Navigating notarial records… The beginning

Most Luxembourg researchers I know haven’t used notarial records. Why?

  1. They don’t know what notarial records are. (If you fall into that category, read the blog post here.)
  2. They don’t know where to look for the collection of notarial records they need.
  3. They don’t know how to find the documents they need within the record collection, once they’ve found the correct collection.
  4. The don’t know how to read the documents they’ve found.


Since we’ve already covered question one, let’s jump right into question 2: where do you look for notarial records?

The best place to start: there’s an edition available that lists the town, the notary’s years served, and where their records are stored.

However, you’re not going to be able to jump right to your ancestor’s home town… Most didn’t have notaries. In all likelihood, your ancestor went to the closest major city to find a notary. Google Maps can help you determine what that location would have been.

Found a name? Time to check them out on FamilySearch.

The first FamilySearch page lists where everyone whose records are included in the collection was living: 2017-08-16.png


In the case of my Hostert families, it was probably Luxembourg City.

So, I’m clicking on Luxembourg.

And discovering dozens of results…

2017-08-16 (1)


The next step, if I had a name, would to click on the roll listing their name and the year the event occurred.



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The Luxembourg Census you haven’t heard of…

Thanks to genealogist Dorothy Clark for sharing information on and images of a census I haven’t yet gotten to explore… the 1766!

Yup, there’s a census earlier than 1843. Marie-Theresa of Austria was interested in discovering the value of properties in order to properly tax them. As a result, she ordered the creation of both of a cadastral map and a census for the territories of Luxembourg, including modern Belgium, and Lorraine, France. There’s a good overview of the process here.   At the end of the process, it ended up being a more of a property inventory cum census than a traditional census (and no actual cadastral map was created, according to AnLux), but it still constitutes a valuable resource!

Of course, as genealogists, we’re most interested in the part that might name our ancestors. And chances are, if your family is Luxembourg-American, that isn’t the extensive property inventories (they didn’t have that much money), but the census.

Currently, it isn’t digitized – and is only available on FamilySearch microfilm, so act fast as the program ends 9/1.  To get the roll listing, search Dénombrement, 1766 in the catalog.  Do not go by place! I tried and didn’t initially find the town I was seeking, because the location was “misspelled” in the catalog entry. (For example, some town names are spelled with a w instead of a v, perhaps a “mishearing” of the German. Clark also noted d and t being switched)

Then, search the catalog listing for the location you’re seeking. Beware, many of the place names are misspelled (or in transliterated German), and there may be two or more places with the same name. How do you tell the difference? Look at the other communities in the parish – they should be the ones that surround your ancestor’s home town.

Have the film? Now it’s time to look at the actual records.

Please note: all records in French (and names will be in the French form).

The census pages are laid out as follows.

  1. The top of the page is the name of the village and then the name of the parish.
  2. The rest of the page is divided into the following columns: house number, the names of any males over 16, their means of subsistence, the names of females over 14, the males under 16, and the females under 14; and the number of marriages in a house.
  3. In the top of each box, the enumerator keeps the running total for the village (thanks to Clark for pointing this out!). Muller family in Reistorff (003).jpg

Two things to note – and thanks to Dorothy Clark for pointing this out. First, at least some of the married women are listed under their married names. This means you may have to look for additional sources (such as church records) to do determine who was married to whom – and that last names differing from the males of the household may be siblings or other more distant relatives. As Dorothy mentions, this seems to vary by the town: some enumerators list married names, other list maiden. Second, the filming cut off the left hand margin of the right page in some cases. Names may be obscured, so have some patience when reading.


Between the villages, there is also a statistical summary page of the different occupations in town, so if you’re wondering about what the rest of the village looked like, you can find out. Who would have believed a town would have its own shoemaker, let alone two?

1766 Lux 1781981 Reisdorf occupational classification (003).jpg

This has the potential to help you locate and learn more about your pre-civil registration ancestors. (As Dorothy Clark noted, in some towns, it even pre-dates church records!) Happy hunting!


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Why can’t I find records for my Luxembourg family when I know how their name is spelled?

I’ve had this question come up a few times lately… “I know my ancestor’s last name, but I can’t find any records. Why?”

The simple answer: you might be spelling it wrong – or more accurately in the wrong language! Keep in mind, Luxembourg alternates between using French, German, and Latin in its historic records. Latin spellings are usually used only in the church records, while French and German spellings can be interchangeable in historic records. So, when doing research, be sure to look under both spellings.

Only know one spelling? Here are a few rules that can help:

  1. French may drop a consonant in a series of two or more. Can’t find a family name with the common German -dt ending? Try looking for just a -d.
  2. German ü is often replaced by oe in French.

Want more spelling ideas? Feel free to post comments. I’ll be glad to respond!

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Want to “see” your Luxembourg ancestor’s town?

Did you know Luxembourg sponsors an equivalent to Google Maps? Called Geoportal Luxembourg, this map database allows you to look at a variety of different locations using topographical maps, aerial photos, and more.

Why do you care?

  1. It allows you to visualize what your ancestor’s home town might have looked like. Luxembourg has had extensive growth in the last few decades, so you’ll have to imagine it with a few fewer buildings – but you can still get an idea.
  2. Topographical maps can tell you more about your ancestor’s occupation. See a large hill where your ancestor once lived? Likely they had to plan for that when they farmed.
  3. It can allow you identify towns where they might have travelled. Not finding an ancestor’s record in a town? You’ll be able to identify and check surrounding towns.

Happy hunting!

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Mappy Monday: Source of Historic Luxembourg Maps

… as much as genealogists loved the vendors at the International Germanic Genealogy Conference, I did hear one complaint: there weren’t enough maps of Luxembourg!

If you’re looking for historic maps, I just discovered a promising new source: The National Geographical Institute of Belgium. Their map collection covers the 1600s to the 1900s and include several maps covering Luxembourg (including the part of Luxembourg that has since become part of Belgium). Click on the image to get a slightly more detailed image.

Want to order a copy? Click on the map name and then the type of copy you’d like to order. The options include a digital file (so that you can print your own) and a reproduction.

Tried it? Please let me know how it went.

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Looking for information on the laws of Luxembourg?

Knowing a country’s laws can be incredibly helpful for genealogy research. A law can tell us in what order a census was enumerated, who could have inherited, or what taxes your ancestor had to pay (and thus, what documents would have been created).

ANLux has digitized records that should make your search easier. A small number of “fonds” or “collections” of the Conseil d’Etat covering the period from 1856-1940 are available on their website at This collection includes everything from the revisions to the electoral law to the function of the library. It’s a bit eclectic but provides a fun overview to your ancestor’s life.

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What’s a familienbuch?

I always listen when someone tells me how much a source has revolutionized their family research… and  so I loved hearing from one of the attendees at IGGC how much a familienbuch on LuxRacines had changed their research…

What’s a familienbuch? Also called livre de famille or family book, a familienbuch is a published genealogy. It uses different groups of records to trace a family back generations. Some draw from census records; others from house histories; and still others from church or civil records. They don’t exist for every region of Luxembourg, but LuxRacines has a pretty good collection.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of using the family books? Advantages: they can help you trace your family back quickly. Disadvantages: they’re derivative sources. If the author made a mistake, you risk bringing it into your family tree. In the end, family books are a wonderful guide – but should be backed up with original sources. Happy hunting!

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