A Sippenbüch is a family book or local lineage book, which usually gives considerable information about most of a particular town's residents. These books usually recount the town records from the sixteenth century, forward to the twentieth century. They often contain local history, including such lists as war casualties, mayors, members of specific occupations, and pastors.
Compilers of Ortssippenbücher and Ortsfamilienbücher (family books of a given locality) typically base their information on local church records, tax lists, and other pertinent local records. They begin in the 1500s or 1600s.
In 1937, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Sippenforschung und Sippenflege was organized, with ambitious plans to index every parish in Germany in order to provide vital information for each individual in the parish and to link each family member and generation. There were an estimated 52,000 parishes in Germany. By 1938, 30 volumes of Dorfsippenbücher (village clan books, recording all families) were compiled, but World War II prevented the completion of the task.
The name Dorfsippenbücher was changed in 1950 to Ortssippenbücher (village family books), when Sippenbücher were compiled for cities as well as villages and communities.
Each book took a similar form: a table of contents, a brief history and a map, and a surname and locality index. Dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths are listed in the entries, as well as information about citizenship and occupations.
There are 122 volumes in Series A Ortssippenbücher and 33 volumes in Series B, which included Sippenbücher from localities that had belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and that were later in areas that became Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. (The difference between Series A and Series B is the size of the book, not in the format or contents.)
The Family History Library has many of the volumes resulting from this project. Many are available on microfilm. To find the microfilm number for a location, look in the Family History Library Catalog under the heading "Genealogy." Growing numbers of Ortssippenbücher are available at the Deutsche Zentralstelle furt Genealogie (German Center for Genealogy) in Leipzig.
Finding out if an Ortssippenbücher is available for the target of your German research is certainly worth the effort. And while the information found in a lineage book still needs to be verified for accuracy, it can pave a trail that may lead toward more genealogical discoveries.
For a list of published Ortssippenbücher, see Wolfgang Ribbe and Eckhart Henning, Familiengeschichtsforschung. Verlag Degener & Co., Neustadt an der Aisch, 1995.