Town and local archives

This guide was last updated in 2009

There are large numbers of records kept in local archives in Germany, which should gladden genealogists' hearts. The organisation of these varies in different parts of Germany but look for the local Stadtarchiv or town archive to start with. If there isn't one, try the local Kreisarchiv or county archive.

The kind of information they may hold includes detailed records of everyone who lived in the town or village. These Einwohnermelde (inhabitants' listing) records were required to be kept from 1876, though many areas have similar records from much earlier; Leipzig holds them from 1811. The records (on cards) list each family, where they came from and went to, their politics and even any suspected criminal activities.

There are no national census records, but many individual states did hold headcounts similar to the British censuses at various times. Few are indexed. The 1819 census for the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, however, is particularly detailed and has been indexed by the Immigrant Genealogical Society in the USA.

A very useful source in the former Kingdom of Württemberg is its Familienregister or family registers. By legislation in 1807, the local Catholic priest was required to keep a detailed register of everyone living in the parish – whatever their religion. This recorded everyone alive in 1807 – organised by family – and lists, with dates, the birth, marriage and death of everyone.

It also holds records for immigrants to the parish including where they had come from, as well as where anyone leaving the parish went to. So it could include family details back to the mid 18th century! Most of these have been microfilmed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) Church and are available in Salt Lake City.

As each town or city in Germany has a unique administrative history, it is worth asking what other goodies your ancestral archive may hold. You never know!

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