History of Germany
Before the late 1800s there was no single country called Germany. There were German people and there was a German language, but they lived in a number of different kingdoms, principalities, duchies, etc. Each of these had its own local rulers and laws. Each of these is like a country of its own with its own customs, records, and particularities.
- 370-568: The Great Migrations (Die Völkerwanderung)
- 768-814: Charlemagne and Frankish expansion
- 962-1806: Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (Heiliges
Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation, or Das Alte Reich)
- 1806-1815: Confederation of the Rhine (Der Rheinbund)
- 1815-1866: German Confederation (Der Deutsche Bund)
- 1866-1871: North German Confederation (Der
- 1871-1918: Second German Empire (Das Deutsche Reich)
- 13 Prussian provinces and 29 independent states.
- 1918-1933: The Weimar Republic (Die Weimarer Republik)
- 1933-1945: Third German Empire (Das Dritte Reich)
- 1949-1990: German Democratic Republic (Deutsche
Demokratische Republik) - East Germany or the DDR.
- 1949- : Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland)
Below are some key dates and events in German history that impact genealogical research:
- 1517 Protestant Reformation. The first
significant non-Catholic religions began in Germany.
- 1524 Protestant church records began in Nürnberg.
- 1545-1563 Council of Trent. Catholic priests were
ordered to start keeping baptism and marriage records.
- 1583 Catholic areas began using the Gregorian
- 1618-1648 Thirty Years' War. Many records were
burned. The Pfalz suffered great destruction.
- 1683 The first permanent German settlement in the
United States was founded at Germantown, Pennsylvania.
- 1700 The last German Protestant areas finally
switched to the Gregorian calendar.
- 1709 Large numbers of emigrants, called Palatines
(Pfälzer), left the Pfalz region of Germany for England and
- 1722 Austro-Hungarian monarchs began inviting
Germans to settle parts of their empire.
- 1763 Catherine the Great began inviting Germans
to settle in Russia.
- 1771 Patronymic naming was abolished in
Schleswig-Holstein (then part of Denmark).
- 1792 France started civil registration west of
the Rhein. Some church records were interrupted.
- 1814 Napoleon weakened. German states began to
reorganize under the leadership of Preußen.
- 1848-50 German Revolution. Emigration to the
United States increased.
- 1850 The Hamburg passenger lists began to
document the origins or places of residence of Europeans leaving
for the Americas, Africa, and Australia.
- 1864 Preußen conquered Schleswig-Holstein.
- 1871 Franco-Prussian War. Elsaß-Lothringen came
under German rule.
- 1874 Preußen introduced civil registration
- 1876 Civil registration was required throughout
Germany and began wherever it was not already in effect.
- 1914-1918 World War I. Elsaß-Lothringen was
returned to France. Northern Schleswig-Holstein was returned to
Denmark. Posen and parts of Schlesien and Westpreußen were ceded
to Poland. Northern tip was given of Ostpreußen goes to
- 1939-1945 World War II. Ostpreußen was divided between Poland and Russia. Most of Pommern, Westpreußen, Brandenburg, and Schlesien came under Polish administration.
Some Online Resources:
(Germany) FAQ, Feb. 2000 By Adalbert Goertz, Colorado
Deutsche Verwaltungsgeschichte von der Reichseinigung 1871 bis
zur Wiedervereinigung 1990 von Dr. Michael Rademacher M.A.
German history 1871-1990.
Chronology of Germans in America. Library of Congress.
Learn about German history and immigration.
Facts About Germany - History.
GermanCulture.com. Contains links to specific periods in
German history. The site condenses information into a few
paragraphs filled with only the most significant events. Reading
this will give you a general understanding of German history in
a matter of minutes.
History, 1871-1945 (German)
German History Links
German History WWW Links
- Die Länder des Deutschen Reichs 1871-1945. German states, 1871-1945. Michael Rademacher.
Some Print Resources:
- Blackbourn, David. _The long nineteenth century: A history of
Germany, 1780-1918. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
- Blanke, Richard. Prussian Poland in the German Empire
(1871-1900). Boulder: East European Monographs; New York:
Distributed by Columbia University Press, 1981.
- Detwiler, Donald S. Germany: A Short History. 2nd ed.
Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1989. (FHL book
943 H2dds; computer number 557580.)
- Dorwart, Reinhold August. The Prussian Welfare State
before 1740. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University
- Evans, Richard J. and W.R. Lee, editors. The German
Family: Essays on the Social History of the Family in the
Nineteenth and Twentieth-Century Germany. Totowa, New
Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981.
- Evans, Richard J. The Third Reich in Power. New York:
Penguin Books, 2005.
- Fest, Wilfried, editor. Dictionary of German History,
1806-1945. London: George Prior, 1978.
- Ford, Guy Stanton. Stein and the Era of Reform in
Prussia, 1807-1815. Gloucester, Massachusetts: P. Smith,
- Gray, Marion W. Prussia in Transition: Society and
Politics under the Stein Reform Ministry of 1808.
Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1986.
- Grimmelshausen, Johann Jakob Christoffel. Der
Abentheurliche Simplicissimus Teutsch . Edited by Rolf
Tart. Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1984. Historical fiction from the days
of the Thirty Years War.
- Hagen, William W. Ordinary Prussians: Brandenburg Junkers
and Villagers, 1500-1840. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2002. This book is about ordinary villagers and landlords
(Junkers) in the Prussian-German countryside, from the late
middle ages to the nineteenth century. It is distinguished by
its concentration on first-person testimony, and focus on the
lives and fortunes of ordinary people during the era of the rise
of capitalism and the modern state. The book is a major
contribution to fundamental debates in German history on the
origins of modern political authoritarianism.
- Historical Background Affecting Genealogical Research in
Germany and Austria. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical
Society of Utah, 1977. (FHL book 929.1 G286gs ser. C no. 19;
fiche 6000035; computer number 327119.) This work emphasizes
religious minorities and emigration.
- Holborn, Hajo. A History of Modern Germany. 3
volumes. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press,
1982. An excellent English language history of Germany for the
period 1517 to 1945.
- Jensen, Larry O. and Norman J. Storrer. The German Empire
of 1871. Salt Lake City: Graphic Reproduction, 1975.
Description of the political units that constituted the German
Empire from 1871 to 1918.
Nipperdey, Thomas. Germany from Napoleon to Bismarck. 1996.
- Pollock, James K. and Homer Thomas. Germany in Power and
Eclipse: The Background of German Development. New York: D.
Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1952.
- Reinhardt, Kurt Frank. Germany: 2000 Years. Rev.
ed. 2 vols. New York: F. Ungar, 1989. (FHL book 943 H2rk;
computer number 283736.)
- Rich, E.E. & C.H. Wilson, editors. The Cambridge Economic
History of Europe, Vol. 4, The Economy of Expanding Europe in
the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. London: Cambridge
University Press, 1967.
- Shanahan, William Oswald. Prussian Military Reforms,
1786-1813. New York: AMS Press, 1966, c1945.
- Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:
A History of the Third Reich. New York, Fawcett Press, 1950.
Simms, Brendan. The Struggle for Mastery in Germany,
- Treitschke, Heinrich von. Deutsche Geschichte im
neuzehntenJahrhundert. Treitschke's History of Germany in the
Nineteenth Century. Translated by Edan & Cedar Paul.
London: Jarrold & Sons, 1915.
- Treitschke, Heinrich von. Deutsche Ordensland Preussen.
Origins of Prussianism (the Teutonic Knights). Translated by
Eden & Cedar Paul. New York: H. Fertig, 1969.