In today’s digital age, genealogy is easier that it has been in the past. We do not have to travel to every place our ancestors lived to find out about their lives. Over the years I feel like I have learned so much about the lives of my ancestors. Learning about the lives of my German ancestors has been so much harder for me, but the reward for my hard work and persistence has been so wonderful. I thought I would share the tips that have helped me with make my German research easier. I am not a professional genealogist, but I have been doing Genealogy for 12 years and have helped many others along the way. My hope is that by sharing what I have learned as an amateur genealogist, it will help even more people with their own research.
You can read the documents!
I have attended several genealogy conferences and taken several classes on how to read Old German Script. I have also bought several books to help. This has really prepared me for when I did find documents. The names and dates are usually the easiest to read, although that depends on the hand writing. There have been some I can not read at all and had to get help. There are also lots of resources out there to help when you cannot read everything. There are several Facebook groups –which I talk about more below — where you can post an image, and someone will help you translate. The Facebook groups are a wonderful resource, but it can take some time for documents to be translated and most of them have rules you have to follow, like only posting one document a day. This is been a wonderful help to me. You can also hire someone to help with the translation. However, I have not personally hired anyone to help read my German documents.
I love books and reading so I tend to buy every German genealogy book I can get my hands on. They have been very helpful in reading Old German Script and how to research. I could write all day about each book and why I love them. I have also bought books thinking they would have helpful information in them, and they were not. I am a little pickier today about the books I buy and try to verify that they will be helpful in my research by checking that it has the information I am looking for before purchasing it.
German genealogy and translation Facebook groups!
Another treasure I have found are the German genealogy Facebook groups. My Grandmothers family is from the State of Hesse in Germany and there is a Facebook group for this area. Since knowing which state your ancestor came from is so important and each area can be different to research it has been very helpful to have these groups where I can ask questions and get answers.
I have taken many German genealogy classes over the last 10 years and these have been very helpful. Learning from someone who has researched in Germany and has experiences that I may not have had. I remember when I first started trying to research my German Ancestors and I was at the BYU Genealogy Conference and someone mentioned Kassel, Germany, where my grandmother’s family was from, I asked him if he had found records and he had. I had hope, since my Grandmother always insisted that all documents were destroyed during the war.
I think the most important thing you can do is remember to be patient, which I am not very good at on some days. When I was in Kassel, Germany at the family history library to get help on my family research, they suggested family search, I was so disappointed and was ready to give up. I had finally got the opportunity to go to my Grandmothers home town and tried for months to set up appointments to visit the archives with no success so I made an appointment with the family history library, thinking that since it was in Kassel they would be able to help. There I was in Germany and I still was not finding anything new about my Germany family. I do not think that I could put into words my disappointment that day. I was ready to throw in the towel and give up, but I did not and have been overwhelmed at times with all the ancestors I have been able to find since then.
Do an internet search of where your ancestor came from, learn all you can about the town. This has been helpful to me in my research especially in Germany. It helped me understand why my grandmother thought all the records were destroyed but I also knew from taking genealogy classes that sometimes especially the Lutheran Church would copy records and keep them in different locations. I have a couple of ancestors that I have two different records for the same baptism, marriage or death record. I have also found that some records are no longer available because they were destroyed during the war. Googling helps you see what happened at different times in history.
It doesn’t have to break the bank!
Genealogy is not a free but does not need to be expensive. While there are many free sights and ways to use sights like Ancestry for free, most public libraries and family history centers, have them available for you to search for free. My favorite website for doing Germany Genealogy is www.archion.de . It is a German Lutheran Church Book website. You can create a free account and see what record are available for your area in Germany but to see any of the records you will have to pay for it. I feel it is not too expensive, less than $25.00 for 30 days and 50 downloads. When I first learned of Archion and started finding documents it did not take long to get to 50 downloads. I have been using Archion for a little over a year and it has been well worth the money.
