Germany Civil Registration

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Germany
Civil Registration

Definition

Civil registration records are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by the government. 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 [German: Standesbeamte] at the civil registry office (Standesamt). Because they cover about 98% of the population and often provide more information than church records, civil registration records are important sources for German genealogical research.

Availability

  • Civil registration in the German Empire began between 1792 and 1876, depending on the locality.
  • Alsace-Lorraine started in 1792, since it belonged to France at the time.
  • As France's influence increased in Germany, Hamburg, Hannover, Hessen, Lübeck, Oldenburg, and Westfalen established civil registration between 1799 and 1811.
  • Anhalt began keeping civil registration in 1850.
  • Hamburg began keeping civil registration again in 1866.
  • In Prussia, civil births, marriages, and deaths were kept again beginning in October 1874.
  • Civil registration became mandatory in all German states on 1 January 1876.
  • To learn more about when German Civil Registration began in individual provinces or states, click here.
Herne Stadtarchiv Standesamt Baukau

Privacy Laws

Since 1 January 2009 the records are accessible to any researcher after these time periods have passed:

  • births: 110 years
  • marriages: 80 years
  • deaths: 30 years

A direct relationship to the subject of the record sought will only 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.

Information Recorded

The information recorded in civil registration records varies slightly over time. Each state used a different format for civil registration. Preprinted forms have often been used for civil registration. In these instances, the form determined what information the record contains. The early French records sometimes give slightly more complete information than the later records. The most important civil records are birth, marriage, and death registers.

Births (Geburtsregister)

Birth records usually give:

  • the child's name;
  • sex; and
  • birth date, time, and place.
  • father's name, age, occupation, and residence
  • mother's maiden name, age, and marital status
  • names, ages, and residences of witnesses
  • parents' religion is also listed in some states.

Marriages (Heiraten, Ehen, or Trauungen)

Marriages were usually recorded where the bride lived. After 1792 a civil marriage ceremony was required in areas of Germany under French control. In 1876 this law was applied to all of Germany. Most couples also had a church wedding, so records may exist for both the civil and church ceremonies. The civil marriage records may include more information than the comparable church records. When possible search both the civil registration and church records.

Intention to Marry

If you believe a marriage took place but cannot find a marriage record, search records that indicate the couple's “intent to marry.” Various records may have been created to show a couple's intent to marry:

  • Proclamations [Aufgebote or Eheverkündigungen] were made a few weeks before a couple planned to marry. The couple may have been required to announce their intentions in order to give other community members the opportunity to object to the marriage.
  • Marriage Supplements [Heiratsbeilagen] were often filed by the bride or groom to support their marriage application. Information included may document their births, their parents' deaths, and the groom's release from military service. Sometimes the records contain information about earlier generations.
  • Contracts [Ehekontrakte] are documents created to protect legal rights and property of spouses. These may give the same information as the marriage supplements noted above. They also list property and are usually found in court records rather than in civil registration records.
  • Marriage Permission Papers [Verehelichungsakten] are documents created in the process of obtaining permission to get married. Some states required prospective spouses to get permission from the local city council or mayor before they could be married. For Bavaria and Hessen-Nasssau many of these files have been microfilmed. They may be cataloged under "court records", "civil registration", or "public records."

Marriage Records

Marriage Registers (Heiratsregister). Civil officials recorded the marriages they performed, usually on preprinted forms bound in a book and kept in the civil registration office. Marriage registers give:

  • the date and time of the marriage
  • bride's and groom's names,
  • bride's and groom's ages, birth dates, birthplaces,
  • bride's and groom's residences, occupations, and
  • whether they were single or widowed.
  • the parents' names, residence, occupations, marital status, and whether they were living at the time of the marriage.
  • witnesses' names, ages, and relationships to the bride or groom
  • the couple's religion, especially after 1874.


Certificates (Heiratsscheine). Some couples were given a marriage certificate or a book [Stammbuch] with the marriage entry and space for entering children's births. The certificate or book may be in the possession of the family or the civil registrar.

Deaths (Sterberegister or Totenregister)

Death records are especially helpful because they may provide important information on a person's birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for individuals for whom there were no birth or marriage records.

Early death records usually give:

  • the name of the deceased and
  • the date, time, and place of death
  • the age, birthplace, residence, occupation, and marital status of the deceased
  • the name of the parents or spouse and their residences
  • the informant's name, age, occupation, residence, and relationship
  • the person's religion.

Information about parents, the birth date, the birthplace, and other information about the deceased may be inaccurate, depending on the informant's knowledge.

