Recent Genealogy Posts:
German Church Record Books
Church record books are an important resource when doing German genealogy, especially before civil registration began. I am trying to find the name of one of my ancestor’s parents so I’m hopeful this resource might provide more information. From familysearch.org about German church record books:
They recorded details of baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. The vast majority of the population was mentioned. In addition, church records can contain financial account books, (the record charges for toll bells, fees for masses for the dead, and so on), lists of confirmation, penance register communion lists, lists of members and the family register.
In general you will need to know the religion of your ancestors as different religions kept separate records. The main religious division in Germany was between Catholics (Katholische) and Protestants, comprised mainly of Lutherans (Evangelisch) and Reformed. Catholic records are generally written in Latin, while other records will be written in the local language.
For those of you exploring these records, remember that you will have to struggle through German/Latin/old German script. I found a helpful article online that may give you some tips about how to winnow information from what I found to be very intimidating documents: http://narafriends-pittsfield.org/gechurch.htm
I find it fascinating that every time I start to research an ancestor in a different country, I have to learn what are the local sources of genealogy information all over again. Good luck and happy research!
What I learned today
Here are a few things I learned today while working with Lynne who is the library’s wonderful genealogy volunteer:
A key to doing any genealogy is persistence. Lynne doesn’t give up. She starts on one path, follows it to its end, and starts all over again if the path was the wrong one. I tend to give up a lot easier!
When doing genealogy in a language with an alphabet that has unfamiliar letters or letters that look unfamiliar when hand-written, go to Google and get an image of examples of what the alphabet look like (see picture on left). It is tremendously helpful as you are slowing working your way through a document in a language you don’t know.
Don’t forget to look at the genealogy books in the library – they have so much helpful information! Lynne quickly read through the Family Tree German Genealogy Guide (which we have at Curtis) to get information about how baptismal records were structured, meaning where you would expect to find the names of parents, sponsors, etc. That made it much easier to pick out which names were which on a baptismal record.
If you are pulling information from existing family trees on ancestry.com or any other source, treat every piece of information that you find as something that has to be double-checked and confirmed. I frequently find mistakes but I also find hints and clues that have been very helpful. Just be cautious until you find supporting documentation.
German genealogy – part II
I continue to pursue my German ancestors (see my blog from last week). In the process I discovered the German-American Genealogist Blog by Josiah Schmidt at https://schmidtgen.com/wordpress/category/german-genealogy-tips/ This page (part of the author’s website – he is a professional genealogist) has 33 German genealogy tips. The tips stopped being posted in 2014 which is a shame because they are very helpful. I started reading through them and feel like I just finished a semester’s course in German genealogy. I find that every time I start researching in a new part of the world, I become a beginning genealogist all over again, learning new information about people’s name patterns and place names and the records that are and are not available for research. I guess that is probably why I have never gotten bored with genealogy as a hobby! In any case, happy research and I hope this new resource is helpful.
German genealogy – town lineage books
I am new to German genealogy. I always knew my grandmother was German and that her family came to the United States in the 1840’s but I didn’t know a great deal beyond that. However, having run smack into a big brick wall on my grandfather’s side of the family, I decided to take a break and go down a different path – German genealogy.
I’m learning a great deal but I thought one of the best tips I could share about German genealogy is to research whether there are “family books” or “lineage books” for your family. The terms in German are Ortssippenbuch (town lineage book) or Ortsfamilienbuch (town family book).
Here is what familysearch.org says about these genealogies:
An Ortssippenbuch (town lineage book) or Ortsfamilienbuch (town family book) includes birth, marriage, and death data for all persons found in the local records during a specified time period, compiled into families. Sources may include the local parish registers, civil registration records, court and land records, and sometimes published material.
Over 620 online town genealogies are currently accessible at Online Ortsfamilienbücher. ( (http://www.online-ofb.de/). They follow a standard format. And usually, minimal knowledge of German is required. All town genealogies on this website are searchable for individuals by surname or place.
These resources are very helpful to the beginner because they can give you names and dates without the need to read German. You still need to obtain documentation that the information you find is correct but it is a great head-start especially when you are struggling with language. Happy research!