Hessen Research Tips and Strategies

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Back to Hessen Page► Here is a link to a website which attempts to consolidate research steps for various genealogical topics http://www.ahnenforschung-hessen.de/deutsch.html

Major Record Sources

The Hessen State Archive Marburg suggests the following steps when doing research in Hessen:

Standesamtsregister (Civil Registration)

The records from 1876 on are still with the Standesämter (Civil Registration Office). The records from 1874-75 are at the State Archiv (Bestand St) as well as civil registration done in the times of the Kingdom of Westphalia (Bestand 315 z) and for the Jewish Civil Registration (Bestand Prot. II)

Kirchenbücher (Church Registers)

Church books are for the most part still in the parishes. Otherwise in the Landeskirchliche Archiv der Evangelischen Kirche von Kurhessen-Waldeck in Kassel and in the State Archive Marburg (Bestände Ki und 315k) Manz church books were filmed and can be researched in the Church Archive. Also, the Catholic church books of Bistum Fulda are still with the parishes, however, the Bistumsarchiv Fulda has records on microfiche which can be accessed.

Civil registration as well as church records have been alphabetised by villages. Therefore, it is important to know the town-village where the ancestor was born, married or died. Without this knowledge research in the Archive is not possible.

Sometimes, genealogical societies can help with research. The Gesellschaft für Familienkunde in Kurhessen und Waldeck as well as the Arbeitsgemeinschaft der familienkundlichen Gesellschaften in Hessen are two such societies.

Militärakten (Military records)

Men who were registered with the Hessen military are often listed in the Grundbücher, Maß- and Rangierbücher. Officers are in the Anciennitätslisten (Bestand 10). Hessian, Hanau and Waldeck troups which fought in the American Revolutionary War are listed in the HETRINA-Project.

Auswanderung (emigration)

The HESAUS-Project lists emigrants from Hanau (1821-1849, Bestand 180 Hanau, Anhang) and Kurhessen.The lists are available in the archive.

  • Generally, statewide indexes do not exist. However, there is a partial card index to emigration records from Hessen: Auswandererkartei 1800-1900 . It includes general indexes of Hessen and specific indexes which cover emigration from the modern districts of Dieburg, Bergstrasse and Erbach. Cards are all arranged alphabetically. (Except the 1825 index which is arranged in roughly reverse chronological order). It does not cover Hessen-Nassau areas.
  • This collection is also available online at Arcinsys Hessen. In the Search words box, enter the words "Auswanderer-Nachweise". Click Search and look for the line "Findkarteien und Datenbanken: Auswanderer-Nachweise". On the far right, click on "Navigator". Now in the left sidebar, a alphabetical index will appear. Again, this database does not cover Hessen-Nassau.
  • You might try this technique if you are working with a very unusual surname and still do not know your ancestors' town of origin. It won't work with names like Müller, Schmidt, Becker, Schumacher, etc. In the Search words box at Arcinsys Hessen, enter your ancestors' surname. You will be given a list of the records in the archives with that surname. By studying the entries, you will learn some towns where families with that surname are found. By studying the original records in that town, you might find proof that your ancestor lived there, in the form of a matching birth record or marriage record to what you already know. Caution: Do not assume if the list brings up a name like your ancestors' that it is automatically your family. There can be many duplicate names in many towns. You must follow up in the original records to prove the connection. It would be wise to check each town to eliminate duplicates and find your exact match.


Cadastral maps give information about properties and their owners. Before the 18th century Salbücher should be consulted. Here in are recorded the properties of landowners and their payments to their subjects (Grundholden).

Bevölkerungslisten (Census or population registers

From the first part of the 18th century population registers have been kept (Bestand 40, Rubrik XII) and can be useful in tracing ancestors.

