To make progress in our German family history, we often want to keep going and “jump the pond” back to the old country. Yet, there is no central record repository for the former Germanic states, and many of the records we need were kept at the parish and local level. Thus, our first step is to find our ancestors’ local place of origin. We will look at a variety of sources in the U. S. and abroad that can guide you to your ancestor’s home place of origin. Examples and case studies will highlight how to approach and interpret these records when you find them.
Gail Shaffer Blankenau is on a mission to help fellow genealogists to succeed with their family history. She shares her research and advice in a wide variety of publications and speaks on genealogy at local, state, and national conferences, as well as at the Legacy Family Tree webinars online. She specializes in German genealogy, the Midwest and West, land records, homesteading, 19th-century photographs, and lineage research. She was a consulting researcher for William G. Thomas III's award-winning book A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (2020 Yale University Press) and serves as the genealogist for the Nickerson Family Association (Cape Cod), and the Germanic Genealogy Society board. She recently earned a master's degree in history with an award-winning thesis "Journey to Freedom from Nebraska Territory."