Table of Contents
Item #   Scope

1. Where is, what was?
2. History lesson
3. Research fees and postage, addressing letters

4. Where will I find........
5. What does the abbreviation ____ mean?
6. How do I translate German titles? Political boundaries?
7. What about land records?
8. How far back are the archives? Surnames? What do surnames mean?
9. What was education like in Germany? Apprentice programs?
10. What were the German naming patterns for children?
11. Where do I begin?
12. What was a "Wanderbuch" (Wandering Book)?

13. How do I use the "Downloadable German Empire Link" in the ToL?
14. What emigration records are on file at Marburg, Hessen?
15. What are those Latin abbreviations in genealogy documents?
16. What does my ancestor's occupation of ________ mean?
17. What is it like in Germany today?

18. What about cemeteries?
19. Why can't I find my family in the Church Register? How will I ever find church archives?
20. Is there a Research 101?

ToL = Table of Links.

1. Where is, what was.......

Question: Where is, what was, Hessen?

Hessen has had ever-changing boundaries. While today it is similar to a state in the USA or a province elsewhere, it was at different times several different entities, including regions containing hundreds of towns, such as Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Darmstadt, Hessen-Nassau, Kurhessen, Rheinhessen, and others. When you see it written, for example, Darmstadt, Hessen, it is talking about the city and state. Darmstadt, Hessen-Darmstadt (like Tulsa, Oklahoma) refers to the city and former Grand Duchy, or to the city and one of the modern federal administrative districts in the state of Hessen. It depends upon the context. When you see, for example, Hessen-Kassel (see the dash?), it is talking about a region containing hundreds of villages, towns, and cities, but Kassel, Hessen, refers to city, state (like Wichita, Kansas). The placement of the comma and the dash are critical to your understanding. Do not write "Hesse Cassel" or "Hesse Nassau" or "Hesse Darmstadt" if you intend the city of Kassel or Nassau or Darmstadt. These are decidedly North American misunderstandings. The German form is City, State (Nassau, Hessen), if that is what you mean; if you mean the region, then it is Hessen-Nassau. The dash is critical. See more at the website.

Question: Where is, what was, Starkenburg?

|||| The Grand Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt was divided into two areas without a continuous common boundary. Frankfurt am Main was a free-standing city, a state of its own, "Freiestadt Frankfurt." Roughly speaking, the northern part of Hessen (from Frankfurt north) was known as Oberhessen (Upper Hessen), and the southern part (south of Frankfurt) was known as Starkenburg, after the castle of the same name, located in the Odenwald (the Forest of Odes). These divisions of Hessen ended in 1937. The provincial nature of Hessen ended in 1945. Reorganization designated it a state.

Question: Where is, what was, Kurhessen?

|||| See also our Table of Links (ToL) German Map-History link. Kurhessen existed as an independent entity until 1866 and included these districts and provinces in the 1840s: Niederhessen, with the towns of Kassel, Eschwege, Fritzlar, Hofgeismar, Homberg, Melsungen, Rotenburg, Schaumburg, Witzenhausen, and Wolfhagen. OberHessen, with the towns of Marburg, Frankenberg, Kirchain, and Ziegain. Fulda, with the towns of Fulda, Hersfeld, Hünfeld, and Schmalkalden. Hanau, with the towns of Hanau, Gelnhausen, and Schlüchtern. Today, Kurhessen is known as Hessen-Kassel.

Question: Where is, what was, Kurpfalz?

|||| Kurpfalz is a region around the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg today. In former times there was a German province called "The Pfalz," which had a "Kurfürst" (Elector over the region) as its leader, and was therefore known as the "Kurpfalz," (Kur - Pfalz). This is not one region anymore. Parts of it are found in Rheinland-Pfalz, Baden-Württemberg, and Hessen. It shows up on our maps at the website. See also Hessen History & Maps.

Question: Where is, what was, the Rheingau and the Niederwald?

|||| The Rheingau (Rhein District) is the part of Nassau where there are wine vinyards. Today it is a row of villages and small towns on the right shore of the Rhein River, downstream from the city of Wiesbaden. The Niederwald (lower forest) is a hill very close to Rüdesheim am Rhein (on the Rhein River).

Question: Where is, What was, The Paltinate?

|||| See

2. History

Question: Where will I find the history of Germany?

