Hessen, Germany Genealogy
|Hessen Wiki Topics|
|Local Research Resources|
Guide to Hessen, Germany ancestry, family history, and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
Hessen: Hessen, Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Nassau, parts of Rheinpfalz, parts of Rheinland, and Waldeck
Today's state of Hessen was created after the Second World War by uniting the countries of Hessen, Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Nassau, Rheinpfalz (Alzey, Bingen, Mainz, part of Oppenheim, Worms), parts of Rheinland (Oberwaldkreis, Unterwaldkreis, Westerburg), and Waldeck.
How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Hessen
- How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Hessen by County
- Civil Registration
- Church Records
- Town Genealogies
For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from Hessen will not be enough to use the records of Germany. Records are kept on the local level, so you will have to know the town they lived in.
- Details about the town will also help:
- the county or "Kreis" of that town,
- where the closest Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church was (depending on their religion),
- where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was, and
- if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger town it was part of.
Research to Find the Town
If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.
- Use Gathering Information to Locate Place of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
- Generally, statewide indexes do not exist. However, there is a partial card index to emigration records from Hessen: Auswandererkartei 1800-1900 . It includes general indexes of Hessen and specific indexes which cover emigration from the modern districts of Dieburg, Bergstrasse and Erbach. Cards are all arranged alphabetically. (Except the 1825 index which is arranged in roughly reverse chronological order). It does not cover Hessen-Nassau areas.
- This collection is also available online at Arcinsys Hessen. In the Search words box, enter the words "Auswanderer-Nachweise". Click Search and look for the line "Findkarteien und Datenbanken: Auswanderer-Nachweise". On the far right, click on "Navigator". Now in the left sidebar, a alphabetical index will appear. Again, this database does not cover Hessen-Nassau.
- You might try this technique if you are working with a very unusual surname and still do not know your ancestors' town of origin. It won't work with names like Müller, Schmidt, Becker, Schumacher, etc. In the Search words box at Arcinsys Hessen, enter your ancestors' surname. You will be given a list of the records in the archives with that surname. By studying the entries, you will learn some towns where families with that surname are found. By studying the original records in that town, you might find proof that your ancestor lived there, in the form of a matching birth record or marriage record to what you already know. Caution: Do not assume if the list brings up a name like your ancestors' that it is automatically your family. There can be many duplicate names in many towns. You must follow up in the original records to prove the connection. It would be wise to check each town to eliminate duplicates and find your exact match.
If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
Once you know the town name you need, the other facts you need are contained in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, the gazetteer on which the FamilySearch catalog for Germany is based.
- Use MeyersGaz, the digital gazetteer, to find the details you need, particularly the Kreis (county) it belonged to, found after "Kr".
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)
Clickable Map and Chart
- Click on the name of your town's Kreis (Kr) in this 1871 map to learn about records and strategies for that county.
(You might find reference to other variations of Hessen in documents about your ancestor, such as Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Darmstadt, Oberhessen, Rhein-Hessen, and Hessen-Homberg. Click here to study those place names.)
||1871 Hessen Kreise (Counties)
County (Kreis) Links to Research Instructions, Online Databases, and Microfilmed Records
By clicking on either the modern Kreis name or the 1871 Kreis name in the first two columns, you will link to an article teaching you how to conduct research in that Kreis.
Reading the Records
- It's easier than you think! You do not have to be fluent in French and German to use these records, as there is only a limited vocabulary used in them. By learning a few key phrases, you will be able to read them adequately. Here are some resources for learning to read German records.
- These video webinars will teach you to read German handwriting:
- Also online interactive slideshow lessons are available to help you learn to read these records:
- Reading German Handwritten Records Lesson 1: Kurrent Letters
- Reading German Handwritten Records Lesson 2: Making Words in Kurrent
- Reading German Handwritten Records Lesson 3: Reading Kurrent Documents. In this lesson, you will explore several types of German genealogical records, including birth, baptismal, marriage, and death records.
- German Script Tutorial
This converter will show you how any phrase or name might look in German script:
- Kurrentschrift Converter (enter German genealogical word, click on "convert", view your word in Kurrentschrift (Gothic handwriting)
Records of the Catholic church will usually be written in Latin: