Hesse (Hessen), 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:
- Baptisms (Taufen)
- Marriages (Heiraten)
- Burials (Begräbnisse)
- Confirmations (Konfirmationen)
- Family Registers (Familienbücher)
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]
The town name you found, might be a small village that had no church of its own. You might have to figure out where the people in that village went to a nearby larger town to attend a Catholic church, and yet a different town if they were Lutheran. There might be a Catholic church in the village, but the Lutherans had to travel to another town. A parish register inventory list the Evangelical Lutheran (Evangelische) and Catholic (Katholische) parish for each local town or village:.
- Kirchenbücher und Standesregister für alle Wohnplätze im Land Hessen (1939), abbreviations on page 178.
Also at FamilySearch Digital Library
- Praetorius Kirchenbuecher 1939 is a parish inventory on GenWiki has an excellent list of towns in Hessen. A bold "e" indicates that the locality has its own Lutheran parish, as does a bold "k" indicate a Catholic parish. The years for which records exist follow that. A lower case "e" (Evangelical or Lutheran) or "k" (Catholic) will be followed by the name of the parish that has records for a locality that did not have its own church. For a full explanation of the abbreviations used, Click here.
- Inventare der evangelischen Pfarrarchive im Großherzogtum Hessen : erste Hälfte
- Kirchenbuchportal: See KB Kassel - Ev. Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck.
- Verzeichnis der pfälzischen und rheinhessischen Kirchenbücher is an inventory of church records for parishes in the Palatinate and Rhenish Hesse, and where they are held (as of January 2020).
1. Online Church Records[edit | edit source]
Lutheran Records[edit | edit source]
Ancestry.com ($)[edit | edit source]
Ancestry.com can be searched free of charge at your local Family History Center.
- 1661-1957 Hesse, Hesse-Kassel, Hess Darmstadt, Hess-Marburg, Hess-Reinfels, Rhineland, and Waldeck, Germany, Lutheran Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1661-1957 at Ancestry.com - index, ($) INCOMPLETE
- 1730-1875 Hessen, Deutschland, evangelische Kirchenbücher, 1730-1875 at Ancestry.com - index & images, ($). Covers only Giessen.
FamilySearch Historical Records[edit | edit source]
- 1540-1952 Germany, Rhineland-Palatinate, Diocese of Mainz, Catholic Church Records, 1540-1952 at FamilySearch - How to Use this Collection; index. List of parishes covered
- 1600-1925 Germany, Rhineland-Palatinate Church Record Extractions and Family Registers, 1600-1925 at FamilySearch - How to Use this Collection; images; incomplete. These records cover: Alzey, Oppenheim, and Osthhofen.
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 Places within Germany, Hessen.
- b. Click on Places within Germany, Hessen and a list of towns will appear.
- c. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
- d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- e. Choose the correct record type and time period for your ancestor. "Geburten" are births. "Taufen" are christenings/baptisms. "Heiraten" are marriages. "Tote" are deaths.
- f. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. . 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.
Writing to Archives[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.
- Use the the German Letter Writing Guide. Archivists must speak English, but even if you write the letter in English, this article will tell you how to organize the letter, how to phrase your requests, and what information to include.
Evangelical Lutheran (Protestant) Archives[edit | edit source]
Telephone: 0561-788 76-0
Central Archive of the Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau
Catholic Archives[edit | edit source]
Mainz Cathedral and Diocesan Archives
Telephone: 06131 253-157
Fax: 06131 253-807
State Archives[edit | edit source]
The Hessian State Archives consists of four departments, the Hessian State Archive Darmstadt, the Hessian State Archive Marburg (Land Registry Archive, civil status archive), the Hessian Main State Archives Wiesbaden and the Department of Central Services, which also includes the Hessen Digital Archive.
Hessian State Archives Darmstadt
Tel .: +49 (0) 6151/16 262 57
Hessian State Archives Marburg
Hessisches Main Archives and the Digital Archive
Mosbacher Str. 55
Tel.: 0611 / 881-0 / Fax: 0611 / 881-145
E-mail Digital Archives: DigitalesArchiv@hla.hessen.de
E-mail Main Archive: firstname.lastname@example.org
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)
- An das evangelische Pfarramt
For a Catholic Parish:
- An das katholische Pfarramt
- (Insert street address, if known.)
- (Postal Code) (Name of Locality)
- An das katholische Pfarramt
- Click here for postal code help for Germany.
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.
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.
Jewish Records[edit | edit source]
- Germany, selected Protestant church books 1518-1921 includes some Jewish records - at Ancestry ($), index and images. Locations include Worms
5. Compiled and Published Secondary Sources[edit | edit source]
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]
- Click here to see the hundreds of OFBs at GenWiki. These are indexed and searchable. OFB Instructions.
- A bibliography of OFBs held by the Central Office for Person and Family History, and available in their archive in Frankfurt am Main-Höchst, is listed here. You can arrange for copied pages to be sent to you for a fee or donation.
- A comprehensive list of published town genealogies is found at GenWiki: Ortsfamilienbuch zu Hessen. If you find an OFB listed, search the Family History Library holdings by title.
- A map containing information on the status of family history research in the individual Hessian communities is available at Hessian Family History Association. From the Bearbeitungsstand (German) or Processing Level (English) page, click on the LINK in the section with this logo: . A pdf map will download. Enlarge the view. Towns with published books will display a symbol. Hover over the symbol, and the book title will appear. A color key indicates where the book is available.
- This link will take you to a listing of the online books of the Hessian Family History Association.
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.
- These video webinars will teach you to read German handwriting:
- List of Names in Old German Script A comprehensive list of German given names, written in old script, with possible variations.
- 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.
Downloadable Handouts[edit | edit source]
These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
- Birth Records Vocabulary handout
- Marriage Records Vocabulary handout
- Overview of Marriage Laws and Customs (handout)
- Death Records Vocabulary handout
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
- Days and Months handout
- Numbers Vocabulary handout
- Script Dates and Numbers handout
- Common Abbreviations handout
- Common Symbols handout
- Fraktur Font--Many forms and books are printed in this font.
Latin Records[edit | edit source]
Records of the Catholic church will usually be written in Latin:
Feast Dates[edit | edit source]
- Calendar Changes in France, Germany, Switzerland, and the Low Countries--class
- Each day of the year had several patron saints and was a feast day to honor those saints. Some vital events are recorded in church records only by the holy day (feast day) on the church calendar. For example, the feast day called “All Saints Day” (Allerheiligentag) is “1 November.” The Wiki article, Moveable and Fixed Feast Day Calendars for Germany, provides charts for converting feast days given in church records to regular Julian and Gregorian calendar dates.
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.