It’s a paradox of German-American genealogy that the single greatest source in this field is barely known to researchers! The work in question is Carl W. Schlegel’s four-volume American Families of German Ancestry in the United States, published between 1916 and 1926. Each of Schlegel’s four volumes was limited to 200 numbered and registered copies; consequently, only a dozen or so sets can be located today. In fact, only a handful of experts are even aware of the existence of the fourth volume, published in 1926, eight years following Volume 3.
This is the first volume of the largest collection of German-American genealogies ever published. Fittingly, this volume starts with the life and family of such legendary German-Americans as Jacob Leisler, the 17th-century German who briefly became Governor-General of the colony of New York; and Peter Zenger, proprietor of the first newspaper in America. Forty illustrations are included.
Unlike other great compendia, American Families of German Ancestry in the United States doesn’t just start out with the immigrant ancestor; rather, each family history usually begins two or three generations back, examining the family in its historic setting before bringing it forward to the immigrant ancestor and his descendants in America. Averaging about 10 pages in length, sometimes including portraits and coats of arms, the family histories are no mere catalogs of births, marriages, and deaths but are rich biographical and genealogical studies, each depicting the education, service, achievements, life, and career of the various family members, and each tracing the roots of the first four or five generations in America, usually commencing in the 18th or 19th century, naming thousands of related family members.
For all of these reasons, we believe that American Families of German Ancestry in the United States should be the very first resource for anyone researching German-American ancestry.
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