One of the most difficult challenges that genealogy researchers encounter in German genealogy is the inability to discover the last place of residence for a particular line back in the homeland.
When I first started researching my Wendt immigrant ancestors years ago, I was fortunate to have learned the name of their last place of residence early on in my journey. The family research passed down to me was that my Wendt ancestors were either from modern NE Germany or Poland (near historical Stettin). I wanted to know exactly where in the homeland they came from!
To that end, I entered basic family information into the database on Ancestry concerning my second great-grandfather, Christian Wendt. Within seconds, I experienced an unforgettable, genealogical epiphany!
The Ancestry result was an indexed entry based on German emigration records, known as “Auswanderungsakten” from Brandenburg, Prussia. In other words, I had just encountered a primary-derived entry of Christian’s (imminent) emigration, that of his permission to leave Brandenburg, Prussia to America.
The entry on Ancestry matched Christian’s known birth date. Moreover, it disclosed his full name, the year that he emigrated to America, as well as the exact village and its associated historical Kreis, or district, of his last place of residence back in the homeland. Consequently, this amazing development got me across the pond!
While this remarkable discovery made all the difference, I wanted to see a copy of the original Auswanderungsakt. I did not have to wait very long. While the Family Search microfilm/microfiche loan service was still taking place, I was fortunate to view a copy on microfiche!
While sifting through the microfiche from Family Search of a copy of what was described differently-albeit slightly-as Auswanderungskartei (or emigration card file) for instances of the Wendt surname, I came across a record of interest. It was for a Wendt family who was from the village of Damme in historical Kreis Prenzlau. The card listed a certain Martin Wendt, a working man, who was 48 years old. He emigrated with consent in 1846 to America, along with his wife, Marie-Dorothee geb. (née) Sprenger and four children. Initially, I had asked myself where the names of the four children were. How did Christian, my second-great grandfather, possibly fit in with this family? By advancing further through the microfiche, it did not take long to discover the names of those four children themselves!
As it turned out, the Wendt Family from the village of Damme consisted of Christian’s parents and sisters. The birth dates listed on the other part of the card corresponded to that of Christian and his sisters. Thus, by digging deeper, my quest to learn more about this particular Brandenburg record resulted also in tracing the Wendt line back another generation. At this point in my German Genealogy journey, I was in Prussian Genealogy heaven! I had discovered, then, that not only did I have German roots, but I had Prussian roots as well.
ANCESTRAL LOCATION ON MEYERS GAZETTEER
If you know of a particular historical place name that was a part of the German Empire and wish to locate it, I strongly recommend using Meyers Gazetteer. It provides the historical, jurisdictional details that you would expect from a gazetteer. Moreover, in a majority of cases, it displays a corresponding historical map of what a particular location would have looked like during the period of the German Empire.
To locate a place name on Meyers Gazetteer, choose this link here: https://www.meyersgaz.org/.
Using the aforementioned Damme, Kreis Prenzlau example, one can view where my Wendt immigrant ancestors had resided decades earlier on a map from the German Empire era.
Prussian Genealogy on Facebook
Prussian Genealogy on Facebook is a global and supportive community with around 14,000 members. I created the community as an extension of my passion for Prussian genealogy and for the purpose of helping others just starting out or wishing to dive deeper into this fascinating area of genealogy. The community would not be where it is today were it not for the help of the many members in the group who have made and continue to make a difference in the lives of those who wish to better understand their Prussian roots!
To apply to join the Prussian Genealogy community, known officially as Prussian Genealogy & Heritage / German, Polish & Lithuanian Roots Community, choose this link here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/prussiangenealogy
German Genealogy Translations on Facebook
The Germany Genealogy Translations group on Facebook is dedicated exclusively to assisting members with their German Genealogy translation requests. The volunteers generously take time out of their busy lives to assist members with their requests.
To apply to join the German Genealogy Translations group, choose this link here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/germangenealogytranslations
German Genealogy Word List
Arbeitsmann – working man
Ausgewandert mit Consens – emigrated with consent
Auswanderungsakten – emigration records
Auswanderungskartei – emigration card file
Ehefrau – wife
Kinder – children
Kreis – district
Jahre – years
German genealogy can be fulfilling, fun and even a little frustrating at times. If you are having trouble finding out the last place of residence for your German ancestor back in the homeland, consider searching for an emigration record and other relevant records as a part of your research strategy. Discovering and locating the ancestral location, especially before German Unification, is important in the pursuit of records on the other side of the pond. May you experience similar genealogical breakthroughs!
Stephen Wendt, MLIS, holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from K.S.U. He is a professional genealogist and speaker.
Stephen recently presented his lecture, "Searching for Your Elusive Prussian Ancestors: A Case Study” at the virtual IGGP conference in July.
You can also follow Stephen at the Prussian Genealogy and Heritage Facebook Page as well: https://www.facebook.com/prussiangenealogy.