RootsWeb's Guide to Tracing Family Trees No. 26 [an error occurred while processing this directive]

Frog RootsWeb's Guide to
Tracing Family Trees


Guide No. 26


Germanic Ancestors






Internet Guide to the Castles of Germany

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Germanic | Austrians | Dutch | Belgians | Liechtensteiners | Luxembourgers | Swiss | RootsWeb Mailing Lists



On the Trail of Germanic Ancestors


FlagA large percentage of Americans — about one in four — have one or more Germanic ancestors. Whether your ancestors came from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Alsace (part of France), or from Poland, Luxembourg, southern Denmark, or what is now the Czech Republic or Russia, if they spoke German, they are considered Germanic. Moreover, some of the early so-called "Holland Dutch" ancestors sometimes turn out to be Deutsch (German) or have Germanic connections. Germanic people also have immigrated to many other countries, particularly Canada, South Africa and Australia. Since the Germans have being coming to America since the 17th century, it is not unusual to find some of them perched upon your family tree. Sometimes the surname has been so anglicized that it is difficult to recognize it as German.

Map  German StatesGermany, as we now know it has existed only since 1871. Prior to that time there was the German Confederation (1815-1866) and from medieval times until 1806 the major political union in Germany was the Holy Roman Empire, which consisted of hundreds of principalities. Regardless of when your German ancestors immigrated to the "new country," there is a great temptation to leap immediately into German records. Stifle that urge and learn everything you can about your ancestors through the country of arrival records first. Generally, you must know a specific town where a German ancestor was born or married before you will be successful in locating him or her in the old country since most German records were kept locally.

HomesKnowing your immigrant ancestor's religion is important because the church records (Kirchenbucher) are the most significant source of genealogical information for Germany prior to 1876. Many of these records have been microfilmed by the Family History Library. However, it is unlikely that all the records you need will be available at this repository. This library has created some excellent finding aids and material to help you in your quest to find your Germanic roots. Three are them are available online. You'll find them listed under Family History Library Publications and Research Guidance.

Before attempting to avail yourself of the multitude of German records, learn about the history, as well as the political and geographic boundaries of the area in which your families once lived. Determine, if possible, whether your immigrant ancestors were members of an Evangelical church (Lutheran, Reformed and United), were Catholic, or were of the Jewish faith. German church records, some of which date back to the 15th century, often contain detailed information about individuals in the parish. Explore the following links for more adventures in tracing your Germanic lines.


Castle The German Language
Castle German Names Shareware: Surname Search Strategies
Castle Map of Modern Germany
Castle Accessing Telephone Records: Germany
  Das Telefonbuch
with directions in English, German and French
Castle Map of the German Empire, 1871

Map of Germany, 1815, showing the members of German Confederation

Castle Archives in Germany


Hamburg Ship Passenger Lists

ShipsAmong the valuable records in the Family History Library for tracing Germanic ancestors are the Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850-1934. Approximately 30 percent of all European emigrants passed through this port. The Hamburg passenger lists (available on microfilm at the Family History Library) contain the names of virtually everyone who sailed from that port during these years. Several indexes — direct (sailed directly to their destination without stopping at other European ports) and indirect exist for them. Be sure to check both.

ShipsAdditional Ship Passenger Lists

Additional ship passenger lists exist — on film, in books, transcriptions, and online, with new ones being added daily.


Ball Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild
Ball The Compass: Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild (lists, records and databases of importance)
Ball Emigration and Immigration Links: German Roots
Ball Germans to America: Lists of Passengers Arriving at U.S. Ports, 1850-1893
Ball Finding Passenger Arrival Records at the Port of Galveston, Texas, by Joe Beine
Ball Finding Passenger Lists 1820-ca 1940: Arrivals at U.S. Ports: A Basic Tutorial for German-Americans by Joe Beine
Ball Finding Passenger Lists Before 1820: A Brief Listing of Sources for German-Americans by Joe Beine