Other Sources

If ancestors were members of the Hessian state adminstration, their names would appear in the so called Staatshandbuch. Personell briefs were kept.  Part of such records can be found in the Dülferscher Beamtenkartei (Bestand M 73)

Tips and Strategies

  • When children were born illegitimately and the father’s name is not known what research strategy is suggested?
1. Check who the witnesses were at birth of child. Likelihood is that there might be a relationship. There might exist a separate section in the church book for illegitimate births.
2. Check whether the mother marries the father later and the child became legitimized by the father’s acknowledgment .
3. Check confirmation records.
4. Find school records to see if school fees were paid for the child and by whom (Search in School records . One possibility “Kirchenvisitationen”, “Schülerverzeichnis”)
5. Was the child adopted? (Search in court records, key word: “ Adoptionen”, “Vormundschaft”)
6. See if a will exists in which the child was bequeathed money or property. (Search in court records for “Testamente”)
  • When parents came from a city unknown what would be the research strategy?
1. Check the witnesses at the children’s baptisms. Witnesses might be relatives and there may be a place name which could give a clue.
2. Check citizenship records of present residence (Search for” Bürgerrolle”, “Bürgerbuch”, “Bürgerliste”,” Bürgerverzeichnis”, “Einwohnermeldeverzeichnis”)
3. Check for journeymen or servants records (Search for “Geburtsbriefe”, “Gesindebuch”, “Heimatscheine”, “Wanderbücher”, “Gutsarchiv” records)
4. Check census records. Search for “Volkszählungen”.
5. Check guild records. Search for “Innungen”
6. Check neighboring church records to see if parents appeared as witnesses.
  • When given and surnames are present more than once in a parish and additional persons cannot easily be assigned to each other, what would be the research strategy?
1. Establish whole families. See who has married whom and had what children.
2. Compare findings in church books with court records. 90% of the population in Germany were dependent farmers. They did not own their farms but had usufruct , for which they were taxed and recorded in administrative records. Parents would bequeath, sell , lease or retire, and children inherit personal property. All such actions were recorded in court records. ( Search in archival records, such as” Patrimonialgerichte”, “Stadtgerichte”, “Amtsgerichte” )
3. Check tax lists. Twice a year people were required to pay taxes. See if the same heads of family pay each time. If the head of household dies, the widow continues to pay taxes until her child becomes of age and takes over or she remarries. (Search for “Steuerlisten”, “Steuerrollen”) 
  • When different spellings exist for a family name what would be the research strategy?
1. Be aware that spelling rules are not set until the early 1900s. Dialects can apply when writing official records. Some consonants and vowels are interchangeable. The name Triebenbach can be spelled Driebenbach, Treubenbach, Drübenbach.
2. Names can be Latinized: The name Keller becomes Cellarius, names can sound as if they are Latin, such as Debelius.
3. The priest simply made a mistake
4. Consider looking at neighboring parish registers
5. Always compare the spelling of a name with other documents available for the time period. (The most common ones are taxlists, in German “Steuerlisten”, “Steuerrollen”).
  • When church records from a parish cannot be located what should be the research strategy?
1. Check if the correct parish was chosen. A good source to check is a gazetteer.
2. Have parish jurisdictions changed?
3. Check with the diocese (Bistum) or deanery (Dekanat) if a duplicate record does exist and where it was deposited.
Evangelische Kirche for Evangelical records
Bistum  for Catholic records both at this address
  • When church books no longer exist because they were destroyed what should the research strategy be?
    Gather information from other records:
1. Tax records (Steuerlisten, Schatzungslisten) – located in state archives
2. Debt registers, citizenship records, fire insurance registers (Schuldenregister, Löscheimerlisten, Brandregister, Bürgerlisten) – located in city archives, mayor‘s office
3. Guild records, notary records, land records (Innungslisten, Zunftbücher, notarielle Akten, Grundbuchsachen – state archives
4. Kataster, Bannbücher (cadastral , absolvent books) – state archives, cadastral offices, finance departments
5. Tax records of parishes (Lagerbücher) – church archives
6. House lists, address books, house ownership lists, military records, vaccination records (Häuserlisten, Adressbücher, Hauswirtslisten, Stammrollen, Impflisten) – city archives
7. News papers (Zeitungen, Amtsblätter) - city archive, state archive
8. Emigration records, census records, Wählerlisten (Auswanderungsakten, Volkszählungen,
voting records) – state archive
9. Cemetery records (Gräber, Gottesacker) – city archive

Archives and libraries in Hessen

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