While FamilySearch and Ancestry, along with Matricula and Archion, offer wonderful resources for finding your ancestors’ church records, there are still many, many church records that have not been digitized yet. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost!
If you can’t find your ancestors’ church records online, you can reach out to the physical church in Germany and see if they can help you find your records.
Not sure what church your ancestor belonged to? Scared to write to a foreign country? Don’t know how to contact the church? Read on to find out what you can do.
Please Note: Before you can take action on the steps below, you will need to know your ancestor’s hometown in Germany. Some previous blog posts that may help you are:
Before You Cross The Pond: Five Places to Find Your Ancestor in America
Finding Your German Parish Contact Information: Protestant Churches
To find your Protestant parish information in Germany:
- Go to https://www.ekd.de/en/Gemeindesuche-161.htm
- Type in the name of your ancestor’s town in the Ort (town) search box.
- Click Gemeinde suchen (search parishes).
- If there are multiple parishes in that town, the website will provide you with the highest-ranking parish.
- Write your request to the e-mail address provided (see how to write at the end of the article).
Finding Your German Parish Contact Information: Catholic Churches
- To find your Catholic parish information in Germany:
- Go to https://www.dbk.de/bistumskarte.
- Type in your ancestor’s town in the Adresse oder Ort (address or town) search box.
- Press Suchen (search).
- Click the red marker on the map.
- Write your request to the e-mail address provided.
Contacting State Archives
If you are unable to contact the church, you can also try writing the state archives for your ancestor’s region. Fortunately for us, government archives often kept duplicate records from churches.
If you want to find the archive for your ancestor’s region, simply google Landesarchiv or Staatsarchiv (state archive) + whichever region your ancestor came from (Example: Landesarchiv Baden).
Once on the archive’s website, look for the Kontakt tab to find an e-mail address to which you can write.
Translating Websites to English
Do those German websites overwhelm you? No problem!
If you use Google Chrome, you can simply right click with your mouse, and press “translate to English”. This will then provide a machine-translated version of the website for you. The translation may not be perfect, but it will still give you a good idea of what the website is saying.
If you are not a fan of Chrome, you can copy and paste the website link into Google Translate, and then click on the new link Google Translate provides. This also gives you a machine-translated version of the page.
Writing to the Church or Archive
If you don’t speak German, don’t let that stop you from writing an e-mail to Germany. FamilySearch has a wonderful German Letter Writing Guide that you can use to help you.
If you write to the church in German, they will likely reply to you in German as well. In that case, you can use the translation tool DeepL.com to help you find out what was written.
However, more and more people are using English professionally in German nowadays. If you do want to write in English, I would say that you could, but perhaps offer a brief apology for not writing in German upfront. We don’t want to assume that everyone speaks English!
Map Guide to German Parish Registers
If you prefer book resources, I would highly recommend Kevan M. Hansen’s Map Guide to German Parish Registers. This book series, which covers parishes in towns in specific regions of Germany, can be found by a simple Google search through a number of retailers.
Best of luck finding your ancestors’ records! For more information on locating and reading German church records, check out The Magic of German Church Records.
My ancestors were from Prussia, now Poland. Any tips on obtaining church records from former Prussian states?
Sorry this is not an answer to your question but I found these two sites very useful in searching for Sonnwalde, a village south east of Mehlsack, Kreis Braunsberg, Ermland (Warmia), East Prussia, where my German friend has ancestors and which we visited in 2017:
Thanks so much for sharing!
When Germans were expelled from Poland at the end of WW II, some records were recovered. The are mostly in Stadtarchiv Berlin or Greifswald.