soc.genealogy.german Frequently Asked Questions List, Part 3/4
Copyright (c) 2005 by Jim Eggert, EggertJ@crosswinds.net
Version 2.9, 1 Jan 2005. All Rights Reserved.
Subject: 16. Where can I find German military records?
All personnel rosters and card indices (Stammrollen und
Karteimittel) of the Prussian Army, the transition army
("Ubergangsheeres), the Army (Reichswehr), and the Imperial
Navy (Kaiserlichen Marine) were burned in an air raid on Berlin
in February 1945.
Preserved are medical records of those soldiers who were being
treated in military hospitals (Lazarett). The records, most with
personnel roster extracts (Stammrollenausz"ugen), for those born
from 1890 on are stored at
and for those born before 1890 are stored at
Bundesarchiv - Milit"ararchiv
Lists of Prussian and other German officers are generally
available in book series with titles like _Rangliste der
K"oniglich Preussischen Armee_. These books were published
roughly annually since at least 1796; some have been reprinted.
An overview of the Prussian army and its military church records
can be found in Lyncker, _Die Altpreussische Armee 1714-1806
und ihre Milit"arkirchenb"ucher_, and _Die preussische Armee
1807-1867 und ihre sippenkundlichen Quellen_, and also in Eger,
_Verzeichnis der Milit"arkirchenb"ucher in der Bundesrepublik
A list of pre-1914 Imperial German military units can be found at
Many German state military records are available at their
respective state archives. These generally cover up to 1920.
World War II German military personnel may have service records at
Bundesarchiv - Zentralnachweisstelle
Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)
WASt holdings center on those reported to be prisoners of war
(POW), missing in action (MIA), or killed in action (KIA), and
also on members of the navy, though other records are also held.
The Bundesarchiv has no records for navy personnel. Requests
for information may be sent to either office; they will be
forwarded as needed to the appropriate office.
German military cemetery listings for World Wars I and II can be
found online at
For civilian records, one must write to the appropriate agency or
ministry archives (e.g., justice, finance, railroad, post). Those
who had relatives in NSDAP positions can request information from
the Bundesarchiv or, soon, the US National Archives.
Subject: 17. How do I write to a German Standesamt, parish, or archive?
For archive addresses, see the question on archive addresses.
For most towns, the Standesamt or parish address would be simply
Standesamt _or_ ev. Pfarramt _or_ kath. Pfarramt
where the second choice indicates Protestant, the third choice
Catholic. The five question marks need to be replaced by the
correct postal code. For larger towns, there are likely to be
several churches, but the above address will often work anyway.
For cities, you will need to know the section of the city to
find the correct Standesamt or church; inquiries at a main
office are sometimes forwarded correctly.
You should write in German and include 10 Euros to cover postage
and basic fees. There may be further expenses billable to you;
extensive research will not usually be performed for a small fee.
Make sure you indicate how you are related to the sought persons.
Sample letters are available from the German genealogy server at
or make use of the German genealogy volunteer translation service
(see below in subject 19). There is also an excellent letter-
writing guide on the LDS site.
Many local parishes have deposited their older church records in
the corresponding church archives; in these cases communication
with the local parish may be forwarded to the appropriate archive,
answered with an indication of the appropriate archive, returned,
or ignored, all at the option of the parish office. Furthermore,
strict privacy protection laws in Germany very often prohibit
official release of personal information to individuals unless
they can demonstrate direct descendance from the person to be
researched or unless there is a legal entitlement to the
information, for example for matters of inheritance. Some
archives may also have requirements on the age of the information
before they allow release, even to direct descendants.
Subject: 18. How do I find German postal codes?
German postal codes (Postleitzahl or PLZ, equivalent to US ZIP
codes) are available on the Internet from
They are also listed in German postal code books and in the various
telephone listings. For towns with only one postal code, you can
also consult the Michelin red guide, a good autoatlas, or Arthur
Teschler's geographical server.
Subject: 19. I don't know German. What should I do?
The best overall solution is to learn German. Often such a large
investment offers rich rewards. You might consider taking courses
at your local college or Goethe Institute <http://www.goethe.de/>
In the meantime, you can make use of the German genealogy
volunteer translation service administered by Arthur Teschler.
Send e-mail to email@example.com. The first line of the
message body should read:
#GER>ENG (for a German to English translation,)
#ENG>GER (for an English to German translation, or)
#S (for a snail mail/fax translation, fee by arrangement).
The rest of your message should be the text to be translated,
no more than 40 lines. For the snail mail/fax service, you mail
or fax a copy of the original document to the translator, and
receive a translation by e-mail. For translations to German,
please tell the translator if you want a formal (Sie) or informal
(Du) form of address. For more information see
For larger documents or for guaranteed precision, professional
translation is recommended.
Computer translation programs are normally not recommended;
their clumsy translations usually require human correction.
A good German-English dictionary, available in most libraries and
bookstores, is usually needed for translations. Sometimes a good
German dictionary or encyclopedia is a better resource. There is
an online German-English dictionary at:
Subject: 20. I can't read German handwriting. What should I do?
There is of course no one German handwriting, but often German
documents are hard to read. It takes practice to read handwritten
documents, and each hand is different, often requiring some study
even for the practiced eye. Try to figure out words from context.