|||| In the Table of Links (ToL), including History Lesson, German Ancient Maps-History, German History & Research, German History 1815-1845, Germany -- Prussia, more German FAQs, and more. The origin of the German tribes and much of its history is sort of like this: In Western Europe, the French, Spanish and Italian people, even the English or, in the north, the Scandinavians and even the Finns, named the nearest neighbor group of the Germans after the name of the closest Germanic tribe. So the French called Germans "Allemands",  the Spaniards "Alemanes" (their nearest neighbor tribe were the "Alemanni", which translates to "all men"), who lived on the east and west bank of the upper Rhein river and in Switzerland; for Italians a German is a "Tedesco," after the German word "theodisc"; the Arabs (in Spain and later on all Arabs) called Germans "Franks" because of their nearest neighbors, the Franks of France and Northern Spain; and the Finns called them "Saksa" after their nearest neighbors in Sachsen (the Saxons) of Northern Germany. The Swiss refer to Germans as "Swabish," (also part of the Alemanni, like the tribes in eastern France, the Alsacians, and the population in Baden along the upper Rhein), since their nearest neighbors to the east and north were the "Schwaben" (Swabians).  The Germanic tribes understood themselves not as a nation but as very close relatives by religion, language (tribal dialects) and customs. During the 6th century, the Salian and Ripuarian Franks, whose homelands were at the lower Rhine between Cologne (Köln) and the North Sea and the Moselle area respectively, began to forcibly unite the neighbor Germanic tribes, one-by-one.  During the 9th century, in the Frankish Empire of Charlemagne, the word "theodisc" (which meant "part of the people", or "belonging to the people") was used to describe the strong union of Germanic tribes within the Frankish Reich and to distinguish between the "Romance" (German: "Welsch," which first meant "non-Germanic" and later "French") - cf. "Walloon"; not to be confused with the "Welsh" and their languages within the western parts of the empire. This word and its meaning was the origin of the later High German word "deutsch" (cf. "Dutch").  The English (Angles, Saxons and Jutes) used the word "Dutch" ("theodisc" --> "deutsch") for their relatives and  neigbors, the Germanic tribes on the continent (Flemish, Sealanders, Hollanders), too; only centuries later the word "Dutch" became the term for the language of the Netherlanders and the population itself, especially when the Netherlands became an independent country after the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) (as the homeland of the Salian Franks, the Netherlands always were part of the German Empire).  In the English language the word "Dutch" (today) usually means the population and language of the Netherlands, but it also still (sometimes) means "German people" in the sense of "deutsch" (Pennsylvania Dutch, etc.).  The Germanic people in Scandinavia, the Danes, Swedish and Norwegian, call Germans "Tysk" ("theodisc") which naturally also means "German". So "deutsch" = "Dutch" and originally both were the same word for the whole population in Germany when the tribes united to become *one* people (Germanic: "theot" = people). The word "theot / teot / teut / diet" is part of many names, like Theoderich, Dietrich, Dieter or Dietmar, also for places, e.g. Dietbergen (= a place, protecting the people). The Dutch language by origin is a Frankish dialect (Mittelniederfraenkisch), the dialect of the Salian Franks, which already during the Middle High German period (1200 - 1500) started to develop a language. Today Dutch has its own grammar and rules whereas German dialects have no grammar and there are no rules for spelling of dialectical words. There are many sounds of many dialects which can't be expressed by certain characters at all. The fact is, you can speak a dialect and pronounce the words, but there is no way to spell them correctly. Now the new High German (neuform) is the common language and *must* be used as a bridge to understanding people from other regions. In Germany, many different dialects are spoken all over the country and thus it is difficult to understand people using a strange (not local) dialect. That is difficult to imagine for the English speaker. In a true sense, English has not dialects, but accents. The Swiss call their dialect "Schwytzer Dytsch" (Swiss German) and they prefer to use it instead of the High German language. However, the Swiss dialect is not Low German but an Upper German dialect; Low German ("Plattdeutsch") is spoken in the lowlands in northern Germany and is not a dialect but a language, as well as Frisian in northern Netherlands and north-eastern and northern coastal Germany. A special thanks! to Jürgen Fritsche of Germany for his insights into this understanding. For additional information about Germany and its many configurations, go to, which has many language options. For background information, please visit

3. Research letters, research deposits, German postage stamps

Question: How do I write to Germany? What about postage? Zip Codes?

|||| See the ToL for German Archives and letters. See also Paying for Research/German Postage, Postal Zip Codes, and Telephones in the ToL.

Question: What's all this about knowing the date and place of  birth, anyhow?

|||| Each village has family and town registers which contain all the names of the citizens. They also have resident registers, which persons moving in and out of villages were required to fill out. Until recently, the police department handled the latter. Now it is known as the Einwohnermeldeamt and is handled by civilian employees of town government. The police also recorded the names of those leaving Germany, and those arriving from other countries. This was in addition to passports. In 1960, again in 1971, a little in 1989, and again in 1991, smaller communities in Germany were annexed by larger ones. In some cases, several communities were combined into one town, even though they might have been miles apart. The name of the new "cluster city" was sometimes arbitrarily assigned. Local officials chose the name of a nearby mountain, river, or lake, as the new name for the "cluster." When villages merged like this, town and family registers, and resident registers and police records, were often moved into a central location. THEREFORE ... it is difficult to find genealogical records in Germany without the full name, exact date of birth, and exact village of birth, and their faith or confession, for your ancestor. Before 1871, generally, you find them in the church archives. After the creation of the German Empire in 1871, the decree went out that these records would be retained in civil archives. By 1876, that had been accomplished. However, many churches maintained duplicates, after 1871. Church records after 1876 are not available for genealogical purposes; only the civil archives (registers) are available. For towns with only one zip code, addressing your letter is simple. Here is the example:

For the church archives:

Evgl. Pfarramt              (non-Catholic) <for Catholic, type Kath. Pfarramt on this line>
00000 Townname

For the municipal archives:

Stadtverwaltung       (city) <for a smaller town, type Gemeindeverwaltung on this line>
00000 Townname

Just plug in the zip code and town name. Zip codes are found in our Town Locator, Site #4 and at this LINK. One method which has been successful in many cases is to look in the modern German telephone directory for persons with the last name of your ancestor still living in the village, or the area of the village, you are interested in. You then write them a letter in the German language, enclosing a self-addressed envelope, with German postage for an airmail response. You can access the German telephone directory from the Table of Links, as well. Click on the directory link, then choose Telefonbuch or Telephone Book. The Table of Links is also accessed from our home page, where you will find much more information about paying for research, postage, etc.

