Lëtz Research: The Hidden Villages of Luxembourg

Luxembourg genealogy research may seem daunting to new and even experienced researchers. With a country the size of Rhode Island, the smallest US state, one might assume Luxembourg research would/should be easier.

I learned a lot through trial and error when I first began searching for vital records for my Luxembourg ancestors. I browsed the records to figure out which communes the villages belonged to. When I got far enough back in time, I went through the same time-consuming trial and error system with the parish records.

Today, I use two online lists created by Jean THOMA to check for the commune and the parish a village belonged to at different points in time:

The Communes in Luxembourg during four centuries
(includes the year when a village changed commune)

The Parishes in Luxemburg about 1803

Still, even with these lists, there are records for some villages that are not easily found.

I received a query from Shirley who was searching for an 1813 marriage record for ancestors who married in Buschdorf.

  • She had the date that had been abstracted by a volunteer at Luxracines from the Tables Décennales (later referred to as TD in this post) or ten-year tables for births, marriages, and deaths.
  • She knew that Buschdorf was part of the commune of Boevange-sur-Attert.
  • The marriage record was not found in the collection of marriages for the years 1796-1890 where she thought it would be.

She wanted to know if records for Buschdorf might be found in a different commune.

Thoma’s list of communes indicates that Buschdorf was its own commune until 1823. This means that they kept their own TD, birth, marriage, and death records before 1823.

I went to the FamilySearch catalog and looked up Buschdorf. The catalog showed civil records for Buschdorf are in the Boevange-sur-Attert collection.

FamilySearch screenshot.

For more information, I clicked on the link (see arrow above) to open up the catalog entry for the collection.

FamilySearch screenshot.

This is the top of the page for the collection of records for the commune of Boevange-sur-Attert. There is a link that will take you directly to the civil records for all locations in Luxembourg. Stop. Don’t use this yet. Scroll down further on the page to view all films included in the collection for this commune.

FamilySearch screenshot.

If you aren’t familiar with entries in the catalog, there are a few things you need to know.

  1. The camera icon with a key indicates some kind of restriction. Before becoming discouraged, check to see if you are signed in to FamilySearch. Very often, as in this case, the key will disappear indicating the collection is not restricted.
  2. In the column with the film number, Item numbers may also be included. These will help you navigate an entire film with more than one item included. Images identifying the beginning of new items are easily found when scrolling through the collection.

In the above screenshot, the title of the collection/film Naissances 1841-1880 — BUSCHDORF: Naissances 1798-1822 — Mariages 1796-1890 indicates that part of this collection includes births for the years 1798-1822 for Buschdorf. As Buschdorf was keeping their own records up to 1823 there should also be marriage and death records for the town, not just births.

Going into the collection by clicking on the camera icon will take you to the film.

FamilySearch screenshot.

Although all information is included in this screenshot, I find it more useful to go to the Luxembourg Civil Registration, 1796-1941 collection…

FamilySearch screenshot.

…scroll down in the Information box at the bottom to the citation and copy/paste the link into your browser to go to the image below.

FamilySearch screenshot.

Here the name of the collection is Naissances 1841-1880, 1798-1822 Mariages 1796-1890 and doesn’t indicate the records for 1798-1822 are only for Buschdorf. The title Naissances 1841-1880 — BUSCHDORF: Naissances 1798-1822 — Mariages 1796-1890 in the catalog suggests that there are three items in this collection. When you look at the collection using thumbnails you can see where each item begins and ends. (see end of item 2 and beginning of item 3 in image above)

FamilySearch screenshot.

Births for 1841-1880 were filmed in two batches and are under Item 1 and Item 2. Item 3 is named Naissances (or births) 1798-1822.

FamilySearch screenshot.

Item 4 is Marriages for 1796-1890. This is where Shirley searched without results for the 1813 marriage.

Going back to Item 3, a closer look at the records shows that this part of the collection not only has births but also the TDs, marriage, and death records for Buschdorf for the period it was a commune. This is the entire collection of records for the now extinct commune of Buschdorf.

Other “Hidden Villages”

About a half-dozen years ago, I had the same problem with Osweiler, a village that is part of the commune of Rosport. Sometime after 2011 and before 2015 FamilySearch “reworked” the Luxembourg, Civil Registration, 1662-1941 collection. They have a link with the known issues in the collection that included this statement in 2015:

At the recent rework of this collection, the town/hamlet names were combined into the Commune/municipality level. The records are still there, but the search is different.

After much searching, I accidentally found that the Osweiler records to 1822 were included in Rosport in the collection titled “Naissances, mariages, décès 1800-1815.”  The title deceived me and I didn’t take the time to view the records more closely. If I had, I would have found the births and marriages for Osweiler for the years 1816-1822 in this misnamed collection. The FamilySearch catalog gives the correct year range for the Osweiler records:

Other examples are:

Alzingen, a commune until 1823, then part of Hesperange

Brandenburg, a commune until 1823, then part of Bastendorf

Berbourg, a commune until 1823, then part of Manternach

…and the list goes on.

The commune or municipal system was adopted in Luxembourg in 1795 during the French occupation to mirror the systems employed in the rest of the French Republic. Many villages kept their own records until they became part of a larger commune in 1823 when the system was overhauled. These smaller villages that were municipalities or communes until 1823 are easily found on Thoma’s list of communes by searching for the year 1823.

The moral of the story is…

Shirley was happy to learn where she could find the record. She wrote, “I have so many “missing” records.  Not always sure if they’re truly missing from FamilySearch, or if I’m just not looking in the right place.” Hopefully, this post will help her and others find their “missing” records.

If you are having problems finding your ancestors’ records, check Jean THOMA’s list of Luxembourg communes as well as the FamilySearch catalog for the location you are researching.

© 2021, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

7 thoughts on “Lëtz Research: The Hidden Villages of Luxembourg”

  1. Once again you have generously taken the time to provide a step-by-step lesson in finding records. Although I won’t have a need for this particular database, the metholodology you used is always helpful no matter where we are searching. You are truly a wonderful teacher!

    Liked by 1 person

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