There are tens of thousands of villages and hamlets either in Germany or areas once part of the pre-World War I Second German Empire. For several thousands of those villages, books such as Ortsippenbuch, Familienbuch, Ortsfamilienbuch or Sippenbuch are a genealogist’s dream (previously discussed in Family Research columns but are deserving of another look) especially since many of them are being databased and put online for easy accessibility!
These volumes pool all the available sources and are organized alphabetically by family surname, with each individual assigned a number for cross-referencing purposes, which allows researchers to easily find information about a spouse, parent or child in a corresponding entry elsewhere in the book. Standardized symbols and abbreviations are used to keep the entries terse, but if you “know the code,” you’ll find a great deal of information which has been extracted from church and civil records. A history of the village and of the local parish church, lists of those killed in war, and rosters of emigrants to the United States are sometimes also included.