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We're from Germany but Where?

Where in Germany?

When you’re tracing an ancestor to Central Europe from a century or more ago, you need to find out which state they were from- the Kingdom of Bavaria, or of Hannover? from the Duchy of Saxony-Altenburg, or of Saxony-Coburg, or Saxon-Meiningen, as opposed to the Kingdom of Saxony? From some part of Austria, which became distinct from generic Germany in the mid-1800’s? Maybe Switzerland, which separated from the Holy Roman Empire centuries ago?

Map of Germany

What to do: It’s not enough to find the village or town an ancestor is from- make sure you know what district or province or country it is in, and remember that through 1871, Germany was split into many sub-countries- several kingdoms, many duchies, earldoms, principalities, even teensy Herrschaften. That’s how you know to rule out other places sharing that name.

1) Try looking up the place name and see if there is one or many places by that name, or by variant names. I’ll often include wiki ‘place name wiki’ (like Reute wikipedia or Rothenburg Bavaria wiki) , since the wiki often -not always- includes alternative names, the exact location and what province it is and was in. There are plenty of other sites that help; try Meyer's Gazetteer (Germany only, alas), a German atlas from a century ago that's now online; you can zero in on the right province; you can find nearby churches and place names.

2) The first hit or several hits may or may not have a disambiguation link that tells you what all the current and past places by that name are: you might include the search term disambiguation or Begriffserklärung (the German equivalent) to get that (for instance: ttps://