German Names in Print?

See German Names in Print Online

Do you have Germans in your Ancestral line? I do. And I’ll be honest. For the most part, I have no idea how to pronounce their names as a German would. I have a friend who patiently puts up with me saying, “How do you pronounce Geiszler?” or “How do you pronounce Puesecker?” I love that man for putting up with me. Poor guy. Who would have thought that being originally from Germany and befriending a genealogist would mean he would have to put up with my desire to learn more?

But, then I remember the stories I have heard about the destruction of German gravestones in Ohio during WWI and WWII. I’ve heard about Germans changing their names during that time period to hide their ethnicity. Germans received mocking from racism based on where their family lines originated. So perhaps my peppering a native German now living in my town in Texas with questions about his homeland and language is actually a sign of progress?

Regardless, I’m constantly trying to learn more about my German roots. A dear friend, Jenna Mills of Desperately Seeking Surnames, shared a fun resource with me. It’s called Meyer’s Gazetteer. Now, the landing page doesn’t explain much, so I naively plugged in my family’s last name of Geiszler. The website found not hints and recommended using wildcards. So, I put in the name Gei*ler. And this is what I saw:

Geissler gazetteer reference
Geissler is a Bauernschaft (Homestead). Meyers Gazetteer

That’s pretty cool. I now have to cross-reference to this image.

So, it’s possible my last name has a town original. But do you know what is the best on this site? I can see what my German last name looks like in print. I’ve assumed the German β would look just like that in print. But when I look at the name, it seems ‘weird.’ The newsprint version doesn’t have the distinct demarcations that I see in a computer screen version of the letter.

Soon, I discovered what the Gazetteer is really about;

The goal of the Meyer’s compilers was to list every place name in the German Empire (1871-1918). It gives the location, i.e. the state and other jurisdictions, where the civil registry office was and parishes if that town had them. It also gives lots of other information about each place. The only drawback to Meyer’s is that if a town did not have a parish, it does not tell where the parish was, making reference to other works necessary. – Meyer’s Gazetter (

So really, what I need to insert is Gillersheim. One of the few places I know my ancestors immigrated from.

Gillershiem gazetteer reference
Gillersheim, Northeim, Hildesheim, Hannover, Preussen (Meyers Gazetteer)

The whole point of this website is to show you maps. So, here’s Gillersheim:

Gillersheim Historical map
Historical Map of Gillersheim (Meyers Gazetteer)

What’s so cool about this site is that using Google Map you can zoom in and out! Pretty awesome! Also, if you zoom out, then you have the option to add markers to the map for things like churches (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish). Now that’s awesome.

Gillersheim Historical map with churches

The green markers are Protestant churches near Gillershiem, and the yellow are the Catholic churches.
I also tried Obermiesau, Pfalz, Bayern. I received this entry.

Obermiesau Gazetteer Reference
Obermiesau, Homburg, Pfalz, Bayern (Meyers Gazetteer)

I’ve never seen the “Homburg” location associated with Obermiesau. That’s new information for me. Unfortunately, there was no map on this particular page, so I need to learn more about this site before I’ll find a map of this place.

In short, this was a fun website for finding German maps. I love the additional technology of zooming in and out and how interconnected this site is. I need to find more tutorial information about the site to best understand entries such as Obermiesau. I hope you find it useful.

Even though the site is really for places, I also tried a few other German last names but only found Hoppe.

Hoppe Gazetteer Reference
Hoppe, Hoppe is a Häusergruppe (Group of Houses). And the map is from Lübbecke

So, use the site to find maps! Yep, maps. Not last names. But, go ahead and try your German last names. You never know. You might find the names in print as well.

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.

2 thoughts on “German Names in Print?

  1. I'll admit there is so much more to learn about for German Genealogy. I remember that I had heard about Meyers a number of years ago, but I wasn't ready for it. However, I love seeing my maiden name in German newsprint. Great+ grandpa's handwriting is awful but the newsprint is elegant.

  2. I am about half German and don't know how to pronounce most of these German names, either. I learned about Meyers Gazeteer only about 6 months ago. What an incredible resource! I think it's a great idea to try to enter surnames and see what comes up, too. Just seeing the names in print is helpful!

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