Tracing Your German Ancestors

A presentation by Michael Dearing, April 12, 2008, Dodgeville Public Library

This presentation was a survey of tools and methods for making the bridge from ancestors in America to ancestors in Germany. Case histories included sources and procedures, German geographical history, and the events related to domestic and international migration.

See a list of possible topics for future presentations.

Most Popular Site with the Audience

Geogen is the short form for "geographical genealogy" which means location based ancestor research. On this website you can create maps which show the distribution of surnames in Germany and Austria. Significant concentrations can point to a local root of the family or of the family name.

General Resource Sites is a non-profit service sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The National Archives offers insight into the lives of people, their families and our history. Because the records at the National Archives come from every branch of the Federal government, almost all Americans can find themselves, their ancestors, or their community in the archives. Knowing how a person interacted with the government is key to a successful search.

WorldConnect--the free side of

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German Genealogy Internet Portal The Society for Computergenealogy maintains several servers, on which you can find a lot of information related to German genealogy.

Saxony Roots

Everything about West Prussia

GenWiki is designed to become the main source for genealogy in the German-speaking areas of the world. The pages will be maintained by the Society for Computergenealogy.

The Immigrant Genealogical Society (IGS), located in Burbank, CA, was founded in 1982 to help Americans trace their ancestors' origins, particularly in the German speaking areas of Europe and the places in the world to which they migrated.

German genealogical symbols and abbreviations

German script help How to read the old German script or "old German hand".

German occupations lists the terms used for trades, farming, fishing, forestry, service occupations and official titles.

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Online heritage books are also called "one-place studies" or "county heritage books" They are a branch of family history with a focus on the entire population of a single European village, not just a single, geographically dispersed family line.


Jewish Genealogy Town Search is also useful for non-Jewish research. Be sure to check out the FAQs & Tools under the Learn tab.

Modern German atlas

West Prussian Land Register 1772-1773 lists surnames and the town or village of that surname in 1772.

Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire, 1874, available via, is used to locate place names in German research. It includes all areas that were part of the pre-WWI German Empire.

Federation Of East European Family History Societies Look at the Maps tab & Ethnic, Religious and National Index Tab.

Ravenstein 1883 is an online edition of the Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein, published in 1883.

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Civil Archives




Berlin Archive (Brandenburg and Pommern and some of Germany proper)

Berlin Directory for the years 1799 to 1943


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Church Archives

Evangelisch-Lutherische Parishes of Hannover (equivalent to UCC and Lutheran)

Berlin Catholic Diocese Archive

Evangelical Central Archive in Berlin

Tools & More

German to English translation

German phonebook

Planning a research trip to Germany

German Genealogy: Tips for Researchers

Updated 20 Octobe 2010

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