German1875 law regarding civil registration

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1875 German law regarding civil registration of births, marriages, and deaths and contracting marriage

This is a summary of the law found in German on Wikisource. The law was enacted in Berlin, Germany on 6 Feb 1875 and published in the Deutsches Reichsgesetzblatt Band 1875, Nr. 4, pages 23-40. It consists of 85 paragraphs in eight sections.

Section 1: General information[edit | edit source]

This section lists general requirements and specifies that only civil registrars can create legal birth-, marriage-, and death records. Paragraph 3 specifies that ministers and other religious leaders can’t be appointed as civil registrars. On the same day an original entry is made in the main register, the Hauptregister, the registrar is required to create a copy of that record in a duplicate book, the Nebenregister. Both books are closed at the end of each year with a note stating the number of entries they contain. The Nebenregister must be turned in to the administration who passes it on to the local court for safe-keeping. Any entries made in the main register after the duplicate book has been turned in must be submitted to the administration. The latter will see to it that the changes are also made in the duplicate record.

Section 2: Documenting births[edit | edit source]

Every birth must be reported orally to the civil registrar within one week by one of the following (in order of priority):  

  1. The legitimate father
  2. The midwife who was present at the birth
  3. The attending physician
  4. Any other person who was present at the birth
  5. The mother as soon as she is able

Entries for multiple births should include the order in which they took place. If yet undetermined, the child’s given names must be added in the margin within two months after birth. Stillbirths must be reported to the civil registrar within one day.

Birth records should include:

  • First and last name, occupation, and residence of the informant•
  • Place, date, and hour of birth
  • Child’s gender
  • Child’s given name(s)
  • First and last names, religion, occupation, and residence of the parents.

The declaration of paternity of an illegitimate child may only be entered in the birth register if it was made in front of the civil registrar or is documented in a statement recorded by a court or notary. Any changes and corrections will be added in the margin.

Section 3: Marriage requirements Both parties need to be of[edit | edit source]

Both parties must be of proper age and willing to contract the marriage. Men must be at least 21 and women at least 17 years old. Dispensations from this rule can be given. Legitimate children require the father’s permission if the male is under 26 and the female is under 25 years old. After the father’s death, the mother’s permission is required, and if the couple is underage, the guardian must also give his consent. Guardianship rules are determined by the respective state law. Illegitimate children need the mother’s and/or guardian’s permission as stated for fatherless children above. Of-age children can apply to the court for permission if the parents refuse the allow them to marry.

Marriage is forbidden between

  • Persons related in ascending or descending line [parents-children, grandparents-grandchildren etc.]
  • Full- and half-siblings
  • Step-parents and stepchildren, parents-in-law and children-in-law of all degrees, disregarding whether the relationship is based on a legitimate or illegitimate birth, and whether the marriage on which the step- or in-law relationship is based, is still in force.
  • Persons, where one has legally adopted the other as a child, as long as this legal situation is in force
  • Someone who was divorced due to adultery and his/her illicit partner
  • A legal guardian and his charge, during the term of guardianship. However, if a marriage was contracted during that time it cannot be declared invalid.

Women cannot marry again for ten months after a previous marriage has ended. Dispensations from this rule are permitted. The laws that require permissions for marriages of military personnel or foreigners, or require affidavits of property, are not affected. A lack of such permission does not affect the legality of the marriage. All regulations that further limit the right to marry are hereby rescinded. Only the government can issue dispensations in regard to marriage obstacles, as enforced by the separate state laws.

Section 4: Format and documentation of marriage[edit | edit source]

Legal marriages can only be contracted in front of a civil registrar. The jurisdiction belongs to a district where one of the future spouses resides or generally stays. With written permission, the marriage can also be contracted in front of another civil registrar. Proclamations are required before the marriage is contracted. The couple must bring birth records and necessary permission papers to the civil registrar unless the registrar is confident that he knows all pertinent facts.

Proclamations must take place in the communities where both future spouses currently live, also in their hometowns, if they have moved within the last six months. The proclamation must include the first- and last names, occupation, and residence of both the couple and their parents. It has to be displayed in a public place for two weeks. If the marriage does not take place within six months after the proclamation, the latter becomes void.

The entry in the marriage register shall include:

  • First and last names, religion, age, occupation, birthplace-, and residence of each spouse
  • First and last names, occupation, and residence of the parents
  • First and last names, age, occupation, and residence of the witnesses
  • The declaration of the future spouses
  • The declaration by the civil registrar

The couple should be issued a marriage document immediately If a marriage is declared void, this is to be noted in the margin of the marriage entry.

Section 5: Documenting deaths[edit | edit source]

A death must be reported to the civil registrar in the district, where the death occurred, no later than the following business day. The head of the family is required to make the report, or, in his stead, the person in whose home the death had occurred.

The death entry shall include:

  • First and last name, occupation, and residence of the informant
  • Date and place of death
  • First and last name, religion, age, occupation, residence, and birthplace of the deceased
  • First and last name of the deceased person’s spouse, or a statement that he/she was unmarried
  • First and last names, occupation, and residence of the parents of the deceased
  • If any of this information is not known, that should be stated in the record.
Section 6: Documenting life events of persons who are at sea[edit | edit source]

Births and deaths that happen on ships during a sea voyage must be documented in the ship’s log no later than the following day, in the presence of two believable witnesses, such as ship’s officers. The cause of death must also be noted. The ship’s captain must turn in two certified copies of the record to the first sailors’ office (Seemannsamt) encountered. One copy is to be kept by that office; the other should be sent to the civil registration office where the child’s parents or the deceased had their regular or last residence, for purposes of being entered in the local register. If the captain is deceased or unavailable, this obligation falls to the next person in command. The law mentions fines for non-compliance with these rules.

Section 7: Corrections in the registers[edit | edit source]

Corrections in a civil registry book can only be made by order of a court. They are made by adding a comment in the margin of the respective entry.

Section 8: Other rules[edit | edit source]
  • If a religious leader performs a marriage ceremony before ensuring that the marriage has been legally contracted in front of a civil registrar, will be punished with up to a 300 Mark fine or up to three months in jail.
  • A civil registrar who performs a marriage without adhering to the rules set forth in this decree will be punished with a fine up to 600 Marks.
  • Should those required to inform the civil registrar of an event fail to do so, they can be punished with various fines.

This section also touches on special situations in border areas and regional laws, especially in Bavaria, and clarifies some jurisdictions. This law is effective beginning 1 January 1876.