North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany Genealogy
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Guide to North Rhine-Westphalia ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
Today's state of North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen) was created after the Second World War by uniting the northern parts of Rheinland, the country of Lippe, and the country of Westphalia (Westfalen).
- 1 History
- 2 How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in North Rhine-Westphalia
- 3 For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- 4 Research to Find the Town
- 5 If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
- 6 Administrative Districts
- 7 Online Town Records
- 8 Research Tools
The state of North Rhine-Westphalia was established by the British military administration on 23 August 1946, by merging the province of Westphalia and the northern parts of the Rhine Province, both being political divisions of the former state of Prussia within the German Reich. On 21 January 1947, the former state of Lippe was merged with North Rhine-Westphalia. The constitution of North Rhine-Westphalia was then ratified through a referendum.
How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in North Rhine-Westphalia
Most of your genealogical research for North Rhine-Westphalia will be in three main record types: civil registration, church records, and, when available, a compiled town genealogy ("'Ortssippenbuch" or "Ortsfamilienbuch" in German). These articles will teach you how to use these records in digital databases, as microfilms, or by writing for them.
For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from North Rhine-Westphalia 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
- List of emigrants from the district Herford
- Bielefelder in North America
- Emigration List Rheinenser
- Regional Emigrant Lists and (Online) Databases
- Network Westphalian America emigration since the 19th century, Index. Incomplete.
- Male immigrants from Rheinland and Westfalen, Prussia
- Female immigrants from Rheinland and Westfalen, Prussia
- Emigrants from the surrounding area of Olpe, Westfalen, Germany
- Emigration from Lippe to the United States
- Auswanderung Lippe USA Paste into Google Translate to read.
- Lippe Emigrants in the 1880 census
- Emigrants from Lippe, Der Genealogische Abend, Naturwissenschaftlicher und Historische Verein fuer das Land Lippe.
- Emigration lip-USA ,Stars and Stripes, Publications and articles to emigrate from Lippe, Science and History Association for the country Lippe
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 Kreis (county) it belonged to, found after "Kr".
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)
Figure Out the Parish for Your Town
Your town might be too small to have its own parish church. Or it might have a Catholic church, but the Lutheran church is in a neighboring town. You might have to do a little reference work to determine where the church (and therefore the church records) was for your ancestors' town. Methods for doing this are described in:
From these historic areas
North Rhine-Westphalia is divided into two regional associations (Landschaftsverbände), five regions (Regierungsbezirke), 31 rural districts (Kreise), and 23 urban districts (Kreisfreie Städte).
For a table showing the regions and regional associations for each town, see the article North Rhine-Westphalia Jurisdictions.
Online Town Records
- 1574-1912 - Germany, Prussia, Westphalia, Minden, Miscellaneous Collections from the Municipal Archives, 1574-1912 at FamilySearch — index and images
- German Word List
- Latin Word List
- Handwriting Guide
- German Handwriting Tutorial
- Deutsche Kurrentschrift - Writing exercise Enter your German genealogical word, click on "umwandeln" and view your word in Kurrentschrift (Gothic script)