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Researching Ancestors In The German Military

Researching Ancestors In The German Military

Anyone with German Ancestors know that German Research can be at times, very tricky but once you’ve got the people you’re after you can find lots of very interesting sources. One of the most important sources beyond Birth, Marriage amd Death records are Military records. Below are some great resources for finding anyone that was in the German Military.

1 –  Deutsch Dienststelle (wasT)

Probably the most important German Military Collection around is the Deutsch Dienststelle (wasT) as it allows you to request the records for any German that was a member of the Wehrmacht. This however comes with a few hoops to jump through for obvious reasons. You cannot request any records of someone that was a member but is still alive without their permission. You can also not get any record of someone unless they died in the field or as a prisoner of war without the permission of their next of kin. It is worth noting however that some members of the Forum der Wehrmacht state that the archive are still likely to release documents as long as the person has been dead longer than 10 years and sometimes without the permission of next of kin depending on circumstances.

This is however not a free resource and records cost around 20 Euros, which depends on the amount of time taken, difficulty and number of records. Of you are requesting a full genealogical enquiry the waiting time can be up to 24 months so its good to get as much information as humanly possible before sending it off. Make sure you state your goals in the form and that you’d like copies of all sources found.

2 – German Red Cross Tracing Service

The German Red Cross Tracing Service is a great resource for finding people if they seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. It’s primary use is not for Military records but its so simple to use that it’s worth a punt every time. It also includes a Missing Person Photo Search feature that requires little information but can yield great results.

3 –  Federal Archive – Military Department

These archives include loads of records relating to: The Prussian army from 1867 onwards, The Army of the North German Confederation, The Imperial Navy, The Colonial Protection Force and the Freikorps, The Reichswehr, Wehrmacht, and Waffen-SS, The German Work Units in the Service of the Allied Forces
the National People’s Army including any border troops and The Bundeswehr. However although they house a lot of records, a lot of records have been lost due to war.



4 –  Federal Archive – Branch Office Ludwigsburg

This is the Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes. It can be an incredibly interesting resource although be it a rather dark one and holds information on units and people involved with War Crimes. Data can include Scenes of crimes, suspects and culprits. The majority of the time this also includes anyone mentioned in the cases. It’s worth searching these archives if you suspect that you have an ancestor that might have been in a unit that was involved with any war crimes.

5 – Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge

This site is a lot like the German equivalent of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It can help you find fallen or MIA soldiers. This can be searched using cemetery search and they even offer photo services on the contact form where you can request photographs of any of the graves.

 

Guide To Researching French Records

Guide To Researching French Records

The further you go back in your tree and the more branches you find, chances are you’ll find a French ancestor. Unfortunately with French research you need to know the exact place that person was born (Or get very lucky with a unique surname) to be sure you’re looking at the correct person.

French records are indexed by town (Archives de la ville de ____) and/or Departement (Archives Departementales de ____) Plus modernised versions i.e. Rouen incorporated adjacent towns so some records are in the Archives Municipales (Old Rouen), some are in the Mairie de Sotteville or Grand Quevilly or Petit Quevilly, some are in the Seine Maritime Archives. The key is that there is no National Register like the UK BMD.

Cordier Birthplace

Often finding the starting point is the hardest thing. In my research almost all records that I have linked to a French ancestor have simply listed a birth place as “France” which might as well say “Born on Earth”. If you’re reading this though, chances are you have a rough idea or exact location in France the person is from. Finding that missing record that gives an exact location is what will open the door to your French branches.

GeoPatronyme

One really useful website if you don’t know where exactly in France a person is from is GeoPatronyme. It plots where a certain surname is popular and when used on quite unique names, it can narrow down locations massively. Using the French name I have been researching the picture below shows where the majority of people with the Cordier surname live.

Cordier Distribution
Genealogie.com

Genealogie.com is probably the most popular French Genealogy website currently and although it is a paid site it can be manipulated in such a way that allows you to get the basic information you’ll need to search the relevant archive for the actual records. An example I came across that will help demonstrate this was when researching “Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier”. All I knew about him came from English Records and luckily one census listed his birth place as Vendee, France.

Genealogie

On Genealogie you can do a free search but can’t view records and they are vague about the year i.e they’ll show 1900-1925 for any year between them. In this case, I searched ‘nom’ as Cordier, ‘prénom’ as ‘Pierre Oscar’ and then on the results page, under ‘Initiale du prénom’ chose ‘O’ to pick up the ‘Oscar’. Straight away, at the top of the list is a Pierre Louis Oscar Cordier born sometime between 1850 and 1875 in La Roche-sur-Yon. Narrowing it down by going back and searching again using exact years each time i.e searching 1850, 1851, 1852 etc and putting in ‘Cordier’, shows this man was born 1842.

(Edit: This particular search doesn’t work now but a similar one can be found for his marriage which leads to the same conclusions)Pierre Cordier Search

You can then choose to either pay for the record and get it straight away with no fuss or head over to the Vendée archives and try to pick it up on their free Etat civil database. If you want to learn more about French records and plan to do a lot more French research it’s worth using this method as you’ll get used to using and reading French Records.

Unfortunately most district archive sites don’t make it easy to directly link, but a quick check of the index for 1842 (at the back of the births section, not right at the back) shows me he’s there, number 192 (image 92 of 357).

Battle of Waterloo 1815



French Military Records

If the person you are looking for was in the French Military there are a few different avenues you can persue in order to find the sources you need.

The French military records, held at the Service historique de la Défense in Vincennes, have in the past been difficult to access until recently with a change of leadership, things are getting slightly easier. This however will require a trip to the archives either by you or a local researcher.

Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier

Gallica.bnf & Google Books

Another way is by looking at official documents, gallica.bnf has loads of searchable records that can be viewed for free, so is definitely worth a look. One way I’ve found particularly fruitful is using Google Books to search for French Military results. One good way to find sources relating to a member of the military is by searching for the surname followed by first names. For example searching for an ancestor called “Jean Baptiste Alexandre Cordier” in Google books should be done “Cordier Jean Baptiste Alexandre” as well as trying abbreviations of each, like bte or bapt in place of baptiste as well as using initials only.

Ste Helene Medal

The Ste Helene Medal was given to soldiers that fought for Napoleon and we’re still alive in 1857. If the person you are researching falls in to this date range then this can be a very valuable resource. The Ste Helene website not only has documents and translations but also portraits of many of the higher ranking officers.

Ste Helene Medal