Some historic regions in northwest Germany have a custom of surname changes. If you research in the historical regions of Hanover, Westphalia, Oldenburg, or Lippe it will be helpful to be aware of this custom. Farms of a certain status carried a surname and people who managed those farms used that surname. The right to… Continue reading German Surname Changes
The third session of my Newberry class “Discover Your German Ancestors’ Origins,” focused on finding German church records. Why are church records so important, you might ask? Church records are the main category of records that document our German ancestors’ vital events. Depending in the specific town, these records may date to the 1500s. Civil… Continue reading Finding German Church Records
In the second session of my Newberry class “Discover Your German Ancestors’ Origins,” I talked about historical gazetteers for finding the jurisdictions that define the ancestral home town. What is a gazetteer? It’s “a geographical dictionary” according to Merriam-Webster. As genealogists, we use gazetteers to determine the jurisdictions to which a town belonged historically. Why… Continue reading Gazetteers for German Research
This weekend, I began teaching a four-session course at the Newberry in Chicago. The title of the course is “Discover Your German Ancestors’ Origins.” This first week, I focused on best practices for finding an immigrant ancestor’s town of birth. Without this piece of information, the ancestral line cannot be extended further back in time.… Continue reading Where Did They Come From?
Researchers in the United States are spoiled with access to newspaper “mega sites” like Newspapers.com, GenealogyBank, and News Archive. They’re not free, but they do have a broad geographical reach. They do not hold all available newspapers, but they represent at least some newspapers from every U.S. state and sometimes other countries. A one-year subscription… Continue reading German-language Newspapers
If you do German research, there is a German website that you want to become familiar with, if you aren’t already. CompGen.de is the website of the Verein für Computergenealogie (Society for Computer Genealogy), a German genealogy group that has created a goldmine of free online information. There are so many treasures tucked away, that… Continue reading Dictionaries on CompGen
City directories are an amazing resource. Not only do they list the residents who lived in the city in the stated year, but they give other helpful information. They are a mini census that details a person’s movements and job changes from one year to the next. Use of the city directory for its residential… Continue reading German City Directories
. . . what might be lurking in your relative’s attic. Growing up, I talked to both of my grandmas on numerous occasions, asking about their grandparents who had immigrated from Germany. Their memories were great. They could recall birth, marriage, and death dates for each person and so many other details. I was ultimately… Continue reading You Never Know . . .