VGS German SIG

The Villages Genealogical Society


Go West, Young Genealogist!

The 2019 Conference of the IGGP is less than a year away!

The International German Genealogy Partnership2019 IGGP Conference Flyer will be holding its next conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sacramento, California, Saturday June 15 – Monday June 17, 2019. The Theme is “STRIKE IT RICH! with Connections 2 Discoveries”, in reference to the nearby 1848 gold discovery site at Sutter’s Mill, upstream on the American River in Coloma, California. The local host for the conference is The Sacramento German Genealogical Society.

Conference Registration begins November 1, 2018. Hotel Reservations can be made now.

Conference Information

The Villages Genealogical Society, through its German Genealogy Special Interest Group, is a partner in the IGGP.

Languages of the “German Speaking” Countries

We Think of Certain Countries as “German Speaking”. The Reality is More Complex.



Standard German is the official language of Germany. 95% of German residents speak Standard German or German Dialects as their first language. This percentage includes speakers of Northern Low Saxon, which is recognized as a minority or regional language which is lumped in together with Standard German in statistics. Recognized minority languages are officially acknowledged as well, usually in the regions in which they are spoken.

Minority Languages in Germany


Immigrant Languages in Germany

Immigrant languages spoken by significant communities of first and second-generation immigrants

  • Turkish (southern Europe and Western Asia) c. 1.8%
  • Tamil (South Asia and Southeast Asia)
  • Russian (eastern Europe and Northern Asia)
  • Arabic (Western Asia and North Africa)
  • Greek (southern Europe)
  • Dutch (Western Europe)
  • Igbo (Nigeria, West Africa)
  • Polish (central Europe
  • Serbo-Croatian (Western Balkans, southern Europe
  • Italian (southern Europe


Second Languages

Most Germans learn English as their first foreign language in school. Sometimes it is French or Latin, but usually it is English. French and Latin are often second or third foreign languages. Some of the languages taught in German schools include Russian, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, classical Greek, and other languages varying on the school’s geographic location.




  • German – German is the national official language of Austria. It serves as a bridge language and is a de facto second language. Most Austrians, with the exception of (largely rural) senior citizens, can speak it. The version of German used is Austrian German, also known as Austrian Standard German or Standard Austrian German  (GermanÖsterreichisches Standarddeutsch), Austrian High German (GermanÖsterreichisches Hochdeutsch), or simply written German, as it is the language of media.  It has the highest sociolinguistic prestige in Austria, because it is the language variation used in the media and for other formal situations. In less formal situations, Austrians tend to use forms closer to or identical with the Austro-Bavarian and Alemannic dialects, which are traditionally spoken ( but seldom written) in Austria.



  • Austro-Bavarian – This group of dialects has its origins in the Germanic tribe which was known as the Bavarii. They established a tribal duchy, covering much of what is today Bavaria and some of Austria in the early Middle Ages, which was eventually conquered by Charlemagne. Subsequently, over time they  migrated down the Danube and into the Alps to all those areas where Austro-Bavarian dialects are now spoken. Today, the great majority of people who speak Austro-Bavarian also speak German. Austro-Bavarian includes the Cimbrian Language of northeastern Italy, Hutterite German (Hutterisch), which is spoken by Hutterite communities in Canada and the United States (a Carinthian German dialect, originating from the province of Carinthia in Austria) , and the Mócheno language spoken in the Autonomous Province of Trento (Trentino) in Italy. In the German language the word for the Bavarian language is “bairisch”, while the word for “bayerisch” is the term associated with the Bavarian State, as in BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke). Today the German word for Bavaria is “Bayern”. In Austro-Bavarian the word is “Bairisch”.

Minority Languages

  • Turkish – Turkish is the largest minority language, in a situation similar to that of Germany, and is spoken by 2.3% of the population.
  • Serbian – Serbian is the second largest minority language, spoken by 2.2% of Austrians.
  • Burgenland Croatian – Burgenland Croatian, an official language in Burgenland, is spoken by 2.5% of Austrians. Burgenland Croats are recognized as a minority and have enjoyed special rights subsequent to the Austrian State Treaty (Staatsvertrag) of 1955.
  • Hungarian – While seldom spoken today, Hungarian has traditionally been an important language in Austria (formerly joined with Hungary as Austria-Hungary). Today, Hungarian is spoken by approximately 1,000 people in Burgenland.
  • Slovene – Slovene is an official language in Carinthia. As of the census in 2001 Slovene is used by 12,686 Austrians as their every day language.  It is estimated that Slovene can be spoken by 0.3% of Austrians. Carinthian Slovenes are a recognized minority and have enjoyed special rights and affirmative action subsequent to the Austrian State Treaty (Staatsvertrag) of 1955.


