Westphalia (Westfalen), Prussia, German Empire Genealogy

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Guide to Westphalia (Westfalen), German Empire ancestry, family history, and genealogy before 1945: birth records, marriage records, death records, both church and civil registration, compiled family history, and finding aids.

Westphalia (Westfalen),
German Empire Wiki Topics
Getting Started
Major Record Types
Reading the Records
Additional Westphalia (Westfalen)
Record Types
Westphalia (Westfalen) Background
Local Research Resources
Germany Record Types
Germany Background
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Historical Background[edit | edit source]

  • The Province of Westphalia (German: Provinz Westfalen) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia and eventually the Free State of Prussia from 1815 to 1946.
  • Following the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Prussia received several territories in the Westphalian region and created the Province of Westphalia.
  • The Duchy of Westphalia was a different region, but was annexed to the Province in 1816, along with the principalities of Hohenstein, Berleburg, and Nassau-Siegen in 1817.

  • After World War II, the present state of North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen) was created by merging the former Prussian Province of Westphalia, the northern half of the former Prussian Rhine Province, and the province of Lippe.


Getting Started[edit | edit source]

Getting Started with Germany Research

Links to articles on getting started with German research:

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Germany Research Tools

Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:

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Historical Geography[edit | edit source]

Westphalia (Westfalen) within the German Empire

German Empire - Prussia - Westphalia (1871).svg.png

Westphalia (Westfalen) Within Modern North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)


Modern North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)

Modern Nordrhein-Westfalen.png

Westfalen (Westphalia), 1905
Provinz Westfalen 1905.png
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History of Westphalia (Westfalen) in the German Empire
Geo-Political Differences Today
FamilySearch Catalog
(organized by 1871 Meyer's Gazetteer)
Wiki Pages

Westphalia (Westfalen)

1945: Became part of the current state of North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen) (Map)

Preussen, Westfalen

Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for Westphalia (Westfalen)[edit | edit source]

Most of the information you need to identify you ancestors and their families will be found in two major record groups: civil registration and church records. To locate these records, follow the instructions in these Wiki articles.

1. Find the name of your ancestor's town in family history records.[edit | edit source]

Records were kept on the local level. You must know the town where your ancestor lived. If your ancestor was a United States Immigrant, use the information in the Wiki article Germany Finding Town of Origin to find evidence of the name of the town where your ancestors lived in Germany.
Also, see:

2. Use gazetteers and/or parish register inventories to learn more important details.[edit | edit source]

Your ancestor's town might have been too small to have its own parish church or civil registration office. Find the location of the Catholic or Lutheran (Evangelical) parish that served your ancestor's locality. Find the name of the civil registration office (Standesamt) that serves your ancestor's locality. Use the Wiki article Finding Aids For German Records for step-by-step instructions.

Germany was first unified as a nation in 1871. An important gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, "Meyer's Gazetter" for short, details the place names of villages, towns, counties (kreise), and higher jurisdictions used at that time. In the Research Wiki, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Historical Records, the records of Germany are organized using those place names.

You can also consult Westphalia (Westfalen) Parish Record Inventories to learn the Lutheran or Catholic parish that would have kept records for your town.

At the end of both World Wars, the boundaries of the states were changed dramatically, as areas of Germany were distributed among the Allied nations. Eventually, after re-unification in 1990, the states of Germany settled into what they are today. It is also necessary to understand Germany by this system, as it affects the locations of civil registration offices, archives, and mailing addresses used in correspondence searches.

3. For birth, marriage, and death records 1808-1815 and from 1 October 1874, use civil registration.[edit | edit source]

Follow the instructions in Westphalia (Westfalen), German Empire Civil Registration.

4. For baptism, marriage, and death records, use church records or parish registers.[edit | edit source]

Follow the instructions in Westphalia (Westfalen), German Empire Church Records.

More Research Strategies and Tools[edit | edit source]

  • These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
Miscellaneous Vocabulary:
  • Fraktur Font -- Many forms and books are printed in this font.
German Given Names: