German Records: Research beyond vital records

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When primary records aren't available[edit | edit source]

German parish and civil registration records may contain a gold mine of information. Exceptions do exist, especially the early records, though for the most part they include the key elements needed for genealogical research. When available, the parish and civil registration records are our primary record source of individual life events.

Unfortunately, there are instances when these vital records do not exist or are not accessible. In such cases, other types of records may be able to provide needed information. Too often these other records are overlooked in the research process. Records, other than vital records, are helpful when:

• Parish and/or civil records have not survived

• Records not available outside a German archive

• The ancestor is from a large city

• Multiple persons exist with the same given and surnames

Listed below are categories and types of records kept. Many of the records are housed in German archives or the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

To determine what records are at the Family History Library, perform a “place search” within the FamilySearch Catalog located at You will need to know the record jurisdictions of your specific locality. (See Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog located at The films are available for viewing at the Family History Library or can be sent to a family history center near you. There are over 500 Family History Centers worldwide. To search for a family history center near you, go to FamilySearch Centers |

Cemetery Records[edit | edit source]

Cemetery Records: When death records do not exist, Cemetery records may provide information similar to that found in some parish records such as the name of the deceased, date of death, date of burial, age at time of death or birth date, and relationships. The following are different names under which cemetery records may be found:
• Friedhof, Friedhofsprotokolle- cemetery
• Begräbnis Platz – cemetery sexton records
• Grab Register – grave/burial records

Census Records[edit | edit source]

Census records/Population/Residency: A national census in Germany was not taken until the late 1800’s. Local censuses began as early as 1500’s, though most do not appear until the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Some were taken on a kingdom, province or duchy level; however most were taken on a city or district level. (See German Census Records | Learn | Similar to U.S. census records they often provide name, age or birth date and relationship information. The FamilySearch Catalog only indexed records specifically titled Volkszahlungslisten under the category of Census. Many “census type” records may be found under the category of “Population” or “Public Records”.
• Bevölkerungsregister – population records
• Einwohnerregister – resident records
• Erstes Register aller Güterbesitzer – estate occupants
• Familienverzeichnis – list of families
• Hausbesitzer – house occupants
• Personnenverzeichnis – surname index of a community
• Registrum Censum – census
• Seelenlisten – membership records
• Untertanenliste – list of serfs
• Volkszahlungslisten – Census records

Church Records[edit | edit source]

Church Records: Aside from the expected birth/baptism/christening, confirmation, marriage and death/burial records kept by the German clerics, many other record types were often included in the registers and may provide name, age/birth date, place of origin and relationship information. These other types of church records include:
• Almosen - welfare records.
• Armenregister – poor records.
• Familienbuch, Familienbüchlein – family registers.
• Seelenlisten – membership records
• Wittwelisten- list of widows

Citizenship Records[edit | edit source]

Citizenship Records: In Germany one was a citizen of a town rather than a Country. One did not earn this right by simply being born there, citizenship required a good character, obligations and a fee. (See Naturalization and Citizenship Germany | Learn | Citizenship records may provide name, age or birth date, place of origin and relationship information and would include the ancestor’s signature. The following list includes names in which citizenship records may have been kept:
• Bürgerbuch/ Bürgerroll/ Einbürgerungen – citizens, citizenship records
• Heimatscheine – certificate of residence
• Personenstands – families and individuals
• Wählerliste – voter Registration Lists.

City Records[edit | edit source]

City Records: Are especially helpful when performing research in a large city where multiple parishes and civil registration jurisdictions exist. Address books will provide street names helping one determine the civil registration jurisdictions or closest parishes. The following records may provide name, age or birth date, occupation, residence and relationship information.
• Addressbuch – address book.
• Amtsbücher – community records
• An/Abmeldung – population records; move in/move out lists.
• Armensachen – welfare records
• Conto-Buch – city account records
• Einnahmsregister – city receipt books.
• Häuserbücher – house or address books
• Polizei – police records
• Selbstmorde – suicide
• Stadtbücher – city records
• Unglücksfälle – accidents
• Unmündiger Kinder – minors
• Waisenhaus – orphanage
• Witwen – widow’s support

Compiled Genealogies[edit | edit source]

Compiled Genealogies: Are not considered to be “records”, rather they are “resources” and as such are secondary sources. They are wonderful to use as a guideline, and then use the original parish records to verify the data. Many of these resources are incredibly accurate, or they can contain many errors. Some of these genealogies are compiled from submitted data, others are taken from original parish registers. These records usually provide name, birth, marriage, death, parents, place of origin, relationships and pedigree extensions.
• Familiengeschichten – family histories
• Dorfsippenbuchs/Ortsippenbuchs – village/town genealogies

