Legal parameters for genealogical research in
(also applicable in other German states)

                                            German text

A. = Civil Registry Office

B. = Use of church books

A. Civil Registry Office

1. Data security

According to para. 61 of the law on registration of births marriages and deaths the documentation from the register can only be requested by and issued to persons, to whom the entry in the book refers, by their spouses, ancestors and descendants and by authorities when they indicate the legal purpose. Other persons are only entitled to the documentation when they prove their legal interest.

Legal access is given only if the information of the data of another is necessary for the pursuit of ones rights or for defending rightful entitlements.

2. Ancestor research

The right to have issued the documents and/or provision of information from the register is limited to those relatives of direct ascending or descending lineage. Siblings, children of siblings, siblings of parents or grandparents and other distant relatives of the specific person, do not belong to the group of people given access to these documents, unless they can prove to authorities to have a legal interest.

If an applicant needs these documents and/or information not for a legal claim, but for private research purposes, then legal interest cannot be implied from article 5 of the Basic Law; the right to free research is limited when it involves third parties.

Only with appropriate consent by the individual, the spouse and/or the ancestors or descendants can an applicant, who does not belong to this group of relatives, be issued a document or other information pertaining to this person.

3. Administrative Fees

A search fee is required for looking for an entry [one entry] or documentation, if the date or the exact location is not given.

Depending upon the extend of the search. Fee = approx. 15. to 50. Euros per search
NOTE: Authentication of each document results in additional cost

Source: Information Pamphlet of the German Civil Registry Office


B. Church books

1. Use of church books from the time before 1876

For the time prior to the adoption of the empirical law (1876) on registration of births marriages and deaths, corresponding entries in church books concerning (birth registration, etc..) are as valid as the civil registration, therefore the church authorities  are obligated to provide information of all entries in church books from this time in the same way information is given by the national civil registry offices. Since the civil registry offices operate on the basis of para. 61 of the PStG (Law) information of church data can only be provided for yourself, or with the consent from a direct ancestor or descendant, unless it pertains to a legal claim.

In the case of legal interest and/or direct descent, the churches are obligated to also provide information from the church books prior to 1876. It is of crucial importance to know that church books contain only personal data. These data are protected by the (Persoenlichkeitsschutz) privacy protection act. The state applies this legal protection to all registrations of births, marriages and deaths.

Because the church can only function in the framework of existing laws (art. 137 ff of Weimar Republic Laws) they are subject to all state laws. Para. 11 ArchiveG of the North Elbe Church requires when granting access to data, that the applicant give legal proof that he/she has vested interest, which must be weighed against any other interests of protection of a third party. The Persoenlichkeitsschutz (privacy protection act) and how it is interpreted in para. 61 PStG, limits the entitled interest greatly. The interpretation of the para. 11 ArchivG is therefore fairly restrictive.

Definitions for Use :

A research project must prove a concrete reason such as for a community service or for scientific value.
During genealogical projects a concrete personal interest (e.g. the publishing of a family chronicle) must be proven.

In any case the public benefit must be greater than a possible injury of a personal right when using the church books.

Use of church books from the time after 1876

With the empirical law on registration of births, marriages and deaths the meaning of the church book as official register expired as of 1.Januar 1876. The entries in the church books since then, only record the official religious acts; therefore issue of official documents is exclusively done by the Civil Registrar’s Office.

Access to thus permitted only if the inquiry refers to religious actions. Additionally, several different criteria must be fulfilled for the use of church books prior to 1876:

The entry refers to the individual, their spouse or ancestor. (para. 9 (1) ArchivG) - or
The person can make a legal and valid claim regarding an entry - or
The use serves a concrete scientific or community service project

Because genealogical research serves exclusively personal interests and not documentation of religious acts, the use of church books after 1876 for this reason is not permitted. (Exception: Proof that official Civil Registry documents were lost or destroyed)

Source: Information pamphlet of the North Elbe Church Archives, 4th Edition October 1999, page 11, 12 and 13.

NOTE: The Fee Schedule of the church in Schleswig-Holstein (valid as of 1.January 2002)
Entrance fee at church offices   = 5. Euro for a visit of less than 4 hours, 10. Euro for a visit of more than 4 hours.
Fee for a research, done by the office clerk = 15. Euro per half hour or portion thereof (30. Euro per hour)
Fee for payments from outside of Germany = not less than 10. Euro, sometimes more


Provided through: Hans Peter Voss on 10. March 2000

Translation German/English: Ingrid Fetköter 11. March 2000
New translation by Juergen P. Schultz, Canada, in May 2002

back to the index

>>> Visit  my guest-book <<<


Last worked on this side = on 27.September 2002 by Hans Peter Voss