Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America, Genealogical Society for Ostfriesen, Germany

Membership Information
Board of Directors
Our Mission Statement
Upcoming Events
Surnames & Queries
Contact Us

To Access Emigration
Database, You
must Subscribe /
Donate via PayPal
One-time $25 fee

Frequently Asked Questions
Travel Tips
Gifts - Books & Maps

Book Corner
Ortssippenbucher (OSBs)
Ostfriesen Church Records
Leer Index
Pictures & Stories

1670 So Robert St, #333
West St Paul, MN 55118


Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America


  • Eala Frya Fresena! Lever Dod as Slaav!
    This is an old Frisian saying, developed or popularized in the last century as a form of greeting and to assert one's "Friesian-ness" in the spirit of "Frisian and Freedom". One would say, "Eala frya Fresena!" ("Hail, free Frisians!") and the other would answer, "Lever dod as Slaav!" ("Better dead than [a] slave!"). Thanks to Diane Epperson

    The meaning of "eala" is not quite clear whether it means "Hail" or "well being." Today it is mostly translated as "let us be" or "for the benefit of the free Frisians." And the answer normally given was "Lever dod as Slaav" or "better dead than slave." Thanks to Bernd Oldwurtel

    According to others, a more precise translation of the second part of this phrase is: "Rather dead than a slave."

    Many Germans do say Moin in the morning and think of it as a short form of Morgen. In Ostfriesland (and other parts of the north), the "Moin"  is short for "Moijen Dach", which means "(have a) nice day" and can be used the whole day. And in Ostfriesland (at least outside the cities) everyone you see is greeted with "Moin" whether you know them or not. That's a wonderful thing to experience every time I go there. Thanks to Gerriet Backer

    My cousin told me it also distinguishes the "tourist" from the Ostfriesen. Tourists say "Guten Morgen" or "Hallo", Friesen residents say "Moin!" Many no longer use this ethnic greeting, but rather use "Hallo" or "Guten Morgen".  Confuse them and use Moin! 



FAQ — Frequently Asked Questions about Ostfriesland and Ostfriesen Genealogy

Tired of feeling left out of discussions of Ostfriesen genealogy because you don't know the difference between Ortssippenbücher and Geschlecterbücher? Have you hit a wall in your Ostfriesen research and don't know where to turn? Well, you've come to the right place! Our team of dedicated Ostfriesen genealogists has put together this collection of frequently asked questions to get you on the right track.

If you have a question that you would like to see answered here, or if you would like to correct, amend, or clarify one of the answers given here, please let me know.

What is Ostfriesland and where is it?
Ostfriesland, also called East Friesland or East Frisia, is an area in the northwest corner of Germany on the North Sea coast and includes the German islands in the North Sea. It is not a state or a province or any kind of administrative or political district. Ostfriesland is contained within the German state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony). The approximate borders of Ostfriesland are the Netherlands to the west, south to about Papenburg, and east to Oldenburg. The largest city in Ostfriesland is Emden. Other important cities are Aurich, Leer, Esens, Jever, Norden, and Wittmund.
    Historically, Ostfriesland occupied more precise borders. Click here to see a map of a corner of Niedersachsen and Ostfriesland within it in 1780.

Who are the Ostfriesen people?
The Ostfriesian's have common roots with the Scandinavian Vikings. The original Friesian language is much older than the English language. Most west Norwegian dialects and the islandic language use words highly familiar to Friesian words. In ancient Ostfriesland they had a rule very similar to the Nordic "ting" rule a kind of local democracy. — Contributed by Harm-Heÿen Broers

What language is spoken in Ostfriesland?
Plattdeutsch, or Low German, is the colloquial language of Ostfriesland. It is closely related to Dutch, Frisian, and English, and differs markedly from standard German (High German or Hochdeutsch). Plattdeutsch has been supplanted by standard German in schools and government, but it remains the language of the home in much of Ostfriesland, especially in rural areas and among the older generation. Plattdeutsch is also spoken, particularly by the older generation, in Ostfriesen settlements in the United States.

