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German Parish Registers


German Parish Registers:



A major genealogical brick wall for most Americans is the transition across the ocean to the ancestral homeland in Europe.


Unlike American genealogical research, where the place to search for basic vital records is usually a civil registration (such as a city, county or state),


In Germany, with a few exceptions, few census exist, and most family research is accomplished by the use of local parish records. While early nineteenth-century civil birth registrations exist for some areas, principally those invaded by Napoleon, civil registration should not be counted on for the majority of German vital records research.


In 18th and 19th century German-speaking areas, one must search the parish registers for Catholic, Lutheran, and other churches to find the births, christenings, marriages, deaths, and burials.


The historic boundaries of the old German parishes have not been defined except in very general terms, particularly for the mid-to-late 1800s. This book remedies that problem and serves as a road map to those records.


Many German parish registers have been microfilmed and are available through the Family History Library and Family History Centers. If this is the case, the initial firm number for that parish is also found in the Parish Key, thus speeding your research.


The book is not meant to serve as a beginner's guide to conducting German research. Its purpose is to aid in identifying what church records to search if a specific town is known.   If only a general area is known, perhaps from a passenger list or naturalization record, this resource can also aid in identifying which church parishes can be found in that locality and facilitate accessing those records.


The graphic view portrayed in the accompanying maps makes identifying neighboring parishes, or perhaps districts, a task of minutes. By referring to the included microfilm numbers of the Family History Library it can quickly be determined if records are available to search locally or if correspondence is required.


Generally, German parish records date from the mid-sixteenth century; however, the majority of parishes began recording christenings, marriages, and deaths/burials after 1600. Beginning dates vary from religion to religion and from area to area. parish registers also vary in uniformity and content according to the requirements of the time period and the diligence of the minister or clerk making the entry. The following information typically is included in most German parish registers: Baptisms/Christenings; Marriages; Deaths/Burials; Family Registers; Confirmation; Communion and Penance Registers.


These places are as of about 1870. If the place existed prior to that date, it will most likely be listed. If the place was named after that date, the chances drop.


The book:


Identifies the parish where your ancestor went to church based on where they lived.


Gives the Family History Library microfilm number for your family's parish records.


Identifies every city town and place that included residents.


Visually identifies church parishes for Lutherans and Catholics within each district.


Identifies neighboring parishes, just in case your ancestor may have gone to an alternate parish


Aids in conducting area searches, particularly across district or regional borders


Provides visual identification of search area in which to look for your family.


Helps in determining proximity of one area to another

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