Do you have German roots, but don’t know how or where to start researching your family tree? You’re in luck- there are plenty of websites out there that can help you trace your German genealogy! There are sites to help you locate your ancestor’s town of origin, find the right records, and even explain how to read that old German script! Germany has a rich and detailed history, and understanding how to take advantage of online resources is the first step towards discovering your German ancestors. This article will get you started with some of the best websites for German research. Prost!
Ancestry.com has plenty of resources for German family history. Although Ancestry is a paid subscription site, they do offer some free online resources. A World Explorer membership or higher is required to view non-U.S. genealogy records on Ancestry- so a review of the below options might help you decide if an Ancestry subscription is worth it (and be sure to check out our Ancestry review for an in-depth comparison of Ancestry offerings).
- The Ancestry Research Center provides an introduction to German documents, German word lists and old script, how to read German records, and more.
- Ancestry Support provides additional tips for researching German records
- To learn about the German records collections in Ancestry, check out the Germany records collection and the Germany family history research page. On both pages, you can narrow your search by region to see which records are available for your ancestor’s home town.
MyHeritage is a subscription site that offers its own unique collection of German records. Unlike Ancestry, MyHeritage does not have separate subscription levels for U.S. and international records- but they do have separate offerings for records access and other services. Check out our complete review of MyHeritage.
- Get an overview of MyHeritage’s German collections.
- Check out the Germany records search page. Give it a test drive to see if any clues to your ancestors might pop up.
FamilySearch is one of the best places to start researching your German ancestry. This is a totally free genealogy research website. No paid subscription is required to access their vast database of records- users just need to create a free FamilySearch account and they are good to go! See our complete overview of FamilySearch.
The FamilySearch Wiki is a virtual encyclopedia full of helpful information about all sorts of genealogy research topics- and it has plenty to offer those with German roots, including:
- The Germany Genealogy main page: This Wiki page is packed with research strategies, lists of available records, maps, resources for understanding German words and old script, and much more!
- Germany Finding Town of Origin: use the tools and strategies on this Wiki page to help you locate your ancestor’s home town- which will then help you narrow down your records search.
- German Records: Research beyond vital records: If you run into a brick wall with your German research, be sure to check out this Wiki page for helpful tips and strategies.
- German Research on the Internet: Be sure to bookmark this Wiki page for an extensive list of websites that will help you find digital images, archives, databases, gazetteers (old German newspapers), help with deciphering old writing, and region-specific resources!
- For even more online resources, check out the FamilySearch wiki pages for Germany Online Genealogy Records (which lists record sets available on FamilySearch and other sites.
To learn about the German record collections available in FamilySearch, check out the Germany research page, which provides a list of German records databases, a search tool, and a link to the FamilySearch Learning Center, where you can find dozens of videos, slideshows and handouts about German genealogy research.
GenealogyBank is another subscription website that is worth a look. GenealogyBank specializes in historic newspapers, and they have a unique collection of German American papers. They do offer a free trial to help you gauge if a paid subscription will benefit your research (learn more about GenealogyBank).
- The Genealogy Bank Blog discusses examples of research with German American newspapers, and provides a list of available newspapers on the site.
- Give the German American newspaper search a try to see if anything pops up for your ancestors.
Other Websites for German Research
Here are some websites that provide links to the best German genealogy sites.
- Cyndi’s List provides links for German research “how-tos” and links for websites that cover everything you need to know about German ancestors, from vital records, to religion, to history.
- German Roots provides lists of internet resources for German genealogy. Featured topics include a research guide, passenger lists, books, genealogical portraits and family histories, and more.
- The Germanic Genealogy Society helps its members research Germanic ancestors. Based in Minnesota, the GGS has more than 900 members worldwide. On their website, you can purchase German research guides, learn about their research library at Concordia University, browse their research resources read current and past newsletters and more.
- The International German Genealogy Partnership is a group of partner societies interested in German genealogy. The offer many educational opportunities, including conferences, events and meetings- plus research guides and strategies.
- Similar to the Germanic Genealogy Society, the German Genealogy Group provides support to family historians researching German ancestors. Headquartered in New York, this society focuses on New York state records for German ancestors- an important research area, considering that many German immigrants arrived to the U.S. through Ellis Island, and may have resided in the state before moving elsewhere. Be sure to check out their unique searchable databases, including New York City births, cemetery records, and German Enemy Aliens (German immigrants who had not naturalized prior to the U.S. entering World War I).
- The Meyers Gazetteer is a compilation of place names within the German Empire from 1871-1918. This website provides an easy way to search for your ancestor’s hometown and learn more about its demographics, view maps, and connect with others researching in the same area.
- Archion is a compilation of digitized Protestant church records throughout Germany. Images are not yet indexed, but if you know your ancestor’s particular parish, you may be able to find them here. Note, the site is in German, but you can toggle/translate it to English. Archion is a subscription site, but without a paid subscription, you can still see which parishes have records available to view.
- Geogen Surname Mapping can help determine where your German family names can be found in the country today- providing clues to your family’s roots. You can view name distribution maps, as well as similar names and spelling variations.
We can’t possibly cover ALL of the online resources available for German genealogy research, but this list will help you “dive in” and discover your German heritage! Be sure to check out our list of free genealogy websites.