Researching German Documents

There are many exciting challenges when researching your family history in German documents. At Ancestry.com, key data such as names and gender is often indexed and therefore easily accessible through our search pages for each German language database. However, the records are in German, and you will naturally get the best results if you search keywords, occupations, and place names in German. There is often a wealth of information available in the images of the original documents that can help you pinpoint your ancestors or learn about their lives and families. We have provided some basic tools on these pages that can help you as you work in German records.

German Wordlists

These glossaries contain words that you are likely to find in German genealogical records. Records in German often include Latin words as well.
German to English
English to German
Family Relationships

German Writing

Examples of German letters in printing and script.
Old Alphabet Examples
Symbols found in Genealogical Texts

Reading German Records

See example pages from German records showing where key information is located. Mouse over columns in the image to see the type of information they contain.
Bremen 1845 Ships's Crew List
Bavarian WWI Personnel Rosters - left side
Bavarian WWI Personnel Rosters - right side
Hamburg Passenger List, 1899
Hamburg Passenger List, 1907
Mecklenburg Parish Baptisms, 1879
Schwerin 1890 Census Form A
Schwerin 1890 Census Form B

When reading German records, it can be helpful to refer to a list of common German names.
German Last Names
German First Names
Last Name Meanings

Additional Help

Ancestry offers the German researcher many sources of help. Search the Ancestry Learning Center for articles, post a query on the German Community pages, or find Germany articles in the Ancestry Wiki.
Learning Center
Ancestry.com Wiki

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More Research Help

Ancestry offers the researcher many sources of help. Search the Ancestry Learning Center for articles, post a query on the Community pages, or find Research publications in the Ancestry Store.
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