German family tree research?
February 9, 2011 8:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm tracking down my grandparents' backgrounds in Germany. Point me in the right direction?

What I am armed with:
- their first and last names
- birth year and location
- when they emigrated to the US
- for my grandma, her parents' names

I'd like to get some genealogy for each.

Thanks for your help!
posted by cgs to Grab Bag (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
This site has a fairly comprehensive list of genealogical databases for German-American migrants. Maybe one can be of help?
posted by besonders at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2011

Response by poster: yeah, I'm hoping to get some personal recommendations... I've seen the many links on google. Thanks!
posted by cgs at 9:15 AM on February 9, 2011

I know you have already heard of it, but Ancestry is by far the best for this stuff right now. From my experience most other online resources can be found there.
posted by Felex at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2011 - can be a decent place to start immediately. It is free and run by the Mormons.

If you can - check out or purchase The Source: A Guidebook for American Genealogy. This will help you outline some research strategies by arming you with the different types of information available and where it is available.

Your best bet would be to begin at a large public library with a genealogy department. It is likely that you can use Ancestry Library Edition there for free.

Work your way backwards. I would begin by looking for Naturalization Records - even if they never became U.S. citizens they would have likely begun this process. Often times microfilm copies of these records can be found in a large public library with a decent genealogy department. Then try passenger lists for ships (if they arrived in the U.S. via ships) or try the Ellis Island website if you know they arrived through the Port of New York.

I would then begin to focus on church records from the town in which your grandparents lived - this may be the best place to find marriage and birth information as well as further ancestral information. You can often get microfilm of (various) church records via the Mormons and their Family Search Centers (see above). I believe its costs around six dollars a reel for borrowing privileges,

However, your local library may have borrowing privileges with the Family Search Center network and you won't have to deal with the lack of open-to-the-public-hours. Throw your particulars into the box here and if a local library appears in the list - then you should head there first and talk to a librarian before embarking upon any of my other suggestions.

Beware - you may find yourself addicted to genealogy!
posted by cinemafiend at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2011

Response by poster: cinemafiend- i figured most of the resources you list would be no good, since my search would be overseas. untrue?
posted by cgs at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2011

You could write letters to the communal archives of the cities your ancestors lived in. They should have records about their occupation, where they moved next, etc.

While an English letter will be answered by some, I'd definitely recommend writing in German.
posted by Triton at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2011

cgs - the Mormans have gone everywhere and are microfilming darn near everything.

I have a patron (I work at a public library with a great genealogy department) who is combing through Catholic church records from a town in the Alsace-Lorraine region that cover the late 1600's through the late 1700's. They are in a mix of German and Latin (and perhaps even a smidgen of Tal Deutsch). He gained access to these records because my library is a partner in the Family Search Center microfilm network.

Again - start with as many records as you can find here and work your way back to the old country.
posted by cinemafiend at 2:21 PM on February 9, 2011

The Mormon Church has amazingly good materials, including European sources. When I got it a few years ago, it was free.
posted by KRS at 2:25 PM on February 9, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone!
posted by cgs at 7:55 AM on February 15, 2011

probably not reading this anymore, but I'll post this anyway:

My grandfather was researching our family history here in germany, and besides looking up church records in the villages where our family originated from, he actually went to america to do research in the mormon church's archives.

lots of documents and original records got destroyed in the ww2.
posted by ts;dr at 7:34 AM on March 17, 2011

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