Addressing a letter to Hessen when the town isn't there, anymore

Addresses are critically important. You must know the 5-digit zip code, no exceptions. If a town has only one zip code, no street address is required. If the town has disappeared, or has been annexed, or has become part of a cluster of villages with one administrative center, you need to indicate in the address on your envelope that it once existed, and on your letter inside. Do it like this:

Evgl. Pfarramt (+ old town name)
Forstmeisterplatz 1
12345 Heppenheim
(the new town name, or post office, or administrative town)

Evgl. Pfarramt Freiburg (non-Catholic Parrish Office Freiburg)
12345 Heppenheim
(the post office that handles "old Freiburg" letters)

Kath. Pfarramt Freiburg
(Catholic Parrish)
12345 Heppenheim (now administered from)

4. Where will I find information about........

Question: I don't know the village my ancestors came from. How do I find them?

|||| Start where you live and work your way back through all the records available in the USA or wherever you live. See Research 101, or the same link in the GOLD BOX, home page, for step-by-step instructions.

Question: What can I expect when I visit local archives in Germany?

|||| The local church and the town archives in Germany are being overrun by Americans looking for their ancestry. You may receive helpful assistance, or you may detect a significant frown when you walk through the door. In many cases there is only the church pastor and his part-time secretary, with responsibilities for all church functions. City Hall may be a single clerk. They will gasp in amazement that you are there asking about your ancestors, if their archives have already been filmed by the LDS and are on file wherever you live! See "A Word of Caution".  In some cases they will let you look at their archives. You'll be amazed at the ancient books they have available, and your inability to read them. Modern Germans even have difficulty with the old German script, Table #2, LinkTables. Find out if there is a central archive that has more help, and ask for directions. Buy a good map and study it before you go to the archive.  If they let you in and assist you, don't be surprised if no photocopy machine is available. If there is one, be prepared to pay for the copies. In order to get the right copies, you must be VERY specific in what you are looking for. They won't look if you don't know the name, birth date, town of origin, and faith!  If they have a film reader, you'll have to pay to use it. Be sure to ask about Ortssippenbücher (town and family histories). Don't expect everyone to speak your language. You may have to get a local English-speaker to go to the archive with you. At City Hall, ask about a young, energetic student who wants to practice language skills. You should also ask about the local "Heimatverein," which is a social group that promotes the town history. They may have a language specialist in their group. You should also ask about the local Verein für Familien- und Wappenkunde (the genealogical society). Whatever you do, always observe their opening, mid-day break, and closing hours. Another tip that can reap great rewards: German archives are full of marginal notes, penciled in by a pastor or clerk. The information you are looking for may be in one of those marginal notes next to the family you are looking for. If you can get a copy rather than an extract, do it! For an example of a 1759 church register, CLICK HERE then use your back button to come back here.

Question: What about Archive Abbreviations, Archives, Cemeteries, Census, Dialects, Emigration, Germans to America, HESAUS, Hessian Soldiers, Language Translation, Old German Script, Passports,  Ports of Entry and Ships Passenger Lists, Professions and Occupations, Researchers, Town Locations?

All the links to these are at the Hessen Website, ToL and the Hessen Website LinkTables.

The German Census Office has information about when a census was taken and where: While these are primarily statistical in nature, some MAY be valuable for genealogical research (for additional census info, click here). Consult your area Family History Center for details. As an example of one item HESAUS (Hessische Auswanderer, Hessen Emigrants) covers the time period up to 1866, held in the State Archives in Marburg. For Hessen-Kassel, however, only those documents from 1840 thru 1850 are available. Critical to your inquiry will be your ancestors name, date of birth, place of birth, faith, and if you know it, the date they emigrated, or at least the date they arrived in your country. Please read "Paying for Research/German Postage" before you write. Address information for Marburg is listed under "Archives" in the Table of Links, "City, Church, Military".

Question: What about Archive Types, Archive Jurisdictions, Definitions, Which to write to? (In each case be sure to check with your area FHC at the LDS library, first!)

|||| Evangelische Pfarramt: Evangelical (non-Catholic) Church Office
Katholische Pfarramt: Catholic Church Office.

Kirchenbücher and Kirchenbuchbearbeitungen: Church Registers, any denomination. These contain birth, baptism, marriage, emigration entries, and death records. In the case of baptismal records one should also ask about the Konfirmationbücher (Confirmation Registers). German archives are full of marginal notes, penciled in by a pastor or clerk. The information you are looking for may be in one of those marginal notes next to the family you are looking for. That is another reason to ask for duplicates of the information, rather than an extract created by a clerk. Generally, you can only access persons in your direct line, not lateral lines, and only if you can show direct descent, for any information 95 years old or less. A notarized, certified document, preferably in the German language, is essential.

