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A "double dot over a letter". The double-dot (called a diuresis; the letter-symbol combination is called an umlaut) is the correct, German way of writing the word; the ue, oe or ae letter combinations are a way of representing the umlaut in non-germanic alphabets which lack the umlauts.

The English equivalent of the character that looks like "B" embedded in names is actually a separate character in German that stands for a double s as "ss".

A special suffix comprised of the letters "-in" is often seen in old German records, added to the surnames of females, and is simply a German language grammatical practice which feminizes the name in question. When you see the "-in" suffix added to a German surname, it is intended to demonstrate that the surname was borne by a female.

When the "-in" suffix is added in this way, it DOES NOT MATERIALLY CHANGE the existing surname itself. If you see your female ancestor denoted as "Katharina SCHNEIDERIN," for example, Katharina's actual surname would still be SCHNEIDER for all intents and purposes in your research. It is also important to note that the use of the feminine suffix on a surname in German DOES *NOT* INDICATE whether the female was unmarried or married. It was used for BOTH single and married females, identically.

This is a standard, centuries-old German grammar practice, more common to old records than current ones. Since, unlike English, every noun has a GENDER in German, the use of the feminizing suffix for surnames of females was in keeping with the structure of that language. Even today, German grammar still adds the letters "-in" to the end of feminine NOUNS, such as "Freundin," meaning "female friend" ("Freund" being "male friend"), and "Lehrerin," meaning "female teacher" ("Lehrer" being "male teacher.")

Note that while this suffix commonly occurred in earlier centuries, it was NOT used UNIVERSALLY throughout Germany---you may find German records which completely OMIT the use of the suffix for feminine surnames. Some researchers will never encounter this form. The use in German of the feminizing "-in" suffix on surnames of females has greatly diminished in modern times.

EVANGELISCHE in Germany means virtually the same as "Lutheran" (followers of Martin Luther), but in Switzerland "Evangelische" means virtually the same as "Reformed" (followers of Zwingly and Calvin). Historically, in both of these areas "Evangelische" was a term adopted by by the Reformers to distinguish their "Protestant" positions from that of the Roman Catholic Church which they were opposing.

Landkreis, short just "Kreis" is the administrative body one notch above "village" or "town".

From the top to the bottom:
(a) Country, like "Kingdom of Prussia"
(b) State or Province, like "Provinz Posen" or older "Departement Posen" . (I have actually seen the Departement thing, too)
(c) Gubernatorial (or: Administrative) District (This has no equivalent in the USA administrative organization), like "Regie-rungsbezirk Bromberg"
(d) County, like "Landkreis Meseritz" or just "Kreis Meseritz"
(e) Town, Township or Village, like "Stadt Betsche"

A 'Kreis' is, in essence, a county. It literally is a 'circle or ring' and refers to 'sphere' of influence. It is usually translated very generically as 'district', but with Prussian 'administrative districts' being comprised of several Kreise, it gets confusing to refer to them as districts.

It is getting very confusing when using "district" as a translation for "Kreis", especially when you look at the current German structure, were "Gubernatorial District" (Regierungsbezirk) is the next bigger administrative government level above the county level, but one level below the state level.

When you deal with former East Germany, the confusion will be total, as the "Deutsche Demokratische Republik" abolished the states and was organized in subdivisions of Bezirke (Districts), which in turn were subdivided into Kreise.

So, never ever use "district" as a translation for "Kreis" or for "Landkreis". I've heard purists claim that they are not really counties, but in that they are the smallest district that includes several towns. Those purists are WRONG. If and when several tiny villages join forces administratively, they are not called "Distrikt", but "Verbandsgemeinde". The closest thing in the USA to a Verbandsgemeinde in Germany would be a Township, like the Township of Ulysses in upstate New York, which you won't find in Rand McNally, but instead of Ulysses, you find the "member towns", like Trumansburg and others. Administratively, Verbandsgemeinden kind of merged their administration. Instead of a Town House, a Mayor, a Vital Statistics Officer, a Comptroller, a ... for each of the let's say ten hamlets, they only need one of each. The advantage: Monetary savings, and some of the hamlets in Verbandsgemeinden are so small, that the tax revenue just would not suffice to pay all the salaries, not to think of financing the public service tasks.

