4) Eateth not thy peanut butter cups in the Search Room, nor thy
5) Honor the Archivist; bringeth him/her chocolate chip
6) Thou shalt not put a death grip on the microfilm reader at
7) Thy spoiled unruly child shall never enter unto the Search
Room, nay, not to the fifth generation, that Staff sanity
may be preserv-ed.
8) Honor the Sabbath Day. Sitteth not down next to me at church
on Sunday morning as I prayerfully attend the service, and telleth me all
about thy family.
9) Thou shalt not bear false witness (thy grandmother, Brunhilde
Schnarnhorst, was not a full-blooded Indian princess kidnapped to the
Old County, who later stoweth
awayeth on a British Man-of-War and was soldeth into involuntary
servitude for 18 years, whereupon she marrieth a robber-baron,
becoming knowneth as "Brunhilde and Clyde").
10) Thou shalt faithfully obey Commandment Number 5, lest the
chances of thy locating that "critical" birth record be
(Nation-counter installed 29 Aug 2010)