Sources for German and French Parish records

By Maggie Hein | March 2, 2021 | German Origins

Church records are a key element in documenting the location in Europe where your ancestor lived prior to emigrating to Russia.  Here is a summary of web sites where you might find parish records:

Family Search
Family Search has records from all over the world.  It is free to use, though you do have to create a free user account. 
•    Log in to your Family Search account, then under “Search” choose “Catalog”
•    Put the name of the place in the “Search by” box. If there are multiple places with the same name, all of them will show up. If you have multiple places to choose from, you might need to do some additional research to choose the correct one.
•    One you have chosen a place, click on “Search” and a list of church, civil, and other records available for that place will show up.
•    Click on the listing for the church records that you want to look at. This will give you more details on the available church records. If there is a magnifying glass symbol next to a particular set of records, that means that the records are indexed and you can search them by clicking on the magnifying glass.  If there is a camera symbol, that means you can view the records online.  Some records are not available online and would need to be accessed at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City. 

Archion is a collaborative effort by various archives in Germany to digitize and put their collections of (mostly) Protestant records online.  Archion is a subscription service.  The records on Archion are not indexed, so locating the records you need on Archion requires scrolling through the images.  Archion has records for areas in Germany that are not available on other web sites, so it is worth the effort to learn how to use it.  To see if the town you need is on Archion (you don't need a subscription to do this):
•    Go to the Archion web site and choose "Search"
•    In the location box, type in the name of the town you want to research.  If the place name you are researching includes umlauted vowels, you don't need to use umlauts
•    A list of matching place names will pop up.  (Note that if the place name that you put in the "Location" box is the name of a region, you will get a list of all of the places in that region.)  If one of the places that pops up is what you are looking for, click on it and then click on the green "Search" button
•    You will get a list of all of the records available for that location

The Matricula web site includes parish records for many locations throughout Europe.  The records on this site are predominantly Catholic records.  It is free to use.  Similar to Archion, the records are not indexed.   There are three options for searching for a location:
•    Click on the "Resources" icon,  then click on the country you are interested in, then choose the region you want to explore, then choose the name of the town you want to research
•    Click on the "map" icon.  This gives you a map that shows where records are available.  You can zoom in on the map to see the detail for each region and locality
•    Click on the "Search for Places" icon.  This gives you the ability to search by the name of the place

French Department Archives
If your ancestor came from an area that is currently within the country of France, the department archive for the location where your ancestor lived may have church records freely available on their web site.  A "department" in France is an administrative division within a region, similar to a county here in the U.S.  Each department has its own online archive, and the documents available vary from archive to archive.   Here is a link to a map that, after clicking your way through several screens, will eventually take you to the web site of each department:

Ancestry, MyHeritage, Filae and other subscription genealogy web sites
The major subscription web sites have their own collections of indexed church records.  What is available on each web site will vary.  Generally, the way you locate information on these web sites is to use the search engine provided by each site to search by name, location, date, or other parameters. 

This is not an exhaustive list of every place where you might find records, these are just the largest web sites and good places to start your search.  Keep in mind that not every record that exists has been microfilmed or digitized, so there is always the possibility that the records for the location you are searching for might not be available on any web site.

© Margreatha Hein, 2021