German Genealogy Tip #9: Be Patient With German Archives

Many researchers of their German ancestors eventually reach the point where it comes time to cross the Atlantic, and they need to get birth, marriage, or death records from Germany. When this time comes, one of the best institutions to contact is one of the regional church archives (a “Landeskirchliches Archiv”). Regional church archives will often accept requests from American researchers (preferably written in German) and, for a few dozen Euros, will do a couple hours of research into their local parish records for you.

Something that all American researchers should understand, when requesting help from these German archives, is the need for patience. These archives are often understaffed, funded by private contributions, swamped with requests, and heavily reliant on volunteer work. On top of these factors, many of the German archives lately have been renovating their buildings or relocating to new buildings, and reorganizing their records, which is putting extra strain on their time.

You might hear back from an archive two weeks after contacting them, but in other instances, I have waited seven months to hear back from an archive after contacting them. If you choose not to visit Germany in person or not to hire a German genealogist to go to the archive in person to research for you, you will need to be patient with the archives and the volunteers that help them. One trick that some American researchers use to help speed up the process is to send a modest financial contribution (in Euros) to the archive.

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