Stadtarchiv or Zivilarchiv: The City or Town archive which will have individual and family records. There are legal documents known as Gerichtsbücher or Personenstandgesetz which are maintained locally, at the district (county) level, and at the state level.

Staatsarchiv or Landesarchiv: State Archives. Typically they will have on file not only documents concerning individuals and families, which may be duplicates of family and town archives, but will also have available German census records, Guilds and their membership, vital statistics, military documents, petitions for emigration, passports, and similar. One will want to inquire about these using Auswanderenlisten (Emigrants Lists), Musternlisten (Muster Rosters-Military), Grundbücher (Real Estate or Property), and Gilderbücher (the Guilds registers).

Polizeiamt and Polizeimelderegister: Police Registration. Registering any movement between towns, and emigration out of the jurisdiction, required reporting to the police in the town one was leaving, and wherever one went. Police Registers are on file thru your area FHC at LDS.

The emigrant had to show a passport and identity document many, many times along the emigration route within Germany, and always to the local police. Starting about 1840 the police began keeping records of personal residences, and any change of residence. To see these police records, go to the Family History Library link. Under "locality search" find the town, and look for the lists under "population."

Einwohnermeldeamt and Einwohnermelderegister: Civil Registration. This civil office has replaced the requirement of reporting to the Police Department, but the registration procedure is the same. Each person / family was required to register (and still is).

Ahnenpaß and Personalausweis: Personal Identification (ID) which all Germans must carry.
Ahnenstammkartei: Ancestral Card Index.
Ortssippenbücher: Town Register which deals with the town history.
Ortsfamilienbücher: Town Family Registers.
Adressbuch: Address Book. The forerunner to the telephone directory.
Geschlechtbücher: Ancestral Register.
Bürgerbücher: Resident Citizen Register.

You may ask the Civil Office for these documents, along with family trees that are on file.

Standesamt: Office of the Registrar, who is responsible for the recording of births, marriages, marriage ceremonies, and deaths. Maintains the registry of births, marriages, families, and deaths. Recorder of decisions made by foreign governments in these matters. Issues marriage licenses, handles nationality issues, naturalizations, and name changes. Records and certifies wills. Maintains files. Issues various permits. Registrar offices are regulated as to what types of files can be released. (The churches are not quite so limited, but you will encounter church archivists who follow the German data protection regulations precisely). The amount shown (30 to 100 German Marks), is no longer applicable. Rates can range from 25 to 60 Euro per hour. The law does not permit you to tell an archivist that you will pay only if the information you seek is found, or that you will pay them after the research. A research fee deposit at a minimum is required, and then an agreement will be reached with you about the actual research project. Fees are set by law, as are the rules for accessing the archives.

Familienarchiv: Family Archive. These are found, typically, outside of church and civil offices, usually by a family. Ernest Thode, the premier writer for anything German, has written a book about them. You'll need his book in order to find any relevant address information. You can find him using any search engine.

Zehntgericht: The *Zehnte* = *tithe* = the *tenth* part of the agricultural yields. As a tax in kind (grain, wine, cattle, etc.) it had to be delivered to the sovereignty and to the church. Apart from being paid in cash the local church ministers e.g. got a tithe. In many villages in Germany there still is a big old building called *Zehntscheuer* [Scheuer = barn] where the tithe was stored. It has often been beautifully restored and, as a kind of festival hall, now serves for social events (concerts, lectures, and the like). Over of the centuries there was much quarrel over this tithe and therefore a *Gericht* [= court] had to decide on disputed matters to be settled.  Thanks to Dieter Duill for this explanation. (Finding minutes of the Zehntgericht disputes may be impossible. It would not be wise to spend much time in the effort).

The "Zentgericht"  (note the different spelling) was a political jurisdiction. A Landkreis (county) was divided into 100 sections, for example, and a town was found within a particular section or "Gau" (district) consisting of several villages, a court, and a military district. A "Zentschultheiß" was a "Mayor" over a district and the deputy of the "Zentgraf" (Count in charge of the counties jurisdiction). "Zent" or "Cent" meant 1/10th. A Count headed the Landkreis, and was the Senior official responsible for the court system, police and military affairs, with his deputy the "Schultheiß". The "Schultheiss" was the forerunner of the Burgermeister (Mayor) and Oberburgermeister (Lord Mayor) of each town or city.

If you write to any archive in Germany be sure to indicate whether you want a copy of the actual documents, or if you will accept an extract. The extract will come to you in typewritten format, signed by the authority having jurisdiction, and notarized. Remember when you write to include a research deposit fee of at least $35 plus $5.00 for postage (or $5.00 in German postage stamps), and to include full name, date of birth, place of birth, and faith (confession). See the information at this LINK for details.

For the Family History Library Archives, CLICK HERE.

Question: I've heard about German privacy laws. What are they?

|||| Here is a URL you can click on for this information:

New German Privacy Law:

English Explanation of the new German Privacy Law:

While these changes apply to CIVIL registers, the church, whether Lutheran or Catholic or "other" often follows German civil legislation, since the church in Germany is supported by the government.

|||| Here is a URL for foreign research techniques. Don't try them until you have completely exhausted all the information right at your fingertips in your own country!

