If your family tree has German immigrants, include American church records in your genealogy research efforts.
Do you have German ancestors who lived in the Midwest? Were they Protestants? If you answered yes to those questions, then you need to know about the German Immigrants in American Church Records (GIACR) series.
Compiled by Dr. Roger P. Minert of Brigham Young University, the first volume of the series was published in 2005 and has since expanded to include 18 volumes, the most recent of which was published in July 2015. It covers a total of nine states—Indiana, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. As this is an ongoing project, we expect to see the series continue to expand its coverage of other states which historically have had large German immigrant populations. Additionally, its coverage is not limited to Germany alone; information about immigrants from other German-speaking countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg have also been included in the books.
Church records are one excellent source you can search when trying to identify your German ancestor’s town of origin in Europe. Unlike government vital registration (such as birth and death certificates) which generally did not become widespread in the United States until the late-19th or early 20th centuries, church records are often available for much earlier periods. By identifying the church to which your ancestors belonged and searching their records, you could be able to extend your family tree further than you originally thought possible.
Each book in the GIACR series contains extracted information about German immigrants from the records of various American Protestant churches. The table of contents of each book lists the name and place of each church included in that particular volume, as well as an every-name index, so you can search a volume by surname rather than by the church. These features make for efficient perusal.
The image below is an entry from volume 5 as an example. A heading will indicate the beginning of each new church in the book, giving the name of the church as well as where it is located. Following that, the source information is given. In this case, the information for this church was extracted from a Family History Library microfilm. The people whose names are in bold are immigrants and each have their own entry in the book. Those without bolded names have been found in an entry relating to an immigrant and either are not immigrants, or, based on the limited information given in the church record, their immigrant status is unknown.
From the entry listed below, we are able to learn the full name of the immigrant, her place of birth, the names of both her parents, her husband’s name, and the date and place of her marriage:
Even after you have identified an ancestor in a particular church in the GIACR books, it is still important to view the original record as well as to search for additional records pertaining to the person of interest in the church. Although the series is of high quality, transcription errors are always a possibility and caution is always standard procedure in good genealogical research. The image below shows the page from which the information in image 2 was extracted.
If you are struggling to identify the foreign hometown of your German immigrant ancestor and have not yet explored the church records for your immigrants’ adopted home in the Midwest, you need to take a few minutes to see if your struggle can be put to rest. As shown above in the example of Wilhelmine Burro, the name of the foreign hometown you have been searching for could be waiting for you!
The German Immigrants in American Church Records series is available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah – as are the original microfilms from which they are sourced.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Legacy Tree Genealogists can easily access this record set, as well as the millions of other films, fiche, and books at the Family History Library. Contact us today for a free quote and to discuss what we can find for you.
 Minert, Roger P., German Immigrants in American Church Records. Vol. 5. Rockport, Maine: Picton Press, 2007. 190.
 First Evangelical Lutheran Church (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin), Church records, 1885-1972, marriage of Wilhelmine Friederike Caroline Burro, 19 August 1886, Family History Library microfilm 1412234, item 4.