Basic Research Outline for German Genealogy

A Step by Step Guide for Americans of German Descent

by Joe Beine, German Roots Webmaster

Begin Your Search Search Vital Records Look in the Census
  • 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.
Other Records

Do a place search in the FamilySearch 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...
  • Probate Records - wills list heirs (often spouse and children) and can help determine family relationships.
  • Land and Property Records
  • Church Records - you can sometimes find baptism, marriage and death listings.
Find your Immigrant Ancestor (tips for finding your ancestor's German hometown)

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

Once you know the name of the German town or city, you might try locating it on a map and determine the German state it is in.
  • This website's Finding Places Webpage has links to helpful information about German towns and villages, including an online Gazetteer.
Records in Germany

After you have determined the town or village where your ancestor lived in Germany, you might check to see what records are available online or in the FamilySearch catalog (some of these have been digitized). Other Resources Advertising Disclosure:
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