Germany Location Field Guidelines

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This page is a part of the Germany Project
WikiTree Guidance on Location Fields
Detailed pages: German Territorial Structure in the Course of History

Sven, Alexandra and Flo talking about
Names, Location and Categories for
German Profiles on WikiTree Day 2023
Play the Sven, Alexandra and Flo talking about Names, Location and Categories for German Profiles on WikiTree Day 2023.


NOTE: This page is a work in progress and will be expanded over time.

WikiTree guidelines say "use their convention, not ours". WikiTree's preferred style for location names is to use the name that was used by the people in that place, at the time of the event you're recording. This means using place names in German and using the names that people at the time used, even if those places no longer exist.

This standard is often difficult or even impossible to apply, but it is an ideal that members from all over the world can agree upon. Consequently, the guidelines below are merely suggestions to help members research the proper location name for the place their ancestors lived.

Ideally, we would like to see the German place name used in the location field. For example, when recording the birthplace of someone born in Bavaria, Germany in the 1830s, you would use "Bayern, Deutscher Bund" rather than the English "Bavaria, Germany" or the present day "Bayern, Deutschland".

German place names are particularly difficult to chronicle, as evidenced in this short video: 1000 Years of European Border Changes.


MOST IMPORTANTLY: AN ESTIMATED LOCATION IS BETTER THAN NO LOCATION AT ALL. As a general rule, entering a location and marking it uncertain is better than leaving the location field blank. However, in the interest of accuracy, we'd appreciate it if you could try and add the following:
1. The FEDERAL name as it was called during that era:
2. The STATE name
  • NOTE: before 1919 there were kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities, etc. If you don't know or are unsure of the State/Kingdom/Duchy, please add to the text in the Biography section whatever details you have about the location name.
  • NOTE: from 1866-1918, much of the German Empire was a part of the Kingdom of Prussia, so you'd add Preußen - i.e., Preußen, Deutsches Reich.
  • NOTE: TODAY the 16 German States/Regions are: Baden-Württemberg; Bayern; Berlin (city state); Brandenburg; Bremen (city state); Hamburg (city state); Hessen; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; Niedersachsen; Nordrhein-Westfalen; Rheinland-Pfalz; Saarland; Sachsen; Sachsen-Anhalt; Schleswig-Holstein and Thüringen. For more information see the main Germany Regions Team page.
3. City/Town/Municipality name, if available.
TIP: If you select Language: "German" in the data fields (between Suffix and Birth Date), the automated FamilySearch place name suggestions will appear in German, if not, they default to your browser's language.
TIP: You might want to check out the bookmarklet GermanyLocationCleanup.js by Florian Straub. It automatically changes Germany/Deutschland to the right name based on the year stated in the location fields. It also cleans up the suggestions in the drop-down fields to better match our guidelines. The page also explains what bookmarklets are and how it can be installed.

Germany-Specific Guidelines

1. If you have all the location info, the format should be as follows (this should also be the format for location field names prior to the 18th century):
  • English: Town/Village, State, Country
  • German: Ort, Bundesland, Deutschland
  • prior to 1806: Town, State, Heiliges Römisches Reich
2. OPTIONAL (after 1806):
  • English: Town/Village, Municipality, County, State, Country
  • German: Ort, Gemeinde, Kreis, Bundesland, Deutschland
2a. If the Town and Municipality (Ort and Gemeinde) are the same, only list it ONCE.
2b. Please do not add State/Province/Kingdom/Federal additions to location fields, i.e.:
  • rather than: Provinz Ostpreußen, Königreich Preußen, Deutsches Reich (Province of East Prussia, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire)
    --> use Ostpreußen, Preußen, Deutsches Reich (East Prussia, Prussia, German Empire)
  • rather than: Land Schleswig-Holstein, Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Land Schleswig-Holstein, Federal Republic of Germany)
    --> use Schleswig-Holstein, Deutschland
2c. If you're adding other municipal/administrative additions, i.e. Gemeinde and Kreis, please add "Gemeinde XYZ", "Kreis XYZ" to the location field.

