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Calling all genealogists with German ancestors to the MAGS Spring Meeting

Warren Bittner CG

If you have German ancestors, and if you’re going to be within, oh, a thousand miles or so of Laurel, Maryland, on Saturday, March 31, 2012, and if, unlike me, you do not have a baby shower for a very dearly loved niece on that same day, you have such a treat in store.

A lot of German genealogy presentations tend to be pretty basic. Beginning German genealogy. Find your German ancestor’s home town. Learn to read Fraktur.1 Been there, done that. I have nothing against just-getting-started-in-German-genealogy presentations, mind you. When I was just getting started, I needed them, and I’m most grateful for them.

But so often, at so many conferences, particularly at the local or regional level, there’s not a whole lot other than just-getting-started stuff. Okay, but now that I’ve gotten over being terrified by German records, now that I’ve found my German ancestor’s home town, and now that I can read Fraktur, now what? What I’ve wanted, so often, since my just-getting-started days, was a presentation that would take me by the hand and guide me on the next steps.

At last year’s National Genealogical Society conference in Charleston, I got the answer to “now what” in spades. That’s when I heard Warren Bittner, CG, speak on how the little principalities and dukedoms and other political divisions in the past really affect what records you might be able to find in Germany and, more importantly, where you might find them.

I was blown away.

I already knew Warren was a smart guy. He was a classmate of mine in Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research at Samford University in 2010. I found, in listening to him, that not only is Warren a great speaker, knowing how to blend good stories into some wonderfully useful facts and speaking in plain clear terms that even someone who is just starting out can follow, but everything he was telling that audience was new material on taking those next steps. I couldn’t take notes fast enough.

And, on Saturday, March 31, anybody who attends the Spring Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Germanic Society at Laurel, Maryland, gets not only Warren’s terrific presentation German Historical Maps and Territories — You Can’t Do Research without Them, but two new ones (new to me at least!): “Beat the Children with a Fresh Bird Stick” — Reading to Put Your Family in Historical Context and the one that it really pains me to be missing, On Site Research in German Archives.

Registration is open now and you can download the flyer here. Space is limited, so I sure wouldn’t wait. The all-day conference also includes a NARA presentation on the 1940 census, and the cost is only $40 for MAGS members and $45 for non-members who register before March 17th. (The cost goes up $5 if you wait.)

Now I know I’ll get to hear Warren again at the NGS Conference in Cincinnati in May, speaking on German Marriage Laws and Customs, but I am soooooo ready to try some on site research in German archives — particularly the one in Magdeburg that should have the court records on my 2nd great grandmother Friedrike’s marriage some years after the birth of my great grandfather Hermann.2 (I still have my fingers crossed that there’s some reference to who the kid’s old man was in those records.)

And I will envy you if you have the chance to hear Warren talk about that kind of research before I do.


  1. Wikipedia (, “Fraktur,” rev. 2 Mar 2012.
  2. See “Friedrike, how COULD you?,” The Legal Genealogist, posted 7 Jan 2012.
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