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German and American Genealogical Differences

By James M. Beidler

Just as “time and place” are a set of cross-hairs that determine what records exist for a particular era and locality during the life of a particular ancestor, there are a fair number of contrasts between German and American genealogists and the groups to which they belong.

One of the interesting contrasts is that a greater proportion of active genealogists in Germany are men, while in America women hold the majority. Another is one of focus—and this one is a matter of the flow of immigration over the years.

While some American family historians are into tracing the whole families of their ancestors forward in time, many just look at direct-line ancestors, try to “cross the pond” to German-speaking Europe and then go as far back in time as there is documentation of the common people.

German genealogists, in a nod to the direction of that immigrant flow—overwhelmingly to America—are often fascinated by the collateral family members who went abroad, trying to find out where they settled, and if they “made good” (or bad, for that matter!).

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