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Entries in civil status records from Germany since 1876

What information is contained in the documents by the registers of births, deaths and marriages?

The German law on civil status has been changed rather frequently. Among other things, the law contains detailed standards as to what kinds of entries have to made in which registers.

There are registers of births, deaths and marriages. All entries have to made by the civil registry office where an event has been recorded. For example, when a child has been born in one city and the family has moved to another city afterwards, the entry remains at the civil registry office at the place of birth. The law that was passed on February 6, 1875 and came into effect on January 1, 1876, stipulates the types of entries.

Back in 1875/1876, recording officials had to supply the following information:

For a birth:

  • Name, status or profession and address of the person supplying the information
  • Place, day and hour of birth
  • The child’s gender
  • The child’s first name(s)
  • Names, religion, status or profession and address of the parents

Note: Stillborn children are only recorded in the register of deaths.

For a wedding:

  • Names, religion, age, status or profession, place of birth and address of both bride and groom.
  • Name, status or profession and address of the respective parents
  • Names, age, status or profession and address of all witnesses to the marriage
  • Declaration of bride and groom that they want to celebrate the marriage
  • Speech of the recording official about the lawfulness of the marriage

When the marriage banns were ordered, the future bride and groom both had to supply their birth certificates. In cases where bride or groom were not yet of age, the parents had to give their consent.

For a death:

  • Name, status or profession and address of the person supplying the information
  • Place, day and hour of death
  • Names, religion, age, status or profession, address and place of birth of the deceased
  • Name of his or her spouse (it was recorded if the person was unmarried)
  • Names, status or profession and address of the deceased’s parents

On June 11, 1920, another change was made to the law on civil status. The recording official was forbidden to enter a religion into the register. Nonetheless, the religion had to be requested and was used for statistical purposes.

Other data were gathered for statistical purposes as well, e.g. the circumstances surrounding multiple births or the cause of death.

Another legal change came into effect on October 18, 1935 when the future bride and groom had to supply a document from the local health authority to provide proof that there are no obstacles to the marriage in question.

Moreover, the engaged couple had to supply proof of their descent. Birth certificates were not returned but became part of the so-called blanket file (“Sammelakte”).

On November 3, 1937, the marriage certificate became a so-called family file. The family file contained two parts.

The first part was the marriage certificate, containing the following information:

  • Names of bride and groom, their professions and addresses, day and place of birth, religion
  • Names, profession and address of the witnesses
  • Declaration of bride and groom that they want to celebrate the marriage
  • Speech of the recording official about the lawfulness of the marriage

The second part contains information about members of the immediate family:

  • Names of parents, their professions, addresses, day and place of birth and marriage, religion
  • Information about their nationalities, the “Reichsbürgerrecht” (national civil rights) and the racial status of both husband and wife
  • The second part also contains information about children born during the marriage and out of wedlock.

Moreover, the engaged couple had to supply the respective birth certificates as well as their parents’ marriage certificates. More often than not, these documents are still available in the blanket files of civil registry offices.

After the changes to the law on civil status that were made on September 27, 1944, the second part of the document was no longer completed.

Entries made in the registry of births or deaths were the same as stipulated in the law from 1876. If a medical declaration for the cause of death was available, it would have been noted in the death certificate.

Today, religion will only be recorded upon request. The cause of death is not recorded in the register of deaths anymore.

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