Genealogy as science
Genealogy or ancestry research deals with the parentage of men.
With the boom of historical science in the mid-19th century the research of the personal ancestry was lifted to a scientific level and established at universities.
The meaning of genealogy
Since the early middle ages the ancestry and the class were of great importance and did not only show the belonging to a certain family but also the relationship to lordship, fiefdom and succession.
Genealogy is an ancillary science to discover historical coherences.
Furthermore, genealogy helps to analyze genealogical data like the rise and fall of families, the change of land tenures, inheritance of businesses or the ratio of birth and booth or class, as well as dynastic marriage policy and family diplomacy.
Empirically, genealogy is an important means to research on birth rates, age of marriage, expectancy of life, causes of death, duration of generations, (hereditary) diseases, heredity of types of faces and intellectual attributes.
Genealogy as historic ancillary science
In connection with onomastics it deals with the ancestry, distribution and meaning of last names.
Thus, genealogy is linked to other ancillary sciences that offer a more detailed picture of the family history. Among these are historical geography and demography, heraldics, local, political and social history and, recently, genetics.
Primary sources for the genealogical research are church registers that began during the reformation, but only after the Thirty Year’s War. They are available since the 18th century. Church registers include births, baptisms as well as dates of deaths and burials of a commune. These are double-checked regularly by visitators, as baptisms, marriages and funerals were an important source of income for that time’s clergymen.
Further sources are civil registries, university registers, testaments and funeral sermons. Of course, parish archives do not have the university registers.
In recent times it has become an option to look in passenger lists of emigrant ships as well as tax lists and address books.
It is important to think about what sources are available and where to obtain them. Here, too, the surname can be helpful if it is not very frequent or has an unusual spelling. A distribution of the name can reveal new directions in the search for sources.
A list of genealogical sources
• Church registers
• Funeral sermons
• Civil registers/family registers (marriage registers, death lists)
• Court-, finance- and commercial sources (cadastral registers, tax registers, guild registers, sources for migration like certificates of residence)
• Servant books (civil servants)
• Address books
• Registers of nobility
• Military books and registers, chronicles of regiments and battalions
• Diaries, letters, autobiographies, memoirs - most libraries have manuscript and autograph collections
• Estates and family archives
• Monuments (artworks, buildings, jewellery, weapons, tombstones, memorials, heraldic signs in windows, tombs and carpets)
• Printworks (nobility almanacs, court calendars, biographical reference works, family histories)