Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A New Way to Use Meyer's Orts

Anyone researching their German ancestors is probably at least aware of the gazetteer known as Meyer’s Orts.  It lists all the place names that were part of the German Empire before World War I. For each place, Meyer’s provides the location of the local government office, civil registration office, courts, and military office. It also indicates what churches are in the town.  This information may help you locate further information about your ancestor beyond the usual vital records.

Meyer’s Orts is a great resource, however, it is probably underutilized.  It is written in German using a font that many find difficult to read.  Abbreviations are frequently used to make the entries more compact.  My mother’s g-great grandparents came from the town of Biengen in Baden.  When I found the entry for Biengen, it took a while to interpret the information it provided.
Entry for Biengen in Meyer's Orts

Using Meyer’s Orts has suddenly become much easier because of a new website developed by Marion Rainey and a computer programmer, Brad Coleman.  The new website provides the tools needed by those researching German ancestors.  It can be found at

Finding the town of Biengen on the website is as easy as entering the name in the search box.  However, if needed, wildcards can be used.  When the town was found, the page shown included the entry in German as above for Biengen.  A map was displayed to locate the town.  On the right side of the page, the website provided an interpretation of the entry, beginning with an extraction of key pieces of information. The extraction first noted the volume and page in Meyer’s and then that Biengen is a dorf (shown by the abbreviation “D”).  It then listed the information found with the abbreviations and data.
Extraction for Biengen entry
Even this would be useful for the researcher trying to make sense of an entry in Meyers, but the website goes further.  Below the extraction is an explanation of the extracted data.  It explains that Kr is an abbreviation for Kreis and that the Kreis for Biengen is Freiburg.  It then goes on to say that a Kreis is a governmental district similar to a county in the U.S.  Each of the abbreviated entries is explained in that fashion.

In addition, the entry points out that there is a Catholic parish in the town, and that Biengen had a population of 603.

It should be noted that not all the information in each entry is listed in the extraction and explanation.  The fact that Biengen had a postal telegraph, loan association, brewery, and brick and tile factory is part of the entry that readers are left to find out for themselves.

The website has also used data from Karte des Deutschen Reiches to provide addition useful information.  Clicking “Ecclesiastical” at the top of the page will provide information about churches near Biengen.  It showed that there was a protestant church two miles away in the town of Mengen.

The website provides free access to the wealth of information found in Meyer’s Orts.  It is definitely a resource that researchers should explore.

Thanks to Fritz Juengling for pointing out the existence of this helpful website.  He sent an article for use in the Palatines to America chapter newsletters.  It was published in the NY Chapter newsletter in August.