5. What does FHC, FHL, LDS, IGI mean?

|||| Family History Center, Family History Library, Latter Day Saints, and International Genealogical Index. All found at our website in the ToL   and   LinkTables.

6. How are various German titles and political boundaries translated?

|||| Kaiser = Czar, Emperor; König = King; Prinz or Fürts = Prince

Herzog = Duke; Marktgraf = Marquis; Graf = Earl; Ritter = Knight

Herzogtum = Duchy; Grossherzogtum = Grand Duchy

Fürtstum = Principality; Reich = Empire or Greater Nation

Dorf = Village; Gemeinde = Community; Stadt = Town, City; Kreis = District (County); Staat = State

7. What about land records? Do they exist?

|||| Yes, but.....
Land records can provide family connections over time. Most researchers do not bother with them, since they usually involve only wealthy land owners. Although they are available at state archives, getting an archivist to search through them is usually impossible. You can hire someone, or put in a personal appearance and do the search yourself, under supervision. You should first check the Family History Library under "Land and Property" in Locality Search. You may also want to look there for "Dwellings," which involves home owners.

8. How far back do the archives go? How far back are surnames found?

|||| See the Table of Links under Archives, Pre-Church. Protestant church records were kept from the 16th century onwards. The Catholic records were started in 1563 with baptismal and marriage records, death records in 1614. During the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) a great number of church records were destroyed. When Napoleon invaded "Germany" he established his own archive system at city hall, not at the church. After he was defeated the "Germans" switched back to their own system (the church) until 1871. By 1876 government registration offices (Standesämter) were firmly established as the official records source for the recording of birth, marriage, and death records. Surnames began to appear in numbers in the 12th century. Our thanks to Dieter Duill of Germany for his contribution to these insights. For more information on surnames, type in surname, then try surnames, at this link:

English Equivalents, German Surnames; Explaining German Surnames; What's in a Name?; When Did Surnames Begin?

You can also type in the exact phrases, above.

9. What was education like in Germany?

|||| Since the 16th century compulsory education was mandatory, but difficult to enforce. Those who made it through the 4th year of elementary school were plucked out by their parents to help in the fields and at home, and there weren't always enough qualified teachers or facilities for older students. Some parents elected to send their children to live with relatives or a family in a larger community, so that they could continue their education, at least through the 8th grade. "Gymnasium" was the equivalent of high school in the USA and was not free. As factories began to develop, the larger cities employed children, often working in ghastly occupations for little pay, no benefits, and no health and safety protection. The church in Germany attempted to counter this problem with "Sunday School," a time for Christian tutoring and three square meals. The other six days the children were working, often 12 hours daily. In spite of it all, Germany offered its young people the best education on the continent of Europe - for those who could attend. Those who could not went into apprenticeship programs upon completion of the 8th grade. In former times certain types of craftsmen were required after passing their first examinations (Gesellenpruefung) to spend a certain amount of time (2 or 3 years) away from home, wandering about the whole country, finding odd-jobs, then moving on. Before they left home (Germans are very efficient when it comes to tracking the movement of the citizenry), the local Police Department issued a "Wanderbuch", identifying their home residence, stating that they had passed their examinations, and documenting their purpose in wandering about. At each place they worked the Master of the trade initialed the document to prove that they had, in fact, worked while wandering about for 2 or 3 years. If one of these is found during genealogical research it can be used to document the home residence of the ancestor. However, they are not readily available. Normally, someone has kept one in a trunk in the attic, along with the old family Bible. This underlines the importance of a telephone call or letter to persons who may be of your ancestry and who live in Germany today.

Many trades, such as butchers, tanners, shoemakers, and tailors, were organized into professional associations called guilds [Gilden or Zünfte or Innungen](use these as search criteria at Google, plus the town name). The purpose of a guild was to provide training of apprentices and otherwise regulate the practice of the trade in the area. Beginning in the eleventh century, guilds were established in major cities (use Google). The records of these guilds often contain.......

1. Lists of members

2. Information about journeymen practicing in the town

3. Marriages of journeymen,

4. Advancements from the rank of apprentice to journeyman and from journeyman to master craftsman.

5. Records of children similar to church baptism records.

6. Contracts between masters and parents of apprentices.

Boys from ages 7 to 18 could be apprenticed for four to seven years in trades such as shoemaking, barrel making, blacksmithing, and tanning. Young girls often became servants or lived with relatives. Germans completed high school at grade 8, the equivalent of grade 12 in the USA. They immediately chose whether they would go on to college, or establish themselves in an apprenticeship program. The same program is in place today, except that Germans complete high school at grade 9.

Guild records are usually found in the town archives or in the possession of the modern guilds. The records are extensive, but few have been published or indexed. To use guild records, you need to know your ancestor's place of residence and craft. Since sons often had the same occupation as their fathers, you may find information about several generations of a family. To find town archive addresses, read carefully the information at ./telephones.htm, and the information you uncover about guilds in towns and cities, using Google.

