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A court record is a document created by or submitted to the judge, jury, or clerk of a court. The earliest German vital records were usually kept by one of many city courts. Some German cities began keeping records containing birth, marriage, and death information for certain segments of the population in the 1400s, but only a small fraction of Germans are represented in court records.
In order to understand court records and how to retrieve them read this introduction here.
Courts and their records
Courts may be found on various levels of government: within the local community, on the district- or Kreis level, or higher. They vary widely in function and the types of records that may be be created within their jurisdictions. Marriage contracts and permission papers, guardianship records, probate records, land records, and property transfers are some records kept by courts. Marriage contracts are the most common early court records of value to family historians.
There were over fifty kinds of courts (each with a different jurisdiction) in the German states before 1870. Court records are rarely indexed, so finding an ancestor in them is difficult. Search court records only after you have tried all other record types first. You may need professional help to use court records.
However, if you do find a person mentioned in court records, you will often find much useful information. Age, residence, political allegiance, property, debts, misdemeanors, taxes, adoptions,and guardianship are typical information in German court records. Divorces are also recorded in court records, but they are rare before the 1900s. For information about wills, see the “Probate Records” section.
Court Records in the FamilySearch Catalog
In the FamilySearch Catalog German court records may be found under the town, district, county, or state jurisdictions. Depending on the record type, documents may be cataloged as census records, probate records, or civil registration, even though they were kept by a court. The researcher needs to systematically check each applicable jurisdiction and all subject headings for potentially helpful records.
GERMANY - COURT RECORDS
GERMANY, [STATE] - COURT RECORDS
GERMANY, [STATE], [TOWN] - COURT RECORD
They may also be listed under the name of the A.G. Amtsgericht [lower court]. The name of the lower court that had jurisdiction over a community can be found in the German gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrslexikon. This gazetteer is online.
A Notar, or notary public, is a person who studied law and who after thorough examination was appointed to draw up documents, contracts, wills, power of attorney, examination of witnesses and other legal actions. Documents carrying the seal of a notary public had full legal power backed by the emperor or the pope and could serve as evidence. A Notar could only operate within a designated area.
Saxony court records
A large collection of court records has been filmed for Saxony. These records have been cataloged by town. Some indexes and finding aids are available. See here for further information on the court records available for Saxony.
For works cited and consulted read here
A wiki article describing this collection is found at:
- This page was last modified on 25 July 2014, at 18:15.
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