How do I make those German letters on my computer?
The German alphabet contains four letters that are not in the English alphabet. These letters can be entered into most word processing and email programs by using various key press combinations as indicated in the table:
Key Codes
Key Codes
äAlt+0228 or Alt+132 Option + u, aae
ÄAlt+0196 or Alt+142 Option + u, Aae
öAlt+0246 or Alt+148 Option + u, ooe
ÖAlt+0214 or Alt+153 Option + u, Ooe
üAlt+0252 or Alt+129 Option + u, uue
ÜAlt+0220 or Alt+154 Option + u, Uue
ßAlt+0223 or Alt+225 Option + sss
Windows: Use the Alt key in combination with the numeric keypad. Hold the Alt key down while entering the appropriate character code. Note that there are two character codes. Either should work, but, depending on the software you are using, if one of them doesn't work for you, try the other one. Some programs, such as Microsoft Word, have their own mechanism for entering these characters.
Macintosh: Hold down the option key while pressing "u", then release and press the letter indicated.
Two-letter replacement: If you are unable to convince your computer to produce the proper German characters, use the two-character replacement. Do not use "o" instead of "ö", because Krummhörn is a place in Ostfriesland and Krummhorn is a musical instrument. The acceptable alternative to Krummhörn is Krummhoern.
If you have a laptop computer, the above listed codes may not work.  Please check your manual for additional data.
What is Gothic type of script?
Old German Gothic handwriting and print differ noticeably from the Roman script to which most English-speaking people are accustomed—the letters are formed differently. Records in German were usually written in gothic script until as late as the 1930s. And so, you will have to learn how to read gothic script. An excellent guide to deciphering gothic script, along with many helpful hints about the written German language, can be found in GERMANIC GENEALOGY: A GUIDE TO WORLDWIDE SOURCES AND MIGRATION PATTERNS available from the Germanic Genealogical Society of MN.  

Examples of
gothic type and script

What is the Upstalsboom-Gesellschaft?
The Upstalsboom - Gesellschaft für historische Personenforschung und Bevölkerungsgeschichte in Ostfriesland is the genealogical society of Ostfriesland and is located in Aurich. The name derives from the Upstalsboom, a hill a couple miles south of Aurich in Rahe, which was a well-known medieval meeting place of the rulers of Ostfriesen people. The society has a library and research facility, publishes various research books and a newsletter Quellen und Forschungen, and maintains a website (in German).

What research materials are available?
There are a variety of excellent research materials available. Some are specifically for the Ostfriesland area and others pertain to all of Germany but are nevertheless essential to the Ostfriesen researcher. You will hear the names of these research materials mentioned frequently and you should be familiar with the types of information contained in them. Many of your genealogical problems will be solved with the help of the items listed below.  A large collection of Germanic genealogical sources are located at the Buenger Memorial Library, Concordia University, St. Paul, plus the OGSA collection located in Forest Lake, MN at our OGSA Research Center.

• Ortssippenbücher
An Ortssippenbuch (OSB) is a book that lists all the families in a town using church records and other local records as the source. The information in OSBs typically spans a time period from the 1700s to about 1900 and includes names, occupations, family relationships, dates of birth, death, and marriage, and more.

For an overview of OSBs, see the OGSA OSB page. Some of the OSBs for Ostfriesland are available at our office in the Minnesota Genealogical Society library in So. St. Paul, MN.  The contact information is on the home page.  All of the OSB are available for your use at our conferences.  OGSA sells OSB that are currently in print.  Contact us at OGSA - please type OGSA in the subject line..

• Deutsches Geschlecterbücher
Over 200 volumes of Deutsches Geschlecterbücher give genealogical data about important or landed German families—in other words, they were more wealthy. However, information is also given on families of people who married into the published lines. There are seven volumes devoted exclusively to Ostfriesen research; however, the researcher should also check the indexes found after Volume 50 as some of the early volumes were not published by area. Ostfriesen volume eight may be printed in the next couple of years.  We have a copy of Volume VII in stock.  If you are interested in either of these new publications, please contact OGSA. These books are in German and the older books are in Gothic type.
An overview of the Deutsches Geschlecterbücher appeared in Volume 1, Issue 3 of the OGSA Newsletter along with a list of families that appear in the Ostfriesian volumes. The Deutsches Geschlecterbücher are available on microfilm from the LDS Family History Center in Salt Lake city, The Memorial Library in Madison, Wisconsin, and other major university libraries.

Quellen und Forschungen
The Quellen und Forschungen zur Ostfriesischen Familien- und Wappenkunde is the quarterly publication of the Upstalboom-Gesellschaft.  Copies of this valuable newsletter are available at our conferences, in our OGSA Research Center and in the Church of Latter Day Saints Library in Salt Lake City.

Ostfriesische Ahnenlisten
These pamphlets contain genealogies of Ostfriesen families. A complete set is available at the Upstalsboom-Gesellschaft Bibliothek in Aurich. Some issues are available through the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City and one of our members has almost a complete set of these genealogies. They are currently being printed in limited quantities and at no scheduled times.  Copies are available at our conferences and at our OGSA Research Center.