The male population is included in guild records; wives and daughters are sometimes mentioned. Guild records are most useful where they exist before the beginning of church records. Because of their antiquity, such records are often hard to read, even for persons fluent in German. If you are blessed to find a guild record for your ancestor, go to ./donstrans.htm for translation options for old script.

Keep in mind that you cannot guess about guild records. You MUST know the craft the person was employed in, and the village, town, or city involved. Remember that many, many, many villages, towns, and cities in Germany have the same name. You can keep them separate using the modern postal (zip) code. Don't spend hours, days, weeks in the wrong location! Remember as well that an archivist WILL NOT search any available records if you do not have a full name, craft, location, and dates.

10. What were the naming patterns for Germany? How were children named?

|||| Remember that a unified state called Germany did not exist before 1871, and even after 1871 it was only a loose confederation of independent states, the confederation including Prussia. Naming patterns varied from kingdom to kingdom, principality to principality, duchy to duchy, state to state, and so on. In many cases, 10 sons in the same family might all have the "first, first name", usually Johann. That was to honor John of the Bible, or sometimes a grandparent or godparent. The child went by the middle name ("second, first name") throughout life, which was his "Rufname" (Called-by name). The naming patterns link is found in LinkTablesTable #2. This will offer insights into "old country" patterns.

11. Where do I begin?

|||| And the correct answer your own back yard. Your attic, your old letters, your family Bible, living relatives, local records, where your nearest deceased ancestor is buried, the records at the church they attended. If you have only a surname (and it might not be spelled like the original), you need to immerse yourself in the records available right where you live, and work your way back until you find dates and places of birth, at a minimum. It may not be as exciting as going directly overseas, but if you go directly overseas you'll be walking in an impenetrable forest, headed in the direction of quicksand and tar pits. See "The Complete Beginner's Guide" in the Table of Links under the USA flag and USA genealogy records. And PLEASE! do not overlook Research 101, "How to Research".

12. What was a "Wanderbuch"?

|||| In former times certain types of craftsmen were required after passing their first examinations (Gesellenpruefung) to spend a certain amount of time (2 or 3 years) away from home, wandering about the whole country, finding odd-jobs, then moving on. Before they left home (Germans are very efficient when it comes to tracking the movement of the citizenry), the local Police Department issued a "Wanderbuch", identifying their home residence, stating that they had passed their examinations, and documenting their purpose in wandering about. At each place they worked the Master of the trade initialed the document to prove that they had, in fact, worked while wandering about for 2 or 3 years. If one of these is found during genealogical research it can be used to document the home residence of the ancestor. However, they are not readily available. Normally, someone has kept one in a trunk in the attic, along with the old family Bible. This underlines the importance of a telephone call or letter to persons who may be of your ancestry and who live in Germany today.

13. How do I use the "Downloadable German Empire link"?

|||| This site is a wonderful resource for genealogists, and the quality of the map downloads is excellent. Here are instructions for using the site.

1. Know the name of the place you're seeking to locate. Go to the URL

2. At the top of the page are instructions. Click on the link for "accompanying Gazetteer" which takes you to the index of place names.

3. Click on the link which will include your place name. For example, if I wanted to find the place Beerfelden, I'd click on #2: "Alt-Wied - Beilstein (a. d. Mosel)" which contains the indexed places from Alt-Wied to Beilstein an der Mosel, including my Beerfelden. That click downloads a file which can be opened with Acrobat Reader (available free on the internet at You will have the opportunity to place that file in whatever directory you specify on your hard disk.

4. Open the Acrobat Reader application then open the file which has been saved on your hard drive (for my example it's the file named "P02Index.pdf").

5. Using the zoom feature of Acrobat as needed, find the entry for your place. My example, Beerfelden, gives the following: "Beerfelden VII I2". Make a note of that code.

6. Go back to the same Ravenstein atlas webpage you were on (when you clicked to download the index page), and click on the link at the top of the page that says, "Download Maps".

7. On the new page that comes up, click on the link to the correct map for your place name. For my example, Map 7 [that's VII in Roman numerals], quadrant F1 - M5 will be the one which contains the I2 locator [that's like most maps which have letters across the top and numbers down the side to help you find the more precise location of your place]. Clicking here begins the download of another file which can be opened in Acrobat Reader. Again, specify the directory where you want that file placed.

8. After the download is complete, open the map file in Acrobat Reader [mine is named "Map7NE.pdf] and find the square that is indicated by your code (the whole map has a fine red line grid). In my example, at the intersection of I vertically and 2 horizontally, I find the town Beerfelden.

9. Either keep or discard the index pages, but when you find a map that has your villages, keep *it* on your hard drive and use it repeatedly. The index pages don't take long to download, and can be used as needed. [The maps take up 2.4 to 2.5 MB on my hard drive, while an index page is 945 K.]

10. ***Here's the most important part of the whole process: use maps (old and modern) to become familiar with the area your ancestors lived in, its relationship to the rest of Germany and Europe, the topographical features which influenced how they lived and how they got from one place to the next, what occupational opportunities they had, etc. When you discover a new place, find its location and how it relates to the existing places you know about. If your ancestor married in a different town and you don't know where that might have been, use your maps and make some educated guesses. Widen your search in ever-increasing circles around the place you know, and you'll probably discover where his wife came from and where they got married! Don't underestimate the importance of maps to efficient genealogical research!

