German Birth Records
9/27/2009
You've got questions about discovering, preserving and celebrating your family history; our experts have the answers.
Q Where would I write to obtain the birth information of my great-great-grandfather, who was born in the area of Oberbieber, Germany?

A.Since Germany has no central records repository, and so many German records are microfilmed, it's usually more fruitful to seek microfilmed civil registration or church records than to write. Civil registrations, which began roughly 1792 in Rheinland (this date varies widely depending on the exact location), will give you a birth date; more-plentiful church records provide a christening date.

Before you can find these records, you need to know your ancestor's exact place of origin and his parish. Oberbieber is a suburb in the Neuwied district, created in 1816, of the German state Rheinland-Pfalz, established in 1946. Before that, it had been part of Prussia's Rhine Province since 1816. You'll also see it called Rheinland-Palatinate or Rheinland Preu?en.

For help determining a place of origin and parish, see the excellent A Genealogical Handbook of German Research, online at FamilySearch.

It provides detailed instructions on using Meyer's gazetteer to find a civil registry district and the Rheinland gazetteer to find a parish.

Meyer's tells you if a place had its own civil registry office or gives the name of the place where the civil registry for that place was located. It also shows if the town itself had a parish registry.

The Rheinland gazetteer lists parishes associated with towns. You'll find these volumes in print or on microfilm at large genealogical libraries and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Centers (see FamilySearch to find a center near you).

One you find the parish or civil registration district, do a place search of the Family History Library's online catalog on the town name. You can borrow microfilm for a fee through a Family History Center.

For more German-research advice, see the October 2004 Family Tree Magazine.