Background and History of Die Ahnenstammkartei
The Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie at Leipzig, with an origin dating back to 1904, was designated by the German government as the lead archive for genealogy in all of united Germany after the wall came down in 1991. But long before the iron curtain went up or came down, this major archive was well known throughout Germany for its extensive genealogy holdings.
According to FEEFHS member and professional genealogist Henning Schroeder of Gummersbach, this archive was the main reason West Germans took the trouble to travel to the Leipzig during the cold war era. And when they got there? Most of them headed for its premier holding -- a mammoth card file collection - Die Ahnenstammkartei Des Deutschen Volkes.
It is sometimes called by the acronym ASTAKA in archival literature (and this web directory). It is best known as the "Leipzig Films" at the international reference desk (the first basement level - B1) of the Family History Library (FHL) at Salt Lake City. Others as well as myself call it "Die Ahnenstammkartei".
Started in 1922 , this collection remained open to submissions until 1993. This collection had 1.5 million names by 1939 and is variously estimated to contain 2.7 million or more individual names in well over 11,300 pedigree files. It aided the Third Reich is doing its dirty deeds from the 1930s until 1945.
It was housed at Dresden until 1933 and then at Berlin until 1939. It was returned to Dresden after the invasion of Poland where it survived the fire bombings of World War II in a Dresden cave. After 1945 it was moved to the Leipzig Archives where it endured the benign neglect of the East German government during the cold war.
This collection spans the entire German Empire of the last several centuries and not just the Leipzig region. Thomas Edlund has estimated that its contents are 17 per cent East German, 30 per cent North German, 14 per cent West German, 15 per cent South German and 22 per cent Middle German.
In 1991 the Genealogical Society of Utah filmed all of both parts of this collection as of that date (1221 microfilm reels).
After that, the GSU camera crew at the Deutsche Zentralstelle für Geneologie filmed the balance of the Ahnenstammkartei collection (19 additional microfilm reels in this "second filming").
Summary Description: Die Ahnenstammkartei Microfilm Collection
Part I (Tiel I) is a mammoth 617 reel "modified German Soundex" A-Z index, plus 19 reels of six other supporting indices (on 16 mm microfilm). See the Traditional A-Z Index of the Register (first 617 reels) - 8 web files.
Part II (Tiel II) is an additional 583 reels (1st filming) of multi-generation pedigree information called Ahnentafels by the Germans who created it. It is copied on 35 mm microfilm. These are the actual pedigrees, filed as AL numbers , along with supplements called Nachträge (N. Numbers).
Cataloging was completed in 1994 by Thomas Edlund, who prepared a preliminary index for the Family History Library Catalog (FHLC) in 1993.
This is faithfully based on the Germanic Soundex filing system used by the Deutsche Zentralstelle für Genealogie at Leipzig, which has proved to be difficult to use by non-Germanic researchers. As a result it has recently been reindexed by FEEFHS for web searches using the traditional A-Z index.
The German Genealogical Digest, Vol 9, No. 4 (Winter 1993) has the best article on how to use the collection.
Using the collection at an Family History Center (FHC) requires several steps. You start by converting the surname you are searching for into a Germanic form of a Soundex-like phonetic spelling. See the Ahnenstammkartei Soundex. Then you obtain the correct film number in Part I for that spelling, order out the microfilm reel and when it arrives, you seek and hopefully will find within it the card of the surname you are searching for.
This index card will provide considerable information, including vital data for the subject and two more generations back including place of birth and religion. It also includes the "AL" file number in "Part II" where the Ahnen-Liste (pedigrees) are found.
Returning to Part II of the catalog index, this "AL number" is used to identify another film number that contains the ancestor list you are looking for. That second microfilm will contain the Ahnentafel. These pedigrees are sometimes extensive, and on occasion can exceed 100 pages of genealogy. There is a bit more to it than we have space to cover here, but those are the two key steps and Larry Jensen's excellent article explains it in more detail.
It is clear that for many unique and relatively un-common Germanic surnames, it is now possible for record searchers to bypass all thetedious traditional emigration/immigration search techniques (including naturalization papers and ship passenger lists) and "jump the pond" from the Western hemisphere directly back into the Germanic village of origin with the Part I index card and the three generation ancestor list.
Even if you have a common name like Becker or Müller, if you know the place of origin this collection can sometimes help you to significantly "narrow the field" of research to those lines in that city or village. This is because for common names there is a secondary index by Orts (location) from Aachen to Zyffich.
This collection may not be a panacea for everyone. Even researchers of the stature of Trudy Schenk have been dissapointed on occasion by the brevity or absence of an ahnentafel or even an index listing of a surname. And some unknown number of Ahnentafelens (AL's) have been lost and only exist in the Part I index.
