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German: Locating Places in Germany
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All genealogical research is ultimately local in origin. Our ancestors lived in specific places, and the records about them were usually created in those places where they lived. Even records of larger jurisdictions, such as at the national level (e.g.: census records), were generally written by officials in the specific place where a family lived. Further, it is through a family''s location that we, in part, identify them. Not only is it important to know a person''s name, birth date and relationships (parents, spouse, children), but also the place where a person lived (or was born, married, or died). All of these elements are necessary to fully, and uniquely, identify a person. The geographic aspect of genealogical research is even more important for Germanic ancestors than it is for research in other areas. Some key records for family history research in countries outside of Germany were created at the state, provincial, or national level (such as military or census records). That is seldom the case with German ancestors. Virtually all the key records about German families were created at the local level, in the town or parish where they lived. A few were created at the district (like a county) level, but virtually none at higher government jurisdictions. Therefore, locating places in Germany is an important aspect of successful German research. For researchers, this begins with learning the correct place where a German immigrant came from; his ancestral home. From there it is essential to learn the parish where the family attended church. As research progresses, you may find persons married into families from other areas. Those locations must also be identified, so that appropriate records can be searched. The primary tools for such research are gazetteers. They will be the focus of this course. However, important aspects of German jurisdictions are also necessary to understand, as is the ability to read, and understand, place names which may not be familiar to an English or French-speaking researcher.

Course Content

Module 1
Identifying the Ancestor's Hometown
Is it really a hometown?
Cities That Share Provincial, County, or State Names
Port Cities
Large Cities
Geographic Names or Terms That Are Not Towns
Did you read that place-name right?
Foreign Terminology
English (or other foreign) Versions of Place Names
Spelling Problems
Places with Similar Spellings
Multiple Places with the Same Name
Place Name Changes

Module 2
German Jurisdictions
Former German Countries & States
German Empire
Austro-Hungarian Empire
Smaller German Jurisdictions
Modern German Countries

Module 3
Using Meyers Gazetteer
Reading the Gothic Font
Key Abbreviations in Meyers
Typical Layout of a Meyers Entry
Dependent (reference) entries
Regular Entries
Identifying Jurisdictions in an Entry
Determining the Civil Registry Office

Is there a Parish in the Town?
Practice Examples

Using the Online Meyers Gazetteer

Module 4
Other Gazetteers For Germany

How to find Gazetteers on FamilySearch
Saxony & Thuringia

Module 5
Gazetteers For Other German-Speaking Areas
Austro-Hungarian Empire

Module 6
Place Name Changes
Documentation of Place Name Changes
Kartenmeister and Other Online Tools
Other Gazetteers
Reverse-Sort Gazetteers
Other Online Gazetteers


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