Hesse (Hessen), German Empire Genealogy
Guide to Hesse (Hessen), German Empire ancestry, family history, and genealogy before 1945: birth records, marriage records, death records, both church and civil registration, compiled family history, and finding aids.
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- The "Grand Duchy of Hesse" was originally formed on the basis of the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1806.
*After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, it changed its name in 1816 to distinguish itself from the Electorate of Hesse, which had formed from neighboring Hesse-Kassel. Colloquially, the grand duchy continued to be known by its former name of Hesse-Darmstadt.
- In 1867, the northern half of the Grand Duchy (Upper Hesse) became a part of the North German Confederation, while the half of the Grand Duchy south of the Main (Starkenburg and Rhenish Hesse) remained Independent.
- It joined the German Empire in 1871.
- It became a republic after German defeat in World War I in 1918.
- After World War II, the majority of the state combined to form the new state of Hessen , composed of:
- most of Hessen-Darmstadt;
- Frankfurt am Main,
- the Waldeck area (from Rheinland),
- and the former Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau.
- Excluded were:
- the Montabaur district from Hessen-Nassau, and
- that part of Hessen-Darmstadt on the left bank of the Rhine (Rheinhessen), which became part of the Rhineland-Palatinate state, and
- (Bad) Wimpfen, an exclave of Hessen-Darmstadt, became part of Baden-Württemberg.
- The term "Rhenish Hesse" (German: Rheinhessen) refers to the part of the former Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt located west of the Rhine. It has not been part of the State of Hesse (Hessen) since 1946. This province is now part of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Getting Started with Germany Research
Links to articles on getting started with German research:
Germany Research Tools
Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:
Understanding the Different Meanings
This map shows the area included in the modern state of Hesse (Hessen), as it was in 1900. The Duchy of Hesse (Hessen) included the areas of Oberhessen, Rheinhessen, and Starkenburg. The rest of the areas belonged to Hessen-Nassau.
1945: Merged with Hessen-Nassau, Frankfurt am Main,and the Waldeck area (from Rheinland), to become current state of Hessen
Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for Hesse (Hessen)
Most of the information you need to identify you ancestors and their families will be found in two major record groups: civil registration and church records. To locate these records, follow the instructions in these Wiki articles.
1. Find the name of your ancestor's town in family history records.
Records were kept on the local level. You must know the town where your ancestor lived. If your ancestor was a United States Immigrant, use the information in the Wiki article Germany Finding Town of Origin to find evidence of the name of the town where your ancestors lived in Germany.
- Auswanderer-Nachweise Hessen State Archives
- Auswandererkartei 1800-1900. Emigration card indexes for the Grandduchy of Hessen, Germany. Includes general indexes of Hessen and specific indexes which cover emigration from the modern districts of Dieburg, Bergstrasse and Erbach.
- Auswanderungsakten, 1819-1880. Emigration records from Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany.
2. Use gazetteers and/or parish register inventories to learn more important details.
Your ancestor's town might have been too small to have its own parish church or civil registration office. Find the location of the Catholic or Lutheran (Evangelical) parish that served your ancestor's locality. Find the name of the civil registration office (Standesamt) that serves your ancestor's locality. Use the Wiki article Finding Aids For German Records for step-by-step instructions.
Germany was first unified as a nation in 1871. An important gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, "Meyer's Gazetter" for short, details the place names of villages, towns, counties (kreise), and higher jurisdictions used at that time. In the Research Wiki, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Historical Records, the records of Germany are organized using those place names.
You can also consult Hesse (Hessen) Parish Register Inventories to learn the Lutheran or Catholic parish that would have kept records for your town.
At the end of both World Wars, the boundaries of the states were changed dramatically, as areas of Germany were distributed among the Allied nations. Eventually, after re-unification in 1990, the states of Germany settled into what they are today. It is also necessary to understand Germany by this system, as it affects the locations of civil registration offices, archives, and mailing addresses used in correspondence searches.
3. For birth, marriage, and death records 1803-1814, and after 1 January 1876, use civil registration.
Follow the instructions in Hesse (Hessen), German Empire Civil Registration.
4. For baptism, marriage, and death records, use church records or parish registers.
Follow the instructions in Hesse (Hessen), German Empire Church Records.
More Research Strategies and Tools
- Germany Online Classes and Tutorials
- German Paleography Seminar - Lessons on German Handwriting
- Old German Script Transcriber (alte deutsche Handschriften): See your family names in the script of the era. Type your name or other word into the font generator tool. Click on the 8 different fonts. Save the image to your computer and use it as you work with old Germanic records.
- Finding Aids for German Records
- Research Tips and Strategies
- German Research, BYU Independent Study, no cost.
- These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
- Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
- Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
- Miscellaneous Vocabulary:
- Fraktur Font -- Many forms and books are printed in this font.
- German Given Names:
- List of Names in Old German Script -- A comprehensive list of German given names, written in old script, with possible variations.