This is one that I was intimidated by in the beginning. There are archives for both Lutheran and Catholic church books all over Germany and I have received help from them both at no charge. This may not be the case everywhere in Germany, but what does it hurt to ask. I had an email for the Catholic archives (I knew my 3rd Great Grandmother was Catholic) for about 6 months before I emailed looking for information about my 3rd Great Grandparents marriage record. It took about 2 ½ weeks and the email I received back was amazing. While it was not their marriage record, I did receive baptism records for 5 children I did not know they had, a death record for her mother and several death records for some of their children. I even emailed them back offering a donation which they politely responded it was not necessary. I also emailed the Lutheran archives asking for help locating the same marriage record, since my 3rd great grandfather was Lutheran, and they help me locate where in the Archion records the marriage record was located. Mostly they seem willing to help, but I am always prepared to pay a fee if I do ask.
Expect the unexpected!
I think this one might be my favorite tip. I have learned in genealogy that you can not hide anything. I remember calling my Dad and asking him what his grandfather, my great grandfather, had done to get arrested in a small town in Oklahoma, apparently, he was the town drunk. I remember my dad asking how I knew he had been arrested, some things you can not hide. Also, in the German research I found a death record and had it translated and it stated he died of mental illness in 1871, and I’m still not exactly sure what that meant. This came as a shock to me! Genealogy is full of surprises.
Enjoy the journey!
I think it is important that when doing genealogy that we enjoy the journey. There will be so many ups and downs, there will be times where you want to give up and there will be times where you are so overjoyed with your discoveries. Each of our research experiences are different and there may be brick walls, but we learn from each of these. I am grateful for all my downs because it has made me enjoy the ups so much more.
These are just a few of the things that have helped me along the way, I hope they help and inspire you in your German genealogy research!
8 thoughts on “My Tips and Tricks for German Genealogy!”
Great post! Especially love the bit about it not having to break the bank!
Thank you. Yes genealogy can be a expensive hobby but there are ways to save money.
Was never expensive for me. Perhaps I was always happy amd satisfied with the results of my research. When I started research here in Germany in the late 1980s no single document was digital at that time. I learned quickly how to talk to preachers (I started from beginning with church records only) that 90% of them would consider me kind and friendly. At that times I did not pay a single bug, as those preachers letting me read their ancient church records did copy everything for free which I asked for (lucky me). I did check nearly every cemetry in my county for tombstones with my surname and also every local and regional telephone book. The records for my family tree were all my handwritten transcripts of what I did review. I talked to many older people in my wider family circle to learn more rumors and family stories. This way I did draw a family tree as Christmas present for my father. Later I got in contact to a private family association of those of my surname. In prospect that I possibly join them I received an A4 binder with complete compilation of the assoc’s family tree. In return they got a copy of my records. Over the year my records did grow slowly and I started to re-write and transfer everything into MS Word, Excel, etc. Around 2010 one of my cousins joins the family association and she made them to research and find the connection between their and my tree – their researcher found the missing 4-5 generations. I received a copy of what they found for free and gave me opportunity for a voluntary donation of my own choice (which was 150€ in the end). The copies I had received I did complete my tree, as brunch of the overall tree of the family, association. Than came winter 2019 when I paid for the 1 month access to Archion with the aim to verify all I had complied and correct transcription errors from the past – and found ~30 additional distant relatives, I was not aware they existed before. Total cost: 150€ donation + 25€ for Archion. When Covid pandemic began I did start to write additional chapters having my family tree growing into a chronicle now: 17 pages (A4) of stories on home village history, the places/houses family members lived and live, a few anecdotes and mysteries from the stories I had heard and a chapter on post WW 2 de-nazification court hearing of my grandfather. This is followed by 11 pages of family tree tables with roughly 400 names with dates, place information, professions, etc. captured in 18 generations.
The biggest cost, was always my time investment in the gorgeous hobby of family research.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great post! This will be useful for me. Both my Henn’s and my Snyder’s come from Germany
Thank you, Jennifer, for the tips. FamilySearch does have good aids for learning about and reading the old Script. I am always looking for new/more aids for German research.
Great post! I have used the German Genealogy Facebook group and they helped me decipher some old German church records written in cursive.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Sehr hilfreich. Ich werde die German Genealogy Facebook Gruppe ausprobieren.
Thanks. I had to translate since I do not speak any German. Lol Really wish my grandmother had taught it to me.