Saturday, September 24, 2016

German Census Records - Where Do I Find Them?

Good morning! I have been wanting to post more stories to my blog but keep forgetting what the topics are. Maybe one day I will start writing notes to myself to remind me what I am thinking about. So, since I couldn't remember what I intended to write about, I figured I would take an old presentation and discuss that.

As I do my genealogy research and teach others how to do their research I rely heavily on the US Census records which are widely available online. As we start to go back to the original immigrants this resource becomes less helpful and we need to begin looking for records from their homelands. Many regions have great church records available in the digital collections online but finding good census records is more difficult. In my case, I need to find the records for several German states. As you look for the German census records you are told by many that those records don't exist or they were lost in the war. In some cases that may be true, but not always.

Last year I was privileged to hear a talk from Dr. Roger Minert at RootsTech2016. He had spent a great deal of time researching the German Censuses, looking in the corners and boxes of various archives, and compiling what is actually available. Earlier this year he published a book compiling the results of his research. This book, German Census Records 1816-1916: The When, Where, and How of a Valuable Genealogical Resource, is available from Amazon.com for under $35 or you can see if your local library has a copy by looking it up at WorldCat. In the book, he describes the history of German censuses and the status of the census for 34 German states.

Did you know that some German states held censuses every three years? Or that Prussia had 16 censuses between 1818-1864? Or that the German Empire held 10 censuses between 1871-1961? Just like in the US censues, the amount of information in each German census has increased over time, beginning with the haushalts bestandsliste which only records heads of household and number of residents in the earlier censuses and ending with the urlisten which provides information for each resident in the household.

But where are these records kept? Most of the censuses (~85%) are held in city and town archives. The remainder are held in state/federal archives (~5%) and regional archives (~10%). You can find some of these records in digital format on FamilySearch.org. A very few are available online in various archives. But since many are in regional archives you might need to visit the fatherland for the time being until those are digitized and made available.

How do you know where your family was from in Germany? Well, prior to 1871 when the German Empire was formed, Germany was just a consolidation of various states with constantly changing boundaries. The best way to determine where your family may have been from is using maps from their time. The Meyers-Orts und Verkehrs-Lexikon or Meyers-Ortz Gazatteer from 1912-1913 includes the farthest extent of the German Empire. This Gazatteer can be found on Ancestry. The search is by letter and is found in the Browse This Collection box to the right of the search page. But remember, everything is written in German. If you have trouble reading the original German version of the Meyers-Ortz Gazatteer it has been translated to English at www.meyersgaz.org.

Example of a page from the Meyers Gazatteer.
So far, I have only found a few examples of the German censuses digitized and searchable online. They consist of the following:

Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1867) - FamilySearch - Ancestry - MyHeritage
Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1890) - FamilySearch                  - MyHeritage
Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1900) - FamilySearch Ancestry - MyHeritage
Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1919) -                        - Ancestry

In addition to those listed above there are a few sites in Germany that have census indexes. The Arbeitskreis Volkszahl-Register claims to have 3,188 censuses with over 1.7 million individuals indexed. The Arbeits-Gemeinschaft Genealogie Schleswig-Holstein website has an incomplete index for a variety of censuses from Schleswig-Holstein region including 1803, 1835, 1840, 1845, 1855, and 1860.

If you are interested in reading up on the older German census records, there is a good article by Rolf Gehrmann at http://www.demogr.mpg.de/papers/working/wp-2009-023.pdf.

I hope these tips help you in finding your ancestors in Germany. Viel Gl├╝ck!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

October is Family History Month (Again)

Welcome back. I just returned from a week in West Virginia for work related training. It is always nice to get up there because it is cooler and they have topography. Here in Florida it is hot, humid and flat. While I was there I worked on adding another 200+ graves to BillionGraves. I try to add cemeteries when I travel. You might want to consider a random cemetery trip the next time you are on the road.

