Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Locating German Church Records: Hansen’s Map Guides

OK, so you’ve finally located the small town where you Germanic ancestors once lived before immigrating to the United States. How do you find the parish registers?

It is easy enough to use the FHLC Family History Library Catalog to see if any records from the town are on microfilm and available through your local LDS FHC, but they usually filed NOT by town, but by parish, province or duchy. How will you locate all of the jurisdictions associated with your ancestors’ town?

For too long, we have relied on cryptic “MyersOrts”, and other such German-language gazetteers, which by definition do NOT include maps, but a description of each locality in paragraph format. Aside from the German font, one must decipher cryptic abbreviations and codes. Larry O. Jensen explains in The Genealogical Handbook of German Research. Everton Publishing, revised edition 1980 [emphasis added]:

After you know the exact place where your ancestor is from, then you must determine the name of the kingdom, province, or duchy to which the town belonged. This may be done by checking the following German gazetteer:

Uetrecht, E. (Comp.) Meyers Orts= und Verkehrs= Lexikon des Deutschen
Leipzig: Bibliographisches Institut, 1912. (Ref 943 E5mo)(Film No. 496,640 - for places A-K) (Film No. 496,641 - for places L-Z). "

WELL, have YOU tried deciphering the old German type script, as Jensen includes in his discussion? Do you know the Meyers Orts abbreviations that stand for local Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelische-Reformiertre, Walloon, Jewish, or civil registers and the like? Me neither, as Ol' Myrt here would need a new set of bi-focals.

Use Kevan M Hansen’s Map Guide to German Parish Registers. Books of this series currently in print include:

There are additional volumes are in the works including Sachen or Saxony where my Goering ancestors are said to have lived prior to their arrival in the 1840s.

These reference books are clearly written, including an index of towns. Once you find your ancestor’s town in the index, find the town in the township listing so you can make note of the parish code, and the parish including the Family History Library Catalog microfilm number to order through your local LDS Family History Center.


  • Identifies the parish where an ancestor worshipped based on where they lived.

  • Gives the FHL microfilm number for the family's parish records. However, it should be noted that very few of the Bavarian records have been filmed, so not many FHL film numbers are given.

  • Identifies nearly every city, town, and place that included residents.

  • Visually identifies church parishes for Lutherans & Catholics in each district.

  • Identifies adjoining parishes in case an ancestor attended an alternate parish.

  • Aids in area searches, particularly across district or regional borders.

  • Provides visual identification of search areas in which to look for a family.

  • Helps in determining proximity of one area to another.

  • Aids in determining reasonable distances of travel from one area to another.

  • Identifies population centers in each parish.

  • Identifies archives, repositories, and other resources.

  • Aids in identification of the location of minority religions.

You’ll also find province-specific references to accessing info about civil registration, emigration, lineage books (ortsippenbuch or dorfsippenbuch), church familienbuch, periodicals & genealogical collections, archives & repositories, and gazetteers.

Bill Dollahide, co-author of Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920 states in his review on the back cover of each volume:

“Unlike American genealogical research where the place to search for basic vital
records is usually a civil registration (city, county, stete), European research
is usually related to an ecclesiastical jurisdiction. In 18th and 19th century
German-speaking areas, one must search the aprish registers for Catholic,
Lutheran, and other churches to find the births, christenings, marriages, deaths
and burials. The historic boundaries of the old German parishes have not been
defnied except in very general terms, particularly for the mid-to-pate 1800s.
This book remedies that problem and serves as a road map to these records –
saving hours of effort.”

SAMPLE PAGE #129 from Volume 13 - Rhineland III Trier & the Pfalz (Palatinate) - Map Guide to German Parish Registers, IBID. shows the listing for the town of ELM and its key number 30.

SAMPLE PAGE #129 from Volume 13 - Rhineland III Trier & the Pfalz (Palatinate) - Map Guide to German Parish Registers, IBID. shows the Parish Key number 30 for BOUS and that records are found on Family History Library Catalog’s microfilm 532131.

SAMPLE PAGE #128 from Volume 13 - Rhineland III Trier & the Pfalz (Palatinate) - Map Guide to German Parish Registers, IBID. shows the location of Catholic Parishes in #30 Borus in relationship to other Catholic parishes parishes in the Kreis Saarlouis.

I don’t know how one can do without Hansen’s Map Guides if German ancestors are in the family tree.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

(c) 2007 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.


  1. The links to "Map Guide to German Parish Registers" is broken. Where can I buy them?

    1. Just shorten the URL to:
      and click on the side navigation bar on the words "German Map Guides".

      I just love it when websites change URLS for things 4 years after I publish a blog post!