Gazetteers are like dictionaries of place names. For each place they will often list the where the nearest parish (Catholic, Lutheran, or other), civil registration district office, Jewish synagogue, and other offices are located. Since it is important to know which parish or civil office your ancestor's birth, marriage, and death are located in, this becomes an essential tool for genealogists. They can also be used to help locate new town names that appear in family records (such as a marriage record). For help with gazetteers on the Internet besides the below genealogical gazetteers, try the following sites:
- Atlas of the German Empire by Ludwig Ravenstein (Atlas des Deutschen Reichs bearbeitet von Ludwig Ravenstein)
- GOV - Das genealogische Ortsverzeichnis (GOV - The Genealogical Gazetteer)
- Meinestadt.de (Not really a gazetteer but includes maps and information on many towns in Germany)
Genealogical gazetteers are created for the sole purpose of helping genealogists and therefore only list vital information about parish and civil registration offices. Genealogical gazetteers are available on this site for the following states or provinces:
- East & West Prussia
- Hessen-Nassau: A-E, F-J, K-N, O-R, S-Z
- Schleswig-Holstein parish list
- Westphalia (Parish list, 80%+ complete)
For the following areas, gazetteers are available on other websites:
- Alsace-Lorraine (German and French town names)
- Brandenburg (Place names in 1938)
- Brunswick (Braunschweig) [use Ctl-f to search for a town name]
- Hanover (Parish list)
- Lippe (Detmold) (Link to genealogy.net site, much more on this site for Lippe-Detmold)
- Lippe (Schaumburg) (Link to genealogy.net site)
- Oldenburg (Parish list)
For areas now in Poland and other eastern European countries, search the excellent database at Kartenmeister, which covers the former Prussian provinces in areas east of the Oder-Niesse rivers.
Street guides for some of the major cities (Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Magdeburg, and Stettin) in Germany showing the name of the local church or civil registration office is also available on this site.
The Family History Library has microfilmed the records of many of the parishes of in these provinces. These are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the parish and the topic Church Records. For more recent records or records that have not been microfilmed (such as much of Bavaria), it is necessary to write to the church or the civil registration office in the parish.
For help in writing a letter to Germany, please consult the Family History Library Publication German Letter Writing Guide.
Meyers Gazetteer of the German Empire [Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs (Leipzig, Germany: Bibliographisches Institut, 1912-1913)]. You can get help learning how to use Meyer's Gazetteer from a helpful guide published by the Family History Library.
For more information on German genealogical research, you will find many helpful articles in the past issues of the German Genealogical Digest. The digest and an index to 20 years of instruction and advice is available in many genealogical libraries.