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Episode 19 - A Long Look Sideways, Finding German Towns

Jul 15, 2007


Published July 15, 2007

GEM:  A Long Look Sideways

Have you ever heard the piece of genealogical advice that says if you get stuck with your own ancestor, look sideways  - at their siblings, aunts and uncles?  Well in this episode we stretch this idea even further by looking at folks who aren't even related to us in order to get a clearer view of our ancestor's lives.

EXAMPLE  Here's a list of books that I've found that are about specific locations and experiences that apply to my ancestors:

  1. The Kinta Years by Janice Holt Giles (Oklahoma)
  2. Tunbridge Wells - I was born on the Pantiles, By Josephine Butcher (England)
  3. Still Life - Sketches from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood by Richard Cobb (England)
  4. Rebecca of Blossom Prairie by Maurine Walpole Liles (Texas)
  5. Papa's Wife by Thyra Ferre Bjorn -1956 (Sweden)
  6. Anything Can Happen by George and Helen Papashvily -1940 (immigrant experience)

Places to find old or out of print books:,, Google Search, Garage Sales

GEM:  Finding Your German Ancestors Town of Origin

A little German village can seem like a needle in a haystack when you're starting with ancestors who made it to the shores of America.   But once you've found that gem, it will open up all kinds of records from their native land, and likely take you back several more generations.

There are three important pieces to this Ancestral puzzle:

  1. The village name
  2. The Parish it belonged to
  3. The district or Kreis it was part of

First step: find them in the most recent census and work backwards.  Look for immigration information. 

The naturalization process created a lot of paperwork, and in that paper work your ancestors were asked for specific information about where they were born, where they immigrated from, the ship they traveled on, and when they arrived in America.  Naturalization was applied for at the county courthouse in most cases.

Try the free GenWeb website  http://  for the county where you think your ancestor's applied for citizenship to see what resources they have available.  Also, look up the county courthouse online for records and contact information.

Declarations of Intent:  The first document filed for citizenship
Petitions for Naturalization:  The final papers

The more recent the naturalization, the more likely you will find listed the place of birth, date of emigration and the ship on which they sailed.

Brush up on your German border history.   Most recent border changes occurred in 1945 and 1871.  Wikipedia 

Consult a gazetteer at the library or online, and look up the town. This should indicate the parish and Kreis.

Check  Enter the last name, and the country as Germany to see if people with the same last name are listed in the same location you have pinpointed in Germany. 

Also, Search PLACE under the Family History Library link to find out what records they hold for that village.  Suggestion:  Put the village name in the first field and the kreis in the second.

Next, Timelines are a great tool for seeing the bigger picture and determining how the little bits of information fall within it.

One of my favorite German sites is German Genealogy website

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