Although the Germans were diligent in keeping records right down to minor local events, you will also find that they are scattered in archives of varying jurisdictions and locations. Later records were sometimes duplicated and sent to state archives (increasing your chance of success). Also, you will find that in order to collect the usual statistics and information on an Ancestor you will often be required to locate more than a singular document. It is important to note that from the 14th to the 19th century, the Hapsburg dynasty maintained central power over the Germanic lands, placing the central archives of the "Old Riche" in Vienna (Wien). Beginning with Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck's (the Prussian Prime Minister also known as the "Iron Chancellor") unification of Germany between 1866 and 1871, the various states began to maintain individual archives in about 1875. Nevertheless, you will want to check for local records such as Church Books or Registers within the immediate area of your Ancestor(s).
For a comprehensive reference guide of addresses for the many varying archives, historical, genealogical and religious organizations throughout German, I highly recommend obtaining a copy of Ernest Thode's sixth edition of the "Address Book for Germanic Genealogy" (available at bookstores and libraries).
The following table is provided as a glossary of common Germanic terms and record types one is confronted with when attempting to locate and interpret documents recorded in German.
Genealogical Notes of Edwin
Charles Pomnitz. In search of your German Roots (Third Edition) by
Angus Baxter. The New Schoffler-Weis German and English Dictionary by Dr. Herbert
Schoffler, Professor Erich Weis and Dr. Erwin Weis.