Court Records[edit | edit source]

Court Records: Some court records can be a challenge to negotiate. The records are rarely indexed and may contain several pages of jurisdictional information, though the inheritance, will and guardianship records can be a wealth of information. Many provide name, age or birth date, occupation and relationship information.
• Erbbücher – inheritance records
• Gericht/Gerichtsbucher – court records
• Grundstücks, Lehn- u. Gartenbücher – land records
• Konsensbücher – contractual agreements
• Lehn- u. Kaufbücher – land lease and sale records
• Nachlässe – inheritance records
• Strafsachen – criminal records
• Testaments – wills
• Vormundschaftsbuch – guardianship records

Emigration/Immigration/Migration Records[edit | edit source]

Emigration/Immigration/Migration Records: For an explanation of German Emigration records see Germany Emigration and Immigration | Learn | The following records may provide name, age or birth date, occupation, place of origin, relationships and residency information.
• Auswanderungen – emigration
• Einwanderungen – immigration
• Reisepässe or Pässen – passports

Land/Property Records[edit | edit source]

Land/Property Records: German Land records may provide extended generation information as it lists the chain of ownership, though they tend to apply to the nobility or wealthy. (See Germany Land and Property | Learn | ) The records may provide name, age or birth date, relationships, residency and social standing. The Family History Library has microfilmed a few Land Records categorized under Place – Land and Property. Records are usually kept in the respective State Archives in Germany.
• Ackerstücke /Flurbücher – platt maps, parcel records
• Grundbucher – land records
• Lagerbücher – land
• Lehnbücher – fief record (feudal)
• Mieterverzeichnis – land rental/lease list

Medical Records[edit | edit source]

Medical Records: Inoculation records were lists of the children born during a specific time frame compiled by the clerics from their birth/baptism registers. This information was given to the medical community to create a listing of the children requiring inoculations. The records usually provide name, age or birth date and place of origin.
• Impflisten – inoculation

Military Records[edit | edit source]

Military Records: Records of those who served and who were eligible to serve. The different records were kept at different times during a male’s lifetime. The Stammrollen was often kept at the time of his birth and tracked him through his life until he reached the age of required military service. (See Germany Military Records | Learn | Military records may provide name, age or birth date, parent names, dates of service and areas of service.
• Entlassungs – discharge
• Landsturmrolle – home guard
• Mannschaftsverzeichnis – list of troops
• Musterfolle – muster rolls
• Quartierlisten – quarter records
• Stammrollen – military rolls
• Wehrfähigen Männer – draft eligible records

Occupation Records[edit | edit source]

Occupation Records: The culture, history and records of Germany Occupations are varied and steeped in tradition, (see Understanding Occupations in German Research | Learn | Many provide name, age or birth date, trade, migration and residency information.
• Arbeitsbücher – employment records
• Dienstboten/Gesindedienst – domestic servant records
• Gesellen – apprenticeship records
• Innungen/Zunftbucher – guild records.
• Lehrbriefe – indentured servant records
• Meisterbriefe – master documents
• Wanderbücher/Wandergewerbescheine– journeymanship records

School Records[edit | edit source]

School Records: School records can be a gold mine of information providing name, age or birth date, name and standing of father/relationship information.
• Freischule – public school records
• Lehrer – teacher records
• Schule – school records
• Schülerverzeichnis – student records
• Volksschule – elementary schools

Tax Records[edit | edit source]

Tax Records: Some of the earliest records in existence are those of tax records. The records may provide name, age or birth date, standing/class information and relationship information similar to a census record.
• Abgaben Recess – tax payments
• Fräuleinsteuer – serf tax
• Frohn – compulsory labor by serfs and subjects
• Frohngeldes – compulsory payment in lieu of labor
• Geschossbuch – tax record
• Grundsteuer – property tax
• Heberegister – tax
• Klassensteuer – class tax
• Kopfsteuer – head tax
• Schossregister – tax
• Tranksteuer – alcohol tax
• Türkensteuer – Turkish tax
• Zinsbuch – tax

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Further Reading:
FamilySearch Research Wiki - FamilySearch Wikipedia search by keywords for articles. Wikipedia search by keywords for articles.
Jensen, Larry O. Genealogical Handbook of German Research, Pleasant Grove, Utah, 1980; available at ~ Research Helps ~ Articles ~ “G” ~ Genealogical Handbook of German Research, Chapter 11, Record Repositories. provides a complete listing of Ortsippenbuchs available digitally online at Online Berlin City address books from 1799-1943. Modern day telephone book also has a collection of directories
Germany ~ Gazetteers ~ arrow down to “Using Meyers Gazetteer” for instructions and link to the digitized version or available at at