North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Germany Genealogy
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Guide to North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Germany ancestry, family history, and genealogy after 1945: birth records, marriage records, death records.
Historical Background[edit | edit source]
North Rhine-Westphalia was established in 1946 after World War II from the Prussian provinces of Westphalia and the northern part of Rhine Province (North Rhine), and the Free State of Lippe by the British military administration in Allied-occupied Germany. North Rhine-Westphalia became a state of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, and the city of Bonn served as the federal capital until the reunification of Germany in 1990 and as the seat of government until 1999. [Wikipedia]
Getting Started[edit | edit source]
Getting Started with Germany Research
Links to articles on getting started with German research:
Germany Research Tools
Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:
Research to Find the Town of Origin[edit | edit source]
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 Germany Finding Town of Origin as a guide in finding evidence in United States records proving your ancestors' town of origin. Also see Germany Emigration and Immigration, especially for immigration to countries other than the United States.
Maps[edit | edit source]
Germany was first unified as a nation in 1871. For German research prior to 1945, the Research Wiki, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Historical Records are organized by the place names in use from 1871 to 1945. For research in that time period, use the Wiki links in the chart below:
- To find the 1871 duchy or province for your town, use Meyer's 1871 Gazetteer Online.
History and Background
Instructions for Research Before 1945
1946: Divided into the newly founded states of Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, and Rhineland-Palatinate. The city of Wetzlar became part of the state of Hesse (Hessen).
Use this clickable map to find the correct Wiki article: Map
1945: Became part of the current state of North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen) (Map)
Finding Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]
After 1945, the main source for research will be civil registration. Civil registration records are records of births, marriages, and deaths kept by the government. In Brunswick (Braunschweig), they were started 1 January 1876. German terms for these records include Standesamtsregister, Zivilstandsregister, or Personenstandsregister. They are an excellent source for information on names and dates and places of births, marriages, and deaths. These records are kept by the civil registrar (Standesbeamte) at the civil registry office (Standesamt). Study these links to learn what information can be found in them:
- Births (Geburtsregister)
- Marriages (Heiraten, Ehen, or Trauungen)
- Deaths (Sterberegister or Totenregister)
Melderegister[edit | edit source]
Since 1874, there is an official registration of residential addresses in Germany. These data were collected by the police stations. They are kept in the civil registration office. Some offices keep them historically from their start. Other offices destroyed records for people once they died.
These registration cards were available for each respective householder. Noted on the card were his wife and any children, dates of marriage or death, and a history of resident addresses. The value of these cards is their use to determine which civil registration office might hold birth, marriage, and death certificates for the family members.
Follow the German Letter Writing Guide, and use questions 16 and 17 to request these records.
Privacy Laws[edit | edit source]
Since 2009, birth records have been public after 110 years, marriages after 80 years and deaths after 30 years. A direct relationship (direct descendants and direct ancestors) to the subject of the record sought will be required in cases where the required time period has not yet elapsed. Even then, the records may be accessible if it can be shown that all "participating parties" have died at least 30 years ago. Participating parties are both parents and the child in birth records, and both spouses in a marriage.
Determining the Location of a Civil Registration Office[edit | edit source]
Research your town name in MeyersGaz.org to find the location of the registry office (Standesamt). It is indicated by the abbreviation "StdA".
However, some of the offices were merged in 1970's, so the record location might be different than that listed in MeyersGaz.
- For a small town within a larger municipality:
- To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box. An article about the town will start with a first line such as: "Besse with about 3200 inhabitants is the largest district of the municipality Edermünde in Hessian Schwalm-Eder-Kreis ." It is probable that the Standesamt is now located in the municipality (in this example Edermünde).
- To e-mail the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there.
- From the Wikipedia town article, click on the name of the municipality that links to that article.
- There will usually be an infobox on the right side of page that lists the address and the website of the municipality.
- Click on the website. Look for "Kontakt (Contact)" information, which should provide an e-mail address.
- Send a message asking whether you have the correct office for your ancestors' home town. You can
- For larger towns which constitute a municipality:
- To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box.
- This type of article will not state that the town belongs to another municipality, because it is itself a municipality.
- The infobox that lists the address and the website of the municipality will appear directly on a this first page that comes up.
- Follow the above instructions #2-4 above.
1. Online Records[edit | edit source]
Ancestry.com ($)[edit | edit source]
Ancestry.com collections can be viewed free-of-charge at a Family History Center near you.
- Menden Deaths, 1874-1986, index and images. These records for Menden cover: Boingsen, Holzen, Lendringsen, and Sümmern.
- Minden Deaths, 1874-1966, index and images. These records from Minden cover: Barkhausen, Dankersen, Dützen, Haddenhausen, Häverstädt, Kutenhausen, Leteln, Meissen, Minden, Todtenhausen, and Unterlübbe.
2. Writing for Civil Registration Records[edit | edit source]
Civil registration records for Germany can be obtained by writing to the local civil registry (Standesamt) or the district archives. Records may have been lost at one location of the other, so you might end up checking both. The first office you contact might choose to forward your request to the other location if necessary.
Local Standesamt Address[edit | edit source]
How to Write the Letter[edit | edit source]
Detailed instruction for what to include in the letter, plus German translations of the questions and sentences most frequently used are in the German Letter Writing Guide.
More Research Strategies and Tools[edit | edit source]
- Germany Online Classes and Tutorials
- Reading German Handwritten Records Practice exercises to build your skills and confidence.
- Old German Script Transcriber (alte deutsche Handschriften): See your family names in the script of the era. Type your name or other word into the font generator tool. Click on the 8 different fonts. Save the image to your computer and use it as you work with old Germanic records.
- Research Tips and Strategies
Search Strategy[edit | edit source]
- Search for the relative or ancestor you selected. When you find their birth record, search for the births of their brothers and sisters.
- Next, search for the marriage of their parents. The marriage record will have information that will often help you find the birth records of the parents.
- Search the death registers for all known family members.
- The marriage certificate will show the birth date, birth place, and parents of the bride and the groom.
- Repeat this process for both the father and the mother, starting with their birth records, then their siblings' births, then their parents' marriages, and so on.
- If earlier generations (parents, grandparents, etc.) do not appear in the records, search neighboring parishes.