Westphalia (Westfalen), German Empire Church Records

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Church records (parish registers, church books) are an important source for genealogical research in Germany before civil registration began. They recorded details of baptisms, marriages, deaths and burials. The vast majority of the population was mentioned. To learn more about the types of information you will find in church records, click on these links:

For a comprehensive understanding of church records, study the article Germany Church Records.

Finding Church Records[edit | edit source]

Parish Register Inventories[edit | edit source]

Church record inventories are essential tools for finding German records. They identify what records should be available for a specified parish and where to write for information on these records. They list the church records, their location, and the years they cover. Sometimes inventories explain which parishes served which towns at different periods of time.

Online[edit | edit source]

  • Die katholischen Kirchenbücher des Bistums Paderborn, e-book. Description of the parish registers in the Catholic diocese of Paderborn, Germany. Includes Westfalen, Anhalt, Sachsen-Gotha, Lippe-Detmold, Waldeck, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, and Prussian Saxony. Digital Book

Books[edit | edit source]

  • Manfred Kannen, "Familienforschung in Westfalen und Lippe" (Essen: Kannen, 2003) Inventory of the records for the district of Arnsberg, Westfalen, Germany. WorldCat

  • Detmold (Lippe). "Personenstandsarchiv, Zivilstandsregister und Kirchenbuchduplikate des Regierungsbezirks Arnsberg"; P 4 (Salt Lake City, Utah : Gefilmt durch The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976); from typescript (Detmold : [s.n.], 1973. 138 S.) Inventory of the records for the district of Arnsberg, Westfalen, Germany. (FHL Location: FHL INTL film 1340520, it. 1) WorldCat

  • Detmold (Lippe). "Personenstandsarchiv, Zivilstandsregister und Kirchenbuchduplikate des Regierungsbezirks Münster"; P 7 (Salt Lake City, Utah : Gefilmt durch The Genealogical Society of Utah, 1976); from typescript (Detmold : [s.n.], 1973. 66 S.) Inventory of the civil registration and parish register transcripts in the district of Münster, Westfalen, Germany. (FHL Location: FHL INTL film 1340520, it. 2)

  • Ludwig Koechling, “Die Kirchenbücher und kirchenbuchähnlichen Aufzeichnungen des ehemaligen Fürstentums Minden : sowie der übrigen Kirchspiele der heutigen Kreise Minden und Lübbecke” (Minden : Verlag J. C. C. Bruns, c1970); Mindener Beiträge; 13. Parish register inventory of the former principality of Minden, Westfalen, Germany. (FHL Location 1: FHL INTL book 943.56/M4 K23k) (FHL Location 2: FHL HD book 0265605) WorldCat

  • A. Clarenbach “Die Kirchenbücher des Kreises Soest (mit einer Untersuchung über das Alter der Kirchenbücher in Westfalen als Einleitung)” (Münster : Franz Coppenrath, 1936); included in Westfalen 21. Jahrgang 1936, Heft 6. Inventory of protestant and catholic church records of Soest district, with notes on Westphalian church records. (FHL Location: FHL INTL book “Missing”943.55 A4c) WorldCat

  • Franz Xaver Flaskamp “Die Kirchenbücher des Kreises Wiedenbrück : eine Quellenkunde der westfälischen Familiengeschichte. Übersichten und Erläuterungen” (Rietberg i. Westf. : Druck und Verlag von W. Vahle, 1937); included in Quellen und Forschungen zur Natur und Geschichte des Kreises Wiedenbrück; 28. Heft. Parish register inventory of the Kreis of Wiedenbrück, Westfalen, Germany. (FHL Location: FHL INTL book 943.56/W3 H2q no. 28) WorldCat

  • J. H. M. Putman, "Die Kirchenbücher des Bistums Münster (Bussum (Niederlande)" : J.H.M. Putman, 1974). The parish registers of the diocese of Münster, Westfalen, Germany. Includes some towns in the Netherlands. (FHL Location 1: FHL INTL Ref 943.56/M1 K23p) (FHL Location 2: FHL HD book 0000624) (FHL Location 3: FHL HD film 1045373, it. 7 and it. 9) WorldCat

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 link to records for Germany, Preussen, Westfalen . Open the link Places within Germany, Preussen, Westfalen.
b. Click on your town or parish.
c. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
d. Choose the correct record type and time period for your ancestor. "Geburten" are births. "Taufen" are baptisms/christenings. "Heiraten" are marriages. "Tote" are deaths. Familienregister" is the family register.
e. 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. Research in Church and State Archives[edit | edit source]

Church records or duplicates may have been gathered from the local parishes into central archives, either by the churches or the state. Older records are frequently given to these archives for safekeeping. Some gaps in the church records of local parishes could be filled using these records.

