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The Ancestor List Exchange: German Research before Message Boards

German researchers were communicating long before our modern technological means. Know what previous research has been collected and how to access it.


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In the early twentieth century, much before internet message boards, communication between German researchers was already in motion. One group of German family historians pooled their research and created their own organization. Much of their research was later filmed and is available through the Salt Lake City Family History Library. It is called the Ahnenlistenumlauf or ancestor list exchange (abbreviated ALU).

One of the several segments of the ALU is a 14-volume collection called the Ahnenlistenkartei, or ancestor list cards. The Ahnenlistenkartei hold such information as surnames, the locations from which these surnames originate, and the time periods in which the surnames appear.

The ALU collection is not the only list exchange that has been created. Significantly older than the ALU collection is the Ahnenlistenaustausch, another ancestor list exchange begun in Dresden in 1921. The Ahnenlistenaustausch is now referred to as the ALA. The ALA consists of half a million German pedigrees, and is indexed in a collection called Die Ahnenstammkartei des deutschen Volkes, or the pedigree index of Germans. This index, known as the ASTAKA, covers both the ALA and the newer ALU. The index contains 2.7 million cards. The emphasis of this group lies in eastern Germany and its neighbors to the east.

The original ASTAKA collection is housed in The German Center for Genealogy (Die Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie) in Leipzig. Fortunately for American researchers working on German families, a copy at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City provides convenient access.

To help you further uncover the exchange lists, the microfilmed ASTAKA is easier to understand and use with the help of a register called An Introduction and Register to Die Ahnenstammkartei des deutschen Volkes of the Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie Leipzig 1922-1991, compiled by Thomas Kent Edlund, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, 1993.

In order to understand the great benefits of the register and beyond, here are sections from the register:

  • Part I, Surname Index (pedigree index). The material in this index is recorded on 638 rolls of FHL microfilm. In this section of the register, microfilm numbers are listed by alphabetical order of surnames. Before a surname is searched in the index, its spelling must be converted according to specific rules in the front of the register.
  • Ahnenlisten (ancestors list): This section of the register indexes more than 12,000 pedigrees, or ancestor lists, by AL (Ancestor List) numbers.
  • Ahnenlisten Nummernkartei (ancestor-list index): This index gives the name of the submitter by AL numbers. This index will help to find the submitter's name, then go to the Einsenderkartei (below) to find the submitter's address.
  • Einsenderkartei (submitter index): This index tells which films the addresses of the submitters may be found.
  • Nummernkartei (index of sources): This is an index page of the sources of the "literature" notations recorded on the Ahnenstammkartei cards in the pedigree index. ("Literature" includes non-pedigree data like books, manuscripts, and journal articles about specific surnames).

After all that, using the ASTAKA may still seem impossible. Using the Introduction and Register, the ASTAKA is now both organized and accessible. It is true that the exchange lists can be an answer to eastern German research problems.

For more details about exchange lists:
Laraine K. Ferguson and Larry O. Jensen, "Die Ahnenstammkartei des Deutschen Volkes Pedigree Collection from Leipzig, Germany," German Genealogical Digest, Winter 1993.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2005.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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