German genealogists can be hard to shop for during a special occasion or for the holidays. After all, you can’t wrap an archive or cemetery (yet!). But never fear! We’ve put together this German genealogy book list for the Deutsche researchers in your family.
Give your loved ones a crash-course lesson in German genealogy with these helpful how-to research guides.
- The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your German Ancestry in Europe by James M. Beidler (Family Tree Books, 2014): At the risk of tooting my own horn, I mention this book, a complete guide to researching ancestors in Germany. In it, you’ll learn how to trace your immigrant ancestor back to Germany, plus how to use a host of records from both the United States and the old country.
- Trace Your German Roots Online: A Complete Guide to German Genealogy Websites by James M. Beidler (Family Tree Books, 2016): This companion to the German Genealogy Guide shares how to research for German ancestry on websites big and small, including Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Genealogy.net, and Archion.de.
- The German Research Companion by Shirley J. Riemer, Roger P. Minert and Jennifer A. Anderson (Lorelei Press, 2000): This almanac of sorts has everything from facts and figures to methodology information about researching your German genealogy.
- The Genealogist’s Guide to Fraktur for Genealogists Researching Families of German Heritage by Beverly Repass Hoch and Corinne Earnest (self-published, 1990): This guide serves as an introduction to the private certificates (often for baptisms) that many times also double as attractive folk art.
- Germanic Genealogy: A Guide to Worldwide Sources and Migration Patterns, third edition by the Germanic Genealogy Society (self-published, 2007): This book has a higher price tag ($70) to match its length: more than 600 pages of details about German genealogy records, maps and statistics.
Of course, every researcher with German ancestors needs some language skills. Fortunately, several affordable books can help. Here are a few:
- German-English Genealogical Dictionary by Ernest Thode (Genealogical Publishing Co., 2008): Use this guide to help you translate the often specialized or archaic language in German genealogy records.
- If I Can, You Can: Decipher Germanic Records by Edna M. Bentz (self-published, 2006): Decode tricky German handwriting in records with this approachable guide.
- Deciphering Handwriting in German Documents, second edition by Roger P. Minert (GRT Publications, 2013): This guide takes a more scholarly approach than the Bentz book, but it can help you take a deep dive into your German research.
Like many things in German genealogical research, the types of resources available to researchers depend on which era they’re researching. The “First Wave” of German immigration lasted from the 1600s to around the time of the American Revolution. The significantly longer “Second Wave” followed, lasting from the 19th century through World War I. Let’s look at books for each era.
First Wave (1600s – 1770s)
- Master Index to the Emigrants Documented in the Published Works of Annette Kunselman Burgert by Annette K. Burgert (AKB Publications, 1995): This book provides a gateway to the names of emigrants found in Burgert’s dozen-plus books on German immigration.
- Eighteenth Century Register of Emigrants from Southwest Germany to America and Other Countries by Werner Hacker (Closson Press, 1994): This more-expensive resource is an index to German researcher Werner Hacker’s volumes, which show exit information from the German states.
- Pennsylvania German Pioneers edited by Ralph B. Strassburger and William J. Hinke (Picton Press, 1992): This extensive set (a three-volume set) includes facsimile signatures of men’s oaths of allegiance upon arriving in the Colonies. If the full set’s price intimidates you, the Genealogical Publishing Company produced a cheaper version of the set’s first volume that’s available on Amazon.
Second Wave (1800s – 1918)
Because of the larger scale of the Second Wave, you won’t find any single-volume guides that provide broad information. However, you can choose individual volumes from a sets that applies to the time and place being researched. You can buy single volumes that align with the geographic areas in which the researcher is interested.
Roger P. Minert has spearheaded two large sets. His Place Name Indexes series (GRT Publications, 2000–2006) provides place names for every state of the Second Empire. Each also includes “reverse alphabetical indexes,” helpful when you can’t read the beginning of a place name but can its ending. Minert is also at the helm of a continuing series titled German Immigrants in American Church Records (Picton Press/Family Roots Publications, 2005–present). These abstracts of registers include immigrants’ names and the villages in Germany from which they came.
Kevan M. Hansen has compiled an ever-growing set of more than 50 volumes called Map Guide to German Parish Registers (Family Roots Publishing, 2004–present). These use maps to show which villages’ records you can find in particular Protestant and Catholic parishes. The book also cross-references these entries with the holdings of the Family History Library.
Want to splurge for your Second Wave researcher? Spring for a full set of one of Minert’s or Hansen’s collections, and you’ll make a genealogist happy!