This week I want to talk about Ortsfamilienbücher (OFBs), which are books that are compiled for a German village. They show the familial relationships of the people who lived there in the past. Typically, an Ortsfamilienbuch is compiled using the church and other local records for the town in question. Each family unit is numbered and shows the parents’ names, vital dates, the names of their children and birth dates (think of a family group sheet). The number for the family of origin is often stated for each parent, presuming they came from that village. Children who married and remained in that village are cross-referenced with their family number.
If an OFB is available for your village, it allows you to quickly piece together a family lineage. Things too good to be true often have a catch. OFBs are no different. They are derivative sources. That means that they are derived from, or copied from, an original source. In this case, the original source is usually the church records. When a derivative is created, information may be lost or misconstrued in the process. This does not mean that you should not use the OFB. It simply means that you need to double check its accuracy against the original records from which it was derived. Think of the OFB as an index to your family history. As with any index, you will not stop with that information. You will always go the next step to get the records from which the index was created.
Now you may be asking yourself where to find these valuable books. Does one exist for my German village? One of the best online collections of OFBs may be found at CompGen.
From the home page, find the link at the top of the page for OFB. From this link, you will see a listing of the villages, divided by modern German state and areas outside Germany. You can also see a map showing places for which OFBs have been created. Click on the name of the village you research. The number shown after the village name is its postal code.
There is usually a brief history of the village that appears on the resulting page. The sources used to compile the book may be stated, along with other relevant information. On the left side of the page, you will see a link “Gesamtliste der Familiennamen” (complete list of the surnames). Click here for an alphabetical listing of the people in the book. Click on the desired letter of the alphabet to continue your search, then the surname. Consider all names that sound like the one that you seek, even if the spelling is not exact. From the resulting list, choose an individual person.
Each person’s entry will list the spouse and children’s names, as well as parents’ and siblings’ names, as applicable. You will see the following symbols used:
* birth ∞ marriage + death
The German word “um” before a date means “about;” “vor” means “before.”
If you do not see your village listed in the OFB section, there may be other places to find one. Also on CompGen, in the GenWiki, there is a category for Ortsfamilienbuch that lists other OFBs and resources for finding them. Of course, not all villages have an OFB. Check the Family History Library catalog for the town. They may also be called an Ortssippenbuch, Heimatbuch, or Familienbuch. Familienbuch may be listed as a type of church record, especially in Baden-Württemberg. They may appear under the subject of Genealogy or Church Records.
WorldCat is another resource to check for published OFBs. Check with the local genealogical societies that serve the village. Once I e-mailed a genealogical society in Germany to inquire about getting a copy of an OFB. I never received a response. A few weeks later, the book appeared in my mailbox, along with directions about submitting payment for the book! Consider all your options.
I hope you find this helpful. Happy Hunting!