Germany Nobility

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The nobility is a class of people who had special political and social status. Members of this class had titles such as Baron [Freiherr], Duke [Herzog], Count [Graf], Margrave [Markgraf], and Knight (Sir) [Ritter]. The nobility is divided into two sections: Hochadel and Niederadel (high and low nobility). Noble status was usually inherited. It originated with people who had power, influence, and land in ancient times or who received a grant of nobility from a king.

Most family traditions about a noble ancestor prove to be untrue. Members of the noble class seldom left their country or disowned their children. Illegitimate children of nobility, though not entitled to noble status, were often recorded (although the father may not have been named) and can be found in the records.

The noble class formed only a small percentage of Germany's population, and Germany limited the growth of the noble class. Laws specified which children of the nobility inherited their parents' status.

Although some original records such as grants of nobility still exist, you can often research your noble ancestors by using compiled sources. German nobility was frequently associated with the military (officers) and a mobile lifestyle. When the family moved frequently, compiled sources become especially helpful. The compiled sources for German nobility include both published and manuscript genealogies. If your ancestor was of the noble class, the following books may help you in your research:

Hefner, Otto Titian von. Stammbuch des blühenden und abgestorbenen Adels in Deutschland (Lineages of flourishing and extinct nobles in Germany). Four Volumes in Two. Regensburg, Germany: Georg Joseph Mainz, 1860-1866. (FHL book 943D22h; film 491,136 online. This is a quick reference list of German noble families.

Fritsch, Thomas, Freiherr von. Die Gothaischen Taschenbücher, Hofkalender, und Almanach (The Gotha pocketbooks, calendar and almanac). Limburg/Lahn, Germany: C. A. Starke, 1968. FHL International 943 B4da v. 2. A comprehensive index of four published serials on German nobility is found on pages 187 to 349. Pages 350 to 415 index six other published serials on German nobility.

A collection of articles, manuscripts, pamphlets, pedigrees and notes about individuals sorted alphabetically by surname can be found in Führende Persönlichkeiten (Leading personalities). FHL Collection. See the “Genealogy” section. 

A periodical regarding German Nobility which is available at the Family History Library is Deutsches Adelsblatt. Subject class number 943 D65da.

For additional resources, do a Place Search for Germany and view the selections under Germany - Nobility, as well as Germany - Genealogy, Germany - Biography, and Germany - Heraldry. Conducting a Surname Search can also be helpful.

GERMANY - NOBLE FAMILIES[edit | edit source]

Following are some of the noble families in Germany:

Hanau-Lichtenberg (Grafschaft)

Hesse-Darmstadt (Landgrafschaft)

Leiningen-Westerburg (Grafschaft)

Palatinate-Zweibrücken (Pfalz-Zweibrücken) (Herzogtum)

Westerburg (Herrschaft)

Zweibrücken-Bitsch (Grafschaft)


Related Websites[edit | edit source]

Heraldry[edit | edit source]

Heraldry is the design, use, regulation, and recording of coats-of-arms. Originally, coats-of-arms were granted to individuals, not families. However, sometimes the right to bear a coat-of-arms was inherited by the descendants of the person to whom it was granted.

In Germany mainly the noble class, gentry, and some burghers (city residents with citizenship rights) were entitled to bear coats-of-arms. The ruling monarch granted a noble title and the right to use a coat-of-arms as a reward for persons who performed a heroic deed, achieved a notable accomplishment, or held a prominent government position. These grants were documented.

The laws and practices of heraldry have changed over the years. In the eighteenth century, many burgher families had coats-of-arms that they recorded with the appropriate government agencies.

Neues allgemeines Deutsches Adels-Lexicon[edit | edit source]

Neues allgemeines Deutsches Adels-Lexicon or New General German Aristocracy Lexicon is the title of a series of historical reference books written by Professor Dr. Ernst Heinrich Kneschke about the German aristocracy, including royalty and nobility. This series is one of the most inclusive source of the German Aristocracy.

The families are listed alphabetically by surname. Each listing includes the origin of the family, the master seat, sometimes family coats of arms, fundamentals of family history and prominent members.

Wikisource: Neues allgemeines Deutsches Adels-Lexicon: Volumes I - IX

Google Books: Deutsches Adels-Lexicon German Nobility Lexicon

Verlag Friedrich Voigt, Leipzig 1859 - 1870

Resources[edit | edit source]

  • Click here for an annotated bibliography of heraldry books.

Armorials[edit | edit source]

Various authors have prepared armorial, or heraldry, books. An armorial is a collection of descriptions of coats-of-arms and the families that bear them. It also briefly describes the family's entitlement to that coat-of-arms. It may note early bearers of the coat-of-arms and sometimes notes their relationships, birth dates, and other genealogical information. Each armorial differs from the others and includes different names.

Some minor noble families are not included in any books. The following sources are of particular interest in Germany:

  • Rietstap, Johannes Baptist. Armorial Géneral. Two Volumes. Gouda, Germany: G.B. van Goor Zonen, 1887. Reprint. Berlin, Germany: J.S. Stargardt, 1934. Reprint. New York, NY, USA: Barnes and Noble, 1965. (FHL book940 D6r; films 1,045,393 items 2-4 and 1,045,394.)
  • Siebmacher, Johann J. Siebmacher's grosses undallgemeines Wappenbuch (Siebmacher's great book of general heraldic arms). Six Volumes. Nürnberg, Germany: Bauer und Raspe, 1857-1920. (FHLbook 943 D6j old ser.)

The books below index Siebmacher's work:

  • Jäger-Sunstenau, Hanns. General-index zu den Siebmacher'schen Wappenbüchern (Generalindex to Siebmacher's heraldry books). Graz, Germany: Akademische Druck und Verlagsanstalt, 1964. (FHL book 943 D6j index 1964; film 1,181,781 item 4.)
  • Index to v. 1-3 of Siebmacher's Wappenbuch. Chicago, Illinois, USA: Newberry Library, 1971. (FHL book 943 D6j index 1971; film 1,181,790 item 9.)

The Family History Library has collected many armorial and heraldry books. These are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:



Sources with information about noble ancestors may also be listed under:



Such families are often subjects of published genealogical books or articles. See the “Genealogy” and “Nobility” sections.