This information courtesy Dona Ritchie,

14. What emigration records are on file at Marburg, Hessen?

|||| That depends upon the when the emigration took place. After 1866 the term "Hessen" concerns Hessen-Darmstadt. Those records are maintained at the Hessen State Archives, Karolinenplatz 3, 64289 Darmstadt, Germany. After 1866, the Marburg region was part of Prussia. The computer project HESAUS (Emigrants from Hessen) refers only to the time _up to_ 1866. Marburg can provide certain printed records and excerpts. It is important to have the emigrants first and last name, date of birth, faith (confession), and most importantly, the approximate date of the emigration. Emigration dates can be discovered using ships passenger lists at our website, or via the National Archives in Washington, D.C. You can order or view microfilms there or via the Family History Library, Salt Lake City.

15. What are those Latin abbreviations in genealogy documents?

a.a.s.   died in the year of his/her age (anno aetitis suae) (in the 79th year of his life, for example).
d.s.p.   died without issue (decessit sine prole supersita)
d.s.p.l.   died without legitimate issue (decessit sine prole legitimia)
d.s.p.m.s.   died without surviving male issue (decessit sine prole mascula supersita)
d.unm   died unmarried
d.v.p.   died in the lifetime of his father (decessit vita patris)
d.v.m.   died in the lifetime of his mother (decessit vita matris)
Et al   and others (et alia)
Inst   present month (instans)
Liber   book or volume
Nepos   grandson
Nunc Nuncapative   will, an oral will, written by a witness
Ob   he/she died (obit)
Relict widow or widower   (relicta/relictus)
Sic   so or thus, exact copy as written
Testes   witnesses
Utl   late (ultimo)
Ux or vs   wife (uxor)
Vit   widow (vituma)
Viz   namely (videlicet)

We have language translation at this LINK.

16. What does my ancestor's occupation of _________ mean?

|||| For the answer click here on Link Tables. Choose Table #2. Don't be surprised by some of the occupations you find there. For example, Dieter Duill makes this contribution to the FAQ file:

"Well into the 18th century the *Scharfrichter* was a person of ill repute and considered as being dishonest. *Scharfrichter* were pariahs of society, who compulsionarily had to hand on/bequeath their jobs to their sons, by which fact real *Scharfrichter* dynasties gradually came into being. The *Scharfrichter* had to marry their children to people like them. The Augsburg Town Charter of 1276, the oldest that there is in describing the rights and duties  of this new office, calls him a *Hurensohn* [son of a bitch]. Later more and more nicknames originated: *Teufel* [devil],  *Knüpfauf* [colloquial for the one who ties the knot], *Kurzab* [the one who cuts short], *Angstmann* [the one who produces fear], etc. A *Scharfrichter* had also to do jobs that no citizen/burgess voluntarily wanted to do: to keep prostitutes under supervision, to chase lepers out of town, to clean toilets, and to find a knacker. Quite often he was not allowed to be married in church, to have a religious funeral, or to communicate. In the 19th century things changed. The disgust towards these people slowly gave way to a kind of shy respect and the mentioning of his name only produced a slight tingling horror. A decrease of this job, beginning in the middle of the 19th century, due to fewer death sentences caused many *Scharfrichter* to become unemployed. They became vets, farmers, livestock dealers, soapboilers or carriers. Their children mostly took up the trade of manual workers, and already their grandchildren did very often not know that their ancestors had handled the sword of execution."

17. What is it like in Germany today?

There are about 87,000 unincorporated communities (villages with no conveniences), unincorporated villages (with conveniences), incorporated villages, towns, and cities (including suburbs which may be known locally by the suburb name), for 82.6 million people (last census). In many cases these entities are so close together that it is impossible to tell one from the other. In many cases a central administrative city administers as many as ten smaller communities, but they are all known officially by one name. In those cases the only post office is in the administrative city. The number of persons has grown considerably with the influx of Russians and those from the Balkans since the breakup of Communism and the several wars in Yugoslavia. It would be accurate to say that there are now 87,000 "entities" in Germany, although many of them constitute one collection of homes, shops, factories, schools, etc.

Germany has a huge Turkish minority. The smallest minority so far is from Albania. With its "open borders" policy for those fleeing other countries (political asylum) and those seeking normal status through immigration, Germany has become a melting pot of too many people in too little area, the cradle-to-grave social welfare system coming apart. In most cases totally free health care is now 80%/20% like many health insurance policies in the USA. A free trip to the pharmacy is also a thing of the past. The socialized medicine system now more closely resembles the HMO system in the USA, with no real choice of doctors, and with the patient bearing a greater portion of the burden. Still, they find room for 35 paid holidays annually, and 30 days paid vacation, along with full retirement benefits similar to our social security system, but with much higher benefits in dollars, normally equal to or exceeding their annual salary when employed. The 35-hour workweek is standard. The German Mark was worth about 50 cents against the U.S. dollar. However, the Mark was retired in January 2002, along with most European currencies, in favor of the new Euro Economic Unit (EU), which is about equal to the U.S. dollar.

