Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     Family researchers know that one of the most used genealogical resources in the United States are censuses. When tracing Teutonic forebears in Europe, however, most Americans don’t think about the significance of Germany’s enumerations. Why don’t genealogists utilize them? Because most researchers simply aren’t aware they exist. The question then arises: How can these records be lost in obscurity?

     Wondering about the lack of knowledge concerning such a potentially important resource, noted genealogist Roger P. Minert spent six month overseas, seeking answers. In the process, he learned that even German researchers know very little about their country’s censuses. To aid fellow researchers, Minert compiled his findings into his new ground-breaking publication, GERMAN CENSUS RECORDS, 1816-1916: THE WHEN, WHERE, AND HOW OF A VALUABLE GENEALOGICAL RESOURCE.

     As part of the book’s subtitle implies, the author provides data pertaining to the background of census records, which he breaks down into four specific categories: The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 to German Unification in 1871, the Great Transition of 1867, the German Empire (1871-1918), and the German states from 1816 to 1864. He points out some censuses (usually called by other titles) had been taken at various times prior to 1800, but the first systematic enumerations in most German states were instituted to fulfill the varying requirements of customs unions. Naturally, these early censuses were more concerned with economic information than demographic. As custom unions expanded, so did more uniform and detailed census compilations.

     For all practical purposes, the first national German census took place in 1867. That census was also the first modern enumeration because it required specific details to be taken about each individual. Despite the fact that a united country existed from 1871 to 1918, the nature of censuses in each German state is vastly different from population schedules compiled in the United States.

     Since Minert’s publication is the first to examine the history of German census records from 1816-1916, he attempts to answer several questions: In which German states were censuses taken? When and why were they conducted? What content appears in the various enumerations? Are the original sheets extant? If so, where are they stored? Have the original records been microfilmed or digitized? How can researchers access existing records? He then devotes a chapter to each German state and furnishes its geographical location, known censuses, specific instructions to town officials and enumerators, the content of the records, and their accessibility. Several illustrations of different schedules accompany the text.

     Additional information can be found in the appendices. The author supplies helpful tips for writing to and conducting census research in archives in Germany, France, and Poland. He thoughtfully provides a list of the German states in 1871, along with their English names (Bayern is the same as Bavaria, for example). Persons interested in even more detail will enjoy perusing the reproduction of several documents relating to German census campaigns.

     Chocked full of details and well-written, this book opens up a whole new avenue of exploration in nineteenth and twentieth-century genealogical research in Germany. Minert is to be commended for undertaking and succeeding in such a broad and difficult task. Buying a copy of GERMAN CENSUS RECORDS, 1816-1916 for personal or public libraries is money well-spent.

     The 250-page work has interesting attractive covers, acknowledgements, an introduction, colored maps, copious illustrations (some colored), chapter end notes, four appendices, a bibliography, and an index. A softbound copy costs $34.95, while a hardbound volume is available for $69.96. Postage and handling charges of $5.50 should be added to the price. The publication may be purchased online at  or by mailing a check to Family Roots Publishing, LLC, P. O. Box 3682, Orting, Washington 98360-1682.

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