Germany Court Records

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Court Records

A court record is a document created by or submitted to the judge, jury, or clerk of a court. The earliest German vital records were usually kept by one of many city courts. Some German cities began keeping records containing birth, marriage, and death information for certain segments of the population in the 1400s, but only a small fraction of Germans are represented in court records.

In order to understand court records and how to retrieve them read this introduction here

Courts and Their Records

Courts may be found on various levels of government: within the local community, on the district- or Kreis level, or higher. They vary widely in function and the types of records that may be created within their jurisdictions. Marriage contracts and permission papers, guardianship records, probate records, land records, and property transfers are some records kept by courts. Marriage contracts are the most common early court records of value to family historians.  

There were over fifty kinds of courts (each with a different jurisdiction) in the German states before 1870. Court records are rarely indexed, so finding an ancestor in them is difficult. Search court records only after you have tried all other record types first. You may need professional help to use court records.

However, if you do find a person mentioned in court records, you will often find much useful information. Age, residence, political allegiance, property, debts, misdemeanors, taxes, adoptions,and guardianship are typical information in German court records. Divorces are also recorded in court records, but they are rare before the 1900s. For information about wills, see the “Probate Records” section.

Court Records in the FamilySearch Catalog

In the FamilySearch Catalog German court records may be found under the town, district, county, or state jurisdictions. Depending on the record type, documents may be cataloged as census records, probate records, or civil registration, even though they were kept by a court. The researcher needs to systematically check each applicable jurisdiction and all subject headings for potentially helpful records.

GERMANY - COURT RECORDS

GERMANY, [STATE] - COURT RECORDS

GERMANY, [STATE], [TOWN] - COURT RECORD

They may also be listed under the name of the A.G. Amtsgericht [lower court]. The name of the lower court that had jurisdiction over a community can be found in the German gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrslexikon. This gazetteer is online.

Online Collections

Germany--FamilySearch Historical Records has listings labelled "Miscellaneous City Records" for several cities throughout Germany. Among other records, some court documents are iincluded in these collections.

Types of Information

Heiratsvertrag

Heiratsvertrag is a prenuptial agreement between couples. They report their possessions and distribution of wealth to the court. Often aging parents are involved because the young couple will take over their possessions. In such cases the parents will determine how they want to be relocated and treated. Often there is a clause what should happen in case of death of either spouse.


Click here to see some sample pages.

Inventarium

When a person dies, usually an inventory of the estate of the deceased is made by the surviving spouse or relatives. Herein are listed the personal effects, household goods, cash and cattle etc. If children from a previous marriage are involved, they are counted in. The inventory is ratified by the court in the presence of several witnesses.

Click here to see some sample pages.

Volljährigkeitserklärungen

Volljährigkeitserklärungen are issued by the court when young people around 21 years of age want to claim their inheritance. They have to file an application to plead or declare their coming of age which would prove their capability to handle their own affairs. In most cases, the birth record was retrieved from the pastor and testimonies of guardians or others witnesses vouching for the self-reliance of the candidate. In some cases, the court did not issue a coming of age certificate. Such documents reveal next to dates also character traits or personal history of ancestors.

Click here to see some sample pages.

Notarial Records

A Notar, or notary public, is a person who studied law and who after thorough examination was appointed to draw up documents, contracts, wills, power of attorney, examination of witnesses and other legal actions. Documents carrying the seal of a notary public had full legal power backed by the emperor or the pope and could serve as evidence. A Notar could only operate within a designated area.

Erbbuch

An Erbbuch contains the inheritable properties (Erblehen) of a city/village, their owners, rights and obligations. The Erbbuch is also known as Grundbuch, Erdbuch, Landbuch or Salbuch. An example of an Erbbuch can be viewed at  museum-digital. This particular book contains also all villages and their landowning population from 1642 which belonged to the administration of the magistrate in Jerichow.

Separationssachen

were concerns re. Flurregelung (allotment regulation). The goal was to eliminate harmful commonly held user and property rights of agricultural land. Separationen made property free of unilaterally and mutually disadvantageous servitudes. It changed the status of the land from commonly held to segregated properties. The goal was to separate the single owner from the community, hence the name separation. Separation could be partial or across the board, depending whether parts of properties were to be eliminated or all property owners were to be relieved of existing conditions. Such actions created altercations and new changes in property owning. When a Separation was a general one, usually new measures for useful roads and water supplies were created. If allotment regulations were in place a better division of allotments through apportion or consolidation according to the interests of property owners took place. The documents kept for such transactions show the names of the participants, the description and size of the property/ies, description of the piece of settlement and the settlement amount.


Source: Meiers Konversationslexikon

Saxony Court Records

A large collection of court records has been filmed for Saxony. These records have been cataloged by town. Some indexes and finding aids are available.

In order to retrieve court records from Saxony and how to interpret them, read Kauf- and Handelsverträge of Freistaat Sachsen, Part 1and Part 2 and Part 3.

References

For works cited and consulted read here