In my situation my Family Name is semi-common. I can find several discussion boards and resources. My issue is that my specific tree is not known. I've asked about my father, grand-father, great-grand-father and great-great-grand-father without success. I know where all were born and died and I know the full tree from my great-grand-father forward. I know my great-grand-father had siblings, two for sure but I believe from talking with other relatives that there could be many more.

How can I find or research who my great-great-grand-father and his children were? I know he is from Germany. I know that most records are kept by the churches but how can I get a starting point as to what church to contact?

I already tried Ancestry.com and they have nothing for my family past my father on record. My father immigrated to the USA from Germany when he was in his teens with his brothers and mother, my grand-father passed away. Prior to that the family has, as far as I know, been located in northern Germany around Marburg.

  • 2
    I think you should rewrite this to ask how you could find out what town in Germany your ancestors are from, because that's really what you're asking. You would also need to tell us where your family settled after leaving Germany (assuming they left).
    – user47
    Oct 10, 2012 at 4:45
  • @JustinY - I've updated the title and added some additional information.
    – Justin808
    Oct 10, 2012 at 4:50
  • @Justin808 The more detail you add, the better your question (and the likely answers) will be. It sounds like you know the place where your second great grandfather was born. Knowing if that were a large or small town would probably make a difference in the answers.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 10, 2012 at 6:27
  • P.S. What is "Germany" may also be relevant in your case.
    – GeneJ
    Oct 10, 2012 at 6:36

4 Answers 4


Have you tried looking on familysearch.org? They have a pretty good archive of German church records.

Another issue when looking for German civil records, is that for small towns they may have been collected into regional archives. Look for a Standesamt that may be part of the Verbandsgemeinde for region in which your ancestor's village or town is located.

As @Justin points out, some records may only be accessible from a Family History center. Look on the FamilySearch site to find one near you.

  • I have, I can find no records of the majority of my family there.
    – Justin808
    Oct 10, 2012 at 8:28
  • I updated my answer with another source of records to look for in Germany. Oct 11, 2012 at 1:05
  • I've found possible records on familysearch.org but they are restricted and not viewable over the internet. I have to find a local center I can goto to view them.
    – Justin808
    Oct 23, 2012 at 17:21

Review all the information you have collected so far, do a fresh analysis of the sources you have, and create a research plan. Also, if you haven't done so already, look for more general information about German immigration and German history, so that you can recognize the significance of clues when you find them. Start with what you know, and work backwards and outwards in small steps.

Assemble all the material you have, and make a checklist of what sources you have for each person. Put the events in chronological order; make a separate list of assertions for which no date stamp is available. If you find yourself saying "I know X" ask yourself how you know each thing. (Keep in mind that we can't directly know when and where our fathers were born -- or even when we were born -- we know because someone has told us. Who said so? What source says so?) Each one of these events can be analyzed, and each small detail can be used as a starting point for more investigation.

You can broaden your pool of possible clues by investigating siblings, and what some genealogists call the "cluster" or FAN (friends/associates/neighbors). The name "the FAN principle" is used by Elizabeth Shown Mills, the author of Evidence Explained; on her website she has Quicklessons that show how to do in-depth analysis of evidence, and how to study a FAN.

You can broaden your knowledge of what materials exist by reviewing the materials available on the Family Search Wiki for Germany; or looking for other research aids like the German Genealogy Pathfinder from the Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library.

Joe Beine has an extensive website called German Roots with many links of online resources. See his Basic Research Outline for German Genealogy for a checklist of things to do; it includes many of the suggestions already posted here, but may have others no one has posted yet.

You say "My father immigrated to the USA from Germany when he was in his teens with his brothers and mother, my grand-father passed away." but you don't say if you have looked for the passenger list with their arrival, or how you know when your grandfather passed away. You don't say whether you have looked for Naturalization records for your father or grandmother. It might help to review research guides like NARA's introduction to Immigration Records or Naturalization Records. If you look for more general information about how each historical record was created, knowing the context may give you clues about things to follow up on.

One thing that bothers me about doing genealogy in general is that discussion boards and mailing lists often encourage us to focus too much on getting help from other people who are studying specific surnames. When we ask the other people who study that surname and come up empty, we don't know where to go next. With my own research about German immigrants, I've found records that may belong to the same set of siblings with over half-a-dozen different spellings of the surname.

It can be more productive to ask help from people who are familiar with the time and place; they may not know the specific family you are looking for, but they will know the resources that pertain to that place -- and even if they are not working on the same surname, they may have seen records about your family because in the course of doing research in the area.

This is why I encourage everyone with immigrant ancestors to investigate all the US records as thoroughly as possible before trying to get back over the water. In my case, by digging deeper on the US side, I made contact with someone else in the US whose family had already done a lot of the work on the German side. I haven't followed up yet, but the information I got from my husband's cousin gives me a much more specific place to start than anything I had before.

It may not seem useful at first, but it really does help to focus one's thoughts by writing out a detailed description of your brick wall problem, or a detailed description of your previous research, as if you were explaining it to someone else, with copious notes on all the analysis and searches you have done so far. Often the simple process of writing everything down in one place reminds you of searches you meant to make but haven't done yet.

If you want to explore the area around Marburg, then a good place to start is by looking in the German Map Guides to Parish Registers. Marburg is listed as one of the parishes in Vol 10 - Hessen-Nassau II, Regierungsbezirk Kassel, Kingdom of Prussia. The map guides show you where your ancestors might have worshiped based on where they lived, which is crucial for finding the church records they might be listed in.


As a follow-up to Genes' answer; you may not be finding what you want on Familysearch because the microfilm may not have been digitized yet. Check their online listing of microfilm. You may need to rent a film(s) to find what you need.

  • I'll have to check this out. I've looked on Familysearch, went as far as to get invited into the version 2 beta thing but I can't find information for any member in my family.
    – Justin808
    Oct 10, 2012 at 21:20
  • Here's the link for the Familysearch catalog: familysearch.org/#form=catalog Oct 10, 2012 at 21:33
  • I'm just running into the issue that all the images are not available. When I goto "Germany, Hessen, Civil Registration, 1874-1927915. Marburg-Biedenkopf, Landkreis15. CölbeSterben" I see there are 14 images, but all say Not Available. familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/… for example.
    – Justin808
    Oct 10, 2012 at 21:43
  • This might be a licensing thing: try finding a local LDS family history center and looking at the image there. Oct 11, 2012 at 0:58
  • @Justin808: You will need to go to a family history center, if you want to view the image for which you provided a link. I see that you are located in Honolulu; there is a family history center there at 1560 S Beretania St; the phone # is (808) 955-8910. Feb 16, 2013 at 2:40

Check in the book "Myers Ortz" compiled in 1912. I think it is free on Ancestry: http://content.ancestry.com/Browse/list.aspx?dbid=1074 Most large librarys have it.

You need to translet but it is a Geographical and Commercial Gazetteer of the German Empire in 1912. You can locate place names in German research.

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