Introduction to family research

Family research normally begins with someone who is still alive today, maybe even with yourself. At the outset, genealogical research seeks to identify relevant information about this person’s parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc.

The first step is to collect information from private documents and by asking relatives and friends of the family.

Another first point of contact will be registry offices and relevant archives; such locations will normally have important family history documents from recent history.

After the passage of the Personal Statute Act, which first came into effect on 1.1.1876 (the exact date varies between individual German states), registry offices around Germany were charged with recording all civil status cases that occurred within their jurisdiction. For periods before the Personal Statue Act, church books represent the primary resources for family research.

In all cases, it is essential to know where the person you are looking for lived. Generally speaking, all historical personal data will be located in church books focused on a specific congregation.

If you know the name of the place and have already identified the relevant congregation, then the next step is to check whether church books from this community are available through Archion. If you find the place and its church books here on our portal you will be able to see if digital scans of the church books are already available. If they are, you can view them though Archion as soon as you are registered. If they are not available as digital scans, you can contact the relevant archive using the contact information provided.

General Tips

Collect relevant documents and information about your family in one place, for example: family bibles, birth, marriage, and death certificates, wills, journals, obituaries, and other similar documents and objects.

Take your time and do not try and do everything on your own. Genealogical clubs and organizations can provide helpful contacts to other family researchers.

Use the available genealogical reference works and resources, such as local heritage books. The internet offers a wide array of information about genealogy; the German Genealogy Network, maintained by the Society for Computer Genealogy, provides a good overview of tips and links for your research.

You will find information on civil status cases (births, marriages, deaths) for the period from 1876 until today in local registry offices.

Every regional evangelical church and every catholic diocese maintains their own central church archive. If you cannot find digital versions of the books you are looking for here, contact the appropriate archive directly.

In order to read and understand old, handwritten sources, make sure to learn the necessary paleographical skills! The resources provided here should be seen as a first step.

Further family research resources, such as civil records, court records, land registers, tax lists, or military lists can be found in state and local archives.