Research Strategies for Westphalia

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When children were born illegitimately and the father’s name is not known what research strategy is suggested?
1. Check who the witnesses were at birth of child. Likelihood is that there might be a relationship
There might exist a separate section in the church book for illegitimate births.
2. Check whether the mother marries the father later and the child became legitimized by the father’s acknowledgment .
3. Check confirmation records.
4. Find school records to see if school fees were paid for the child and by whom (Search in School records . One possibility “Kirchenvisitationen”, “Schülerverzeichnis”)
5. Was the child adopted? (Search in court records, key word: “ Adoptionen”, “Vormundschaft”)
6. See if a will exists in which the child was bequeathed money or property. (Search in court records for “Testamente”)

When parents came from a city unknown what would be the research strategy?
1. Check the witnesses at the children’s baptisms. Witnesses might be relatives and there may be a place name which could give a clue.
2. Check citizenship records of present residence (Search for” Bürgerrolle”, “Bürgerbuch”, “Bürgerliste”,” Bürgerverzeichnis”, “Einwohnermeldeverzeichnis”)
3. Check for journeymen or servants records (Search for “Geburtsbriefe”, “Gesindebuch”, “Heimatscheine”, “Wanderbücher”, “Gutsarchiv” records)
4. Check census records. Search for “Volkszählungen”.
5. Check guild records. Search for “Innungen”
6. Check neighboring church records to see if parents appeared as witnesses.

When given and surnames are present more than once in a parish and additional persons cannot easily be assigned to each other, what would be the research strategy?
1. Establish whole families. See who has married whom and had what children.
2. Compare findings in church books with court records. 90% of the population in Germany were dependent farmers. They did not own their farms but had usufruct , for which they were taxed and recorded in administrative records. Parents would bequeath, sell , lease or retire, and children inherit personal property. All such actions were recorded in court records. ( Search in archival records, such as” Patrimonialgerichte”, “Stadtgerichte”, “Amtsgerichte” )
3. Check tax lists. Twice a year people were required to pay taxes. See if the same heads of family pay each time. If the head of household dies, the widow continues to pay taxes until her child becomes of age and takes over or she remarries. (Search for “Steuerlisten”, “Steuerrollen”)

When different spellings exist for a family name what would be the research strategy?
1. Be aware that spelling rules are not set until the early 1900s. Dialects can apply when writing official records. Some consonants and vowels are interchangeable. The name Triebenbach can be spelled Driebenbach, Treubenbach, Drübenbach.
2. Names can be Latinized: The name Keller becomes Cellarius, names can sound as if they are Latin, such as Debelius.
3. The priest simply made a mistake
4. Consider looking at neighboring parish registers
5. Always compare the spelling of a name with other documents available for the time period. (The most common ones are taxlists, in German “Steuerlisten”, “Steuerrollen”).

When church records from a parish cannot be located what should be the research strategy?
1. Check if the correct parish was chosen. A good source to check is a gazetteer.
2. Have parish jurisdictions changed?
3. Check with the diocese (Bistum) or deanery (Dekanat) if a duplicate record does exist and where it was deposited.

Evangelical Church of Westfalen 

Bistum for Catholic records

When church books no longer exist because they were destroyed what should the research strategy be?
Gather information from other records:
1. Tax records (Steuerlisten, Schatzungslisten) – located in state archives
2. Debt registers, citizenship records, fire insurance registers (Schuldenregister, Löscheimerlisten, Brandregister, Bürgerlisten) – located in city archives, mayor‘s office
3. Guild records, notary records, land records (Innungslisten, Zunftbücher, notarielle Akten, Grundbuchsachen – state archives
4. Kataster, Bannbücher (cadastral , absolvent books) – state archives, cadastral offices, finance departments
5. Tax records of parishes (Lagerbücher) – church archives
6. House lists, address books, house ownership lists, military records, vaccination records (Häuserlisten, Adressbücher, Hauswirtslisten, Stammrollen, Impflisten) – city archives
7. News papers (Zeitungen, Amtsblätter) - city archive, state archive
8. Emigration records, census records, Wählerlisten (Auswanderungsakten, Volkszählungen,
voting records) – state archive
9. Cemetery records (Gräber, Gottesacker) – city archive

Here is a list of archives in Nordrhein-Westfalen