Searching German Newspapers/Books

Last week I posted about the excitement of discovering some German newspapers in Google Books. The exploration has taken a fair bit of time, even without getting down to full transcriptions and translations. I thought I’d share some practical tips I’ve developed as I’ve gone along bearing in mind the limitations I mentioned in my previous post.


I’ve been asked about how to find what you’re looking for and frankly that’s not nearly as simple as it sounds as this is not a Germanic version of Trove (sadly), however exciting the find.

The critical thing to remember is that you are searching German-language books and newspapers so you need to use the correct German terminology (if necessary use a dictionary like Reverso). For example if you’re looking for someone who came from Munich you’ll need to search for München or Köln for Cologne. Similarly if your German ancestor’s name was Anglicised after arriving in the new land, you’ll need to search by their original name eg Hennig not Henny or Zöller not Zeller or Zoller (though the latter sometimes works).

Other than that you need to be as lateral as possible and add combinations which might work. Try searching in combination with a neighbouring town where particular events may have been held. So for this purpose I was aware of Stadtprozelten, Kollenberg (Collenberg), Miltenberg or Klingenberg while looking for neighbouring Dorfprozelten.

You can limit your search by using Google Books Advanced Search which lets you restrict the timeframe you search eg 1840 to 1870. However a word of caution –I found it better to search using the alternative option of the 19th century because when I used a decade limit, some items just didn’t appear even though they fell in that time frame. That was because the year-limited search is about when the book was published which may not coincide with the year of the newspaper.

One option might be to search by placename + “Blatt” or + Zeitung as these searches might bring up more pertinent options. But as I said, be lateral and keep trying different options. I tried searching by the name of the newspaper plus the search term, and found it excluded options I’d found before.

Analysing the text is important.

I mostly focused on the books of newspapers but I also scrutinised the text provided by Google to see if it was helpful. This is a little easier as I have retained some of my high school German so can pick out relevant phrases. However you can still look for names and eventually you’ll get a sense of which documents are likely to be the most helpful to you. As mentioned I found the regional and local newspapers the most pertinent.

If you know the specific time period you need you might choose to download the book and search visually as you would a microfilm. Searching within the document doesn’t seem to work as well as the initial search. I’ve yet to buckle down to a microfilm-type search.

Check whether the found document offers one or more relevant images…it will tell you in the top bar.

You are reading documents in Gothic print which means you have two adjustments to make (1) to read the font and (2) to read the German. For example the letter K looks far more like our capital N while the lower case could easily be confused with the single s, f or l.


Sounds simple really but perhaps I just went about it wrongly in the first place. I bookmarked relevant pages in Diigo and clipped to Evernote as well as downloading some files.

This gives you a good sense of what you’ll be looking at.

I was initially frustrated that I couldn’t print the page without downloading the whole (often large) book. Thanks to advice from a friend (thanks Rebecca!) I clipped print screen forthe image and pasted it to Photoshop. Why didn’t this occur to me earlier?

This worked better and I would then crop the page to cut out the extraneous info but leaving the search term at the top and the name of the book on the left. This meant I had a record of both.

I also clipped the extracted words from the Google search and copied and pasted them with the title of the book I’d found. This gave me (1) a guide to finding the phrases when it wasn’t highlighted (2) a time-saving of not having to transcribe all the words and (3) another record of the link to the book.  I used the pen marker to sidebar the relevant words I’d found (not all are highlighted). After all that I enlarged the image to fit the page, saved it, then printed it out.

While I had the book open I also clicked to save the link to my (Google Books) Library.

I also scrolled up through the pages until I found the specific edition of the paper that this extract had come from and noted that and the page number on the printed page (I could have done this in Photoshop but it was quicker to do it this way).

I added the page number and newspaper edition to the running file in conjunction with the above extract. I also added the name of the image file to the Word running file.

Ultimately this should make it easier to transcribe then translate the document.


You really have to persevere with this type of search. Similar searches produce widely different outcomes. Hyphens in the printing may skew your results. (eg Dorfprozelten becomes Dorf-prozelten or Dorfpro-zelten).

I’ve found probably about 70% of the emigrants who left Dorfprozelten to come to Australia –as always not including my George Kunkel –but I’m sure the others are there somewhere, waiting for a tedious page-by-page search. And a new pair of reading glasses, before or after, not to mention strong coffee.

Try, try again!

Have you tried this search? What was your experience? Any tips for us?

And here’s another link to try out but it’s edition by edition.

Images from Microsoft Office online.