Whenever you check a phone book server and find an address, in which the town is hyphenated, chances are, that you look at a Verbandsgemeinde. The first word before the hyphen is the Verbandsgemeinde-name, the part after the hyphen is the original name of the hamlet. In more recent times, with the new postal code often discerning a location down to an eighth of a square mile, the is omitted. But there are still some of the hyphenated ones out there. Like "Modautal-Hoxhohl", which has about 250 residents, while the whole Verbandsgemeinde Modautal (a merger of 10 formerly independent villages) has 4,450 residents ... "Modautal" in this example is the name of the Verbandsgemeinde, "Hoxhohl" is the original name of the village.

Some Landkreise in modern Germany even go by their antiquated name. When you talk COUNTY in English, you have good reason to expect that County to be ruled by a Count. Actually, some of the German petty states somehow managed to keep their borders intact as county lines, and also to preserve their ancient name.

English ................... "Count" = German "Graf"; English (British, that is) "County" = German "Grafschaft.

A handful of counties in Germany not go by "Kreis such-and-such", but as "Grafschaft such-and-such", like "Grafschaft Hoya" which actually is a Landkreis. And (at least) one goes by the formal name of "Landschaftsverband". But I don't think, that with civic administration in the Prussian province of Posen, one would encounter anything other than:
(basic level) "Dorf (or) Stadt (or) Gemeinde"
(county level) "Kreis" or "Landkreis"
(regional level) "Regierungsbezirk" or "Bezirk" in the
(provincial level) "Provinz" or "Departement" Posen of the
(country level) "Koenigreich Preussen"

The "Grenzmark Posen-Westpreussen", that pops up for a few years in this century is "provincial level", and it was uniting the little that was left of the former provinces Westpreussen and Posen into one administrative body.

I think the translation as 'county' is accurate. They are perhaps smaller than most US counties. I'm not real sure what a township is, but I think the typical Kreis would be of a larger scale.

It is not exactly "accurate", but it is the closest you can get, if you consider, that some of the administrative tasks performed by counties in the USA, are performed at town (Dorf, Gemeinde, Stadt) level in Germany.

(Posted originally as a reply from Siegfried Rambaum to James Birkholz as a follow-up to an article in the Posen-L mailing list). Siegfried Rambaum

GENEALOGICAL INQUIRIES AT THE BADEN ARCHIVES - From Bruce NOE - Baden Archives in Karlsruhe - Below is a translation of the bulletin of the Generallandesarchiv Karlruhe (Archives for the former state of Baden) regarding genealogical inquiries:

The research of a family history is a common request of many who turn to the State Archive either in writing or in person. However, unrealistic wishes and expectations often exist regarding the sources available, the means of help, and the archive personnel. Therefore, this introductory overview should show you the possibilities and limits of genealogical inquiries at the State Archive. It should first be noted that the State Archive has no extensive and complete name indexes, the archival records are rarely arranged according to names, and the archivists cannot within the framework of their service devote themselves to genealogical tasks or genealogical inquiries.

The State Archive stores written and printed material of the state authorities or its predecessors from the territories within the boundaries of the state of Baden as it existed before 1945. A general survey is presented in the "Gesamtübersicht der Bestände des Generallandesarchives Karlsruhe" [An Overview of the Holdings of the State Archive in Karlsruhe], edited by Manfred Krebs (Stuttgart 1954/57). A revision of this publication of 10 volumes is in the progress; 3 volumes (1988-1992) are now available. Therefore, we have, with a few exceptions (areas west of the Rhine in Pfalz, the Speyer Seminary and the Margrave of Baden), neither documents of areas outside of Baden nor documents which resulted from cities, municipalities (e.g. citizen books, civil protocols) or churches (e.g. church books before 1810). The publication "Minerva Handbuch. Archive im deutschprachigen Raum" [Minerva Handbook. Archives in German-speaking Territories] (2nd Ed., Berlin/New York 1974) gives an overview of the other archives which are responsible for other domains.

Before you undertake genealogical research in the archival records, you should always consult the available literature. This is not only good advice for methodic research, but in some cases you may benefit from information which has already been researched. Genealogical publications and genealogical journals, local family history books and emigrant lists are a few worth mentioning. Furthermore, there are source publications which are also suitable for genealogical evaluations such as document books, indexes, periodicals and guides.

