Sep 192017
Communicating With Agencies and Individuals in Europe

At some point in our research we are going to need to reach out to the cities, churches, family and other sources where our ancestors are originally from. We need to learn how to correspond with them in order to retrieve the necessary records that we are searching for.


We should reach out to foreign churches, governments and others when the record is not available in the US, cannot read the record and other such reasons. When reaching out to foreign individuals there are two important dates to know to help guide us to who to direct our question and inquiry.

Important Dates and Who You Should Contact

  1. 1524 – Beginning of Church Records
    • Find out the parish and city of the ancestor
    • Can find birth, marriage and death records
  2. 1876 – Beginning Civil Records (Vital Records)
    • Reach out to city, county, state or national archives
    • Find birth, marriage and death records after date above

To obtain research assistance  you should reach out 1) Parish Office, 2) Governmental Offices (Long Shot), 3) Private researchers, 4) Family history agencies or societies and 5) websites.

How should you formulate your inquiry?

  1. To church and civil offices:
    • Keep it concise
    • Avoid unnecessary detail
    • In your first contact, ask for the answers to one or two questions at most
    • Always offer to pay the customary fees
  2. To private individuals, researchers
    • Do not overwhelm her/him with a difficult request
    • Ask when the request can be completed
    • Ask about fees and payment conditions
  3. Language of Communication
    • Use the language of the individual/entity
    • Find adequate assistance in writing the letter in a foreign language
    • Use computer translation programs with caution.
  4. Use the proper address
    • Use the address of previous communication if available
    • Find address/telephone number in current directory or Internet
    • Default addresses will suffice at times
    • Write the country of destination in English.
    • Do not send U.S. postage or international postal coupons

Hopefully this will help you to expand your research and help direct your efforts to contact foreign entities to obtain records and information. Below are a few other resources to help you in your efforts to locate a local parish and your ancestors home town.

Helpful Links

Find Local Parishs

Find European Ancestors Town

German Geography in the Days of Our Ancestors: How to Navigate German Geography

Click to access BalticStates.pdf

101 Best Websites for Genealogy in 2012: European Family History Sites

If you have any other suggestions in relation to German Geography comment down below or on our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram pages.



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