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Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire Civil Registration

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Elsass-Lothringen, German Empire Genealogy
Alsace-Lorraine Germany Flag 1871–1918.png
Getting Started
Major Elsass-Lothringen Record Types
Reading the Records in German
Reading the Records in French
Additional Elsass-Lothringen
Record Types
Elsass-Lothringen Background
Local Research Resources

In 1920, Elsass-Lothringen became Alsace-Lorraine in France. See those articles for further information.


Civil registration records are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by the government. In Elsass-Lothringen, they were started in 1793. German terms for these records include Standesamtsregister, Zivilstandsregister, or Personenstandsregister. In French, they are état civil. They are an excellent source for information on names and dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths.


For a comprehensive understanding of civil registration, study the article Germany Civil Registration.


Finding Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

1. Online Records[edit | edit source]

Civil registration records are digitized and made available in the archive records of the Departments of France:

See Using France Online Department Archives for step by step written instructions on finding and reading these records. For a demonstration of navigating archives websites, watch the video, Using France Department Archives Online. Also, see:

  • Alsace-Lorraine - Activity, Answer Key
  • Alsace-Lorraine: Converting French Republican Calendar Dates - Instruction
  • Alsace-Lorraine: Department Archive Records Online - Instruction
  • Alsace-Lorraine: Translating German and French Names and Place Names - Instruction

Use this gazetteer to find the current French name of your ancestors' town:

German place names in Elsass-Lothringen and French equivalents

2. Digital Copies of Civil Registration From FamilySearch[edit | edit source]

Try to find records in the collection of the FamilySearch Library. Many microfilms have been digitized for online viewing. Gradually, everything will be digitized, so check back occasionally. Some have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at the Family History Centers near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on this link to records of Germany, Elsass-Lothringen.
b. Click on Places within Germany, Elsass-Lothringen and a list of towns will appear.
c. Click on your town. If the town or village is not listed, find the town in Meyer's Gazetteer. See where the Standesamt (StdA.) was. It may have been in different place, because of the size of the town.
d. Click on the "Civil registration" topic, if available. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
e. Choose the correct record type and time period for your ancestor. "Geburten" are births. Heiraten are marriages. "Verstorbene" are deaths.
f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm.

3. Writing for Civil Registration Certificates[edit | edit source]

France has no single, nationwide repository of civil registration records. Birth, marriage, divorce, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting local registrars' offices or departmental archives in France. To protect the privacy of living persons, records of the most recent 100 years are confidential and have restrictions on their use and access.

Local registrars' offices [bureau de l'état civil] will usually mail one or two birth, marriage, or death certificates at no charge. However, they are busy and they may not respond to requests for more than two certificates at a time. If the records are less than 100 years old, they are confidential and will be sent only to direct descendants. Records more than 100 years old are more accessible at the departmental archives.

French Search Strategies and French Letter-Writing Guide give details about how to write to town registrars and departmental archives in France for genealogical information.

If the reply does not have the information you request, try to get help from the local genealogical society.

Reading the Records[edit | edit source]

  • It's easier than you think! You do not have to be fluent in French and German to use these records, as there is only a limited vocabulary used in them. By learning a few key phrases, you will be able to read them adequately. Here are some resources for learning to read German records.
German Genealogical Word List
  • These video webinars will teach you to read German handwriting:

French Records[edit | edit source]

Search Strategy[edit | edit source]

  • Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find their birth record, search for the births of their brothers and sisters.
  • Next, search for the marriage of their parents. The marriage record will have information that will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
  • Search the death registers for all known family members.
  • The marriage certificate will show the birth date, birth place, and parents of the bride and the groom.
  • Repeat this process for both the father and the mother, starting with their birth records, then their siblings' births, then their parents' marriages, and so on.
  • If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.