These abbreviations are used on this page...|
FHL=LDS (Latter Day Saints/Mormon) Family History Library in Salt Lake City
FHC=Family History Center -- local libraries where you can order records from the FHL -- you do not have to be a Mormon to use these facilities
NARA=National Archives and Records Administration -- many of their microfilmed genealogy records can also be ordered through your local FHC
Begin Your Search
Search Vital Records
Look in the Census
- Start with yourself and your family
- Look for family heirlooms such as bibles, letters and photo albums
- Gather as much information as you can from your parents, grandparents and other living relatives
- Concentrate on names, dates, and places
- Record the information in a computer program or by using standard pedigree charts and family group sheets
- You should record the sources of the information you gather.
- A genealogical society in your area or in the area where your ancestors lived may be helpful.
- Familiarize yourself with the resources available where you live. Try your local library or maybe see if there is a Family History Center nearby (look in the business section of your white pages under "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints").
- Helpful Beginning Genealogy Book: Unpuzzling Your Past: A Basic Guide to Genealogy by Emily Croom
- Census records group families together and provide valuable clues for further research.
- Clues in Census Records will tell you what you can find in census records 1790-1940, along with links to online indexes (and online census images).
- What Census Records Are Online? - this webpage has links to numerous online census indexes and images.
- Year of immigration is provided in the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses.
- Be aware that census records occasionally contain errors.
- US Census records from 1790-1840 only name the head-of-household. Other family members are grouped together by age and gender, but not named. When researching in this time frame, other records besides the census become increasingly important. See the next section for examples.
Do a place search in the FHL catalog for your ancestor's county and/or city of residence and look to see what other kinds of records they may have such as...
Find your Immigrant Ancestor (tips for finding your ancestor's German hometown)
- Probate Records - wills list heirs (often spouse & children) and can help determine family relationships.
- Land and Property Records
- Church Records - you can sometimes find baptism, marriage and death listings.
Before taking your research back to Germany you will need to find the name of the specific place (city, town or village) where your immigrant ancestor lived. Here are some suggestions for finding a German place of origin for your ancestor.
Locating a German Place
- Ship Passenger Lists and Records
- Other Sources
- American church records sometimes give the place of origin of immigrant
families (the FHL has some of these on microfilm - check their catalog)
- Sometimes church records for German churches in America will list the place of birth of the parents in the baptismal records of their children
- If you don't know which church your ancestor attended look for churches near the address of where he or she lived - you can sometimes find addresses in census records and city directories
- Death Certificates usually give place of birth (sometimes just the country, but sometimes the town is given)
- Obituaries - search the local newspaper(s) where your ancestor died a day or more after the date of death
- Obituaries in American German language newspapers - check at a library in the area your ancestor lived
- Grave markers - this is not very common, but occasionally you will find a person's birthplace on his or her gravestone
- Naturalization Records (especially if Naturalized after Sept. 1906; pre-Sept. 1906 naturalizations generally do not name the town)
- County Histories and Biographies
- Family tradition - ask your relatives
- World War I Draft Registration Cards (for men born from Sept 11, 1872 to Sept 12, 1900) Nearly 11 million (men born about June 1886 to June 1897) of the 24 million total draft cards asked for location of birth (town, state, nation).
- Locating a Place of Origin in Germany from the FHL is a helpful resource
- Germany Births and Baptisms 1558-1898 and Marriages 1558-1929 at FamilySearch look for "Europe" under "Browse by Location" when you get there; these databases are not complete, but they contain millions of listings that might provide clues for further research in German records
- German Emigration Lists (lists of people who applied to leave Germany)
- International Genealogical Index (IGI) from FamilySearch
- You can download a printable PDF version of this part of the outline from:
Genealogy Roots Blog Files: Finding your German Ancestor's Hometown
Once you know the name of a town or city, you might try locating it on a map and determining the German state it is in.
Records in Germany
- This website's Finding Places Webpage has links to helpful information about German towns and villages, including an online Gazetteer.
After you have determined the town or village where your ancestor lived in Germany, you might check to see if the Latter Day Saints Family History Library has microfilmed or online records available from that particular place.
- Types of Records to Look For
- Church Records
- Civil Records
- Other Records such as emigration lists
- How to Find These Records
- Do a "place search" in the Family History Library Catalog for the village or place you are looking for.
- Look for topics such as "church records" and "civil registration," but always look at every topic to see what kinds of records they have that may help you.
- Determine if the records fit the time frame you need.
- Record the appropriate microfilm titles and film numbers to be ordered from your local Family History Center.
- Reading These Records
You will find that most German Catholic church records are in Latin, while Evangelical (Lutheran) records can be in either Latin or German. And the records are ususally written in the old German script, which many researchers find difficult to read.
- Writing Letters to Germany
If the FHL does not have the records you need, you might have to write to the appropriate place in Germany.
- German Genealogy Records and Databases on the Internet