18. What about cemeteries?

1. Is it true that graves in Germany are recycled? Yes.
2. How often are they recycled? Every 12 to 25 years.

3. Do the people have no say in the matter? Until 2000 one could continue a lease for as long as one wanted to. Not so today. The grave will be evacuated and used by someone else. However, the same plot may be used over and over again for members of the same family. Some gravesites in Germany belong to individual owners, alive today. Whether they will continue to be allowed to use the plot year-after-year, without intervention by an outside authority, is questionable. In a "personal knowledge case" one person paid DM 10 monthly for her plot lease, from the end of WW-II until her death in 1992. We have been informed that her grave will be evacuated in 2012, whether we like it or not, and even though her lease payments far exceeded that which was required.

4. What happens to the body? The remains are buried in a common plot or incinerated, along with the coffin. The stone is recycled and the powder reused for all sorts of purposes, including highways.

Here is an extract from German law (not all jurisdictions have the same time limits):

§ 11

(usage rights)

(1) Die Benützungsfrist für alle Gräber beträgt 10 Jahre. Eine Verlängerung auf weitere 5 Jahre ist mehrmals möglich, sofern ein Anspruch nach den §§ 1 (2) und 10 (2) besteht.
(Usage is for a maximum of 10 years, which may be extended for one 5 year period, if permitted by law)

(2) Das Benützungsrecht an einer Grabstätte kann nur mit Zustimmung der Friedhofsverwaltung übertragen werden.
(The extension requires the approval of the administrator of the cemetery, a municipal office)

(3) Nach dem Tode des Nutzungsberechtigten geht das Recht auf den Erben über.
(After "first use", others may be buried in the same plot. The plot goes to the heirs - provided necessary fees have been paid and are continued annually. The gravestone is replaced each time a new body is placed in the grave).

5. What evidence is there of the death of the person if the grave is gone? Every city, town, village, church, has cemetery records. The information from the gravesite is faithfully recorded and on file at either civil or church offices, depending upon who owns the cemetery. The civil office managing these records is known as the Friedhofverwaltung. You can write to the municipality (civil office) at....

Friedhofverwaltung (+ old town name, if applicable)
street address (not necessary in communities with only one zip code)
zip code + town name

and to the church office at

Kirchenamt-Friedhof (+old town name, if applicable)
street address (not necessary in communities with only one zip code)
zip code + town name

All inquiries must be in the German language and must be specific as to name, dates, and locations. See #6.

6. How can I obtain copies of these records? Write to the civil or church office. HOWEVER, do not write to ask IF they have a record. You must KNOW that your ancestor was buried there and have the full name of the deceased, the exact date of birth (day-month-year)  or very close, the complete date of death (day-month-year). Additional identifying information is most helpful, but don't overload them with your family history.

There are graves which are of military or historical significance which are permanent.

Graves of allied and German soldiers from World War I and II are permanent and are beautifully maintained by their respective countries.

See also, Subject #12,, and and

19. Why can't I find my family in the Church Register? How will I ever find the church archives?

1. The community did not have a local church.
2. Services were held in a nearby village.
3. There was no aggressive effort to maintain registers.
4. There may have been a fire or other natural disaster.
5. The town was abandoned, ceased to exist, due to plague or other causes, perhaps swallowed up by a larger
    town, flooded by a dam project, or disappearing from the minds of the people over the centuries.
6. The never-ending wars and their indescriminate destruction.

Church record inventories will tell you what records are available for a specific location. They are not online. You have to order them through your area FHC, or visit the LDS genealogy library in SLC, Utah. They normally include address information. One problem you may encounter is the postal (zip) code. The codes changed from 4-digit to 5-digit after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. Not all information in the fiche/books you reserve will have the newer 5-digit postal code for the address. You'll find a zip code converter here:
(Notice that you fill in the form first, then go back to the top to do the conversion.)

While writing to the church in the village your ancestor came from is of paramount importance, you may discover, through the inventories, that the records are actually kept somewhere else: a centralized location, or in a different town at a local church. That's the purpose of checking the inventories first, before writing to the correct location in Germany.

If you are looking at the place search in the online FHL library catalog, you will want to look under:

1. Germany ~ Germany ~ Archives & Libraries ~ Inventories, Registers, Catalogs
2. Germany ~ Germany ~ Church Records ~ Inventories, Registers, Catalogs

Don't be alarmed by the German language. Click on any link to see the English-language description. Look toward the bottom of the screen for the numbers you need to reserve the particular fiche/book.

Once you know where the church registers are stored, you can go back to 1 & 2, above, to click on:

View Related Places for the German state, then
View Related Places for the German town, then

see what records are available on microfiche/film through your area FHC from the LDS genealogy library.

In Germany birth, baptism, marriage, and death records were maintained by the church, generally, until 1874-1876. Thereafter, they were kept in the town or city hall. However, while that is the usual dividing year, it is not true everywhere in Germany. When Napoleon marched across Europe he demanded that city hall control the archived information. After he met his Waterloo, most villages, towns, and cities reverted to the church as the repository; however, some did not. Therefore, the dates vary. For example, the town archives in Soligen has records dating back to 1809, not 1876.

Genealogy is fun, but it also requires effort! Happy fiche reading!

Yes. ./index.htm. Click on Research 101.



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