Germany Civil Registration
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Overview[edit | edit source]
Civil registration records are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by the government. German terms for these records include Standesamtsregister, Zivilstandsregister, or Personenstandsregister. They are an excellent source for information on names and dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths. These records are kept by the civil registrar [German: Standesbeamte] at the civil registry office (Standesamt). Because they cover about 98% of the population and often provide more information than church records, civil registration records are important sources for German genealogical research, especially after 1876 when the entirety of Germany established civil registration.
Dates and Places[edit | edit source]
- Civil registration in Germany began between 1792 and 1876, depending on the locality:
- Alsace-Lorraine started in 1792, since it belonged to France at the time.
- Hamburg, Hannover, Hessen, Lübeck, Oldenburg, and Westfalen established civil registration between 1799 and 1811 due to French influence. However they did not necessarily retain it after regaining independence.
- Anhalt began keeping civil registration in 1850.
- Hamburg began keeping civil registration again in 1866.
- In Prussia, civil births, marriages, and deaths were kept again beginning in October 1874.
- Civil registration became mandatory in all German states on 1 January 1876.
- To learn more about when German Civil Registration began in individual provinces or states, click here.
Determining the Location of a Civil Registration Office[edit | edit source]
Research your town name in MeyersGaz.org to find the location of the registry office (Standesamt). It is indicated by the abbreviation "StdA". 'This is the Standesamt location you will use when searching for civil registration records anywhere in the FamilySearch catalog and collections. Ancestry.com collections will also use this location name. Records in archives will use this location prior to the consolidation of registration offices in the 1970's.
However, some of the offices were merged in 1970's, so the modern record location might be different than that listed in MeyersGaz. When writing for records, first find the modern registrar for your town.
- To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box. An article about the town will start with a first line such as: "Besse with about 3200 inhabitants is the largest district of the municipality Edermünde...." It is probable that the Standesamt is now located in the larger municipality (in this example, Edermünde).
- For larger towns which constitute a municipality:
- To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box.
- This type of article will not state that the town belongs to another municipality, because it is itself a municipality.
Information Recorded[edit | edit source]
The information recorded in civil registration records varies slightly over time. Each state used a different format for civil registration. Preprinted forms have often been used for civil registration. In these instances, the form determined what information the record contains. The early French records sometimes give slightly more complete information than the later records. The most important civil records are birth, marriage, and death registers.
Births (Geburtsregister)[edit | edit source]
Birth records usually give:
- the child's name;
- sex; and
- birth date, time, and place.
- father's name, age, occupation, and residence
- mother's maiden name, age, and marital status
- names, ages, and residences of witnesses
- parents' religion is also listed in some states.
Marriages (Heiraten, Ehen, or Trauungen)[edit | edit source]
Marriages were usually recorded where the bride lived. After 1792 a civil marriage ceremony was required in areas of Germany under French control. In 1876 this law was applied to all of Germany. Most couples also had a church wedding, so records may exist for both the civil and church ceremonies. The civil marriage records may include more information than the comparable church records. When possible search both the civil registration and church records.
Intention to Marry[edit | edit source]
If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a marriage record, search records that indicate the couple's “intent to marry.” Various records may have been created to show a couple's intent to marry:
- Proclamations [Aufgebote or Eheverkündigungen] were made a few weeks before a couple planned to marry. The couple may have been required to announce their intentions in order to give other community members the opportunity to object to the marriage.
- Marriage Supplements [Heiratsbeilagen] were often filed by the bride or groom to support their marriage application. Information included may document their births, their parents' deaths, and the groom's release from military service. Sometimes the records contain information about earlier generations.
- Contracts [Ehekontrakte] are documents created to protect legal rights and property of spouses. These may give the same information as the marriage supplements noted above. They also list property and are usually found in court records rather than in civil registration records.
- Marriage Permission Papers [Verehelichungsakten] are documents created in the process of obtaining permission to get married. Some states required prospective spouses to get permission from the local city council or mayor before they could be married. For Bavaria and Hessen-Nasssau many of these files have been microfilmed. They may be cataloged under "court records", "civil registration", or "public records."
Marriage Records[edit | edit source]
Marriage Registers (Heiratsregister). Civil officials recorded the marriages they performed, usually on preprinted forms bound in a book and kept in the civil registration office. Marriage registers give:
- the date and time of the marriage
- bride's and groom's names,
- bride's and groom's ages, birth dates, birthplaces,
- bride's and groom's residences, occupations, and
- whether they were single or widowed.
- the parents' names, residence, occupations, marital status, and whether they were living at the time of the marriage.
- witnesses' names, ages, and relationships to the bride or groom
- the couple's religion, especially after 1874.
Certificates (Heiratsscheine). Some couples were given a marriage certificate or a book [Stammbuch] with the marriage entry and space for entering children's births. The certificate or book may be in the possession of the family or the civil registrar.
Deaths (Sterberegister or Totenregister)[edit | edit source]
Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information on a person's birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there were no birth or marriage records.
