There are many ways German records scared me when I first started to research my grandmother’s family. Could I read the records? Where do I find them? How will I know if they are my family? All of these questions and concerns held me back when I first started researching. Instead, I focused on my other lines from the United States. I started attending genealogy seminars and would take any class on German genealogy that was offered. One thing I would get frustrated about is most of the classes focused on locating the town in Germany of your ancestor. I already knew the town and villages were my ancestors came from. You can ready more about my journey into German genealogy here https://ellajaneanne.com/2019/06/30/my-journey-into-german-genealogy/. Today I want to show you why I love German church records and how wonderful they are. I have found most of my church records on the German Lutheran Church site http://www.archion.de. However, none of the records on Archion are indexed or searchable.
- They are very organized. When using Archion most of the records are categorized by event, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death. They also have what is called KBs, which are church books, they are usually organized in the same order as above but in one book. So even if you can not read the headings it is still possible to find the records you are looking for.
- Surnames are usually underlined. For me this made searching through the records much easier. I just looked at the underlined surnames for the name I was searching.
- They are easier to read than you think they will be. I can almost always get names, dates, husband’s occupation, addresses (usually the house number) and sponsors. Sponsors are usually godparents and witness for marriages
- If you are lucky, whoever was recording the information would go back and record marriage and death dates on the baptism record. I have found records like this on a few occasions but in my experience they are the exception.
- In several baptism records there is a cross somewhere on the document. This usually means that they died as a child. When I see a cross without a date I will search death records. While this is very sad that they lost a precious child, it makes it easy to find the correct records for that child.
- In most of the villages I have researched, the records date back as far as the early 1600s, however, I have not researched back that far yet in my own family. The problem I run into is that the further back I go there is less information on the records. For example, they may only list the fathers name on the baptism, or confirmation records will only list the child’s name.
- Most of the records I have used will list the house number on each record. This has helped me prove or disprove if they belong in my family. With names in Germany being very similar it can be hard to know if they belong with you or not. Using the house number has helped me more than once in my German research.
This week I was working on my Kessler line from Ishta, Wolfhagen, Germany. As I was searching I was thinking about how I love German records. I am going to use records from my search this week to show you examples of why I love German records.
I was searching for Johannes Kessler (1776-1850) and his wife Dorothea Elizabeth Klapp (1776-1840). I was missing his parent’s names, birth and death date. I was also looking for additional children they may have had. I started by searching for baptism records for their children. I already had my direct-line descendant Anna Elizabeth Kessler born 28 January 1807 in Istha.
The first record I came across was a baptism for Johannes Kessler baptized 7 February 1800 in Istha. In his baptism record below you can see the cross under the date of his baptism. Upon seeing this I started to look for his death record and sure enough I found it. Johannes died 2 April 1801 in Ishta. There are a couple of things you can see on these records. You can see that both his given name of Johannes and surname Kessler are underlined. Each paragraph is the recording of an individual and at the end of the paragraph in both records you see N.39, this is the house number in Ishta where they lived. This helps prove this record is the same Johannes Kessler. If you look closely at the death record you will not see the mothers name. This was not the only Johannes Kessler who lived in Ishta so having that house number was very helpful. The other information on the death record that was helpful was that it listed that Johannes as 1 year, 1 month and three days old. While I did not calculate to verify this it seems to be about a month off. You can see his godfather’s name, Johannes Klapp, just before the N.39.
I ended up locating Johannes and eight other siblings. From what I have located as of today Johannes Kessler (1776-1850) and Dorthea Elizabeth Klapp (1778-1840) had nine children:
- Johannes Kessler (1800-1801)
- Anna Elizabeth Kessler (Born 1802)
- Elizabeth Kessler (1804-1836)
- Anna Elizabeth Kessler (my direct ancestor) (1807-1870)
- Anna Chirstina Kessler (Born 1809)
- Giese Kessler (1812-1813)
- Dorthea Elizabeth Kessler (born 1815)
- Henricus Kessler (1818-1819)
- Henricus Kessler (1822-1823)
Four of their children died before their 2nd birthday. I believe that the first Anna Elizabeth died young as well, but I have not located her death record between 1802 and 1807 when the second Anna Elizabeth was born. German’s often used names again if the child died young. I have seen this many times in my own research. I have also seen several children with same or similar names in my research. It makes researching so much fun. You can read about names in Germany here https://ellajaneanne.com/2019/07/01/same-names-sigh/
I like to work backwards, meaning I start locating children and then look for the marriage record. Now that I know Johannes and Dorthea started to have children in 1800 I can start to look for a marriage record. It did not take long and I found the marriage record. They were married 22 December 1799 just a few months before the birth of their first child. This is not uncommon in my research in Germany. You can see in the image below that it just list their name and their fathers names along with the age.
I already knew Dorthea Elizabeth’s parents and her birth/death dates. I was on the search for Johannes birth/death dates and who his parents were. I had searched most of the death records in Ishta and did not locate his death date. I decided next to see if I could locate his baptism record. I have found that most of my German ancestors married around the age of 26 so this gave me a starting point. He married in 1799 so he was possible baptized around 1773. It did not take me long to locate a baptism record for a Johannes Kessler that listed his parents as Johann Heinrich Kessler and Winfrad Wiedigen but I still needed to prove this was the same Johannes. I was lucky and it had his death date listed as 4 December 1850. I went to locate his death record that I somehow had missed and this Johannes was married to Dorthea Elizabeth Klapp. So he was the same Johannes. From this I was able to locate his birth, marriage and death date. I was also able to find 3 of Johannes’s siblings.
I am not sure if I could have proven this was my Johannes Kessler with out the death date listed. I am grateful that they went back and recorded his death on his baptism record. I also initially missed his death record when searching. I went over that record several times thinking I would see it but never did. It always pays to do more searching if you come up empty.
The next record I am going to talk about is one for my fifth great-grandmother Magdalena Dingler. She was born 14 July 1776 in Ishta, Wolfhagen, Germany. I was able to locate her baptism record and someone had recorded her marriage date and death date. I have seen this a couple of times in German records but not regularly. Finding a record with so much information on it was like hitting the jackpot. Records like these are why I love researching in German.
German records have become some of my favorite records that I research. They have such wonderful information in them. I am still learning to read the old German script and working on translating the hundreds of documents I currently have. I look forward to learning more ways to research in German and locate more of my German family.