Yet when you are up against a "brick wall" and have either an uncommon name or face a common name with some clue or knowledge of the place of origin, this collection can often be a vital key in unlocking additional generations of your German heritage.
Properly used, this Ahnenstammkartei collection will solve a great number of German genealogy problems that so far have defied solution. So if you have ancestors from Germany and you have been unable to locate a city or village of origin in the past ... then it is time to try once again ... this way. It has become the "default" suggestion when all else has failed and a brick wall stands in your way.
To provide an overview for your access to various indices, access the FHC catalog using the Film numbers below.
Part I: A to Z modified phoenetic (German Soundex) Index: (617 reels) - FEEFHS Indexing Project A-7
-- Introduction in English -- catalog pp 1-2
-- For a complete explanation, see the Vorwort (Film #1799712, item 3) in German.
-- starts (Aa - Appenzeller) ----------- Film #1797918 -- catalog pg 3
-- ends (Zoephel - Zutzenheimer, Sossenheimer) --- Film #1799235 -- catalog pg 64
-- Einsenderkartei -- Submitter list ( 5 1/2 microfilm reels) - catalog pg 64 - FEEFHS Indexing Project A-1
---- starts (Aarden - Eichenauer) ------ Film # 1798338
---- ends (Stuler - Zwirner) ----------- Film #1798343 item 1
-- 1. Ahnenlisten-Nummernkartei -- Ancestor Lists indexed by submission No. (4½ reels) - FEEFHS Indexing project A-6
---- starts with 0001-0595 -------------- Film #1798343 item 2
---- ends with 9141-11352 ------------- Film #1798336
-- 2. Beruehmtenkartei -- Index of Famous People/VIP's (1/3 reel) - catalog page 65 - FEEFHS Indexing Project A-5)
---- Abbe - Zschokke ------------------- Film #1798337 item 1
-- 3. Orstkartei -- Index of Places (1/3 reel) - FEEFHS Indexing Project A-4
---- Aachen - Zwickau ------------------ Film #1798337 item 2
-- 4. Sachkartei -- Index of Vocations and Subjects (1/3 reel) - FEEFHS Indexing Project A-3 active
---- Apotheker - Zwillinge ------------- Film #1798337 item 3
-- 5. Nummernkartei -- Source Citations (6 reels) - FEEFHS Indexing Project A-7 Awaiting volunteers
---- starts with A 0001 - A 02170 ---- Film #1798327
---- ends with S 0001 - S 00106 ------ Film #1798332 item 7
Part II Ahnentafeln (AL) -- Index of Manuscript Numbers (estimate: 538 reels) - these are the actual pedigrees
-- starts with 00001 - 00019 --------- Film # 1809152 -- catalog page 66
-- ends with Z 00065-00098 -------- Film # 1809542 item 2 -- catalog page 133
The 1995 Printed "Register" Is Available Again
Because of the extensive length of the computer CD-ROM summary, the Register to Die Ahnenstammkartei Des Deutschen Volkes by Thomas K. Edlund was published as a reference text in October 1995. While it is a detailed directory of the 1221 microfilm reels of Tiel I, it is not an everyname index, which could easily exceed 20,000 pages. It also combines many AL numbers under Tiel II, a situation required to minimize printing cost at the time.
Unfortunately, since the first manuscript was submitted for printing, it has been discovered that some errors had crept into this printed Register. The text parts of the printed register are helpful to the researcher who is unfamiliar with the Ahnenstammkartei and for those without access to the web. However serious researchers can avoid the errors in the 1995 printed Register by referring to the many web pages here which are being updated as corrections and/or new information becomes available.
Some FHCs, including the Sacramento (Eastern Avenue) still have it in their book collection. While not out of print, it is becoming obsolete, based on the indexing work being done by FEEFHS volunteers.
More recently the GSU filmed the balance of Die Ahnenstammkartei Des Deutschen Volkes covering the period after the first filming (above) and the closing of it in 1993. This "second filming" amounts to 19 reels of pedigrees without any index of any kind. See the following exclusive indexes by FEEFHS.
- Microfilm Index of 19 Microfilms This is an index of the major surnames in order of appearance on the film. It is the only summary surname index available anywhere for these 19 films. This is FEEFHS Indexing Project A-2. One volunteer is indexing film "SF4" and ondexes to six pedigrees have already been posted on this web site.
- Surname Index of 153 Major Surnames with microfilm number(s) for each. This contains the same summary information as the 19 reel Microfilm Index above, but is arranged by alphabelical surname. A growing number of hypertext links now exist between these primary surnames and an index of their pedigree file.