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While an extremely brief overview of Germany's path through history, hopefully this helps you understand some of the obstacles that German genealogists face.
Now that you understand these difficulties, it's time to go back to the basics.
No matter where your family ended up, you can't research your German roots until you have learned more about your more recent ancestors.
Since most German records are not centralized, it is nearly impossible to trace your ancestors in Germany without this step.Since Germany has no central repository for civil records of birth, marriage and death, these records may be found in various locations including the local civil registrar's office, government archives, and on microfilm through the Family History Library. Regular censuses have been conducted in Germany on a countrywide basis since 1871.These "national" censuses were actually conducted by each state or province, and the original returns can be obtained from the municipal archives (Stadtarchiv) or the Civil Register Office (Standesamt) in each district.Alternatively, if you know from which port in Germany they departed, you may be able to locate their hometown on the German passenger departure lists.Other common sources for locating an immigrant's hometown include vital records of birth, marriage and death; census records; naturalization records and church records.