Ostfriesische Nachrichten
The Ostfriesische Nachrichten was a German language newspaper printed in Iowa from 1884 to 1971 and whose intended audience were the Ostfriesen living in the United States. The newspaper contained news from various Ostfriesen settlements in the U.S. as well as news from villages in Ostfriesland. Of particular interest to genealogists are the obituaries that were published in the Nachrichten. Microfilms of the older issues of the newspaper as well as an index to the obituaries are available in our OGSA Research Center in the Minnesota Genealogical Society.

An article about the Ostfriesische Nachrichten appeared in Volume 2, Issue 2 of our newsletter.  In addition, there are several indexes that have been printed.  If you are interested, contact OGSA for more information.

The masthead of the
Ostfriesische Nachricten

• Gemeinde Lexicon
A gazetteer useful for finding where church records can be found for villages that do not have their own parishes. The Gemeinde Lexicon is printed in German gothic type and is available through LDS Family History Centers. An excellent article about the Gemeinde Lexicon appeared in this OGSA Newsletter.

Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reichs
This 1912 German gazetteer lists every village, town and city in the German Empire. A detailed article about Meyers Orts, as it is often called, appeared in a OGSA Newsletter and that article is reproduced here. Meyers Orts is available on microfilm from LDS Family History Centers.  A copy is available at the OGSA Research Center.


Schatzungsregister 1719, by Erhard Schulte
This book is a listing of people in Ostfriesland in 1719 over the age of 12 who survived the 1717 Christmas Flood. The purpose was to tax each resident for the repair of the dikes after the devastating flood of 1717. Many villages in Ostfriesland are listed as well as the social status of the residents. The first portion of the book is written in German. This book is published by the Upstalsboom-Gesellschaft in Ostfriesland.  It is currently out of print.  This is the closest thing to a census that is available.  Copies of this and many other good books are available at our OGSA Research Center.

Germans to America

Germans to America, Lists of Passengers Arriving at U.S. Ports 1850-1893, edited by Ira A. Glazier and P. William Filby. As the title implies, this book covers all of Germany, not just Ostfriesland. This series of books is quite comprehensive and there is a very good chance that you will be able to find some of your Ostfriesen ancestors listed here. The Germans to America books are available at the Minnesota Historical Society Research Library in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the Germanic Genealogy Society collection at the Buenger Memorial Library at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota and the first 50+ volumes are also available in the OGSA Research Center. Germans to America is also available on two CR-ROMs from Broderbund Software.

What are kluntjes?
Kluntje's are sugar rock candies that are placed in the porcelain tea cup. The candy makes a "crackling" sound as the hot tea is poured into the cup. Kluntje's come in larger and smaller sizes and can be purchased in every "SuperMarkt" or "LebensMittel" in Ostfriesland.

What is the patronymic naming system?

In the patronymic naming system, a child's name is derived from the father's name. This traditional system of naming was used in Ostfriesland until it was banned by decree in 1811 when families had to choose a permanent surname. In this naming system, for example, Harm Caspers was the son of Casper Harms who was the son of Harm Janssen who was the son of Jan Simons, etc. Knowing the ins and outs of the patronymic naming system can simplify the task of piecing together your Ostfriesian family. A more detailed description of the patronymic naming system is available from OGSA.  


Why does the double ss in names sometimes appear as sh or hs, as in Janssen, Janshen, Janhsen or Buss, Buß, Bush, Buhs?
Those that spell their name with the hs or sh, think that is correct and say that is the way it has been spelled for generations. That can be true and so they continue to use the spelling. In very early hand writing the scripted h and s appear to be similar. The general population was not literate in those times. As the shape of the letters changed to what we now accept as German script, the similarities of h and s faded and a different form of the letters evolved. When the older records were read, the h in the ss combination was read as hs or sh according to what was then known to be the shape of the letters. 

You may also see something that looks like a capital B, in reality a ß.  This letter is also used as the double s.  


What is the difference between a primary and secondary source?
          A primary source is the original copy of a record - birth certificate, marriage application, church 
          book, etc.  A secondary source is information obtained from one of these records.  A good
          example is an OSB which is data taken from the original record and transcribed into a
          publication.  Anything you get from someone else that is not documented would be a secondary
          source and should be checked.

© 2004 LMEK Graphics & Designs. All rights reserved.  Site Designed by: LMEK Graphics & Designs.   Site Hosted by: Berry Bros, Inc