Genealogical research - how do I begin ?

Hi Peter, maybe you can give me a couple of tips on how to begin my own geneological research? I have never tried anything in this field before, but would like to know something about my ancestors -- but what is the best way to begin?

Hello fellow researcher! There are many methods for tracing geneologies. I can give you tips on how to research geneologies here in Germany. The basics are the same for all of the methods, but available types of documentation vary according to countries. Now let's get you started.

First and foremost you need lots of paper and a new pen (it will be empty before you are through, haha).
Start with yourself, your siblings and your parents, and write down all of the essentials. Next come your grandparents.
Important to note :
birthdate, birthplace (if birthplace is a large city, which city district?),
if relocated, when and from which old address?
education, profession(s), religion,
hereditary diseases,
estate property (since...?),
marriage dates (church and/or civil ceremony? church records are more easily accessible than civil records),
place of marriage (city district, where applicable), which marriage was this (first, second, third)?
date of death, where applicable, where and when died (city, city district), burial place,
if date of death is unknown, try to estimate the age as closely as possible! (55-80 years old?)
where did the parents live? their profession(s)? number of children? birthdates and birthplaces?
where do the children live? do they have families of their own? (write in their details too!)
make a list of addresses and telephone numbers.

Where did the grandparents live? etc. etc. etc.....

Have any of your relatives already researched their families?
Who has old family documents: birth/death certificates, passports, photos?
Try to make copies of all available certificates: birth, baptism, marriage and death certificates.
You are recovering an abundance of information.
Some families in Germany still keep an old ancestors report, in german : "Ahnenbogen" or so-called "Ariernachweis" ( should read: "Proof of Aryan Descent") or an "Ahnenpass" ("Ancestry Passport").

I can hear the question already: what in the world is an "Ahnenbogen" ??
This is a certificate on which a person's parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents are listed.
Because of the completely senseless race laws enacted by the Nazis, people living around 1940 had to create and present a table of ancestry. Across the nation, "forced geneological research" was practiced.
These documents still exist in many families and could be found in the dark depths of desk drawers or in files of family documents. If you can find one of these, you will have an excellent start for your research. With luck, these tables will bring you back to around 1850.
You possibly want to have a look onto such document, here is a copy (230KB)

You can quickly loose an overview of all your notes. That's why you have to make a sequence of generations.
First, for example, your children; this is Generation 1. Then, you and your siblings, Generation 2. Your parents, aunts and uncles are generation 3, grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles are generation 4, and so on.
Next do the same for your spouse and her/his relatives.
When you come to the point where your knowledge and information ends, it's time to access church and civic archives.

Are you thinking of continuing your research while spending your holidays in Germany? Then you'd better know some details.

For example, you are searching for a wedding. When and where could it have occurred? You have to know the place, or the search is hopeless.
Once you have found the wedding, estimate the bride's age at about 25, and search for her baptism. It works like a staircase, you keep moving further up!

German City Halls ("Standesamt") started their records at 1877. They are opened daily. However, they only give information to those with proof of legal interest (bring certificates of birth, etc., and any other documents you have!).
The clerks must be careful to protect this information because to prevent inheretance fraud.
Church record archives are not opened daily, and sometimes only for a few hours at a day.
At one time, church records (german : Kirchenbücher, short : "KB") were kept at the church. These days, though, they are often held in a central archive.
Church records are often recorded on film/microfiche. Most archives have 2-6 machines for viewing these records, but these machines are often already reserved for weeks in advance.
So: call around before you plan to go! Find out where the church records (KB) are kept, and make an appointment.
Fees: 5 EURO for 4 hours per session, although if you need someone to read everything for you, you can expect to pay 30 EURO an hour.
It would of course be optimal to find a geneologist from that area and bring her/him with you.
You may find some geneologists listed under: and/or under: .

Once you have traced a family back to 1800, there should look for special geneological books. The most weddings from the early days until about 1750 of northern Germany are published, which could be very helpful to you. Check out my own book list (german), for example, look for search word "Schubert".

Church records list all baptisms, weddings, and burials back to about 1650.
This varies of course, and depends on how old the church is, if there was ever a fire, and if it is a Lutheran or Catholic church.
It certainly won't be easy for you if you can't read the old print, but you can learn it.

So, that should be enough for a start.
I wish you great success!

Herzlichen Dank für die Übersetzung an EvaSara Tullier

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