Locating Records

Civil registration records were kept at the local civil registration office (Standesamt). Most civil registers are still located at the local civil registration offices, but some are collected in city or state archives.

Determine the Standesamt (Civil Registry Office) Location

Research your town name in MeyersGaz.org to find the location of the Standesamt. It is indicated by the abbreviation "StdA". However, some of the offices were merged in 1970's, so the record location might be different than that listed in MeyersGaz.

  • For a municipality:
  • 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 in Hessian Schwalm-Eder-Kreis ." It is probable that the Standesamt is now located in the municipality (in this example Edermünde).
  • Email the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there. From the town article, click on the name of the municipality that links to that article. There will usually be an infobox on the page that lists the address and the website of the municipality. From the website, look for Kontakt (Contact) information with an email address.
  • For a town:
  • Follow the same instructions as for a municipality. However, in this case, the first line will read, for example: "Borken is a town in the Schwalm-Eder-Kreis with about 13,000 residents.
  • The infobox with the website will appear directly on a town page.


Online

FamilySearch Historical Records

FamilySearch Catalog

FamilySearch has microfilmed many civil registration records.  To find civil registration records in the FamilySearch Catalog, search the Place Search under:

GERMANY, [STATE], [TOWN] - CIVIL REGISTRATION

The collections of FamilySearch continue to grow as new records are microfilmed or digitized. Do not give up if the records you need are not available. FamilySearch.org is updated frequently and new historical collections are being added continuously. Check it periodically to see if the records you need have been added.

Hessen Civil Registration

All the civil registration records for the state of Hessen are online:

1. In the left sidebar, click on Staatsarchive.
2. To the right of Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg, click on the Navigator link.
3. In the left sidebar, click on H Personenstandsarchiv Hessen.
4. To the right of your chosen Kreis, click on Navigator.
5. In the left sidebar, select your chosen Standesamt.
6. In the left sidebar, select Geburtsnebenregister, Heiratsnebenregister, or Sterbenebenregister.
7. Click on Detail page at the far right.
8. Click on Show digital copies.
  • Through Genwiki: Click on Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg / Register of Persons. Click on the number in the right column for the Kreis you want. Find the line: "These are hits 1 to 20 - Order by: Relevance | type | Duration | Office". Click on Office and the list will be alphabetized. You can then select you town.

Writing for Records

Civil registration records from many towns and states are available on microfilm or online. However, many civil registration records, especially those created in 1876 or later, are still only available in the local civil registration office or archive in Germany that has the originals. Civil birth, marriage, and death records may be found by contacting or visiting the local civil registration office or archive.

Civil Registration Offices

Civil officials will usually answer correspondence that is written to them in German. Your request may be forwarded if the records have been sent to an archive or central repository. Write a brief request in German to the proper office using this address as guide, replacing the information in parentheses:

An das Standesamt
(Insert street address, if known.)
(Postal Code) (Name of Locality)
GERMANY

How to write a 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.

City Archives

Large cities have many civil registration offices. Most civil registers are still located at the local offices, but some are collected in city archives. Many German cities have established archives to preserve their older records. Often they cannot handle genealogical requests, but they can determine whether specific records are available for you or your agent to search.

State Archives

Duplicate registers from some towns are kept in state archives. For more recent records and for those not yet microfilmed, you may write to the state archives of Germany and request searches of the records. See Germany Archives and Libraries. If the archivist cannot do the research your request, you can hire a professional genealogist to search the records for you. You may also find archive inventories that describe the record-keeping systems and available civil registration records in Germany (see Germany Archives and Libraries). These and other guides are found in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:

     GERMANY - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES
     GERMANY, [STATE] - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES

After determining who has jurisdiction over the records for the time period you need, write a short request to the proper office. Be careful not to ask for too much when writing German archives. They can briefly answer questions about the records in their collection, but are often reluctant to do research in these records. You may have more success if you ask for a referral or a list of local researchers you could hire to search the archive's records. See German Letter Writing Guide for more information about writing letters to Germany.

Records from Towns Now in Poland

Extracts of German records requested from towns now in Poland will be written in Polish. Addresses of civil registration offices in formerly German areas of Poland, along with an inventory of available German civil registration records, are found in:
Brόzka, Tomascz. Deutsche Personenstandsbücher und Personenstandseinträge von Deutschen in Polen 1898 bis 1945. Frankfurt a/Main und Berlin: Verlag für Standesamtswesen, 2000. ISBN 3-8019-5674-1. (Int’l Ref area 943.8 V23b copy 3).


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