Wednesday, 18 April 2012

British and German genealogy development

A major article by Nicholas J. Fogg in the most recent, March 2012, issue of Genealogists' Magazine "German Genealogy During the Nazi Period (1933-1945)" includes two paragraphs which compare the development of genealogy in Germany and the UK in the period from the late 19th century to the present day.

In the author's opinion both countries were on an approximately equal footing leading up to the First World War with the UK seeing the publication of an impressive number of transcribed parish registers by Phillimore and Co (set up in 1897) and parish registers societies. The Society of Genealogists was founded in 1911. He then sees "a curious lull" in Britain between the wars.  By contrast Germany saw a post-WW1 explosion of regionally based genealogical societies. this was reinforced by the growing belief in eugenics and the desirability or fulfilling the Nazi ancestral proof requirement. (There's much more detail on this in the article.)

The author notes the start of microfilming of parish registers shortly before WWII but notes the resurgence of genealogy in the UK as dating from the 1960s onward as a result of the depositing of the vast majority of parish registers in the county record offices and the establishment of various local family history societies beginning with the Birmingham and Midland Society of Genealogy and Heraldry in 1963. Also identified as significant are the establishment of the Federation of Family History Societies in 1974 and the Professional Association of Genealogists and Record Agents (subsequently AGRA) in 1969.

Fogg concludes that "Although the Germans were great pioneers in the organizing of their hobby, the British have ultimately perhaps been better at exploiting the actual genealogical records, in spite of the relative paucity of the information provided in them."

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