Professional Genealogy Company based in Salt Lake City
For those persons lucky enough to already know an exact place of origin for their European ancestor(s), CGS can immediately begin research with European records. The FHL houses an extensive collection of old German Empire records, as well as records of Switzerland, France, Austria and Scandinavia. Parish registers are available as early as the 1500's in some areas (specifically Baden and Württemberg) but at least one to two hundred years later in other areas. Wars and other catastrophes caused destruction of some registers (as might be expected), thus availability varies greatly from place to place.
Civil registration was instituted much later. The French introduced civil registration in 1798 in those areas of Germany annexed by Napoleon Bonaparte. Baden began civil registration in 1810, and records from Prussia are available beginning 1 October 1874. On 1 January 1876, civil registration was officially mandated in all areas of the German Empire.
If an exact place of origin is unknown, research will need to begin with U.S. sources. Emigration lists for Hamburg, Germany are available from 1850-1934. Passenger lists for most major American ports also are available through the mid-Twentieth Century, and generally are indexed. In addition, naturalization, military, census, church, vital, and other records can be used to establish European origins.
There are similar types of records for Switzerland and portions of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire (now part of the modern-day countries of Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Italy and Yugoslavia). Swiss records are more plentiful at the FHL than those from other Eastern European countries, but always inquire about specific areas.
The following areas of the old German Empire have been highlighted below, as they have the most complete records at the FHL. Other areas of Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Austria may also be available, so please inquire in all cases.
Brandenburg, Prussia [now partially Poland]
Elsass-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine) [now in France]
Hannover, Prussia (Hanover)
Hessen (often referred to as Hesse Darmstadt)
Mecklenburg (Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz)
Ostpreussen, Prussia (East Prussia) [now in Poland, Russia and Lithuania]
Rheinland, Prussia (Rhineland)
Schlesien, Prussia (Silesia) [now partially in Poland & the Czech Republic]
Westfalen, Prussia (Westphalia)
Westpreussen, Prussia (West Prussia) [now Poland]