Monday, February 28, 2011

German genealogy resource - the "sippenbuch"

Today, I discovered a German genealogy resource I had never heard of before but which seems to be not only a somewhat common German practice but an extremely valuable resource to boot.

Wait, first I have to thank Tom for solving the Martin Neher comment mystery.

Nancy Drew and the Case of the Martin Nehr Comment

While I still don't know who the person is who posted the comment with the information about Martin Neher's origins and parentage in Heppenheim, Germany, Tom sent me an e-mail saying that it is probably reliable information, as it came from a "sippenbuch."

According to the Special Collections Department newsletter from the St. Louis County Public Library:

"Numerous rich sources for German genealogy are published in German-speaking countries. Chief among them are Ortssippenbücher (OSBs), also known as Ortsfamilienbücher, Familienbücher, Dorfsippenbücher and Sippenbücher. Literally translated, these terms mean “local clan books” (Sippe means “clan”) or
“family books.” OSBs are the published results of indexing and abstracting projects usually done by genealogical and historical societies.

An OSB focuses on a local village or grouping of villages within an ecclesiastical parish or administrative district. Genealogical information is abstracted from local church and civil records and commonly presented as one might find on a family group sheet. Compilers usually assign a unique numerical code to each individual for cross–referencing purposes (OSBs for neighboring communities can also reference each other). Genealogical information usually follows a standard format using common symbols and abbreviations, making it possible to decipher entries without an extensive knowledge of German.
Besides genealogical information, many OSBs also offer histories about the locality, its churches and schools, and they often include lists of clergy, teachers, community leaders, and soldiers who died during military service. Some OSBs include lists of emigrants from the village with their destinations."

Because these are basically compilations of actual vital records, despite the possibility of human error during the transcription and compilation, these seem like they are probably fairly reliable. Okay, so the Heppenheim Historical Society put together several volumes of what is called the Sippenbuch Heppenheim, which is where the info from the Martin Neher comment came from and from the looks of it, there is much more information on the Neher family in there.

So my next goal now is to somehow get my hands on these books - it looks like I might be able to order a microfilm copy from a Family History Center, so I may have to try that, as apparently it's not so simple as to order one of these books from Amazon. But for any of you out there with German ancestry who has never heard of this resource before, it might be worth it, if you know the town or area where your ancestors came from, to see if there is a sippenbuch that might be helpful to you and your research.


  1. That is a great tip! Thank you for sharing, I'll have to check this out for my myriad of German ancestors.

  2. Heather, I am really intrigued by these books, the more I read about them. If you know what towns or localities your German ancestors came from, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City apparently has a whole bunch, but you can also check other libraries - I know the St. Louis County library seems to have a pretty big collection. If you do a google search for "sippenbuch Whatever the Name of the Town Is" you can see if anything comes up - good luck! :)

  3. I recently came into possession of a copy of my great great grandfather's Sippenbuch and it had been invaluable in my research. The wealth of information contained in this Sippenbuch is asounding!
    Occupations, number of siblings, person's first or second marriage, birthdates, deathdates, baptisms... Just AMAZING! if anyone find one, treasure it, is not only a peice of history, its your history.

  4. Hm. But what about a salt lake city exterminator? Yes. Ha ha