Category Archives: Eastern Europe Research

Finding German Family in Eastern Europe

I’ve decided to concentrate on finding some good resources for Eastern Europe. I have Slovak relatives, but I also have friends who are searching for family in other countries of Eastern Europe.

Today, I am going to focus on just one ethnic group – the Germans – and how to trace them throughout various regions that belonged to the Austrian-Hungarian, Russian or German empires in days gone by.

Figuring out where you think records should be often opens a can or two of worms because of the constantly changing boundaries and governments in power.

My grandmother’s little village of Udol is a great example. It’s located in the foothills of the Tatras Mountains with Poland quite close by, especially as the bird flies. The church registers for Udol begin in 1827, but the languages used for the records varies from Latin to Hungarian to Slovak and, finally, to what I think is either Russian or Ukrainian, as it uses the cyrillic alphabet.

The records change abruptly from one language to the other overnight and change to yet another language just as abruptly a few years later.

To find your family, it is necessary to know which government ruled the area at the time, what the village or town was called, as the names often changed with the rulers, and where the records might be held today for the time period in which you are researching.

The first place at which I would always begin my search is the FamilySearch wiki.  In this case, I found a list of German genealogical societies in the wiki. There are 49 of them on the wiki and there are several which could help me find German ancestors who lived in Eastern Europe.

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Use the link above to FamilySearch Wiki
to access this live link page

First, I have to say that while finding free resources is terrific, some research strategies involve spending some money and finding your family in this area of the world may be one of them.

I am assuming that you have identified a particular ancestor or family that has left clues leading you to believe that he or they were German, but at some point lived in Eastern Europe.

Just from the wiki list, we have:

American Historical Society of Germans from Russia – There is a surname GED file available to search for free on this site, but to view village files, you need to be a member. There are also other member only-access areas of the website, but this society claims to have the largest repository of information on Germans from Russia. BAsic membership is $35 per year.

The Bukovina Society of the Americas – Bukovina, described as a multi-ethnic province, is currently part of  Romania and Ukraine. Specific groups of Germans were among the settlers in that region.

Danube Swabian Association of Trenton, NJ – Associate membership is $35 per year.

East European Genealogical Society – based in Canada; there is a searchable surname index with village/locality identified so you can narrow down whether it may be your family. This society covers all Eastern European groups. Membership is $38 per year, which I assume is the Canadian dollar.

Foundation for East European Family History Studies – (FEEFHS) – This website has a robust set of links to maps and resources relating to Eastern Europe. They sponsor conferences and publish a journal, available by subscription, but there doesn’t appear to be any membership requirement to use the website links.

German-Bohemian Heritage Society – Based in Minnesota, this society has some limited material available to the public, but most of its resources require membership, which is $20 per year.

Germans from Russia Heritage Collection – at North Dakota State University. This website has tons of links to about every type of record you might ask for. No membership is required to use the site.

Immigrant Genealogical Society – Located in Burbank, CA, this society has a website describing resources in their library and research services are available, but otherwise, you would need to visit in person. Membership is $25 per year.

Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe – This website has, like several of the others, both public and member-only areas, but there are free links to villages and maps and a public database area. Membership is $40 per year, but is listed as the same cost in both U.S. and Canadian dollars. Credit card or Paypal only gives the option for Canadian dollars, so if you have a credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees, the fee in U.S. dollars is roughly only $30 in 2016.

The Center for Volga German Studies – This center is part of Concordia University, which sponsors workshops and conferences. It also appears they work at identifying German homes of the Volga settlers. The website includes a gazetteer, immigration information about these people to the U.S., Canada and elsewhere, census lists and resources for finding German origins. It looks like the center accepts donations, but there is no membership fee.

As I began to delve into the links on these websites, there are way too many German subsets to list in one most – Moldavian Germans, Hungarian Germans and so on.

There are also some resources on German Russian village names:

Long German Russian Village List from Dale Lee Wahl

German-Russian Village List, also from Dale Lee Wahl

Eric Krause has a website with many links about Germans here, there and everywhere:

Eric Krause Genealogy – Background Genealogy

Lastly, there is a good map of where Germans settled in Russia:

ROLL German-Russian Settlement Map

If German-Eastern European is part of your ethnic heritage, I strongly encourage you to visit these websites. I have a feeling there are many fantastic resources buried in the website links.