We are members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and receive their fantastic magazine, American Ancestors. A recent issue digs into German genealogy. While we don't have German ancestors, reading this issue reminded us that researching ancestors from different parts of the world often comes with unique challenges.
The tens of millions of people in the United States who have German ancestors have to deal with shifting national borders, linguistic enclaves, and kingdoms and governments that no longer exist. Genealogists not only have to be able to read old handwriting in another language, they have to contend with the use of Fraktur, a hard-to-read gothic font used by government offices, publishers, and newspapers more than 100 years ago.
People researching Jewish ancestors have to contend with the devastation of the Holocaust, in which German Jews were forced to flee Europe or face persecution and murder at the hands of the the Nazi regime.
The NEHGS article points to resources that are unique to German-speaking immigrants in the United States, including German-language newspapers in many cities and states. These newspapers often published community news, including visits that immigrants made back to the old country, revealing towns of origin and the names of siblings and other relatives.
Resource: German place names
The gazetteer Meyers Geographical and Commercial Gazetteer of the German Empire (Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs) is the best place to locate place names when doing German research from the 1800s and early 1900s. FamilySearch also an excellent Wiki entry for Meyers Orts.
Resource: German genealogy book
Via Amazon: "Follow your family tree back to its roots in Bavaria, Baden, Prussia, Hesse, Saxony, Wurttemburg and beyond. This in-depth genealogy guide will walk you step by step through the exciting journey of researching your German heritage, whether your ancestors came from lands now in modern-day Germany or other German-speaking areas of Europe, including Austria, Switzerland, and enclaves across Eastern Europe."
Resource: German Newspapers
Browse images of 69 German language newspapers published in the United States on the Library of Congress website. The images include news articles, community news, and ads like this one, from a California newspaper in the 1920s.