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In Germany, citizenship was a valuable privilege that included the following:
1693: Rights to engage in business in a town.
1694: Protection under the law.
1695: Permission to reside in a town without being expelled.
Naturalization is the process of granting citizenship privileges and responsibilities to residents. Citizenship was usually extended by individual cities to certain of their inhabitants. National citizenship was rare until the German Empire of 1871.
Those who received the rights to citizenship were recorded in citizenship books [Bürgerbücher or Bürgerlisten]. Although some German citizenship books date from medieval times, most are for later centuries. They are among the earliest and most consistently kept records of genealogical value for Germany. They include information about citizens' names, ages, social and economic status, occupation and training, and sometimes birthplaces and relationships.
Only males of the middle or upper classes were granted citizenship, and only if they were born legitimately. Merchants and craftsmen were commonly granted citizenship.
Genealogical use of citizenship books is usually limited to the time period before church records are available. They may also be used to trace migrations not found in other records. A bibliography of 517 published Bürgerlisten is found on pages 138 to 180 in Ribbe Wolfgang Ribbe, and Eckart Henning. Taschenbuch für Familiengeschichtsforschung (Pocketbook for family history research) Neustadt/Aisch, Germany: Degener, 1975. FHLC book 943 D25t, 1975.
The Family History Library has obtained copies of some German citizenship books. In the Place Search of the Family History Library Catalog they are usually listed under the specific town. For example:
GERMANY, PREUßEN, HESSEN-NASSAU, FRANKFURT (MAIN) - NATURALIZATION AND CITIZENSHIP
The original citizenship books were usually kept by the town and may be found in town archives or town halls.
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