TO FIND THE KIND OF INFORMATION YOU NEED, turn first to ALL available U.S.
(or other non-European) records for an ancestor who emigrated to America,
and his descendants (starting with yourself and working backward, without
interruption). These include birth, marriage and death records (issued by
BOTH the civil government AND a person’s Catholic or Lutheran church in
America—the church records of the same events are often more detailed than
the civil ones). Don’t limit these just to the immigrant—you might find
his birthplace in Germany specified on the birth, baptismal or christening
records of his American-born children, for example). Look for passenger
departure and arrival records, US military records, US national and state
censuses, naturalization papers, obituaries, probates, and Social Security
applications (for those alive in 1937 or later).
Online, see what you my find by trying the FREE online LDS Family History
Library “Family Search” feature and look up the ancestor in the
International Genealogical Index (IGI) (go to
http://www.familysearch.org/default.asp ). See if you can find your
ancestors in the FREE database searches for the immigrant processing centers
(for the port of New York) of Castle Garden [for immigrant arrivals from
1830 through 1891] at http://www.castlegarden.org/ and Ellis Island at
http://www.ellisisland.org/ [for immigrant arrivals from 1892 to about
1924]. Even if your ancestors came before Ellis Island was opened check it again,
they might have gone back for visit and filled out a passport.
Also online, to see who else might be researching the same names or
families, check the surnames and data posted by others on Rootsweb
recommend the following great Web sites (all of which are FREE) to help you
get started in the right direction.
1) soc.genealogy.german Frequently Asked Questions List
This helpful site answers the following often-asked questions in detail,
among many others:
How can I start researching my German or German-American family?
Can you help me with surname ________________?
Where can I register/find my surnames?
Where is the town/village ___________________?
How can I find out what village my ancestor came from?
How about German cemeteries?
What does my German surname mean?
Is my family from a town with a name like their surname?
How do I write to a German Standesamt, parish, or archive?
2) RootsWeb’s Guide “On the Trail of Germanic Ancestors”
3) RootsWeb’s Guide “Tracing Your Immigrant Ancestors”
4) LDS Family History Library Ancestor Search [look up your ancestors' names
(free) in the immense collection of extracted data gathered by the LDS
5) Cyndi Howell’s amazing database of genealogy links, Cyndi’s List (for
6) Regional Research in German-Speaking Countries
This should keep you busy for awhile, and if anyone has other helpful hints for how you found your town please let us know. Good luck!