WikiTree Guidelines

If in doubt, collaborate. Post a comment on the profile, ask in the Germany Google Group and/or post to G2G (tagged with Germany and location_fields). Leave detailed research notes if you've spent time researching the location but are still unsure.
Please remember the following:
  • Information in any data field should be supported in the profile's text (with a source, if available)
  • Use capitalization as appropriate (i.e.: McClellan instead of Mcclellan)
  • It is never appropriate to use ALL CAPS in a data field
  • NO punctuation other than commas should be used in location fields
  • Again: as a general rule, entering almost any location and marking it uncertain is better than entering no location at all

German Orthography

The German alphabet consists of the twenty-six letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet plus four special letters. Whenever possible, try to use following special letters in location fields. The ALT + number codes you can use for each are as follows:
ß or ALT 225
ä or ALT 132
Ä ot ALT 0196
ö or ALT 148
Ö or ALT 0214
ü or ALT 129
Ü or ALT 0220

The Details: The Country now known as Germany

Rather than adding Germany (or, more appropriately, Deutschland) to a location field, please use the country name that was appropriate during that time. The following includes a brief summary of some of the data held in German Territorial Structure in the Course of History (currently pages are available for 1806-present). See those pages for detailed information. Wikipedia pages and WikiTree categories for each era are also linked below.

Germania (beginning of time-c. 486/7 AD)

Name to add to location field: Germania.

Frankish Kingdom (486/7-800)/Empire (800-843)

Name to add to location field: Fränkische Reich.

Kingdom of the East Franks (843–962)

Name to add to location field: Ostfrankenreich. (Category: Regnum Francorum Orientalium)

Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (962–1806)

Name to add to location field: Heiliges Römisches Reich. (Category: Imperium Romanum Sacrum)
Try to add the proper official name of a state when known.
Examples for location field:
  • Additional info: Although the Heiliges Römisches Reich basically consisted of three parts, these kingdom names do not need to appear in the location fields:
  1. the Regnum Teutonicum (Eng.: German Kingdom; Ger.: Deutsches Reich) or Regnum Teutonicorum (Eng.: Kingdom of the Germans; Ger.: Reich der Deutschen) 843-
  2. the Regnum Italicum (Eng.: Kingdom of Italy or Imperial Italy; Ger.: Königreich Italien or Reichsitalien) 855-1801
  3. the Regnum Arelatense (Eng.: Kingdom of Arles/Burgundy; Ger.: Königreich Arelat/Burgund) 933-1378

Confederation of the Rhine (1806–1813) / Individual States (1806/1813-1815)

Name to add to location field: Rheinbund. (Category)
Examples for location field (NOTE: Prussia was NOT in the Rheinbund):
-if the states are part of the Rheinbund: Münster, Westfalen, Rheinbund
-if not: Berlin, Brandenburg, Preußen
  • Space page for Rheinbund is under construction HERE

German Confederation (1815–1866)

Name to add to location field: Deutscher Bund (Category)
Examples for location field (note that there are some areas outside of the Deutscher Bund and areas under administration from foreign states - East Prussia was NOT in the Deutscher Bund):
- Leezen, Segeberg, Holstein, Dänemark, Deutscher Bund
- Bodenteich, Uelzen, Hannover, Deutscher Bund
- Königsberg, Ostpreußen, Preußen (because not part of the Deutscher Bund)
  • States in the German Confederation
  • Parts of the federal states that did NOT belong to the German Confederation
  1. Regions that were not part of the German Confederation, but part of the Kingdom of Prussia
  2. Regions that were not part of the German Confederation, but part of the Austrian Empire
  • States that were governed in personal union or real union with member states of the German Confederation
  1. States in personal union with member states of the German Confederation
  2. Member States of the German Confederation in personal union with states outside the Confederation
  3. States outside the federal government in real union with member states of the German federal government

Individual States (1866-1867)

From the time the German Confederation ended until the North German Confederation was established, all German states were considered sovereign states. Name to add to location field: STATE NAME
See list of states here: German individual states 1866-1867

North German Confederation (1867–1870)

Name to add to location field: Norddeutscher Bund.
Examples for location field (NOTE: some were Prussian provinces)
- Sachsen, Norddeutscher Bund
- Heiderfeld, Leezen, Segeberg, Schleswig-Holstein, Preußen, Norddeutscher Bund

German Empire (1871–1945)

Name to add to location field: Deutsches Reich. (Category)
Examples for location field (NOTE: some were Prussian provinces)
- Wolfenbüttel, Braunschweig, Deutsches Reich
- Heiderfeld, Schleswig-Holstein, Preußen, Deutsches Reich
1. German Empire (1871–1918)
German Empire 1871-1917 (Deutsches Kaiserreich)
2. German Empire - Weimar Republic (1918–1933)
Weimarer Republik was the form of government in the second reich of the German Empire.
3. German Empire - "Nazi Germany" (1933–1945)
Großdeutsches Reich (also known as the "Third Reich", German Empire - National Socialist Dictatorship; Deu.: Nationalsozialistische Diktatur).
  • Territories during this era:

