German Special Interest Group

The leader of this SIG is Debbie Billiter (  Meetings will be held on the third Saturday of each month at 09:00 AM in Shaler North Hills Library, 1822 Mt. Royal Blvd - (Google Map).  Meeting times and dates are subject to change.  Please check our website Events calendar or ( for additional details to confirm dates and times of upcoming meetings. Joining and subscribing to North Hills Genealogists will allow you to receive automated weekly updates on all of our NHG activities.
Below please find notes from past meetings:
9 members met at Penn Brewery on June 18th to celebrate their successes and thank outgoing leaders, Bobby and Linda, for their leadership.
During the May meeting, the group discussed records in Germany. They looked at FamilySearch, Cyndi’s List, and was explored, as one can search for what records exist without a paid subscription to the website. The Search feature will identify the kreis or dekanat for villages included in the records that are digitized. If the Kreis or dekanat is unknown for a village and it cannot be found on, use may be useful in finding that information.
The topic for discussion was regarding preparing to go back to your country of origin. Three members spoke about going to Bavaria, the Czech Republic, England and Switzerland. The topic for the next meeting (May 21) will be finding German records. On June 18 at 11:30, the group will gather for lunch at Penn Brewery (800 Vinial St, Pittsburgh, PA) for a Dutch treat; guests are welcome. After the June meeting, Debbie Billeter will become the new coordinator for the German SIG.
A recent survey amongst the SIG’s members was discussed, including enumerating all of the topics suggested for programs and commenting on them, as well as the future of the group. New leadership is sought for the German SIG from June. The group also discussed locating deeds and using local historical societies and libraries when traveling for research.
At this German SIG meeting, ten members met hear a report about the German Silvester (New Year’s Eve) celebration in Harmony and looked at the book Land of the German Empire by Wendy Uncapher. They also reported on their successes and failures in reaching the goals set at their last meeting in October. Those who did not attend the October meeting recounted how their research is going.
Each person shared his/her brick walls and then stated a goal to have accomplished for our next meeting. There was a discussion on different translation options online, the use of photos/scanners at courthouses, and archival/preservation materials. Two of the recommended online companies were: Archival Methods ( and Hollinger ( 
Members practiced using the Meyers Orts Gazetteer in order to locate information about German places of origin. Wendy Uncapher’s book How to Read and Understand Meyers Orts-und Verkehrs- Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs was used to help decipher the entries and the information contained. Using the Meyers Orts Gazetteer in tandem with Kevan Hansen’s set of books Map Guide to German Parish Registers (found in the Pennsylvania Room at the Carnegie Library in Oakland) can be quite helpful in learning more about a village and what records are available.
Members were encouraged to update that was set up with their information regarding surnames and regions of interest. Members have been sharing information for researching: 1) an online subscription for records from Evangelical (Protestant) church books, 2) a handwriting sheet in the Fraktur style font that was used in printed documents was shared with the group. A group member suggested members write their ancestor’s surname in the old German Script to become familiar with how the name would appear in the documents. 3) A book “In Search of Your German Roots” by Angus Baxter was recommended by a member, and 4) members were helping one another decipher old documents and sharing research on family surnames, enabling them to go back another generation.
The following websites were discussed:;;; (a portal to several databases), on-line church books at  and  Websites to help in identifying a village of origin were: The Fuzzy Gazetteer at and  They also discussed,, and