Check these six sources for the name of your German immigrant ancestor’s home village—the key to unlocking generations of family information in records of Germany.
Identifying your immigrant ancestor is an exciting genealogical find. It can help you make the leap to your ancestral homeland and push your research back several more generations. But merely finding out that an immigrant ancestor was from “Germany” (or even narrowed slightly to “Preussen,” the largest of the 19th-century German states) isn’t helpful information. There’s no central repository of records in Germany, and during the period of heaviest emigration, there was no standard of what records were kept and preserved. The types of records you’ll find depend on the place. That means your German genealogy research will be in local records.
But before you can search those records, you’ll need to determine at least the German-speaking sovereignty from which your ancestor emigrated and preferably, his or her actual village of origin, or Heimat. Naturalizations, passenger lists and censuses, unfortunately, are usually unspecific about the immigrant’s birthplace. More than likely you’ll need to research some or all of the six record types outlined here to find the name of the town or village and take your genealogy journey to Germany.