Early death records usually give:
- the name of the deceased and
- the date, time, and place of death
- the age, birthplace, residence, occupation, and marital status of the deceased
- the name of the parents or spouse and their residences
- the informant's name, age, occupation, residence, and relationship
- the person's religion.
Information about parents, the birth date, the birthplace, and other information about the deceased may be inaccurate, depending on the informant's knowledge.
Locating Records[edit | edit source]
Civil registration records were kept at the local civil registration office (Standesamt). Most civil registers are still located at the local civil registration offices, but some are collected in city or state archives.
Since 2009 birth records have been public after 110 years, marriages after 80 years and deaths after 30 years. However in places where records are online, the records recently made public may have not yet been placed online.
A direct relationship to the subject of the record sought will only be required in cases where the required time period has not yet elapsed. Even then, the records may be accessible if it can be shown that all "participating parties" have died at least 30 years ago. Participating parties are both parents and the child in birth records, and both spouses in a marriage.
FamilySearch Catalog[edit | edit source]
FamilySearch has microfilmed many civil registration records. To find civil registration records in the FamilySearch Catalog, search the Place Search under:
- GERMANY, [STATE], [TOWN] - CIVIL REGISTRATION
The collections of FamilySearch continue to grow as new records are microfilmed or digitized. To view some digitized records you may need to be at a FHC or Affiliate Library, or be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hessen Civil Registration[edit | edit source]
All the civil registration records for the state of Hessen are online:
- Through LAGIS: LAGIS Hessian Vital Records.
- Through Ancestry.com:
Other Online Records[edit | edit source]
Additional online records for the individual provinces of the German Empire are listed on the Civil Registration page for each province:
Independent From Prussia
Writing for Records[edit | edit source]
Civil registration records from many towns and states are available on microfilm or online. However, many civil registration records, especially those created in 1876 or later, are still only available in the local civil registration office or archive in Germany that has the originals. Civil birth, marriage, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting the local civil registration office or archive.
- To e-mail the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there.
- Consult this address list for the exact contact information, which should include an e-mail address: Standesamt.com. In the horizontal menu bar, hover over "+registry office" or "+Standesämter", then the name of the modern state, for a drop-down list of links to modern cilvil registrars.
- Send a message asking whether you have the correct office for your ancestors' home town. You can also use e-mail to request records and arrange payment. Use the German Letter Writing Guide to write your questions in German.
Civil Registration Offices[edit | edit source]
Civil officials will usually answer correspondence that is written to them in German. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to an archive or central repository.
Write a brief request in German to the proper office using this address as guide, replacing the information in parentheses:
- An das Standesamt
- (Insert street address, if known.)
- (Postal Code) (Name of Locality)
- An das Standesamt
- Click here for postal code help for Germany.
How to write a letter: Detailed instruction for what to include in the letter, plus German translations of the questions and sentences most frequently used are in the German Letter Writing Guide.
City Archives[edit | edit source]
Large cities have many civil registration offices. Most civil registers are still located at the local offices, but some are collected in city archives. Many German cities have established archives to preserve their older records. Often they cannot handle genealogical requests, but they can determine whether specific records are available for you or your agent to search.
State Archives[edit | edit source]
Duplicate registers from some towns are kept in state archives. For more recent records and for those not yet microfilmed, you may write to the state archives of Germany and request searches of the records. See Germany Archives and Libraries. If the archivist cannot do the research your request, you can hire a professional genealogist to search the records for you. You may also find archive inventories that describe the record-keeping systems and available civil registration records in Germany (see Germany Archives and Libraries). These and other guides are found in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:
GERMANY - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
GERMANY, [STATE] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
After determining who has jurisdiction over the records for the time period you need, write a short request to the proper office. Be careful not to ask for too much when writing to German archives. They can briefly answer questions about the records in their collection, but are often reluctant to do research in these records. You may have more success if you ask for a referral or a list of local researchers you could hire to search the archive's records. See German Letter Writing Guide for more information about writing letters to Germany.
Deaths of German Citizens Abroad[edit | edit source]
- 1939-1955 Germany, Deaths of German Citizens Abroad, Registers from Berlin Standesamt 1, 1939-1955 at Ancestry - Index and images; ($)
- 1939-1945 Deaths, German Occupied Territories, 1939-1945 at Ancestry - index and images; ($); countries covered in the collection include Netherlands, Norway, Poland, and areas of Ukraine, Russia, and the Baltics designated 'Eastern Territories' in the records.
Records from Towns Now in Poland[edit | edit source]
Extracts of German records requested from towns now in Poland will be written in Polish. Addresses of civil registration offices in formerly German areas of Poland, along with an inventory of available German civil registration records, are found in:
Brόzka, Tomascz. Deutsche Personenstandsbücher und Personenstandseinträge von Deutschen in Polen 1898 bis 1945. Frankfurt a/Main und Berlin: Verlag für Standesamtswesen, 2000. ISBN 3-8019-5674-1. (Int’l Ref area 943.8 V23b copy 3).