Westphalia (Westfalen), German Empire Civil Registration

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Westphalia (Westfalen), German Empire Civil Registration

Civil registration records are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by the government. In Westphalia (Westfalen), they were started in October 1874. Civil registration records were also kept between 1808 and 1815 due to being occupied by Napoleonic France. If your family had a birth, marriage or death recorded during that brief time period, it will contain great information, due to the high level of detail in French records.

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.

Determining the Location of a Civil Registration Office

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.
  • To e-mail the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Privacy Laws

Since 2009, birth records have been public after 110 years, marriages after 80 years and deaths after 30 years. A direct relationship (direct descendants and direct ancestors) to the subject of the record sought will 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.

Finding Civil Registration Records

1. Online Records

Ancestry.com can be searched free of charge at your local Family History Center.

  • These records from Minden cover: Barkhausen, Dankersen, Dützen, Haddenhausen, Häverstädt, Kutenhausen, Leteln, Meissen, Minden, Todtenhausen, and Unterlübbe.
Minden Births, 1874-1905---Marriages, 1874-1935 Marriages, 1874-1935---Deaths, 1874-1966, index and images.

Nordrhein-Westfalen (North Rhine-Westphalia) State Archives

  • Death records (unindexed), 1874-1938, organized by civil registration district (in the navy blue box, click on "Mehr anzeigen", then click on the alphabetical section for the civil registration office)

2. Digital Copies of Civil Registration From FamilySearch

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 the Family History Centers near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations. To find records:

a. Click on this link to the Records of Germany, Preussen, Westfalen. Open the link Places within Germany, Preussen, Westfalen.
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. Writing for Civil Registration Certificates

Civil registration records for Germany can be obtained by writing to the local civil registry (Standesamt) or the district archives. Records may have been lost at one location of the other, so you might end up checking both. The first office you contact might choose to forward your request to the other location if necessary.

Local Standesamt Addresses


Bethelplatz 2
33617 Bielefeld

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

This archive has the civil registers for these towns: Alswede, Aplerbeck, Blasheim, Bockhorst, Börninghausen, Borgholzhausen, Brockhagen, Bruchhausen, Bünde, Burgsteinfurt, Dielingen, Dornberg, Enger, Exter, Fröndenberg, Gemen, Gohfeld, Gütersloh, Halle, Hamm, Haßlinghausen, Hausberge, Heepen, Herne, Hiddenhausen, Hille, Hörde, Hörste, Höxter, Holtrup, Holzhausen (Vlotho), Hüllhorst, Jöllenbeck, Klosterbauerschaft, Ladbergen, Lahde, Lerbeck, Levern, Lienen, Löhne, Lohne, Lotte, Lübbecke, Lütgendortmund, Mennighüffen, Paderborn, Petershagen, Preußisch Oldendorf, Stift Quernheim, Rehme, Rheda, Rödinghausen, Schildesche, Schnathorst, Schwelm, Spenge, Sprockhövel, Unna, Valdorf, Veltheim, Versmold, Vlotho, Volmerdingsen, Wallenbrück, Wehdem, Wengern, Werther, Westerkappeln, Witten.

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

Stadtarchiv Bielefeld took over 1,590 volumes of civil registration at the end of January / beginning of February 2009. These are the birth books 1874 to 1898, the books of marriage 1874 to 1928 and the death books 1874 to 1978. These are now available for evaluation according to archival legislation. They can be viewed free of charge, requested searches, copies or certified copies are calculated according to time and number.

How to Write the 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.


Since 1874, there is an official registration of residential addresses in Germany. These data were collected by the police stations. They are kept in the civil registration office. Some offices keep them historically from their start. Other offices destroyed records for people once they died.

These registration cards were available for each respective householder. Noted on the card were his wife and any children, dates of marriage or death, and a history of resident addresses. The value of these cards is their use to determine which civil registration office might hold birth, marriage, and death certificates for the family members.

Follow the German Letter Writing Guide, and use questions 16 and 17 to request these records.

4. Compiled and Published Secondary Sources

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)

See the class Online Ortsfamilienbücher at Genealogy.net and the 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

Reading the Records

German Records

  • 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
  • These video webinars will teach you to read German handwriting:

Search Strategy

  • 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.
  • The marriage certificate will show the birth date, birth place, and parents of the bride and the groom.
  • 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.