The Ahnenpaβ was a standardized booklet that was issued during the reign of the Third Reich of Nazi Germany. In this booklet the citizens were required to record their ancestry in order to prove their pure Aryan blood. For the average citizen, usually no more than four generations were required to avoid being categorized as non-Aryan – in other words “non-Jewish.” The word Ahnenpaβ translates to “ancestor passport.”
Despite the atrocious and brutal purpose of this document, an Ahnenpaβ, as I have found out, can be an excellent source for genealogical data, because it forced the citizens to vigorously search for and document their ancestors.
I am so unbelievably lucky in that I have a color copy of my grandfather Kurt Willy Geier’s Ahnenpaβ. It was given to me and transcribed by my uncle – Wolfgang Geier. My grandfather’s Ahnenpaβ sources and documents ancestors back to 1773.
The Ahnenpaβ confirms his full name: Kurt Willy Geier
Born 12 Nov 1908 in Lengenfeld, Germany
He was the son of Johann Heinrich Geier, “Laborer/Worker”
and Anna Lina Geier (born Kutscher)
Kurt Willy Geier married: Anna Martha Lipsdorf (b. 17 Aug 1906 in Hohndorf near Wittenberg) on 3 Sept 1930 in Elster
(She was baptized 15 Sept 1906 in Hohndorf today Muhlanger)
Her father was Hermann Franz Lipsdorf (railroad worker)
and her mother as Wilhelmine Aguste Anna (born Rostel)
I am just now delving into the German family research. I feel like I’ve become an old pro at finding ancestors here in Texas – but the German research is proving to be a bit more of a challenge for a variety of reasons.
- Locating records – Prior to 1871, Germany consisted mostly of “kingdoms” such as Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia, etc. – each with its own record keeping system. After World War II Germany was divided up once again. The end result is that records on my German ancestors may or may not even be found in Germany. They could be found in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Poland or the USSR. Then to make matters even more complicated – most German records (such as birth, marriage and death) are not centralized – they are kept on the local level – so it becomes nearly impossible to trace your ancestors in Germany unless you know their home town. I’ve been told that the records are spotty at best. Some date back to the Napoleonic era – but some others only date back to around 1870.
- Census records – Censuses were conducted, but again, the records are not centrally located. Additionally, German law does not permit the release of the census information until 30 years after the ancestor’s death (or 110 years after the ancestors birth if you don’t have a death date).
- Church and burial records – Some church records date as far back as the 15th Century. My next stop will be the nearest LDS Library to see what they have for me there. Cemetery indexes from Germany are almost impossible to find and are not useful. My mother has been telling me for years that the grave sites are “reused” in Germany. I never really understood what that meant until I read in an article that most burial lots are leased to families for a number of years – and then if and when the lease isn’t renewed, someone else can be buried there.
I would love to hear from any of you that are researching your German ancestors. Any tips, success stories, encouragement and/or advice would be welcomed and appreciated !