Thursday, July 7, 2016

German Census records 1816-1916 : featured library resource for July 2016

A new volume authored by Roger Minert addresses an important area of research for those with German ancestry.  German census records, 1816-1916 covers a century of census records in each of the German states, in 38 chapters listed alphabetically.  While German research has traditionally relied on church and civil records, this volume should make more accessible a relatively untapped resource.

1815 marked the end of Napoleon's domination of the many independent German states, and the beginning of the process of unification which resulted in the creation of Germany in 1871.  While not ceding political power, the German states formed customs unions to distribute revenues collected for imported goods.  To ensure equitable distributions, regular censuses were initiated during this period.  Although early census records did not necessarily include all names, by the 1840s most states had begun this practice.

In 1867, Chancellor Bismarck of the North German Federation decreed a census for the purpose of supporting a military force and the administrative costs of the Federation, initiating what was effectively the first national census.  After Germany was established in 1871, a census was taken that year, followed by one in 1875 and thereafter at 5 year intervals.  Censuses were administered by the individual German states, which sometimes added questions to those required by the federal government.

Each of the state chapters follows the same format:

  • location (a description of the terirtory, any border adjustments)
  • census history
  • specific instructions to census-takers
  • content of census records
  • accessibility (any online records and/or how to locate archives)
In addition to an index and bibliography, there are appendices with suggestions about writing to archives and conducting census research. We are happy to add this volume to the CCGS Library, and hope it will broaden your German research.