After you’ve plucked the “low-hanging fruit” from the online databases of mega-sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org, researchers with German ancestry sometimes stall and think employing a professional researcher across the water is then immediately necessary. While there are times you’ll need to bring in a pro, you can often find more information on the German megasite Genealogy.net, an often-underused resource for researching German ancestors.
Genealogy.net (also known as Compgen.de) merited a full chapter in Trace Your German Roots Online, and its stack of resources is always growing. The site’s growth is due, in part, to numerous regional German genealogy associations teaming up with Genealogy.net—and these groups are often expanding the databases and services they offer. Here, I’ll share two quick success stories of researchers using these partnerships to discover information about their ancestors.
One researcher, Dick Wirtenson, knew his ancestor hailed from a town named Hochdorf in Württemberg, but had also heard of an even smaller town called Benzenhaus. Wirtenson wanted to learn more about this Benzenhaus, so he went to Genealogy.net and discovered a branch of the Verein für Familienkunde in Baden-Württemberg e.V. for that part of Württemberg (the district of Biberach). (Baden-Württemberg is the current southwest German state that encompasses the former smaller states of Baden, Württemberg and Hohenzollern.)
Wirtenson e-mailed the Biberach group and was rewarded with a reply from one of its members. The member found a publication that stated the father of Wirtenson’s immigrant ancestor aided a gang of robbers and served four-months’ jail time as a consequence. Assuming the story is true, Wirtenson had found a rich family story from records that are not online or available in America!
In a similar way, researcher Mary J. Lohr learned about the Oldenburg emigrant database, a project of another German regional group, Oldenburgische Gesellschaft für Familienkunde e.V. (below). The Oldenburg group, which Lohr learned about from Trace Your German Roots Online, focuses on the part of the modern German state of Lower Saxony (in German, Niedersachsen) that was the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg during the German Second Empire (1871–1918). The group’s emigrant database contains thousands of names from a variety of sources of those who left the grand duchy, mostly in the 19th century. In addition to the emigrant’s names, the database often includes birthdates and places, places of settlement after emigration, and names of other family members (if known).
By consulting this resource, Lohr discovered a new score of records that she wouldn’t have had access to otherwise, opening up infinite new research possibilities.
To look through all of the societies linked to Genealogy.net/Compgen.de, go to the site’s Regional page. An English version of any site is available by cutting and pasting the URL of the German site into a Google search, then choosing “Translate this page” from the search results. (Note: The site has an organic English version as well, but the English side of the site has fewer resources than the German side.)