October is quite an impressive month with two genealogy recognitions: Family History Month and German (American) Heritage Month. We often identify our immigrant ancestors as German even if they came from areas outside of what we identify as German borders today. And this is correct because often the borders were changing and so pockets of German speakers were in Poland, Austria, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, and other areas. They hadn’t moved but the wars and treaties had changed where they were living. Think how strange this would be for us today if suddenly Montana’s border extended into western North Dakota. There are many resources for your “German” research. Let’s look.
Our ancestors were German speaking, but their birthplace or record location might be in a neighboring country. Just like we need to understand our local history, we need to better understand the history of our ancestor’s birthplace. For example, in the tiny Duchy of Luxembourg, there are an abundance of records for births, marriages, deaths and census record. The records might be written in German, French or Latin depending on what country was ruling the region we know as Luxembourg today. In fact, some records might be in neighboring Germany or France because the borders changed over the years. When researching your immigrant German ancestors in the United States census records their country of origin might change over the years. Was it because they were confused? Not likely. In fact, they were answering based on the current ruling country for their region. Looking at the information from census records and comparing that with the history of the region where your ancestor lived in the old country will give you clues when doing your research.
You can find several articles related to researching your German roots online plus fun cultural facts. I hope these links will be useful to your research.
Germany Genealogy • FamilySearch There is valuable information in this helpful page from FamilySearch. Take time to understand what is and isn’t available yet when researching German ancestors. As in my example of Luxembourg ancestors…I found some records in Irrel, Germany which is just across today’s border of Luxembourg.
Meyers Gazetteer - An online, searchable version with historical maps Look for the old ancestral villages and towns in this handy gazetteer.
Unlock the stories of your family’s past with German genealogy translations, courses, books, and more! - Germanology Unlocked I know I’ve mentioned this site before, but I continue to recommend the information shared on the site as well as the courses available. If you are translating old German, the tips and recommendations are invaluable.
German Culture: Facts, Customs, Traditions, and Things To Know (studying-in-germany.org) Learn more about German culture and traditions that exist today.
German Traditions Explained | Lingoda - Online Language School
German genealogy research guide (americanancestors.org)
GERMAN-AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH --October 2021 | National Today Here are some fun ideas and a bit of history about German American Heritage Month.
Remember to take advantage of online translation tools such as Microsoft Translator and Google Translate. It’s useful to compare the results between the two. They are not always the same!
As you are thinking about your German roots, take time to jot down family traditions that your family shares that may have originated from your German ancestors. Is there a must have recipe for the holidays or a particular tradition for special events? These little tidbits bring life to your family history. Enjoy your German research! Guten Tag!
With a lifelong passion for genealogy and history, the author enjoys the opportunity to share genealogy tidbits, inspiring others to research and write their family story.