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West Prussia (Westpreussen), German Empire Civil Registration

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Civil Registration

Civil registration records are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by the government. In West Prussia (Westpreussen), they were started in October 1874.

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 (Standesbeamte) at the civil registry office (Standesamt). Study these links to learn what information can be found in them:


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


In this region, part of Germany which was lost to other countries after World War II, many records, both church/parish registers and civil registration records, were damaged, destroyed, or misplaced.

Finding Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]

Use Westpreussen.de for detailed information.[edit | edit source]

This important online gazetteer gives detailed information on church records, where they can be found, and in some cases, links to online records.

  1. Enter the town name in the search field.
  2. A list of towns by that name, with basic info will come up. For your town, click on "Details" in the far right column.

Westpreussen.de gazetteers.png

Example entry: This information will be on the details page. Notice that the listed names of the registry office, Protestant church, and Catholic church are links. Clicking on those links will give even further details. Some links lead to online records. Screen Shot 2019-09-16 at 3.41.48 PM.png

1. Online Records[edit | edit source]

2. Digital Copies of Church Records in the FamilySearch Catalog[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 a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on the Places within Germany, Preussen, Westpreussen drop-down menu and select your town.
b. Click on the "Civil registration" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
c. Choose the correct record type and time period for your ancestor. "Geburten" are births. Heiraten are marriages. "Verstorbene" are deaths.
d. 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. Archives[edit | edit source]

Several different archives have civil registration records. In fact they are "all over the place", literally. There are several "finding aids" that help with locating them.

1. Online Finding Aids and Databases[edit | edit source]

2. Civil Registration information in Berlin For Poland[edit | edit source]

Standesamt I Berlin officially holds the civil registration information for the former areas of Germany.

Standesamt I Berlin
Rückerstrasse 9
10119 Berlin
Germany


3. Holding Lists Provided by Archives[edit | edit source]

You can also consult holding lists and use search engines to search which records might be held at each archive. Brief inquiries by email about whether a record group for your locality and time period is available at that archive are generally honored..

DZfG Leipzig[edit | edit source]

German Central Office for Genealogy
State Archives Leipzig
Schongauerstraße 1
04328 Leipzig
Germany

Email: poststelle-l@sta.smi.sachsen.de
Telephone: 0341 / 255-5500

GStA Berlin[edit | edit source]

Secret State Archives Prussian
Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Cultural Heritage Archivstraße 12-14
14195 Berlin
Germany

Email: gsta.pk@gsta.spk-berlin.de
Phone: 030/266 44 75 00
Fax. 030/266 44 31 26

Poland[edit | edit source]

Writing a Letter to Archives[edit | edit source]

How to write a letter: Detailed instruction for what to include in the letter, plus Polish translations of the questions and sentences most frequently used are in the Poland Letter Writing Guide.
In some cases, the records are held in archives in Germany. For letters in German, including addressing the letter, plus German translations of the questions and sentences most frequently needed, use the the German Letter Writing Guide.

4. Societies[edit | edit source]

Societies are also active in collecting, transcribing, and indexing records.

Association for Family Research in East and West Prussia e. V. (VFFOW)[edit | edit source]

"VFFOW is an independent, non-partisan and independent association. The intention and the goal of the association and in its interest is, in a trusting and friendly relationship with institutions and persons who today have their homeland in the research area of ​​the association, to jointly pursue family research and regional historical research."


Ahnenforschung im Kreis Sensburg und Masuren[edit | edit source]

"The research group Sensburg, within the AGoFF eV - Research Center East and West Prussia , is dedicated to genealogical research and the demographic history in the former city and district of Sensburg in the borders of 1945."

5. Compiled and Published Secondary Sources[edit | edit source]

Caution sign.png

Compiled genealogies and published genealogies are secondary sources, not original or primary sources.

As such, they are subject to human error through translation or transcription errors, mistaken interpretations, and opinion decisions of another researcher.

You should make every effort to base your research on the actual, original records or their digitized images.

Town Genealogies (Ortssippenbuch or Ortsfamilienbuch)[edit | edit source]

See the class, Online Ortsfamilienbücher at Genealogy.net, and Wiki article, Germany Town Genealogies and Parish Register Inventories on the Internet. Published town genealogies, Ortssippenbuch (town lineage book) or Ortsfamilienbuch (town family book), generally include birth, marriage, and death data for all persons found in the local records during a specified time period, compiled into families based on the opinion of the author. If one is available, it should only be used as an index or guide to finding the original records. They usually contain errors. Always verify their information in original records.

Finding an OFB[edit | edit source]

  • Click here to see OFBs at GenWiki. These are indexed and searchable. OFB Instructions.
  • A bibliography of OFBs held by the Central Office for Person and Family History, and available in their archive in Frankfurt am Main-Höchst, is listed here. You can arrange for copied pages to be sent to you for a fee or donation. Use the "Find" function on your keyboard to search the bibliographies, as they are not alphabetical.

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
French Genealogical Word List
Latin Genealogical Word List
  • These video webinars will teach you to read German handwriting:

Downloadable Handouts[edit | edit source]

Latin Records[edit | edit source]

Records of the Catholic church will usually be written in Latin:

Polish[edit | edit source]

Because West Prussia is now in Poland, these articles will help:

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.
  • Calculate the birth date of the parents, using age at death and/or marriage to search for their birth records.
  • 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.