German Resource Spotlight:

By James M. Beidler

Everyone searching for German ancestry—both German-Americans and their forebears in Europe—researches church records, as the registers of baptisms, marriages and death can often replace unavailable or nonexistent civil vital records. These valuable German church records have become more and more accessible as they’ve been made available in large numbers in the past couple years., a new site that will eventually offer scans of most of Germany’s Protestant church books, is the standard-bearer of these new resources. Guest writer and author of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide and the upcoming Trace Your German Roots Online, James M. Beidler, discusses some of this great new site’s basics: is run by a non-profit organization called Kirchenbuchportal, which was established in 2013 by the umbrella Protestant church (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland) and eleven of its regional churches. The Evangelische Kirche came about as a union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in the Kingdom of Prussia in the early 1800s, and therefore includes the historical registers of most mainstream Protestant village congregations.

The site already has millions of pages digitized. While not all of the member churches of the Protestant union are participating, those that are involved have already digitized about a quarter of their church registers; see the map for a listing of which districts have contributed to the project. Digitization is made possible by funds from the regional churches and subscription fees paid by users, ranging from monthly “passports” that allow a certain number of register pages to be downloaded to costly professional subscriptions.

Some of the regional churches have loaded information about parish registers (such as the dates for which the various types of records exist) even if those registers have not been digitized yet.

The registers that have been digitized are not searchable by name; their individual pages are “browsable,” though, so you’ll want to have at least a hypothesis (if not actual evidence) that an ancestor was from a particular parish.

The project continuously digitizes these church registers and will add greater capabilities to its English version this year. Kirchenbuchportal also hopes that additional Protestant state churches will join the Archion effort. For records not yet digitized, the site has a list of church archives and contact information.

Check out James M. Beidler’s Trace Your German Roots Online, due out on April 1, for more information on how to use this valuable resource. James will also be hosting a one-hour, live webinar on How to Trace Your German Ancestry Online on Mar. 24.