When conducting German genealogical research, some researchers rely heavily on parish records. What happens when these records cannot be found, accessed or read? It is important to understand there are many other records available to aid in German research. In Germany history, both religious and government authorities created various records. The Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs opens the door to these documents including military, court, and civil vital records. Meyers is a gazetteer that lists German localities based on the 1871 German Empire. After you have identified the locality you would like to search, this double-volume gazetteer will explain where these records are kept.
An important issue to be aware of is the gazetteer is written in old German fracture print. Meyers provides a simple explanation in the introduction on how to identify letters in the alphabet and read the typeface.
Meyers is organized alphabetically according to locality and will identify the kingdom, province, or duchy to which the locality belongs. Then the place of county, district, military, court and civil registry offices are given. This information will most often begin with the highest jurisdiction and continue to the lowest jurisdiction. Other information provided may include the location and distance of the telephone, post office and train station which the locality used, altitude (for cities of more than 5,000 people), population numbers (taken from either the 1905 or 1910 censuses), and the type of parish (Catholic or Lutheran).
Due to the heavy amount of information found in Meyers, abbreviations are used to a great extent in identifying the material. A researcher can quickly refer to an abbreviation table near the beginning of each volume for help. If a comma or semicolon is found after an abbreviation or a chain of abbreviations for your locality, the town itself had the records associated with those abbreviations listed. If the town did not hold those records, then there will be no comma or semicolon and the name of the town that holds the records for your locality will follow the abbreviations.
Remember to write down the complete information found in the Meyers gazetteer for the locality. Once you know the area where these records are kept you can find the records available for them through the Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City, Utah (records on microfilm/microfiche may be requested through your local Latter-day Saint Family History Center). If the FHL does not have the records you need, you will now know where to write to request records, or, if possible, visit the area in Germany for hands-on research.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2004.
*Effective May 2010, GenWeekly articles that are more than five years old no longer require a subscription for full access.
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