Overcome five common research problems facing German genealogists.
More Americans trace ancestors to German-speaking parts of Europe than anywhere else. “German” ancestors may have come from Germany, but they also may have come from Austria, Switzerland, Alsace (part of France), much of what is now Poland, Luxembourg, southern Denmark, the present Czech Republic, or even a little bit of Russia. And until 1871, when modern Germany was born, our ancestors said they came from Prussia or Bavaria or Brandenburg or another German state—not from Germany.
What all these “Germans” had in common was that they were German-speaking. Even so, they may have spoken any number of German dialects. We’ll refer to people with the more-inclusive term of Germanic instead of German.
All you need to research your Germanic ancestor is his or her name, town or village of origin, and the date of a life event (such as birth or death). This sounds easy, but some common pitfalls can throw you off. We’ll explain five traps in German genealogy—and help you avoid them to start discovering your Germanic roots.