Record Keeping

There is no central repository of records in Germany

Most of your research will be done in local records

Hint: Look for individual town websites. Most have links to local churches, where you can write to for more information

Boundaries & Territories

Boundaries and territories have varied greatly over time

Meyer’s Gazetteer lists all towns in Germany as they existed prior to 1914. This is a free database on Ancestry. A full entry has three sections:

  • Political Jurisdictions
  • Population Data, and
  • Rail, postal, telephone, telegraph service, civil registration offices, and other governmental, business, cultural, or industry information

The secret to deciphering Meyer’s Gazetteers are the commas and semicolons, which create complete segments of information


During the period of heaviest immigration, there was no standard of what records were kept and preserved

Note: Many of the departure lists for the Port of Bremen have been destroyed. Search here for remaining records

  • German Immigrants: lists of Passengers Bound from Bremen to New York by Zimmerman and Wolfert includes many names of passengers from 1847-1871 taken from other sources
  • “From Bremen to America in 1850: Fourteen Emigrant Ship Lists” by Smith contains 1840’s and 1850’s Bremen passenger listings gleaned from emigration newspaper sources

The Palatine Emigrant Index – consists of thousands of index cards that reference records in an attempt to show where emigrants came from and went. It is unpublished. However, The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center has a photocopy


Ancestry has German specific records including the Wurttemberg Emigration Lists and the Germans to America volumes

FamilySearch Many Germany Church records have been microfilmed. The Family History Library has a microfilm copy of Die Ahnenstammkartei des Deutschen Volkes (The Master File of the German People) which contains about 2.7 million names

Note: Graves are re-used in Germany; you are unlikely to find tombstone inscriptions

Click here for an intersting article about German Names and naming conventions

Useful Websites


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