Most genealogical documents have a limited vocabulary. Look at
other entries in the same hand to help you decipher the hardest
parts. Often the best approach is to ask another knowledgeable
researcher at the library or archive where you encounter the
difficult document. There are also several books that can help
teach you how to read German handwriting; these are available from
genealogical supply firms or good bookstores. Or use the German
genealogy snail/fax translation service outlined above.
The German genealogy server has examples of old German
handwriting, Windows software for learning German handwriting,
and a bibliography of texts on the subject at
The Transcribe Group transcribes from scanned originals for free:
Subject: 21. What is the basic German genealogical vocabulary?
birth; born Geburt; geboren, geb"urtig, geb.
(il)legitimate (un,ausser)ehelich, (un)eheleiblich
baptism; baptized Taufe; getauft, get.
marriage Ehe, Heirat, Hochzeit, Eheschliessung, =20
Trauung, Verheiratung, Verehelichung, =
marry heiraten, verheiraten, verh., verm"ahlen, =
trauen, getr., verehelichen, verehel., =20
death Tod, Sterbefall, Todesfall, Ableben
died gestorben, verstorben, gest.
burial Beerdigung, Begr"abnis, Beisetzung, =20
buried beerdigt, beerd., begraben, begr., beigesetzt
widow; -ed Witwe, Wwe.; verwitwet, verw.
divorce; -ed (Ehe)scheidung; geschieden
father; mother Vater, V.; Mutter, M.
husband Mann, Ehemann, (Ehe)gatte, Gemahl
wife Frau, Ehefrau, (Ehe)gattin, (Ehe)weib, Gemahlin
married couple Ehepaar, Eheleute
son; daughter Sohn, S"ohnlein, S.; Tochter, T"ochterlein, T.
child; -ren Kind, K.; -er
male; female m"annlich; weiblich
brother; sister Bruder; Schwester
uncle; aunt Onkel, Oheim; Tante, Muhme
grandson; -daughter Enkel; Enkelin
grandchild Enkelkind, Grosskind
nephew; niece Neffe; Nichte
cousin (m;f) Vetter, Cousin; Kusine, Cousine, Base
sponsor, godparent Gevatter, Gev., (Tauf)pate, Taufzeuge
day of the week Wochentag
days of the week Sonntag, Montag, Dienstag, Mittwoch,
Donnerstag, Freitag, Samstag (Sonnabend)
months Januar (J"anner), Februar (Feber), M"arz,
April, Mai, Juni, Juli, August,
September, Oktober, November, Dezember
year Jahr, Jahreszahl
residence Wohnort, Aufenthaltsort, Wohnst"atte
county (Land)kreis (modern), Grafschaft (noble)
(grand) duchy (Gross)herzogtum
A more complete vocabulary guide can be found on the LDS website.
Subject: 22. What are the German umlauts and genealogical symbols?
German vowel umlauts (the two dots over an a, o, or u) represent
a different vowel sound than the un-umlauted letters. A umlaut
is pronounced like a long a in English (weigh). O umlaut makes
a sound where the lips are pursed as to make a long o (nose), but
the tongue is forming a long a. U umlaut has the lips making a
long o, but the tongue is forming a long e (cheese). Eszet is
a regular English s sound.
Any German should be able to understand the ae, oe, ue, and ss
equivalents for the umlauts. For family names and place names,
however, these equivalents are often not considered identical.
ASCII TeX 850 8859 Mac HTML Postscript Name
_____ ___ ___ ____ ___ ____ __________ ____
"A,Ae \"A 142 0196 128 Ä Adieresis A umlaut
"O,Oe \"O 153 0214 133 Ö Odieresis O umlaut
"U,Ue \"U 154 0220 134 Ü Udieresis U umlaut
"a,ae \"a 132 0228 138 ä adieresis a umlaut
"o,oe \"o 148 0246 154 ö odieresis o umlaut
"u,ue \"u 129 0252 159 ü udieresis u umlaut
"s,ss,sz \ss 225 0223 167 ß germandbls eszet
"y,y,ij \"y 152 0255 216 ÿ ydieresis y dieresis
"e \"e 137 0235 145 ë edieresis e dieresis
850 refers to the IBM code page. IBM code page 437 is identical
for these characters, except it lacks the eszet. IBM code page
819 is ISO 8859-1 compliant, while Windows code page 1252 is a
ISO 8859-1 superset. All numerical codes shown are decimal.
The y dieresis is really a keyboard shortcut for an ij ligature.
To type these characters on a PC, hold down the alt key and
enter the 850 or 8859 keycode on the numeric keypad.
On a Mac, for umlauts type option-u and then the letter to be
umlauted. For eszet, type option-s.
ASCII Typeset Meaning
_____ _______ _______
* asterisk Born
(*) asterisk in parentheses Born illegitimately
+* cross and asterisk Stillborn
~,=3D single or multiple water waves Baptized
Y communion cup Confirmed
o ring Engaged
oo,& linked or touching rings Married
o|o separated rings Divorced
o-o separated rings Illegitimate union
!! two exclamation marks Pastor
+ cross or vertical dagger Died
X crossed swords Died in battle
+X cross and crossed swords Died from battle wounds
,=B1,# box Buried
++ two crosses This line extinct
Suggestions for additions or improvements should be sent to
the author, Jim Eggert EggertJ@crosswinds.net.