European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages

Austria ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages on June 28, 2001 for the following languages relative to specific Länder ,or States, of Austria:



Switzerland has  four national languages: GermanFrenchItalian and Romansh. The first three are official national languages. Romansh is a national language, but only gained official status in the Swiss Confederation in 1996. The percentage of Swiss who speak Romansh declined 40% between 1950 and 2015.

In the 2015 Swiss Census, people were asked what the main language is that they speak. The results were:

  • German – 63%
  • French – 22.7%
  • Italian – 8.4%
  • Romansh – 0.6%
  • Other – 5.3%


German – German is the only official language in 17 of the 26 Swiss Cantons (Federal States). German speakers are divided between the 59.5% who speak Swiss German at home, and the 10.4% who speak Standard German there. The German speaking region makes up about 65% of Switzerland’s land area. It is called in GermanDeutschschweiz, in FrenchSuisse alémanique, in ItalianSvizzera tedesca, and in RomanshSvizra tudestga. 

French – The French speaking western part of Switzerland is called Romandy. In French, it is Romandie, la Suisse romande, in German it is called Romandie, Welschland, Welschschweiz, or in some contexts: Westschweiz, and in ItalianSvizzera romanda is the French speaking part of Switzerland. It includes the cantons of GenevaVaudNeuchâtel, and Jura as well as the French-speaking parts of the cantons of Bern (which has a German-speaking majority), Valais (a French-speaking majority), and Fribourg (a French-speaking majority). Some 1.9 million people (24.4% of the Swiss population) live in Romandy.

Italian – The Italian speaking, generally southern part of Switzerland isknown in Italian as Svizzera italiana, in Romansh as Svizra taliana, in French as Suisse italienne, and in German as italienische Schweiz). It includes the canton of Ticino and the southern part of Graubünden. Italian is also spoken in the Gondo Valley (leading to the Simplon Pass, on the southern part of the watershed) in Valais.

Romansh – On the cantonal level, Romansh is an official language only in the tri-lingual canton of Graubünden, where the municipalities have the right to specify their own official languages. Communities of Romansh speakers can be found in the Surselva, the Sursés/Oberhalbstein, the lower Engadin and the Val Müstair

By Marco Zanoli (sidonius 13:20, 18 June 2006 (UTC)) (Swiss Federal Statistical Office; census of 2000) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Other Main Languages Spoken in Switzerland:

  • English – 5.4%
  • Portuguese – 3.7%
  • Albanian – 2.7%
  • Serbo-Croatian – 2.3%
  • Spanish – 2.3%
  • Turkish – 1.1%
  • Arabic – 0.5%
  • Russian – 0.5%
  • Tamil – 0.5%
  • Polish – 0.4%
  • Dutch – 0.3%
  • Hungarian – 0.3%
  • Kurdish – 0.3%
  • Thai – 0.2%
  • Greek-0.2%
  • Czech – 0.2%
  • Romanian – 0.2%
  • Chinese – 0.2%
  • Slovak – 0.2%
  • Persian – 0.2%
  • Macedonian – 0.2%
  • Swedish – 0.2%
  • Vietnamese – 0.1%
  • Tagalog – 0.1%
  • Japanese – 0.1%
  • Danish – 0.1%
  • Tibetan – 0.1%
  • Bulgarian – 0.1%
  • Finnish-0.1%
  • Hindi-Urdu – 0.1%
  • Slovene – 0.1%
  • Somali – 0.1%
  • Aramaic – < 0.1%
  • Hebrew – <0.1%
  • Norwegian – <0.1%
  • Korean – <0.1%

Additionally, other Romance languages are spoken in Switzerland, specifically, Franco-Provençal and LombardSinte, an Indic language is spoken by around 20,000 Romani. Five different sign languages are used.



Liechtensteins official language is German. The principality of Liechtensteinis the smallest of the four countries in Europe where the majority of the population are German speakers. Other languages are also spoken by the approximately 14% of the country’s population which is foreign-born. They make up  a large percentage of the workforce.

The local German dialect is Alemannic, a dialect (sometimes considered a language) spoken by all Swiss Germans ,  Alsatians (spoken in the Alsace region of France), Germans living in Baden-Württemberg and Bavarian Swabia, and Austrians living in Vorarlberg. Liechtenstein has a population which is 86% “ethnic Alemannic”, and are speakers of the language. Highest Alemannic is spoken in the south of the country, and High Alemannic in the rest of the country. It can be hard to achieve mutual intelligibility between Alemannic and Standard German, especially with the Highest Alemannic dialect.

The two most common foreign languages which are spoken in Liechtenstein are Italian and Turkish.

