Thanks to the Digital Public Library of America’s blog post I found the German Digital Library. The goal of the library is “to offer everyone unrestricted access to Germany’s cultural and scientific heritage, that is, access to millions of books, archived items, images, sculptures, pieces of music and other sound documents, as well as films and scores, from all over Germany.”1 Rather than providing only online access to the collection of one institution, these items will be from archives, libraries, museums, etc. from across Germany. The digital library will serve as a central access point, providing easy access to artifacts that demonstrate Germany’s unique heritage and knowledge.
The site is in beta, so obviously it’s incomplete, but I was able to quickly and easily find sources for my ancestral town simply by typing “Rußheim” in the search engine. Among the search results were church books from the early 1800s— the “Rußheim, evangelische Gemeinde: Standesbuch.” I was able—I think—to locate a record for my 4th cousin 5 times removed, Johan Friedrich Hacker. I don’t speak German and I have difficulty in reading the German script, but I was able to recognize key words, including “mother,” “father,” and the names associated with each.
I get a thrill in viewing original records, even if it’s only by remote through an online digital version. This record was written down 181 years ago with pen and ink and paper in a bound book and now I can view it from across an ocean without leaving my house! Rather extraordinary.
Take a look through the site and let me know what you find!