Finally, there are name lists for official purposes such as directories or state manuals. Full descriptions of literature and source publications are found in the "Handbuch der Genealogie" [Handbook of Genealogy], edited by Eckart Henning and Wolfgang Ribbe (Neustadt a.d.A., 1972). The publications of this kind, which deal specifically with Baden, are listed in the "Bibliographie der Badischen Geschichte" [Bibliography of the History of Baden], edited by Friedrich Lautenschlager and Werner Schulz (Karlsruhe/Stuttgart 1929-1984), and additionally in the "Landesbibliographie von Baden-Württemberg" [State Bibliography of Baden-Wuerttemberg], edited by Werner Schulz and Guenter Stegmaier (Stuttgart 1978 ff.). These can be found in the reading rooms of the state libraries in Karlsruhe and Stuttgart.

Probably the most important sources for genealogical research are the church books. They contain the data for births and/or christenings, marriages and deaths. They mention parents of a child to be baptized or the origin of the people to be married or of the deceased. Between 1810 and 1870, the clergy of Baden had to maintain the church books as civil documents of the citizenry and every year deliver duplicates to the district officials. These duplicates for all municipalities of the contemporary government district (only 1810 - 1870!) of Baden are today stored with us here in Karlsruhe. The duplicates for the government district of Freiberg are in the State Archive of Freiberg, Colombistr. 4, 79098 Freiberg. The originals of these church books and the earlier (before 1810) and more recent church books (after 1870) are normally at the individual clergyman's offices of the respective denomination or the Archiepiscopal Archive, Herrenstr. 35, 79098 Freiberg and/or the Evangelic Church Archive, Blumenstr. 1, 76133 Karlsruhe. You can find a list of the surviving church books in the book by Hermann Franz, "Die Kirchenbücher in Baden" [The Church Books in Baden] (3rd Ed., Karlsruhe 1957). Before you resort to other sources, you should make the most of the church books since they are the only source which contains the complete information which makes it possible to trace a family from generation to generation.

The written information in the archives resulted from the "administrative course of events". Regarding family research, that means that information about individual persons is only available as far as the person came in contact in some way with the "authorities". Only in the rarest cases will you find all of the desired data mentioned in the source. The references are mostly limited to the mention of a name.

Within this constraint, archival sources for genealogical research offer the possibility to go back into the 14 or 15th century, when the use of surnames emerged in the civil proceedings. Early written records are only sparse. Moreover, their evaluation presupposes a considerable scientific knowledge, including Latin or Middle-High-German. However, from the 18th century on, written records become more numerous, and you should limit your research to the sources which you can expect to contain relevant familial information. As a priority, consider the tax lists, which can be found in department 66 (Beraine), and also in the topographical file department among the topics "Renovationen, Schätzungen, Zehntwesen" [Renovations, Assessments, Tax Dispositions].

In addition, you should refer to the homage lists in which are listed the subjects who had to make an oath of allegiance in the event of a new ruler. These lists are located under the topic "Landesherrlichkeit".

Finally, we should mention the inheritance files, personnel files (servant acts), serf lists, military enlistment lists, purchase records, emigration and naturalization files, although this list is not exhaustive. Other topics are also worth considering on an individual basis. If you know that the person you are researching is named Müller [miller] you should also check under the subject of "Mühlen" [mills] and so forth. A full list of the relevant sources can be found in the manual of genealogy previously mentioned.

All of these sources are arranged according to governmental and territorial aspects in the State Archive. Therefore, no inquiries can be pursued in a purposeful way into the official written or printed material if you do not know in which place the person in question lived or ended up. If however you have traced back a line of ancestors by means of the church books, you normally know the place for which other information may exist, and you can search in a well directed way among the other possible references for the specific place.

If the place is not known, research is more difficult. A generally valid search strategy cannot be given for this case. You can consult the available card index for the occurrence of surnames in Baden, which despite its volume, only contains information from a part of the files of the 18th and 19th century and therefore certainly does not offer a complete picture. However, you may be able to determine a place in which the name in question occurred.

