Originally published in 1976, The Encyclopedia of German-American Genealogical Research is still the best book available on German-American genealogy. The emphasis of the work is on German genealogical research in America, with special focus on immigration records, German ethnic religious bodies in America, and manuscript and published source materials, both in America and Germany. One of the most important parts of the book is the section on the “Locations of German-Speaking Congregations in the United States, 1906,” based on a federal religious census of the time. This census gives considerable data on a number of the larger German-speaking denominations, enabling the genealogical researcher to establish the county in which German congregations were located.
According to the authors, “the primary purpose of the Encyclopedia of German-American Genealogical Research is to survey the material available to the genealogist seeking to link American lineages with their origins in German-speaking Europe,” and since German-American genealogical research had not been surveyed before, this “Encyclopedia will serve as an inventory of both known and unknown” source materials. As an example, they provide a comprehensive list of muster rolls of German mercenaries in the American Revolution located in American archives. A further purpose of the Encyclopedia is to provide American researchers with background material on German customs, sociological stratification, governmental organization, and ethnographic considerations having a bearing on immigrant ancestors.
To heighten the appeal of the book, the authors offer a special section on genealogy in Germany, with emphasis on land records, state vital records, court records, census records, municipal records, and church records. In addition, they provide a detailed breakdown of the sovereign territories of Germany and a history of the organization of the Holy Roman Empire. Moreover, there is a section on language and names and one on heraldry, with a final section on German published sources. Where possible, findings published in obscure German publications have been included in the conviction that unless special effort is made to bring these findings to the attention of American researchers, they are unlikely ever to receive the attention they deserve.
Since there are more Americans of German descent than any other nationality, the long-awaited reprint of this 1976 publication should be warmly welcomed.
Clifford Neal Smith and Anna Piszczan-Czaja Smith
(1976), 2011, paper, 281 pp.