How German Am I?

+11 votes
Hello all! Per Ancestry DNA I am 72% European west. Through tree search, I see many relatives (distant grandparents) emigrating to the US from Germany. I've tried to research the "towns" they were born, but having zero knowledge of anything German, I'm striking out. Do any of you have links or guides to German study tools, or could I share the areas and possibly learn more.

Also, how do I find out WHERE in European west I really identify with. I know there are other areas besides Germany in Europe West, but several grandparents on both sides were born somewhere in Germany.

I have my AncestryDNA test uploaded to as well.

All help is appreciated!
in The Tree House by Anonymous Hollingsworth G2G1 (1.9k points)
retagged by Lynda Crackett
"How German am I" - My immediate thought was... What is German? When?
Consider this.

These ethnicity predictions are estimates, and poor ones at that. They are based on self reporting of ancestral origins by small groups. Statisticially they are not valid.  

They are, however, a clever marketing strategy.  I do not understand why some people are so interested in ethnic origins, except out of curiosity.

Culturally I am an American, regardless of my ancestral origins, of those origins I know nothing as regards cultural traditions.

As regards German ancestry. Over time the boundaries of Germany have changed.


My mothers, mother, mother was born of a Prussian who migrated to America, however at the time of migration, circa the Austrio Prussian War, Prussia (now Germany, had borders that extended west to the Rhineland and East into Poland.


Todays national boundaries do not represent the boundaaries at the time of youro ancestors migration.   They could have been Czech or Slovenic or even Polish.


But there is no such thing as a solid identifiable DNA Haplogroup, except some isolated indigenous peoples.

War and migration, for food, hunting, farming has resulted in an admixture of DNA within population groups.

A dominant DNA haplogroup is generally found within a population, but said populations also contain a wide variety of haplogroups, thanks to war, raids, captives, enslavement and ordinary migration.

5 Answers

+4 votes
Best answer

I posted this list in one of our Weekend Chats a few weeks ago.     GedBas has several menu options lots of good databases to look at   LDS online search  European site like Ancestry but sometimes the trees have sources and they do have a library of  real data on the paid side   Ship passenger lists for German departures they also have non German departures just look at date search or drop names into search box  a collection of genealogical texts  French archives since parts of what are now France was German at some points in history European newspapers  Danube Swabia links  Midieval premier research database  Google book search   I search for books written on specific towns or families  map of German

States   German names  Emslander area of Germany  historical German research services  a lot of different info in one place  German Genealogy Group  German Genealogical links  German Genealogical Groups  rootsweb German genweb  Baden  BW land search  Bremen Haven museum and database  German illness and death terms  Old script translator  Urloffen databases to Birth, marriage, and death records  Hessen family site  Hessen state archives…  Think like a German…  spelling variations  Muenster   BW databases  Church register database  historical maps  a tool to find lost or swallowed up towns works for non Jewish research too  Meyers Gazetteer

by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (687k points)
selected by Anonymous Hollingsworth
+5 votes

Well you definitely have me beat!  I am only 4% Western European according to Ancestry. I am, however 11% Eastern European (which makes sense because some of my German relatives were from areas in Germany that are now in Poland).   I have lots of German relatives on my mom's side.  They immigrated to the US in the mid to late 1800's.  Mine are from a variety of different areas in Germany.  I have not delved too deep into German research, although that is one of my research goals.  From what I understand, the key to linking a German immigrant to the United States back to Germany is knowing what town they were from.  I have one immigrant ancestor who I do not know the town he was from in Germany, so it is a dead end right now.  I also had one immigrant ancestor who changed his last name after living in the United States for a while (I don't know why and it was very different from his original last name).  I have been able to obtain some information of some of my lines from Family Search.  Ancestry has some good sources, too, but I have not investigated them in a while.  Passenger lists and naturalization records are some good sources that I have used. Census records can sometimes give the date of naturalization and the area in Germany where the person immigrated from. 

I know some other more experienced German researchers will probably chime in, but I wanted to tell you about my experience.  


by Kristin Merritt G2G6 Mach 1 (16.8k points)
Focus more on the "European West" than on the "German". The lines blurred and changed a lot, as well as the people moved across borders a lot depending on whatever conflict was happening at the time. Pay closer attention to passenger records; what port did they leave from? What country is it listed as on the passenger list? They will often list if the passenger is going to family in the states and the name and address of that family. Look for other passengers of the same surname. Don't assume they are listed together; single men and women were separated and therefore not always listed together.  Anything that will give you a clue to the actual town or commune they left. Census records are touch and go, naturalization records are helpful, but several people put down what the country was before they left it and now it may be different. Passport applications are great. They list where they are traveling to and sometimes why. Is it possible they are in French territory? Alsace is where my family is from. It WAS Germany and France about 3 different times. Several of them went to Switzerland. Some of the towns have their records in French and some in German. I spent two years chasing them down through French records (and a wrongly listed surname). If you want to message me surnames, I'd be happy to take a look and see if I can help you narrow it down.
+5 votes
by Rosemary Jones G2G6 Pilot (238k points)
+3 votes
One other place to look for the town a German ancestor was from is on the immigrant's marriage license or church record of the ancestor's marriage if the immigrant got married after coming to the United States.  I found towns for some of my immigrant German ancestors that way.

It can still be a tough search to find the German records.  Generally speaking, I've found fewer German records and churchbooks online than in other countries, especially those with state religions.  Both France and Denmark have good online access to churchbooks and Denmark also has online access to censuses.  Some areas of Canada, Quebec for me, also have good online records.

Germany appears to have been later than some other areas in adopting laws requiring the keeping of duplicate records in separate places also and many of those  records, especially in the eastern areas got destroyed or lost over the years.

But sometimes, you luck out.  For one of our German lines, which came from the small town of Hayna in the Palentine, a lot of the church records are indexed on Family Search.
by Mary Jensen G2G6 Pilot (103k points)
I have seen incredibly accurate records from civil offices in Germany from the 1800's.
+1 vote
I am 75% European West and 25% British Isles. Both my family tree and my DNA results agree on that.
by Bart Triesch G2G6 Pilot (253k points)

Related questions

+3 votes
1 answer
+49 votes
85 answers
+5 votes
3 answers
+4 votes
2 answers
+3 votes
1 answer
+1 vote
2 answers
98 views asked Dec 16, 2021 in Genealogy Help by Bob Bergmann G2G2 (2.3k points)
+4 votes
2 answers
+1 vote
1 answer
72 views asked Nov 29, 2021 in Genealogy Help by Susan Stopford G2G6 (9.6k points)

WikiTree  ~  About  ~  Help Help  ~  Search Person Search  ~  Surname:

disclaimer - terms - copyright