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Ask a Genealogist: Searching for German church records

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Question:

I descend from Johann J. Wagner and Johann Ruck ancestors that emigrated from Bavaria (late 1830s into late 1840s) and Huchlers from Heidelberg area (early 1850s). All settled in Ulster County NY. All are Roman Catholic. I know their full names / birth dates. I am seeking to trace their roots back to their town lands and locate baptisms, marriage records, etc. as well as learn their parents’ names. Naturalization records only state that they emigrated from Bavaria. What research sources do you recommend in seeking to trace their roots back to Bavaria / the Heidelberg area? I assume that the only available records exist in local parishes. Are there any online research databases that you recommend?

Answer:

When it comes to researching in the church records in Germany, you often must identify the parish itself. In many towns, this is not a problem, as there is only one Catholic Church in the area. However, in larger cities such as Heidelberg, there are likely to be many Catholic Churches that would require searching the records.

Regardless of large city or town, as you know, Bavaria and Heidelberg are locations too large in scope. The earlier naturalization records likewise did not ask as much in regard to origins, and also can make it difficult.

You mentioned that the family all settled in Ulster County, New York. While your quest is to search backwards, you may first need to concentrate on their time in Ulster County, specifically when births of children took place. Some of the church records will list origins of the parents in the registers of baptisms. Likewise, marriage registers and sometimes burial registers will include such identifying information. If you have not already done so, you will want to pursue the church records in New York.

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