I have been researching my own German ancestors for a number of years, both through online resources and by writing to archives and record repositories in Germany. My single year of High School German is simply not up to the task of trying to communicate with officials, nor for translating the records I have managed to find. Clearly I was not the only Australian with German ancestors facing this problem, and a recurring question throughout Dirk’s presentations was “Is that record/website in English?” The answer was generally no, and I could hear a little sigh go around the room each time.
Some highlight points include :
- Remember to consider the history of Germany – the country only exists as a unified nation since 1871. Before then, it was an amalgamation of Kingdoms, Principalities, Duchies, and Free Cities.
- For many people their regional background is more important than the national background. Someone from Hamburg may identify as being from Hamburg first and from Germany second.
- Good preparation is essential. Aim for precision not speed, and be defined in what you want to find.
- Destruction of records in Germany is going to be a problem that may require some lateral thinking and creativity to work around.
- Family Books were definitely a new resource to me, as were several websites and possible avenues for further research – there is always something else to look for!
Again, there were other presentations during the day. The Australian Institute of Genealogical Studies and the Genealogical Society of Victoria both spoke about their European Resources, there was another presentation about My Heritage, and Patsy Daly spoke about using DNA to solve genealogical puzzles.
Finally - the opportunity to chat with other researchers, swap stories, successes and favourite resources, catch up with a few familiar faces I only see at days like these or have talked to online but never actually met – it is always a wonderful part of any genealogy seminar. Many thanks the Alan and the team at Unlock the Past for organising yet another wonderful genealogy event. I hope to see you at the Deniliquin Genealogy Expo in October, where I am happy to note Unlock the Past is listed among the exhibitors.