Now that I am back I have a bunch of projects to work on, least of which is the burned out compressor in our AC unit. But back to genealogy where I am organizing a conference for March, preparing my talks for several upcoming conferences, helping to organize a genealogy society in Second Life, starting a Facebook Group for our local Family History Center, and much more. With October being Family History Month, I hope to get a few more projects completed and hope to be posting a couple more articles to my blog (if all works out).

Here are some suggestions on what you can do in October to celebrate Family History Month:

  • Register for RootsTech 2017. Did you know that RootsTech registration is now open? RootsTech will be held February 8-11, 2017 in Salt Lake City. They have reduced early bird rates of $159 for the conference pass, $189 for the RootsTech + Innovators Summit pass, $69 for the Getting Started pass (Thursday-Saturday), one day passes for $49, and free Family Discovery Day passes for Saturday. This is an incredible conference and I plan on being there again in 2017.
  • Join in on a free live genealogy webinar conference. BCG will be hosting a day of free webinars on October 7 (9am - 5pm Mountain Time). Speakers will include Ann Staley, Judy Russell, Pamela Boyer Sawyer, Elizabeth Shown Mills, Jeanne Larzalere Bloom, and David McDonald. For more information click here
  • Do some sourcing. WikiTree is hosting a Source-a-thon on October 1-3. The purpose of the Source-a-thon is to focus on the trees that have been contributed without sources. Participants will be eligible for prizes during hourly random drawings. Currently, the prizes include annual subscriptions to MyHeritage, FindMyPast, Ancestry, Fold3, Newspapers.com, and GenealogyBank; DNA kits from FTDNA; subscriptions to online courses; books, magazines, gift certificates, t-shirts; a 4-day pass to RootsTech 2017, and many other items. WikiTree is a free community based family tree which offers you the ability to write wiki page profiles for each person in your tree. Register, get a number (I am #354) and join with the other Sourcerers for a fun weekend of random genealogy. For more information on this event, and to register, click here.
  • Record a cemetery. Find-a-grave is hosting their Find A Grave Community Days on October 7-9. Join Findagrave.com in helping to preserve your local cemetery information. Use their mobile app to record the headstones in your local cemetery, post stories to your social media sites, or join with a scheduled meetup. More information on this event can be found by clicking here
  • Win a vacation. Geneabloggers is sponsoring a free 7-night stay at Crystal Inn Hotel & Suites in Salt Lake City. Imagine winning a full week in Salt Lake to do your research and see the sights of the city. I love visiting Salt Lake but every time I have gone it has been in February. The registration is free, no purchase required. All registrations must be received by 2:00 am CDT, September 26, 2016, For more information click here
  • Join a Virtual Genealogy Society. We are starting an online genealogy society called the Second Life Virtual Genealogy Society (SLVGS) in Second Life. Second Life is a virtual world with free basic subscription fees. The SLVGS is meeting monthly with our next meeting on Sunday, September 25, at 8:30 pm Eastern Time (6:30 pm Mountain Time). We meet at the Just Genealogy fire pit. For more information about the organization, click here
  • Do your DNA. Have you thought about adding your DNA to one of the many sites out there? DNA can be a powerful tool in finding your cousins. With Ancestry.com's DNA kit you can see how you are related to the matches as well as seeing your ethnicity results. And you might just get included in the next season of BYU's Relative Race.  Use this link to get 10% off your DNA kit from Ancestry.com. 
  • Find out something new. If none of those things interest you, you could just spend some extra time getting to know your ancestors through additional research. FamilySearch's mobile Memories app now allows you to record an interview with your relatives. Use this app to record a conversation or scan your family's photo albums and then upload the information to FamilySearch.org. For more information on the Memories app click here.

With all of these ideas you won't have any time to do the other things around the house (cleaning, dishes, cooking, etc). Just tell your family you are celebrating Family History Month and if they get hungry give them the phone number for Pizza Hut. Have fun celebrating!