European Ancestry Research and Genealogy Sites
Trying to research your family history and roots in Europe? In this article, we'll help to to research your European ancestry with helpful tips and European genealogy sites to access records that will help you with your search.
Researching your family history can be tough, but if you are able to trace your family history back, say 500 years, the feeling of accomplishment you will feel will be unparalleled. Luckily, if you are of European ancestry, you are somewhat in luck as most European countries have accessible records that can help you with your search.
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Not only that, but European surnames are often some of the easiest to trace as their histories are well known, and you can use records from Ellis Island to help you discern when your family may have come across the ocean. In fact, once you have a family name to start your search there are many tools you can use during your search. We’ve compiled a list of tips to get you started.
Tip 1: Check Surname Spelling
Even if you know your family’s surname, you may find that you hit a wall at some point during your research. This could be because one of your ancestors changed the way the surname was spelled during their lifetime.
If your family member experienced a spelling change, this was likely shortly around the time when they immigrated from Europe. They may have changed the spelling to make it easier for people to pronounce, or they may have tried to make the name sound more American in order to have a better chance at getting a job.
Additionally, if you are of Irish descent, your original last name may have had an apostrophe, such as O’Brien but then this O may have later been dropped, leaving you with the surname ‘Brien.’ This could have also later been changed to ‘Brian’ on accident on a later date.
Either way, take a good hard look at your surname, imagine what some of the possible spelling changes could have been. Besides the O’Brien example above, there’s also a chance a British name like Borne could have lost its e over the years, leaving you with the name ‘Born.’
After you have an idea of possible spelling changes, head over to The Statue of Liberty website where you can see the list of all ship manifests from 1892 to 1924. If your family came to the US from Europe during that time frame, chances are their name will be there. For best results, you should make note of how the name is spelled there as well as the city in Europe your ancestor came from, this will help you immensely later.
Tip #2: Check Multiple Websites
Unfortunately, not every European immigrant came through Ellis Island, and it is highly likely your ancestor may have come through another port like Castle Garden.
If you don’t find your family’s name on the Ellis Island website, head over to GG Archives, which will look at manifests for all immigration stations during the late 1800s to early 1900s.
Once you have an idea of the city or at least the country your family is from, it’s time to move on to tip #3.
Tip #3: Look in the Databases of the Country your Family is From
Now that you know what country your family is from, this will really narrow down your search. Do note, however, that this is not a magic fix, as some countries keep better records than others. And since parts of many countries were still on the feudal system until late in the 1800s, the records you are looking for may not be available.
But for now, think positive, and take a look at the following resources which are sorted by country.
Check out German Roots, which is a collection of website links that can help you to trace your German heritage. They have everything from immigration records to the ability to find records from towns that may no longer exist.
Germans can also head to German Geology Group for more help with their family search.
Although Scotland is now part of the UK, it was once its own sovereign land. If you have Scottish heritage you should head over to Scottish BMD Exchange to do your genealogy research.
While this resource isn’t as in-depth as the German Roots website, it will help you to locate Scottish birth, death, and marriage certificates that can help you trace your family tree.
Are you of Irish descent? Then head over to the National Archives of Ireland which will help you in the search of your family history. Lucky for you, the Irish kept great records so this website will be an invaluable tool when it comes to tracing your lineage. You can also check out IrishGenealogy.
While it is called the UK now, it was once just England. Later, Wales, Scotland, and even Ireland (for a time) joined the country. You can find records for all of those countries in this one convenient website Free Reg. You will be able to look up baptism, marriage, and burial certificates to your heart's content as long as you have a little information about your family member.
You can also check out The Ireland and UK Genealogy Project and the UK National Archives.
If your family is from France, I hope you read French, as there are plenty of resources you can use to trace your genealogy…except they aren’t available in English. Start your search on GeneaFrance, and consider hiring a translator if you run into problems.
While the quality and amount of records in Italy will vary based on the part of the country your family is from, Italian Genealogical Group is the place to start your search.
Nordic Countries (Sweden, Finland, and Norway)
If you are from one of the Nordic countries, you are likely to find some of the information you are looking for on Slakdata, which is a database containing documents and information that can help you locate your family history in one of these countries. The website isn’t in English however, so you may need to hire a translator to help you use it.
Part of Poland used to be called Galicia, for records from this part of Poland check out Gesher Galicia. Otherwise, head over to the Polish National Archives.
Denmark is also a European country with impeccable records. Head over to the Danish Family Search to find documents, census data, and even information from old church books within the country.
For such a small island, Iceland does keep very good genealogical records. If your name is of Icelandic origin, head over to The National Archives of Iceland where you can take a look at a variety of documents that can help you in your search for genealogical information.
Surprisingly, Lithuania is another European country that has kept impeccable records, especially of those who are of Jewish heritage. Head over to Litvak SIG to search documents related to the Jews who have lived in Lithuania, as well as the families which later immigrated away from the area.
The country lines of Eastern Europe have changed a lot over the years. And for this reason, you may not find the information you are looking for on the site of one particular country. In this case, check out On Genealogy which has a section dedicated to helping those from Eastern Europe trace their history.
Don’t see your country on this list? Head over to WorldGenWeb where you can select your country and get a list of resources available for that location.
Additionally, if you are of Jewish heritage and believe your family may have been displaced during the Holocaust, you can head over to jewishgen.org to research your family history. Or if you believe your family member fought, and lost their life, during WWI or WWII, you can take a look at Commonwealth War Graves to help your search.
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