GermanyGenWeb Project


Castle Federation of East European Family History Societies (FEEFHS)
(Many finding aids available)
Castle FEEFHS' German Genealogy Cross-Index
Castle Kingdom of Prussia
Castle German Genealogical Research in South Africa
Castle Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of Minnesota
Castle American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR)
Castle Odessa: A German-Russian Genealogical Library
Castle Janet's Germans from Russian Research
Castle Cyndi's List: Germans from Russia
Castle Palatines to America
Castle Palatine & Pennsylvania-Dutch Genealogy
Castle Tim's Tips on Pennsylvania German Research
Castle The Hessians
Castle Hessians and the American Revolution
Castle German Texas WWW Pages
Castle Internet Sources of German Genealogy
Castle Starke Genealogy: Index of German Nobility
Castle Germany/Prussian Mailing Lists
Castle Cyndi's List: Germany (Deutschland)
Castle WorldGenWeb Project
Castle Central Europe: WorldGenWeb Project


Germanic | Austrians | Dutch | Belgians | Liechtensteiners | Luxembourgers | Swiss | RootsWeb Mailing Lists

Flag Austrian ancestors

If your ancestors were Austrian, you will need to know exactly where they came from within an area covered by the provinces of Burgenland, Carinthia, Lower Austria, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria, Tirol, Vorarlberg, and Vienna. Records in the United States often simply describe a person as Austrian without giving the exact place of origin. Your ancestors might have actually come from the former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Poland, Romania or the Ukraine, and if so, your research will, or course, lead you to the records of those countries rather than what is Austria today.

A small number of Austrians came to the United States before the Civil War, but very few arrived during the Colonial period — among these were about 50 families of Protestants from Salzburg who found new homes in Georgia in 1734. It is estimated that there were about 275,000 German-speaking Austrians in the United States by 1900.

Of all the provinces of Austria and Hungary, Burgenland provided the largest number of German-speaking emigrants bound for America. The 1910 U.S. census is valuable for researchers of Austrian lines because it lists the language spoken. If your immigrant ancestor was from Austria, but spoke Polish, he or she would very likely be from Galicia in present-day Poland. Be sure to check this census for your Austrian families to learn which language they spoke. This information is critical to finding records of genealogical value.

Civil registration of births, marriages and deaths did not start until 1938 (except in Wiener Neustadt in 1872 and in Burgenland in 1895). Therefore you will need to locate vital records in the church registers in Austria. The great majority of Austrians are Catholic, but until 1849 Catholic priests also had to include in their registers the records of other denominations. So even though your ancestors may have been Lutheran or Jewish, you much search Catholic registers up to 1849. From 1878 to 1917 the Lutherans had to send a duplicate copy of all register entries to the church headquarters in Vienna. From 1870 on, other religions and also people with no religion, registered their names in local magistrates' courts, where the lists are still located.

Ball AustriaGenWeb: Austrian Genealogy Pages
Ball Austria Message Boards
Ball Carpatho-Rusyns of Austria-Hungary
Ball Cyndi'sList: Western Europe


Dutch ShoesThe Dutch Touch

Americans with Dutch ancestors discover that their ancestors probably arrived in one of three time periods: The early 17th century, the 1830s and 1840s, or just after World War II.

If your Dutch ancestors were among the early settlers of New Netherland your research will take you back through about 380 years of American records, and you will learn a great deal of history as you trace them. If your Dutch ancestors arrived in the middle of the 19th century, you will probably discover they settled in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois or Iowa, and that they came mostly from rural villages in The Netherlands rather than from Amsterdam or Rotterdam.

Windmill If your Dutch family arrived in the 20th century, they probably went to the Chicago area, the Midwest or the Pacific Northwest. However, you may find your Dutch almost anywhere in America. For research purposes it is often is faster to do Dutch research at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City than anywhere else, including The Netherlands. This library has an excellent collection of primary records as well as outstanding secondary sources. Among the records available are Dutch census records (some were taken in parts of that country as early as 1580, but generally dating from 1795).

