How do you read German church records for baptism, marriage, and death records? First a general overview of these types of records in Germany and then actual findings of my own family in Germany.
German Source Records: Birth, Marriage & Death
Records of German birth/baptism, marriage, and death were historically collected and maintained by Churches or in some cases the region that a family member lived. Before the 1870s, the churches, not civil authorities, meticulously kept track of their members’ births/baptisms, marriages, and deaths. In 1876, five years after German unification, a law was passed legally requiring civil registry offices to keep records – the church then kept records only for their own interests and no longer for civil reasons. More on the structure changes in Germany can be found at FamilySearch wiki, https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Germany_Civil_Registration
Since Germany as a country was not unified as country until 1871 and then during the period of 1961-1989 was separated as West Germany and East Germany records were not maintained in a central location for most years that genealogists investigate. Church records serve as important vital records substitutes and helpful in finding relatives born prior to an established central repository for vital records in Germany today.
Here is a list of the “most frequently” given information in the respective entries in church records:
- Baptisms (Taufregister): Name of child, dates of birth and baptism, parents’ names, mother’s maiden name, legitimacy of the child, occupation of parents, town of residence, pastor’s name, midwife’s name, godparents’ names, etc. The baptismal register may also list the corresponding family book number.
- Marriages (Eheregister): Name of person married, their occupation, age, parents’ names, and occupation, whether the parents are still living, town of residence, spouse’s name, occupation and age, spouse’s parents’ names, occupation and whether they are still living, dates of marriage banns, date of marriage, witnesses’ names, ages, and occupation, etc.
- Deaths (Totenregister): Name, occupation, residence, age, cause of death, date of death, date of burial, surviving relatives, etc.
Contents of the church books – My Ancestors the Felix Family
There is no standard format for church books. In some church books you can find tables, in other flow text, depending on what the pastor/priest has written down. Below are the German church findings of my relatives and the English translations for the columns of entry.
Sample page – Baptism – indicates residence as Mariehof, Date of Birth: 23 Jan 1845 at 4am, Date of Baptism: 26 Jan 1845, Female, Name: Louise Juliane, Name of Father: Eduard Felix, Name of Mother: Renate nee Resfar, and Godparents in last column.
Sample page – Marriage– indicates residence as Mariehof, Date of Marriage: 15 Feb 1853, Name of Couple: Eduard Felix, widower and Friedericke Caroline Noetzel, single (virgin), both Lutherans, Age of Groom: 40, Age of Bride 29, Last Column: says permission of the parish Neustadt in Feb 1853, she was unmarried.
Sample page – Death – Place of Death: Mariehof, Date of Death: 02 Dec 1852 at 4pm, Date of Burial: 05 Dec 1852, Age: 32, Name: Mrs. Renate Felix nee Resfahr, leaves behind her husband and 3 minor children, Husband: Eduard Felix, Illness/Cause of Death: Cholera.
Web portal for German Protestant Records
Church Books Online at Ancestry.com in Germany
German Genealogy firm that I have linked with for my own history