Category: German Genealogy Tips

German Genealogy Tip #33: “Rufname”, A Person’s Preferred Name, Was Often Underlined

On one of my previous posts, a commenter named “Franz” mentioned a very helpful tip: Germans often had several given names. Many times, German individuals’ “first names” were very common: Johann or Hans or Anna or Martha. In order to differentiate themselves, they would go by one of their less common middle names: Balthasar, Karl, […]

German Genealogy Tip #32: A Married Couple Usually Lived in the Husband’s Hometown

In pre-20th century Germany, individuals usually married others who lived nearby, but every so often, a man and a wife from different towns were united in marriage. When this happened, the woman usually went to live with the man’s family, and rarely the other way around. There are a few reasons for this: If a […]

German Genealogy Tip #31: FamilySearch Has Free German Records

If you’d like to see and use actual, physical images of genealogical records from Germany, many of them are available for completely free on There are far more records on FamilySearch than the handful of transcribed/indexed records you get through regular the “search” function. To explore all that FamilySearch has to offer, you will need […]

German Genealogy Tip #30: People Can Get Their Age Wrong

Scenario: Your ancestor gives an approximate birth year of 1870 for himself in all of the censuses during his adulthood. You find a birth certificate that matches him in every detail, but the birth certificate implies he is born in 1861. Can this possibly be him? The answer: Yes, it can be. Don’t get too […]

German Genealogy Tip #29: Use the German Phone Book to Find Surname Concentrations

Do you have a German immigrant ancestor whom you have absolutely no idea where in Germany they came from? Most of us do. One great method for finding clues on where they might have come from is to use the modern-day German phone book, which is available online at: Here’s how it works. If the […]

German Genealogy Tip #28: “Evangelisch” Means Lutheran/Reformed Church

When researching German records, you will often see an individual’s religion listed as “evangelisch” or “evangelische”. This is an umbrella term that describes most of the Protestant denominations after the Reformation. In Germany, this term was more likely to describe a church with Lutheran beliefs, and in Switzerland, this term was more likely to describe […]

German Genealogy Tip #27: “-in” was Sometimes Added to German Surnames for Females

Don’t get tripped up by this when researching your German ancestors. Many times, German females would have “-in” added to their surnames. Thus, a woman with the last name of Schmidt might have sometimes been called “Schmidtin”. A woman with the last name of Mueller might have sometimes been called “Muellerin”. Their actual surname was […]

German Genealogy Tip #26: How to Read German Civil Registrations (A Guide)

I got a fun little treat in my email inbox last night from — a printable guide to reading German civil registrations (government records of births, marriages, and deaths). I have personally had a lot of practice reading these, but I am so glad that is sending these guides out to researchers. Researching […]

German Genealogy Tip #25: There are Multiple Towns with the Same Name

One thing you must learn quickly, when doing genealogy in Germany, is that there are multiple towns with the same exact name. Often there can be multiple towns in the same province with the same name, and sometimes there are multiple towns even in the same county with the same name. Some towns have the […]

German Genealogy Tip #24: Germans Chain-Migrated to America

Today’s German genealogy tip of the day is this: Germans almost always chain-migrated to America. If you have a German immigrant ancestor, bet on the fact that several of their close family members also immigrated to America, probably both before and after your ancestor. Readjusting to a new country, a new way of life, and […]