Your Journey Begins Here
First, your research strategy should be focused on finding the last residence or at least the area in Germany your family came from. Then, identify local or regional resources in that area. For this purpose, passenger manifests, including lists of arrivals at U.S. ports, or departures from Germany often provide very helpful information. Those include established large databases, provided by commercial firms for fees, or those offered for free by societies or other institutions.
The next steps lead you to state archives, church archives, and civil registration offices of communities, towns or districts. Also, local databases, including name-lists, family and local history publications are helpful. You will notice that archives in Germany – be it church or state archives, German websites from genealogical societies, church offices or groups of volunteers – do not always provide English-language navigation or explanation. Therefore, you should contact them directly. Be advised that many institutions or organizations may not have the resources to carry out extensive research, or that they need time to work on your request, and nominal fees may apply.
The following recommendations are based on a selection of addresses, resources, institutions and tools that are helpful in a basic and practical way. Please keep in mind that even in times of electronic data and high-speed internet, historical biographical research is a complicated task that requires time and patience.