Church records are a major source for those tracing Dutch ancestors prior to 1795. Civil registration began that year for the southern provinces and in 1811 for the northern ones. Church registers of baptism, marriages and burials began before 1600 in each province except Overijssel. However, many are not complete or have been lost, so not every parish has records dating to the 1500s. Court records, which contain criminal and civil suits, civil marriages, property transfers, probate records, powers of attorney, and other legal documents are rich sources. Some court records date to the 1200s. The Dutch have actively traced their genealogies and published many of them.


Ball NetherlandsGenWeb
Ball Dutch Genealogy
Ball Dutch Genealogy Links
Ball Holland Page
Ball The Olive Tree Genealogy - New Netherlands
Ball Index to 17th-century (mostly Dutch) Immigrants to New York Registry
Ball Cyndi's List: Netherlands/Nederland

Some Belgian Links



Belgium-Roots Project


Emigration from the Waasland
(a region in Flanders, Belgium)
to the U.S. and Canada, 1830-1950


Netherlands: Belgium-Roots Project


Cyndi's List: Belgium/Belgique/België



Liechtenstein Genealogy



Looking for Luxembourgers

The first Luxembourgers to America arrived with the Dutch and settled in New Amsterdam (New York) in the 1630s. But most Americans with Luxembourg lines, will discover their ancestors probably immigrated in the 1840s. The eastern part of Luxembourg is closely connected to Germany in culture and language, while the western portion is tied to France and Belgium. However, you may discover the ancestors you assume to be from Germany were actually from Luxembourg because many Luxembourgers immigrants identified themselves as Germans.

Luxembourg has been a clearly defined territorial entity since the early Middle Ages and once was a powerful force in Europe. It became part of the French Republic under Napoleon in 1795, and in 1815 became a Grand Duchy under the rule of The Netherlands. It gained semi-independence In 1839 when it was separated from Belgium, but was still ruled by The Netherlands. Full independence came in 1890. In the 1820s several hundred Luxembourgers migrated to Brazil, Guatemala, and Argentina, but the climate, disease and limited economic opportunities in these localities made mass immigration unattractive.

A few Luxembourgers came to the U.S. in the 1830s, arriving through the ports of New York City and New Orleans. Those who came through New York then moved on to rural areas along the southeastern coast of Lake Erie. Many of the families who landed in New Orleans moved on to Ohio. In the 1840s larger numbers of Luxembourgers immigrated and most went to Chicago area or in localities along Lake Michigan from Chicago to just north of Milwaukee. Others made their new homes around Dubuque, Iowa. Later many migrated to the Plains states of the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas.

Almost all Luxembourger-Americans are Roman Catholics. Luxembourg civil registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1797. The Family History Library has microfilmed copies of these records for most Luxembourg towns to 1880. It also has copies of most parish registers to about 1800. The library uses 13 cantons as subdivisions under which town records are listed.

Ball Research in Luxembourg by Therese Becker
Ball Luxembourg: World Gen Web Project
Ball Luxembourg Genealogy
Ball Luxembourg on My Mind
Ball Names of American Units Stationed in the Grand Duchy during World War I and World War II
Ball GeneLux: Luxembourg-American Genealogical Research


Flag Swiss Links


Ball Map of Switzerland
Ball Swiss Immigration to Wisconsin Project (1826-1900)
Ball Swiss Genealogy on the Internet
Ball Register of Surnames
(with guidelines in English/Deutsch/Francais/Italiano/Rumantsch)
Ball Personal Pages on Swiss Families
Ball Kantons of Switzerland
Ball Cyndi'sList: Switzerland/Suisee/Schweiz


RootsWeb's Mailing Lists:
Surnames, localities, ethnic and special interests

A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in the Hessian soldiers (German auxiliary troops employed by King George III of England) who remained in America after the American Revolution (also see Hessian links above)


Germanic | Austrians | Dutch | Belgians | Liechtensteiners | Luxembourgers | Swiss | RootsWeb Mailing Lists


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Dot RootsWeb Guides to Tracing Family Trees are written & compiled by professional genealogists Julia M. Case, Myra Vanderpool Gormley, CG & Rhonda McClure

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