Schleswig-Holstein Civil Registration

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Civil Registration

How to Find Birth, Marriage, and Death Records in Schleswig-Holstein


A separate series of articles are available on the wiki for Lübeck, a region of Schleswig-Holstein which was a different state of the German Empire until 1945. However, research guidance in this article will also apply to Lübeck.

Das Standesamt (Vital Record Office)

On October 1, 1874 Prussia established civil registration in its territories and in 1876, January 1, all of Germany followed suit. Each city and county had a Standesamt. Big cities have several according to subdivisions. The Standesämter took over from parishes which recorded baptisms, marriages and burials as recorded by the parish clerk or the pastor himself. When the Standesamt took over, the clerk represented the state. For instance, he recorded before witnesses the start of the marriage, and so gave the union more legitimacy which also extended to the legitimacy and rights of the children. Today a marriage has to be recorded before the civil registrar first, and then a couple can proceed with a church wedding.

Source: Wikipedia: Standesamt

Time Period

The information from civil registration offices is not readily available to the public, except for Northern Schleswig that is now part of Denmark. In Lübeck, civil registration began in 1811. In 1874, German civil authorities registered births, marriages, and deaths in Tønder, Haderslev, Åbenrå, and Sønderborg counties(Southern Jylland in modern Denmark). After 1874, almost all individuals who lived in these counties are recorded in both civil records and church records. Starting January 1, 1876, all of Germany was mandated to keep civil registration.


The sections below—"Births [Geburten]," "Marriages [Heiraten]," and "Deaths [Toten]"—describe the German civil registration records for the counties that were under German administration.

Births [Geburten]

Birth records generally give the child's name, sex, and birth date and place and the parents' names. Later records provide additional details, such as the birthplace and parents' ages, father's occupation, mother's marital status, and number of other children born to the mother.

Families generally registered births within a few days of the child's birth. Corrections or additions to a birth record may be added as a marginal note.

Marriages [Heiraten]

Most couples had a church wedding. There may be both civil registration and church records. Civil marriage records may include more information than church records. When they are available, search both.

Deaths [Toten]

Civil death records are helpful because they may provide important information on a person's birth, spouse, and parents. Civil death records often exist for people who have no birth records. Deaths were usually registered within a few days of the death in the town or city where the person died.

Later death registers may contain the age or birth date and place, residence or street address, occupation, cause of death, burial information, and informant's name (often a relative). They often list the spouse or parents. Information may be inaccurate.

Locating Civil Registration Records

Civil registration records are kept at the local civil registration office in each district, town or city (municipality). Therefore, you must determine the town where your ancestor lived before you can find the records. The Landsarkivet located in Åbenrå has the records for Northern Schleswig which is now called Southern Jylland in Denmark.

Online Records

Microfilm Copies of Civil Registration From FamilySearch

A few, not many, civil registration records will be in the microfilm collection of the Family History Library. The number should increase gradually. These microfilms may be ordered for viewing at Family History Centers around the world. To find a microfilm:

a. Click on the Places within Germany, Preussen, Schleswig-Holstein drop-down menu and select your town.
For localities in Lübeck, click here to select your town.
b. Click on the "Civil registration" topic, if available. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
c. Choose the correct record type and time period for your ancestor. "Geburten" are births. Heiraten are marriages. "Verstorbene" are deaths.
d. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the microfilm listed for the record. FHL icons.png. The magnifying glass indicates that the microfilm is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the microfilm. The microfilm icon indicates it is only available on microfilm and can be viewed at the Family History Library and some family history centers.

Writing for Civil Registration Records

For list telling which civil registration office is responsible for a town in Schlesiwg-Holstein, see Standesämter.

Another Method to Determine the Standesamt (Civil Registry Office) Location

Research your town name in to find the location of the Standesamt. It is indicated by the abbreviation "StdA". However, some of the offices were merged in 1970's, so the record location might be different than that listed in MeyersGaz.

  • For a municipality:
  • To find the current Standesamt, go to the German Wikipedia, and enter the name of the town in the search box. An article about the town will start with a first line such as: "Besse with about 3200 inhabitants is the largest district of the municipality Edermünde in Hessian Schwalm-Eder-Kreis ." It is probable that the Standesamt is now located in the municipality (in this example Edermünde).
  • Email the municipality to verify that the civil registry for your town is there. From the town article, click on the name of the municipality that links to that article. There will usually be an infobox on the page that lists the address and the website of the municipality. From the website, look for Kontakt (Contact) information with an email address.
  • For a town:
  • Follow the same instructions as for a municipality. However, in this case, the first line will read, for example: "Borken is a town in the Schwalm-Eder-Kreis with about 13,000 residents.
  • The infobox with the website will appear directly on a town page.

How to Write the Letter

Using this address as guide, replace the information in parentheses:

An das Standesamt
(Insert street address, if known.)
(Postal Code) (Name of Locality)

Detailed instruction for what to include in the letter, plus German translations of the questions and sentences most frequently used are in the Germany Letter Writing Guide.

Civil Registration in Hamburg for Schleswig-Holstein Localities

The State Archive in Hamburg has determined to make Civil Registration books for Hamburg proper (registration starts in 1876) and for Prussian territories, i.e., Altona. available. The books cover the time frame 1874 to 1898 (births), 1874 to 1928 (marriages) and from 1874 to 1978 (deaths).

The following possibilities for use of the archival records are available:

1. Research in research room of the archives (Lesesaal).
2. Online reservation of civil registers and research in research area (Leesesal).
3. Ordering and certifying documents
4. Help with research

District Office Hamburg-Nord
Robert-Koch-Straße 17
20249 Hamburg

Phone: (040) 428 28-0
E-Mail (all departments):
E-mail (birth place): Geburten @ hamburg
E-Mail (sterbefaelle):

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.
German Genealogical Word List
German Handwriting
  • 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:

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)

Latin Records

Records of the Catholic church will usually be written in Latin:

Research Strategies

Effective use of church records includes the following strategies:

  • Search for the relative or ancestor. When you find his or her birth record, search for the births of brothers and sisters.
  • Next search for the parents' marriage date and place. The marriage record will often lead to the parents' birth records.
  • You can estimate the ages of the parents and determine a birth year to search for their birth records. If more than one possible candidate is found, search confirmation, marriage, and burial records to determine the correct individual. If available, census-type records or family books can be used as well.
  • Try to find the parents death/burial entries, since these records may give their age at death.
  • Use the above strategies for both the father and the mother.
  • If earlier generations are not in the record you are using, search neighboring parishes and other denominations.
  • Search the death registers for all family members.