The State Archive personnel offer aid in determining what reference material should be checked for specific genealogical questions, and they deliver the archival records to the reading room for use. The review and evaluation of the archival records are up to the user. Archive employees do not do genealogical investigations within the framework of their service. Also, help reading records can only be offered on a very limited basis. The response to written inquiries is limited to indications of which archival records may be worth checking. In this case, the previously mentioned card index of surnames remains out of consideration since its information can usually only be verified by further extensive research. Without an exact location and a definite scope, research and proper processing of written inquiries are not possible. This also applies to the providing of information from the duplicate church books of 1810 to 1870, which are stored here. The determination of the archival records and the answer to written inquiries is subject to a fee (at present 16 DM per quarter hour or portion of). Use of the reading room is - with the exception of commercial purposes - free of charge.

Successful genealogical study requires training in the proper methods and in deciphering old documents, a lot of patience and therefore a lot of time. Associations which offer aid for such research exist, and there are commercial contractors who undertake genealogical investigations for a fee. The State Archive, upon request, will provide a list of addresses.

Translate German words on your own from the German Dictionary Website.

Occasionally we have the surname for an ancestral German with no idea of his or her home area or where to look for records in Germany. Most of us know the LDS (Mormon) International Genealogical Index (IGI) is a superbly useful tool to identify concentrations of an old surname in Germany. Another way is to analyze current phone listings, and many researchers have never tried to do this. Researching telephone listings works surprisingly well because German society has not been as mobile as that in the USA, and surnames have tended to remain in the same area for very long periods of time. Identifying current surname concentrations in Germany can point to where an ancestor lived centuries earlier. It is worth a try if simpler, easier methods have failed to locate your ancestor's hometown.

Go to the URL: - type in your surname and wait - be patient, it takes a little while to do all the sorting. If you click on the down arrow beside "Quick Count," click on "More detail", and then "submit," it will show you on a map of Germany the distribution of the telephone subscribers across ten postal code areas in Germany with that surname. On the first map page, if you click on the highlighted first digit of the postal code area, it will show you a further breakdown within that postal code area of the surname's concentrations.

vater = father
mutter = mother
junge (or knabe, or bu) = boy
busche = more than one boy
madchen (matel or madel) = girl
junger = disciple
geehrtes = your favor of
Geburtsorte = birthplace
Geburtsurkunde = certificate of birth
geboren = born
wirtshaus = public place of worship
platz = place
pfaff = vicar
mein = mine
mir = myself
bar = fearful
kind, kinder, kindchen = baby, child, infant
darin = in it or in that, therein
bringen (bringet, also can be brachte or gebracht) = bring or take
Frudyte - truth
und = and
werb = advertise
werben = recruit, propaganda
wert = worth
wirt = host or landlord
fruchte = fruit
Johannes = John
Wilhelm = William
du = you
forstay = understand
sprechen = speak or language

eine = 1
zwei = 2
drei = 3
vier = 4
funf = 5
sechs = 6
sieben = 7
acht = 8
neun = 9
zehn = 10
elf = 11
zwolf = 12
dreizen = 13
vierzen = 14
etc. add zen to numerals to indicate + ten, i.e. vier four zen ten = fourteen
zwanzig = 20
einundzwanzig = 21
Dreifzig = 30
vierzig = 40 etc.
hundert = 100
tausend = 1000

There is a free automated translator of plain texts at:

Copy and paste or type your text into the input box, set the translator from foreign language to English or whatever you desire and hit the "translate" button. The translation comes back in the box above the input box. It does not reformat syntax perfectly, and sometimes it mistranslates words (e.g., the surname "Zulauf" gets translated "inlet"). When this automated translator knows it cannot translate a word, it leaves that word in the original language.

A free genealogy translation service is located at:
They do German to English, English to German and several other foreign languages.

Translate German words on your own from from the German Dictionary Website:


German White Pages: or

Maps: or

German ZIP:

Addresses of archives in Germany:

German and American Sources for German Emigration to America:

Germans to America:

Hamburg Passenger List Information 1850-1934:

Translations by Arthur Teschler's German Genealogy Group:

The Ships List Digest's On-Line:

The Ships List Searchable Archives Database:

Professions, Occupations and Illnesses:

Germany/Prussian Mailing Lists:

To identify a town in Germany go to click on the Orteveitzehnis, go to the first letter of the town/city after a couple of clicks you will be there.

For some German naming customs, go to Charles F. Kerchner, Jr.'s web page
18th Century PA German Naming Customs

German American Corner

Archives in Germany

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