Highlights: Chapter 3: Pinpointing Place of Origin

Chapter Three of The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M. Beidler where he discusses how to find the hometown of your German ancestor. He gives the advice:

“Once again you’ll need to line up those ‘time and place crosshairs in order to make the best use of the information that you find about a potential state, parish or town of origin” (p. 46)


He gives six steps in finding the hometown of your German relatives. 


I. Steps in finding the hometown:


1. James Beidler suggest looking first at what you have inherited. Papers, photos, etc. 


2. Then look at internet sources: www. Ancestry.com, www. Familysearch.org, 


3. Published complications of genealogies

                        Such as Germans to America: Lists of Passengers arriving At US ports, 67 volumes                        by Ira T. Glazier and P. William Filby, which is searchable on Ancestry. 

            Also look for published genealogies of families 

                        Try looking for them for sale on eBay, or Abebooks.com

                        Or look to see if they have been digitized at google books, or Hathi trust, The                                Internet Archive at Archive.org.


4. Look at Obituaries and Tombstones



            Can be found online at Legacy.com

            Or look at the newspapers themselves at Newspapers.com,NewspaperArchive.com,       both of which are fee based or the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America           Newspaper database at http://Chroniclingamerica.loc.gov



            Findagrave.com is a large database of tombstone and cemetery information. Sometimes             even a picture of the tombstone and submitted information about the deceased. 


5. Newspapers in English and German

            There are many places to look at newspapers. Try googling the state they lived in and      “Newspaper Database”. There are many Historical organization that will have digitized          newspapers. You might get lucky. There is also Ancestry.com, which has some             newspapers. Genealogybank.com, but also those I put above

            to look at the newspapers themselves at Newspapers.com,NewspaperArchive.com,        both of which are fee based or the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America           Newspaper database at http://Chroniclingamerica.loc.gov


6. Employ the FAN Club

            If you are still batting zero, employ what is called The FAN Club principle. Often people    settle in places where their family and friends already live. Often, they immigrate with       family or friends who are often from their hometown. Find where they settled. Who       were their “Friends, Associates, Neighbors”? Do research on the FAN network. Find   Family research siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, and see where they were from. Then         turn to Neighbors, Friends, and Associates. Find where they came from and you just        might solve your mystery. 


Highlights of Chapter 3.         


Once you know what village your ancestors came from please keep in mind warnings from James Beidler…


                        James Beidler says,” Simply finding the village in German can be an adventure because on average a German place name is used for three separate villages in different parts of Germany. (It’s no different than the way town names such as Springfield or Columbus are used in multiple states in the United States). And because there are some unique village names, the flipside is that a fair number of names are used more than a dozen times! That makes the odds very good that you could be researching the wrong village, even if the name matches your records”. – Keep that in mind. Figuring out which village is yours is not just as simple has having a name.  (p. 54)

He also says that you need to be skeptical if your town is a large city. He says, “while the possibility of being from an urban area increases among the ‘second boat’ immigrants [19thcentury immigrants], your ancestor might have named the large city because it is near where he is from and more likely to be recognized than the smaller, rural village where he actually lived. “(p. 54)

             Another point he mentions that if you have the town in the record but cannot find the town there might be several reasons

            1. “a phonetics garbling of the name over generations

            2. the town may have been absorbed into a larger town

            3. The town may have been in the border of Germany at one time but as the borders       change, they are now in a different country.

 Finally, If you last name, like my mother’s name was named after a town, it is most likely they did not immigrate from that town. Beidler says “Most Germans adopted surnames in the 1300s and a place name surname adopted at this time would have indicated the person was originally from the town in question but no longer living there.” So, the family moved away from the place in the 1300s to a different town and to differentiate them they called them something like Johann from Menne. He would have been called that to differentiate him from the other Johannes in the village. He was the only one from Menne. But then when they adopted last names in the 1300s his name would have been Johann Menne. So, if your surname comes from a town in Germany it is likely that is not where the family lived since the 1300s.