  • Pdf Archive Inventory: "Part 1 of 2: Church records in Archives" - is an inventory of localities and the location or archive where their records should be found. The sixth column, "Archives", gives a number. To find the name and contact information, look up that number in the second column of this .pdf: Part 2: Archive Addresses.  It is not clear how up-to-date this inventory is.

Some archives offer searches for a fee. Archives might be unable to handle genealogical requests, but they can determine whether they have specific records you need, sometimes perform very brief research, such as just one record, or they may recommend a researcher who can search the records for you. Archivists are required to speak English.

E-mail[edit | edit source]

  • You can e-mail archives and ask whether they have records for a parish. Also, you should inquire whether they provide research services and what their fees are. You can communicate with the archives in English.

Catholic (Katholische) Archives[edit | edit source]

To find the correct diocese archives, look up your parish in The Catholic Directory for Germany. Click on "View Full Listing" to find the diocese for that parish.

The Diocese of Münster Archives
Georgskommende 19
D 48143 Münster, Germany
Phone:0251 / 495-518
Fax: 0251 / 495-491
E-mail: Bistumsarchiv@bistum-muenster.de

Archbishopric Archives Paderborn
Postal Address: Domplatz 3
33098 Paderborn, Germany

Visitor's address :
Archbishopric Archives Paderborn
Domplatz 15
33098 Paderborn, Germany

Phone: 05251-125 1252
Fax: 05251-125 1470
E-mail: Archiv@erzbistum-paderborn.de

Lutheran Archives[edit | edit source]

Archives of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia (Bielefeld)
Bethelplatz 2
33617 Bielefeld

Tel .: 0521-594-164
Fax: 0521-594-267
E-Mail: archiv@lka.ekvw.de

Government Archives[edit | edit source]

Stadtarchiv and the Landesgeschichteliche Bibliothek
Postal address: 33597 Bielefeld
Delivery address: Kavalleriestr. 17
33602 Bielefeld, Germany

Visiting entrance: Neumarkt 1
Tel. 0521 51-2471
Fax 0521 51-6844
E-Mail: stadtarchiv@bielefeld.de

4. Writing to a Local Priest for Church Records[edit | edit source]

Most church registers are still maintained by the parish. You might obtain information by writing to the parish. Parish employees will usually answer correspondence written in German. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to a central repository.

Evangelical Lutheran (Protestant)[edit | edit source]

Catholic Addresses[edit | edit source]

E-mail[edit | edit source]

  • Because many churches now have known e-mail addresses, you can quickly check whether the parish records are stored at the parish church or have been moved to archives. If possible, do this before sending a more detailed inquiry or any money. Links for church addresses are found on the wiki pages for the individual states and counties of Germany.

I. Are the parish records for _________to ___________ (time period range) at your church still?  

1. Sind die Kirchenbücher für den Zeitraum von _____ bis _____ noch in Ihrer Kirchengemeinde?

2. If they have been moved to an archive, can you tell me where they are now?

2. Falls sie nun in einem Archiv sind, können Sie mir bitte sagen, wo sie sich jetzt befinden?

Writing to a Local Parish[edit | edit source]

Write a brief request in German to the proper church using this address as a guide, replacing the information in parentheses:

For a Protestant Parish:

An das evangelische Pfarramt
(Insert street address, if known.)
(Postal Code) (Name of Locality)

For a Catholic Parish:

An das katholische Pfarramt
(Insert street address, if known.)
(Postal Code) (Name of Locality)

How to Write a Letter[edit | edit source]

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.

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]

Other Religious Groups[edit | edit source]

To learn how to determine the location of other religious records, namely Jewish, French Reformed, German Reformed, etc., watch Hansen’s Map Guides: Finding Records with Parish Maps beginning at 48:00 minutes, to learn how to locate these congregations. Then go back and watch from the beginning to understand how to use the reference book. Also, you can read Map Guide to German Parish Registers. This video and handout teach you how to use a set of reference books found at the FamilySearch Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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]

These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.

Vocabulary found on Specific Records:

Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:

Miscellaneous Vocabulary:


Latin Records[edit | edit source]

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

Feast Dates[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.
  • 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.