Will I be able to find ancestor records in Alsace?

by Laurene Kittler
(West Springfield, MA USA )

My great-grandparents were both from Sausheim and Mulhouse in Alsace.

Can you tell me if and where I'd be able to find more about my "roots?"

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Where and How to Find Records
by: Suzele

Well, before you get to the "where to look for records," you need to be able to read badly hand written French and German...and maybe Latin.

I should also add that German cursive looks nothing like the typical cursive used in most European languages. It's like looking at a foreign alphabet from personal experience.

Another important point: if you don't know which village or town your ancestor was born, was married or died in, you will have to look through EVERY village and town until you find him or her.

If you have the slightest hint about where they lived, gave birth or died, it can mean everything.

It's possible that your ancestor left other records, but most of them lived very simple lives and there isn't much to go on other than the basic records. Any extra info could give a clue about something, so make note of every little thing. Job, religion, reason for leaving, anything! ; )

And all the records are handwritten, not always in order and usually messy and badly written...even the margins!

If you don't know the village or town, telling you where the records are likely stored will do you no good. Because everything is organized by village or town.

In Alsace there are two departements:

1) Haut-Rhin or southern Alsace
100 Avenue d'Alsace
68000 Colmar, France

2) Bas-Rhin or northern Alsace
5 rue Fischart,
67000 Strasbourg

Sometimes certain towns and villages are missing everything from this year to this year. A fire a war or who knows what...

Before 1789, there were no state records in France. So church records are your only hope for the most part.

This is where it gets so messy usually. Very badly written. Documents are often lost or destroyed. You weren't required to report births and deaths to the local priest. And they are usually in Latin.

Any records under 100 years old are not available for viewing as well.

If you want to find an ancestor, the most important information to have is:

1) the name of the person

2) the name of the town or village

If you also have an idea of when they were born, were married or died, that's great, but it's less important than the first two.

The town hall should have cemetery records, but if your relatives lived more than 150 years from the current year, there will not likely be any grave markers or graves.

I have seen the occasional 1700s grave stone, but they are very rare and quite worn away. Nearly impossible to read usually.

Unless your family is Jewish and in this case, their grave markers are probably still in existence.

Hope it helps,

Finding ancestors in Alsace
by: Anonymous

Church records (church book) go back in some villages to 1648 and can be looked at online. Most previous records were probably destroyed in the 30 year war. Catholic records are in Latin and Protestant church books usually in German. Very difficult to read the handwriting though, but if you know German it is a matter of practice and there is information on the internet on how to learn to read old German writing.

Oh my eyes!!
by: Suzele

Oh don't I know it!
Priests' handwriting looks like chicken scratch but in a different language!
And with a really bad pen (usually not even a pen).

Handwriting aside, Latin is pretty straight forward if you can read it. But older German records are usually written in a cursive that is about as foreign as Chinese.

You may think it resembles a certain cursive letter that you know, but it is not that letter and it is often not even a letter similar to the one you thought it was.

Very time consuming to transcribe even if you understand German.

Stock up on your vitamin A or beta carotene pills because you are going to need them ; )

Happy Transcribing,

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