Checking out German ancestors

Some of the comments made in this chat relate to any ancestors you might be researching who migrated to another country from possibly a non English speaking country.

As mentioned by Dr Sophie Kay:

Tho I don’t have any continental European ancestry (am solidly 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇮🇪), I think that researching in different countries is 1 of the best ways to hone our #research skills & make us appreciate how #genealogy can be a v diff pursuit across the globe. And as you say, the lang barrier can get in the way of us asking WHERE & WHEN an event happened, sthg so core to our research. Once those foundations are there, I’ve always found it valuable to ask myself “how does my process need to change for this work?”

jairojehuel / Pixabay

How do you approach research for a country with a different language and sources?

Be alert to what’s on your Australian certificates rather than oral history – or combine both. My dad always said George Kunkel was Prussian which would have given George heart-failure as he was Bavarian.

The information given on Australian certificates can often open doors to research overseas. My ancestors were particularly helpful in some cases

I haven’t needed to research any one other than those who spoke Gaelic. My French and German used to be reasonable, but probably rusty now.

I’ve just written a blog post about an Austrian woman who emigrated to Queensland via Ireland. I stuck entirely to English language sources this time, but would be keen to use German sources too, if I had a LOT of help/guidance

This is not something I have had to do yet in my Ancestry research. However, I lived in Germany for three years and can still speak/read German reasonably well, which will be helpful if/when I come across any German documents.

Oh, I envy you that ability. My German was basic from high school but gets more distant in my memory as the years pass

The same as I do with English language countries and sources – start with the FamilySearch Wiki for that country/state/county. 🤓

Another tip: using a translator app or other product to help with foreign languages

As with others, my approach in a new country splits into a few strands: ✅ Seek language primers & genealogical word lists on @FamilySearch ✅ Explore inter’l colls on Ancestry, FMP ✅ Read widely about broader social & econ history of the country ✅ Identify national & other major archives, explore their catalogues/resources ✅ Connect w genealogists on Twitter working in that area, learn from them (I believe @DanielGenealogy maintains a great list of ppl with expertise in all manner of places!)

I have not found any German ancestors (yet) however for finding new sources and solving language issues my first place of call would be the @FamilySearch wiki. It has so much useful info to get you started.

Some foreign language sites will have an English button to click on or there’s a translate this page option. Mind *sometimes*… lol

For research different countries from the ones I usually research I like to use the Genealogy giants. This way I am, at a minimum, familiar with the format, search tools, catalogue and have my tree to add things that I find when searching.

my German is beyond rusty but I can mangle grammar with the best of them – handy when speaking to locals in rural areas who may not speak any English. There’s an app that you can use to translate what you want to say. Don’t know if it works

Don’t forget there may be Facebook pages which can be helpful. There is a good researcher on the Bavarian FB page.

I would look for family history societies in the country you are searching eg Poland /Ukraine/Belarus . Use google to find local archives as well.

Good tips Sue, as they can be very helpful and will often have an English speaker on staff….they’re much more likely to be bilingual than we are 😉

My preference is to search the catalogues of the big sites especially Family Search to see what they have online. The FS wiki can be a big help.

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What have been the most useful records to use in your Germanic research? Online or Offline?

Webinars, tutorials online for German handwriting which I personally find difficult. My parish is not online so I’ve had to look in person at the parish or the archives. At least the surname stands out (usually).

I did notice a politician with your Kunkel surname and my ears pricked up. I had never heard of it other than on your blog

It’s much more commonly heard in the USA but at one point our family (from George Kunkel and Mary O’Brien) was one of only two in the country. More since post WWII immigration. My genimates certainly recognise it when they hear it 😉

Looking into this atmo. I found my great grandparents marriage place (in Germany) recorded on my grandmother’s sister’s Canadian birth record! (Not a certificate.) Sharp intake of breath.

Wow! Just proves we have to look far and wide to find what we need to take them back home. Lateral thinking and research.

Familienbucher (family books) are gold when you can access them as they collate the family under each male and his spouse. Some online or else at parish or archives.

American genealogist here & I can’t agree with this more. Currently using one online & have ordered physical copies of two others. When other online records failed the family book broke a 30 year brick wall!

Pauleen are they like our Family Bible?

Yes and no. They are clustered the same way with the parents and children and dates, and they even annotate when children marry and their new reference number in the official books. The difference is that they are official church documents as far as I know

The best connection for me was linking with the local historian for my village. Their local histories have given me so much info for my own ancestral family as well as other emigrants to Oz who I research. Don’t give up at the first try – be persistent.

Some German states have emigration databases which can be searched online. Oz has the Kopittke indexes of German emigrants to NSW colony in mid-19th century. Now available on @findmypast. These indexes include single pax as well as assisted immigrants.

Combined with the Kopittke indexes and immigration records, the Paterson articles are a must read.

the late Jenny Paterson’s articles in Ances-Tree (Burwood FHS) have in depth information on the NSW migration schemes for German vinedressers. A MUST to read if you have mid-19th century immigrants to the colony of NSW.

My first source is obtaining as much birthplace info from Oz certificates, parish reg, or immigration records: you need to know for sure where you’re looking. Remember Germany as know it only commenced in January 1871

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Did all members of your Germanic families emigrate to the same country? Do you know when and where that was?

so far only two brothers to Canada. I’m hoping this branch spreads out a little more.

My oral history says two brothers went to “America” and only the one here, but then George only had one brother and I’m blowed if I can find him anywhere – Germany or USA/Canada. His half-nieces and nephews did though.

My husband’s grandfather emigrated to England, married the boss’s daughter, then the family including my MIL emigrated from London to Gisborne in 1908. I have copies of family papers with a full tree in German on it. Just pulled them up on my computer to look at. I sorted my niece’s papers before she sold the family home – and photographed them as I did so. I can still read all the German in the Stammbaum. John Martin Ludwig went to London (doesn’t give date) then to New Zealand – gives DOB and parents and siblings. So maybe I should do that tree!

I forgot to mention this site for German newspaper archives. I’ve used it for Bavaria with success to find emigration notices (except for my bloke of course!) Also Google BOOKS (not news) has some digitised if you search.…

Here is a link for German handwriting #ANZAncestryTime…

In my own family there were emigrants who went to the USA even though one had come to Australia. Other families had similar experiences. Lots of emigration even earlier than we might expect but mine were around 1850-1870.

How about what’s your best, or most challenging, find in your family research?

Last week finding that the man my great aunt married who then married another had been married before her – so he committed bigamy twice! Went to jail in Victoria for the third marriage. Written a @WikiTreers profile for them

Not German, but finding letters my grandfather wrote from Australia home to family in England was a big shock and a great find. Found when Just when mindlessly researching on the History Victoria website. A family member from England had come here for a research trip and kindly deposited them, I have since visited him in England

Oh how I envy you! I can’t help feeling there may have been German and Irish correspondence at the Kunkel home but it was burnt when he died in 1916 or when his wife died in 1919. Aaagh! At the other end, in Ireland, they also had fires.

through DNA proving dad’s half nephew therefore proving dad’s father was a bigamist who added Wyatt as a surname to his real one Allen

My best find was actually locating my George Kunkel’s place of birth – the ONLY place it’s recorded here is on the parish register (Not on the civil registration). Confirmed in the Bavarian parish register…on the 3rd visit!

Blog posts:

Allie: Martina Tasch,

Pauleen: Her blog dedicated to the Dorfprozelten Bavarians in Australia

Readers: What hints do you have for genealogists researching for non English speaking ancestors?

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