Bavaria, Germany Genealogy
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Guide to Bavaria ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
- 1 Information about Bavaria, Germany
- 2 History
- 3 How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Bavaria
- 4 For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- 5 Research to Find the Town
- 6 If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
- 7 Historical and Clickable Map
- 8 How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Bavaria by District
- 9 Research Tools
- 10 Notes and References
Information about Bavaria, Germany
Bavaria (German: Bayern) named for a Teutonic tribe, the Baiovarii, who defeated the Romans and settled among the Romano-Celtic peoples of the area around the 6th Century of the common era (CE). During the Reformation, Bavaria became a centre of the Counter-Reformation. During the Napoleonic period, Bavaria acquired large territories in Franconia and Swabia. Its ally, Napoleon, elevated it to a kingdom. After the collapse of the German Reich at the end of World War I, it briefly became a Republic and in 1919 a German state. At the end of World War II, Bavaria's social composition was changed with the influx of 2 million refugees expelled from the east. In 1949, Bavaria became a German federal province. 
When Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire, Bavaria became a kingdom in 1806 due, in part, to the Confederation of the Rhine. Its area doubled after the Duchy of Jülich was ceded to France, as the Electoral Palatinate was divided between France and the Grand Duchy of Baden.
After the rise of Prussia to power, Bavaria preserved its independence by playing off the rivalries of Prussia and Austria. Allied to Austria, it was defeated in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War and did not belong to the North German Federation of 1867, but the question of German unity was still alive. When Bavaria became part of the newly formed German Empire, this action was considered controversial by Bavarian nationalists who had wanted to retain independence, as Austria had. As Bavaria had a majority-Catholic population, many people resented being ruled by the mostly Protestant northerners of Prussia. As a direct result of the Bavarian-Prussian feud, political parties formed to encourage Bavaria to break away and regain its independence.
Eisner was assassinated in February 1919, ultimately leading to a Communist revolt and the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic being proclaimed 6 April 1919. After violent suppression by elements of the German Army, the Bavarian Soviet Republic fell in May 1919. Extremist activity further increased, notably the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch led by the National Socialists, and Munich and Nuremberg became seen as Nazi strongholds under the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. However, in the crucial German federal election, March 1933, the Nazis received less than 50% of the votes cast in Bavaria.
The Rhenish Palatinate was detached from Bavaria in 1946 and made part of the new state Rhineland-Palatinate. During the Cold War, Bavaria was part of West Germany. In 1949, the Free State of Bavaria chose not to sign the Founding Treaty (Gründungsvertrag) for the formation of the Federal Republic of Germany, opposing the division of Germany into two states, after World War II. All of the other Länder ratified it, and so it became law. Bavarians have often emphasized a separate national identity and considered themselves as "Bavarians" first, "Germans" second. In Munich, the Old Bavarian dialect was widely spread, but nowadays High German is predominantly spoken there.
How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Bavaria
- Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in by District
- Civil Registration
- Church Records
- Town Genealogies
For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from Bavaria will not be enough to use the records of Germany. Records are kept on the local level, so you will have to know the town they lived in.
- Details about the town will also help:
- the county or "Bezirkamt" of that town,
- where the closest Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church was (depending on their religion),
- where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was, and
- if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger town it was part of.
Research to Find the Town
If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.
- Use Gathering Information to Locate Place of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
- Or watch this webinar: Online Class: Finding German Places of Origin
**Also search the German Emigration Database at Bremerhaven.
If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
Once you know the town name you need, the other facts you need are contained in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, the gazetteer on which the FamilySearch catalog for Germany is based.
- Use MeyersGaz, the digital gazetteer, to find the details you need, particularly the Bezirksamt it belonged to, found after (BA) and the Regierungsbezirk (Administrative District) Niederbayern (RB).
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
- Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org.
The most important facts here are:
Historical and Clickable Map
This map is clickable and leads to instructional articles for each district. Not shown on this map is the Palatinate/Pfalz district which was part of Bavaria until World War II. Click here for the instructional article for the Palatinate/Pfalz.
How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Bavaria by District
The state and Catholic Diocese Archives are organized by administrative district. Therefore, research instruction articles are arranged by administrative district. To find the district for your town, in Meyer's Gazetteer it is labeled with the initials "RB", or you can find the Bezirksamt, labeled with "BA", and use this chart to identify the administration district.
Click on these links to the correct research instructions.
The Pfalz (Rhenish Palatinate, Rheinpfalz, Bavarishe Pfalz) was ruled by Bavaria from 1813 to the end of World War II. Today, it is part of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz).
- German Word List
- Latin Word List
- Handwriting Guide
- German Handwriting Tutorial
- Kurrentschrift Converter (enter German genealogical word, click on "convert", view your word in Kurrentschrift (Gothic handwriting)
Records of the Catholic church will usually be written in Latin:
Notes and References
- "Bavaria (Bayern) (Germany)" in John Everett-Heath, The Concise Dictionary of World Place-Names (2nd ed., Oxford University Press; published to Oxford Reference Online 2010-2012, eISBN: 9780199580897) accessed 8 Jul 2013.
- Jaromír Balcar, "Bavaria" in Peter N. Stearns (ed.) Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, (2008, Oxford University Press, print ISBN-13: 9780195176322; published to Oxford Reference Online, 2008-2012, eISBN: 9780195341126) accessed 8 Jul 2013.