Where the German Language is Spoken

German is an Official Language in These Countries

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Switzerland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxemburg
  • Belgium
  • Italy (the province Sud Tyrol/Alto Adige)
  • Slovakia (some villages)
  • Brazil (some villages)


Continental West Germanic Languages

By Rex Germanus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Countries Which Have German as an Official or Co-official Language

Country, Population, Native German Speakers, People for Whom German is a 2nd Language, and Official or Co-official

Population 2014/2015

Speakers Notes
Native Second
 Germany 81,083,600 74,430,000 (91.8%) 5,600,000 (6.9%) De facto sole nationwide official language
 Belgium 11,245,629 73,000 (0.6%) 2,472,746 (22%) De jure official language in the German speaking community
 Austria 8,602,112 7,999,964 (93%) 516,000 (6%) De jure sole nationwide official language
  Switzerland 8,256,000 5,329,393 (64.6%) 395,000 (5%) Co-official language at federal level; de jure sole official language in 17, co-official in 4 of 26 canton
 Luxembourg 562,958 11,000 (2%) 380,000 (67.5%) De jure nationwide co-official language
 Liechtenstein 37,370 32,075 (85.8%) 5,200 (13.9%) De jure sole nationwide official language
Total 109,787,669 87,875,432 9,368,946 Total speakers: 97,244,378
Based on a table from an article on “Territorial Entities Where German is an Official Language” at











Regions Where German Has Official Administrative Status

Region Where German is Spoken Country Population


Native Speakers Notes
Flag of South Tyrol.svg Autonomous Province of South Tyrol  Italy 511,750 354,643 (69.3%) Co-official language on province level; equal to Italian
POL województwo opolskie flag.svg Opole Voivodeship (28 communes)  Poland 250,000 <50,000 (<20%)m Auxiliary language in 31 communes;
also national minority language
POL województwo śląskie flag.svg Silesian Voivodeship (3 communes)
Bandeira do Espírito Santo.svg Espírito Santo (5 municipalities)  Brazil 205,000 N/A Co-official language in 9 municipalities (as “German”, “Pomeranian“, and “Hunsrückisch“);
also statewide cultural language in Espírito Santo
Bandeira de Santa Catarina.svg Santa Catarina (2 municipalities)
Bandeira do Rio Grande do Sul.svg Rio Grande do Sul (2 municipalities)



Based on a table from an article on “Territorial Entities Where German is an Official Language” at


There are German Speaking Minorities in Numerous Countries

  • Poland – (300.000-350.000)
  • Hungary – (62.000)
  • Czech Republic – (40.000)
  • Romania – (37.000)
  • Denmark – (15,000)
  • France – in Alsace Lorraine, a very specific dialect, Elsässisch is spoken by an aging minority.
  • Spain – 50,000 Germans (mostly retirees), living in locations like  Mallorca as their European version of Florida.
  • Namibia – Namibia was a German Colony (1884-1915). Approximately 20,000 Deutschnamibie live there today.
  • United States of America – Communities of AmishMennonite or Hutterite speak various older, German dialects.
  • Latin America
    • Argentina – German speakers live in Córdoba, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Entre Ríos, La Pampa Province, Río Negro Province, Misiones, Chaco, Santa Fe, Neuquén. German Argentines (German: Deutschargentinier, Spanish: germano-argentinos) are Argentine citizens of German ancestry.
    • Brazil – the 2000 census showed 12,000,000 Brazilians of German descent. German is the 2nd most commonly spoken language, after Portuguese, in Brazil. German is a cultural language in Espírito Santo; also co-official in 9 municipalities in southern Brazil. Blumenau, in Santa Catarina Province, is the home of the 2nd largest Oktoberfest in the world.
    • Chile – It is estimated that about 500,000 Chileans could be descendants of German immigrants. About 20,000 Chileans speak the German language.
    • Paraguay – According to Ethnologue, Paraguay, with a total population of 4,893,000 (1995), has some 166,000 German speakers including some 19,000 speakers of Plattdeutsch. There are about 10,000 Mennonites in Paraguay, the oldest German colony is Fernheim.
    • Venezuela – some people still speak  Alemán Coloniero among each other.

SIG Member Al Becker Presents “Blind Searching Ancestry Records”

If you missed last Thursday’s German SIG meeting (like I did), Al Becker gave a presentation entitled “Blind Searching Ancestry Records” I converted the PowerPoint file to a pdf and uploaded it to the German SIG website. You can view the presentation slides here.It’s the one at the top of the list.

Registration Open for 2017 International German Genealogy Partnership Conference

February 1, 2017

Registration is now open for the 2017 International German Genealogy Partnership Conference to be held July 28-30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A new Flyer was released today with current information. Click on the Flyer image to view it in detail.

New International German Genealogy Partnership Website is Now Online

International German Genealogy Partnership (IGGP) Logo

The new International German Genealogy Partnership Website (IGGP) is now online. It offers news on various presentations on German Genealogical topics being given at meetings of partner societies. 

