Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Church Records
Church Records of Mecklenburg
In the area of Mecklenburg, as in most other areas of Germany, the church records [Kirchenbücher] are the most significant and accurate source of information for all family research. Church records, also referred to as parish registers or church books, give a wealth of valuable information for tracing your family. In them, church officials recorded all births, christenings, confirmations, marriages, deaths and burials. Generally, this was done at the time of the event. The state church of Mecklenburg was the Evangelical Church and nearly 100% of the births, marriages and deaths in Mecklenburg are recorded in the parish registers of this church. Mecklenburg also had a few Roman Catholic and Evangelical Reformed churches as well which kept church records. Church records are of particular value for genealogical research in Mecklenburg because the civil authorities in Mecklenburg did not begin registering births, marriages and deaths until after 1876.
The data recorded in the parish registers varied over time. The later records generally give more complete information than the earlier ones. The Evangelical Church of Mecklenburg-Schwerin was first to start a uniform system in 1786. The Evangelical church in Mecklenburg-Strelitz introduced the same system in 1810. This system remained relatively unchanged throughout the 1800s.
Children were usually christened within a few days of birth but occasionally it was as long as several months. The pastor recorded the child's name, the parents' names. and the names of the godparents. Up to the end of the 1700s the pastors of many communities failed to give the name of the mother in the birth records or may have written only her given name. At first only the christening date was recorded. In later parish registers the birth date was given as well. When children died in infancy, the death date is sometimes added in the margins of the christening record.
Couples were generally married in the home parish of the bride. The pastor recorded the names of bride and groom, whether each ws single or widowed, and the date of the marriage. The earliest marriage records gave little information about the parents of the couple. In most cases, up until the beginnign of the 1800s, marriage registers recorded only the names of the bride's parents. In Mecklenburg-Strelitz the name of the groom's parents began to be recorded as a matter of course after 1810. This practice was introduced in Mecklenburg-Schwerin sometime after 1820. The birthdates of the bride and groom began sometimes to be entered in marriage registers during the 1800s. Some marriage registers even give the birthplaces of the groom and bride. Marriage registers sometimes also give the three dates on which the marriage intentions were announced. These announcements, called banns, gave opportunity for anyone to come forward who knew any reasons why the couple shouldn't be married.
Germans from Pommern and Mecklenburg in the German Parish of Stockholm ( 17th century)
The author, M. Bruhn, by looking through an address book of Stockholm noticed that a lot of family names had German origins. Further research into the church books of the German St. Gertrud parish in Stockholm made him realize that during the latter half of the 17th century Germans from the Baltic Sea regions migrated to Sweden because of political or economic reasons. He discovered that of 187 persons listed in the marriage records of the above mentioned church 46% came from Pommern, 28% from Mecklenburg and the rest from other areas. The emigrants came from Rostock, Stralsund, Stettin, Greifswald, Kolberg, Treptow/Toll., Demmin and Stargard. By profession these people were craftsmen, especially tailors, shoemakers and carpenters. Others were merchants, skippers and sailors, brewers, innkeepers and cooks.
The list was published in Archiv fúr Sippenforschung, Jahrgang 34, Heft 30 (1968), page 439. The periodical can be accessed through FamilySearch, Family History Library Catalog, call number 943 B2as.
Deceased persons were usually buried within a few days of their death. The pastor recorded the burial date and death date, and the name of the deceased. Very early burial registers may give only a description of the deceased, such as "son of wife of johann Schmidt" or simply "an old man" with no name at all. The age of the deceased is usually given, but this information is often lacking in the early registers. Burial registers from the 1800s often give the cause of dath, the names of survivors, and sometimes even the place and date of birth. Parents' names (especially the father's name) are usually given in the burial record of children.
In general, the keeping of church records in Mecklenburg began in 1602 when the church made a proclamation requiring every parish to maintain a parish register. A few parishes kept church records before the proclamation. The church records of Rövershagen, for example, start in 1580. There are even some receipt books of the parish of Toitenwinkel which date from 1562. Most parishes, however, were slow to start keeping a parish register.
Overall, the efficient recording of all baptisms, marriages, and deaths developed slowly. The record-keeping requirement was limited, at first, to baptisms, marriages and confession registers. In 1650 a revised church proclamation repeated the order to keep parish registers and added a requirement to maintain death registers. On March 19, 1764 the churches of Mecklenburg-Strelitz were ordered to keep their parish registers in an orderly and conscientious manner. A uniform system of record keeping was introduced in Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1786 and in Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1810. As of 11 September, 1815, all parishes in Mecklenburg were required to keep a register of confirmations, but confirmation registers of many parishes date from as early as 1800. Indexes of the church records were officially started on 10 Mar. 1881 but some parishes have indexes of their earlier parish registers.
Unfortunately, a great number of Mecklenburg's church records were destroyed in the wars of the 1600s. Others were destroyed as parish houses burned. In 1704, because of concerns about such destruction, some parishes began making copies of their parish registers. These copies were called Duplikaten. The practice of making copies of parish registers was introduced as law throughout Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1786. The original intent of this law was to copy all the available church records. But this could not be accomplished because there was so much to be copied. A year later, in 1787, tha law was modified. Only the churchbooks that covered the time period after 1740 needed to be copies. The copies were supposed to be delivered to the Superintendent-Archive. This request was not completely obeyed. Most parishes at least made the copies, but some were never turned in to the archive.
How to locate church records in Mecklenburg
"The best source for genealogical information and family research in Mecklenburg is the church records. Church records, also called Kirchenbücher, are particularly valuable in Mecklenburg because the civil authorities did not begin registering births, marriages, and deaths until after 1876. Generally recorded at the time of the event, parish records contain births, baptisms, marriages, confirmations and deaths. The data recorded in these records varied over time. Later records usually have more information than early ones.
The Mecklenburg church records were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1951 and they are all available at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copies of these microfilms are available for your research at local Family History Centers all over the world.
The church records of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz up until 1875 are in Schwerin and are available at the archives:
To find the church records for a given town, you will need to locate the parish for that town. You can do this online at ProGenealogist
Check out church records online at ancestry.com
Go to "Search" function and hover mouse over it. Select card catalog. Filter by continent, country, state and select filter "Birth, Marriage, Death records"