Allied-occupied Germany (1945-1949)

Name to add to location field: Besatzungszone, Gesamtdeutschland.
Example to use in location field:
- Leezen, Segeberg, Schleswig-Holstein, Britische Besatzungszone, Gesamtdeutschland

Federal Republic of Germany (1949-Present)

Name to add to location field: Deutschland (or Bundesrepublik Deutschland) (Category). The Federal Republic of Germany is comprised of 16 states. See a chart and more detailed information here: Bundesrepublik Deutschland and here: Regions Team
Example to use in location field:
- Heiderfeld, Gemeinde Leezen, Kreis Segeberg, Schleswig-Holstein, Deutschland
  • Other territories existing during this period:
  • Modern-day German place names consist of:
1. Town/city (Ort)
2. OPTIONAL (add "Gemeinde" before the location name): Municipalities (Gemeinde): list of municipalites: click on "M" in the chart for corresponding State,
3. OPTIONAL (add "Kreis" before the location name): Rural/City districts (Kreis, Kreisfreie Stadt): List of 401 districts,
3a. Administrative districts (Amt, Samtgemeinde, Verbandsgemeinde and others) - PLEASE OMIT THESE FROM NAME FIELDS
4. State (Bundesland): 16 German States,
4a. Governmental districts (Regierungsbezirk) - PLEASE OMIT THESE FROM NAME FIELDS
5. Federal: Bundesrepublik Deutschland or Deutschland

Other Resources

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Sorry, this will be a long post. Recently, with the help of Sven Elbert, we identified the 1697 birth place of my immigrant Kerstetter ancestor as Obergimpern, Molbach, Kurpfalz, Heiliges Römisches Reich. I couple days later, Danny Gutknecht told me it should be Obergimpern, Kurfürstentum Pfalz, Heiliges Römisches Reich. Being new to German research, I asked him to explain to me why and he sent me the reasoning below. Being new, I discovered that I have already fallen into an assumption that German places should have four parts mirroring the modern standard, roughly, town:district:state:nation. But Danny's explanation seemed so well reasoned that I felt, first, that I shouldn't be making assumptions, and second, that it should somehow be incorporated into the Location Field Guidelines. I'm not sure where or in what form, but I think there are some great points that should be shared. Here it is:

First: Kurpfalz is the casual version of Kurfürstentum Pfalz. While both terms are correct, but we should try to keep it standardized since not everyone will know it, and if you, lets say, search for profiles of people living in the Kurpfalz you might miss the ones labeled with Kurfürstentum and vice versa.

Second: Mosbach (this might take a while to explain) ... it is correct Obergimpern belonged to the Oberamt Mosbach, but it is not necessary to state that, and in fact it might complicate things. For historically reasons if you do want to have the „Amt“ level in the location you would have to referred to it as „Oberamt Mosbach“ not just Mosbach, since the later is only referring to the town Mosbach and has nothing to to with Obergimpern. Both were ruled be different Lords and in fact the Lord of Obergimpern would have slapped you right in the face if you would have mentioned that he belonged to Mosbach, since technically he was on the same level as even the Elector (Kurfürst) of Pfalz, that is directly under the Holy Roman Emperor. He just happened to also rule over some land (including Obergimpern) that he had as a fief from the Elector. The Elector on the other hand would rightly state that Obergimpern belonged to him and therefore on paper it belonged to his administrative region of „Oberamt Mosbach“, even if it was not in practice ruled by him. You see at some point it is better not to try to figure out the „Amt“ level of the locations over time, since it is hard enough to find the right state. In your case it is rather easy since the Oberamt Mosbach was kept over the centuries. In Saxony we have the problem that the „Ämter“ structure changed more frequently than the state borders, and that's saying something.

But beside that historical reason there is also a practical one to consider. This is something we do in Saxony now. The problem of putting the „Amt“ level in the location is the following: Since the Amt normally is called after the main town in it (like Mosbach), when you later search for people living in the town Mosbach you always will be flooded with everyone that lived in the territory of the „Oberamt“ Mosbach as well. And it is too much to put into the location field. In Saxony we would easily ending up with something like Großsteinbach, Parthenstein, Grimma, Leipzig, Königreich Sachsen, Heiliges Römisches Reich. Having 4 different towns in one location field. Searching for inhabitants of the town Leipzig will be flooding you with everyone who ever lived in one-third of the Kingdom Saxony at that time. So instead we put only Großsteinbach, Königreich Sachsen, Heiliges Römisches Reich in the location field, and put in the profile to the category of Großsteinbach (Parthenstein), Sachsen – which includes the modern structure and the coordinates on the map for that village. So you can easily find it even if you are not familiar with the historical structure. And it keeps the location field free of several place names of towns that actually have nothing to do with the birthplace of the person.

But as I mentioned, I can only speak for Saxony here, even if I think that the search problem will be more prominent later on in future, when there are more profiles in the region, and that the location rules will have to be chanced then to the Saxony model anyways.

posted by Michael Kerstetter
I think one good reason to put "Oberamt Mosbach" in the location field would be to resolve ambiguities in case there were more than one town/village with the name "Obergimpern" in the Kurfürstentum Pfalz. This may not be the case with "Obergimpern", but your post addresses a general issue with regard to location naming; so I thought I'd mention it.
You bring up a good point and you made me wonder how often that happens in the US. Pretend for a moment that a German district is like a US county and Kurfürstentum Pfalz is like a German or US state. In the US, it turns out there are MANY, MANY instances of town with the same name in different states, and many more instances than I realized of same name towns in the same state (New Jersey alone has 75 municipalities that share 33 names), and even a few same name towns in the same COUNTY, though usually differentiated in some way (Hereville Borough vs Hereville Township). I don't know how large the Kurfürstentum Pfalz was or how many instances of same name villages there might have been, but there may very well have been cases like you describe so there's a practical value to including the "Amt" in the location field. Sven also brought up a good practical reason. Danny described a good practical reason NOT to. But I keep imagining Baron Franz Melchior von Wiser "slapping me right in the face", as Danny put it, if I dare use Oberamt Mosbach (or maybe his ghost haunting me). I think we're supposed to use the convention they would have used at the time period in question, so is Danny correct about usage at that time? If so, then wouldn't I leave out the "Amt" to be consistent with WikiTree standards?

Clearly there are practical reasons to ensure that the Oberamt information is made know, but would that be in the biography rather than the Location Field?

posted by Michael Kerstetter
To me personally, disambiguation (in the location field, not only in the biography) has a higher priority than what certain rulers might have thought, as long as the location names are historically correct (e.g. not "Rheinland-Pfalz" instead of "Kurpfalz" or "Kurfüstentum Pfalz"). Plus the German churches (Catholic, Lutheran) have and had their own hierarchies of localities that don't always correspond to the secular (political) locality hierarchies. But I agree, it may be an issue that applies to other countries too, even beyond Germany and the US, and may need to be discussed on a more general level on WikiTree.
The "Amt" information for the Holy Roman Empire and follow-on states is important when you are looking for records beyond church books. German archives are usually sorting their records based on the "Amt" that held the records.
posted by Sven Elbert

Just a question about State Names. Do you use the actual State Name, eg - 'Kurfürstentum Sachsen' or 'Königreich Sachsen' (from 1806-1918) or just 'Sachsen'? I thought the former option was preferred but examples on this page seem to indicate the latter.

Perhaps this needs to be discussed on G2G so all European countries are following the same standard? Or maybe it has already?

Thanks John

posted by John Atkinson
Hi John, Generally, we'd use "Sachsen". Our Location Field Guidelines were posted to G2G and opened for discussion in June 2021 here: There was very little feedback at the time.

We opted to keep these guidelines as simple as possible for several reasons. For example, sometimes, German location names are too lengthy to be accepted in WikiTree's location fields. Also, most non-Germans (like myself) have a very difficult time finding the correct place name for a specific year. We hope that people will use our expanded guidelines linked here: But, these pages are very complex and written mostly in German.

As it is impossible for the project to check/verify every German place name on WikiTree, we ask that folks try to apply the correct "state" and "federal" names and that they are input the German language. That said, members can choose to add whatever they want to the fields - dbes are not generated at this time or we would be overwhelmed with errors.

If you'd like to address this on G2G and try to establish a standard for all European countries, please feel free to do so. My opinion will remain the same: keep them as simple as possible.

Best regards, Traci

posted by Traci Thiessen
Here is a useful site I use for determining the administrative areas that villages, towns and cities that now belong to the state of Hesse have belonged to over time (at least since 1787):
posted by L. König
edited by L. König
Thanks L! I added this link to the resources on the Hesse Team page here:
posted by Traci Thiessen
I do not have any concern from within the country now known as Germany.

There are a few wrinkles to iron out. My German ancestors came from Silesia. They travelled with folk from the Prussian province of Posen, which was not a part of the German Confederation. I'm still thinking about an amendment to these guidelines.

posted by Steve Thomas
edited by Steve Thomas