The partnership is a network to share ideas, contacts, research information and resources to help our members trace their Germanic heritage wherever it is found.


“Uniting German Genealogy Researchers Worldwide” is our goal.


The IGGP facilitates German genealogy research globally as the internationally recognized federation of German genealogy organizations. IGGP was formerly known as German-American Genealogical Partnership (GAGP). The Villages Genealogical Society, through its German Special Interest Group, is a Partner Society of the IGGP.


The IGGP Website features an entire section devoted to the 2017 International German Genealogy Conference being held in Minneapolis Minnesota August 28-30. Also listed are dozens of  Speaker Biographies of the Conference presenters, many of them who are internationally known. Registration opens at 12:01 am tomorrow, February 1, 2017.

The Poznan Project – Poznan Region Marriage Indexing for 1800-1899

The Poznan Project – Poznan Region Marriage Indexing Project for 1800-1899 is a valuable tool for those who have ancestors who lived in the Poznan (formerly Posen) region in what is now Poland. According to Wikipedia, the Province of Posen was a province of Prussia from 1848 and as such part of the German Empire from 1871 until 1918. It had an area of 11,185 mi².

Here is a sample Poznan Project Search Results Summary when searching for marriages of persons with the “Heins” surname, showing 15 matches found in 21.99 seconds:

Poznan Project Search Results Summary - Heins

Poznan Project Search Results Summary – Heins


Here is a representative sample  of the results of the search on the “Heins” surname:

Poznan Project Sample of Heins Search Results

Poznan Project Sample of Heins Search Results


Map of the former Prussian Province of Posen on Wikimedia Commons. Scroll cursor over image for attribution.

Prowincja Poznańska de

The Poznan Project – Poznan Region Marriage Indexing Project for 1800-1899 can be found at:

2017 IGGP Conference Brochure With Registration Is Out

International German Genealogy Partnership Logo

The 2017 IGGP Conference Brochure is now available. You can view and download it HERE. It includes the story of the International German Genealogy Partnership, an overview of the conference biographical information on the presenters and the Registration itself. 

The registration for the 2017 International Germanic Genealogy Conference opens on February 1, 2017 with an early bird discount. If you are a member of  a partner society you receive an extra $ 25 discount during the early bird sign up period. The early bird discount expires on April 1. The Villages Genealogical Society through its VGS German Genealogy SIGis a partner society.
We encourage everyone to register online from the new partner website. You will be able to pay by PayPal or sending in a check. This website should be ready by February 1, 2017.
Here is the 12 page brochure listing speakers and presentations and many other details about the conference. The actual registration form is found on page 5.

February 2017 Meeting of the VGS German SIG

 Ken Weaver, Vice President of the Southwest Florida German Genealogy Society, will present: “Getting Through that !@#@!? German Handwriting”. The meeting will be held in the

Ken Weaver

Ken Weaver

Reliance Room at Lake Miona Recreation Center, 1526 Buena Vista Blvd, The Villages, FL 32162, Thursday February 9th from 9:30 – 11:50 am.

2017 IGGP Conference in Minneapolis July 28-30

International German Genealogy Partnership Logo


The International German Genealogy Partnership (IGGP), formerly the German-American Genealogical Partnership, is proud to announce its inaugural conference to be held in Minneapolis, MN.  The Germanic Genealogy Society is the local host. The Villages Genealogical Society, The Villages Florida, through its German Genealogy Special Interest Group, is a proud member Society of the International German Genealogy Partnership (IGGP). Members of The VGS German SIG are encouraged to attend.
2017 International Germanic Genealogy Conference
Connections: International. Cultural. Personal.
Registration will begin February 1st, 2017!
Dates:          July 28 – 30, 2017
Location:     Minneapolis Marriott Northwest
                    7025 Northland Drive North
                    Brooklyn Park, MN 55428

Hotel rooms at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest Hotel are fully booked in advance of the 2017 International Germanic Genealogy Conference, set for July 28-30 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Additional Conference Hotels
Conference attendees may contact four other nearby hotels where a special discounted conference rate has been arranged. All are within a few miles of the Marriott Northwest, venue for the conference. Morning and evening shuttle service will be provided from each of these hotels to the conference at the Marriott Northwest.
Refer to our Reservation details about these alternate hotels for additional information including phone numbers and rates. For more additional information about the hotels along with pictures, please visit

Registration Brochure and Information

The registration for the 2017 International Germanic Genealogy Conference opens on February 1, 2017 with an early bird discount. If you are a member of  a partner society you receive an extra $ 25 discount during the early bird sign up period. The early bird discount expires on April 1.
We encourage everyone to register online from the new partner website. You will be able to pay by PayPal or sending in a check.
Here is the 12 page brochure listing speakers and presentations and many other details about the conference. The actual registration form is found on page 5.

This information is provided courtesy of The Germanic Genealogy Society