Legacy Tree Genealogists works with researchers from across the globe to access records for our clients. We asked Sylvia, onsite in Germany, to share her experiences researching at the German State archive in Duisburg.
The German State Nordrhein-Westfalen has three State Archives (Landesarchive): in Duisburg, Münster, and Detmold. The repositories of the Landesarchiv Duisburg cover the northern part of the ‘Rheinland’, the three northern districts of the former Prussian ‘Rheinprovinz’: Düsseldorf, Aachen (Aix-La-Chapelle) and Köln (Cologne).
If you have ancestors who come from this part of the Rhineland and you would like to research data from about 1800 to 1920, this is the place to go. The archive, which only recently moved from Brühl near Bonn to this impressive architectural complex on one of Germany’s largest inland harbors, offers civil records (Zivilstandsunterlagen) from 1798 to 1875. These were introduced during the French occupation.
Civil Records vs. Church Records
Although civil records are more extensive and therefore more time-consuming to work with, they have an enormous advantage over church records because all religious denominations have been brought together in one source. It’s therefore not necessary to visit all the different archives of churches and synagogues, or the local parishes. For the period after 1875, there are ‘Personenstandsunterlagen’ (civil records that were introduced throughout the whole newly founded German Reich after 1875).
There is also a repository of church records, but it only contains church records that were taken from parishes by the French occupiers; many others are still in the local parishes.
Visiting the State Archive in Duisburg
The archive is not far from Duisburg’s city center and only a 20 min walk from the main train station. Or take tram 901 from the station (direction Scholtenhofstraße / Obermarxloh) to the stop ‘Landesarchiv NRW’. Although it isn’t necessary to make an appointment, it is advisable to send an e-mail asking for confirmation that a visit is possible on the day you wish. Opening hours are:
Mon – Tue 8.30 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wed – Thur 8.30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Fri 8.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.
Landesarchiv NRW, Abteilung Rheinland
Tel.: +49 203 98721-0
Fax: +49 203 98721-111
If you plan a visit to the Duisburg archive, you might notice that the archive’s website is not available in English. You can use a web browser like Google Chrome to translate the page into English, or, if you don’t have the option to translate it, the English-language video here will help:
When visiting the archive, it is recommended to have at least basic knowledge of German, or to bring along someone who can translate for you. Unfortunately, there are no English handouts available or a description in English onsite to explain the procedures. Although staff are more than willing to provide the necessary information in English, visitors can’t always rely on their having the time or language skills.
Genealogy Research at the State Archive in Duisburg
Entering the spacious building, which is a combination of an old harbor storehouse and modern architectural extension, you can start your research in the large reading room at one of the 40 PCs. Once you have signed in using one of these computers, you can search the online file register for records, and also order these on the PC. Files are delivered three times a day on most days: at 9.30 a.m., 11.30 a.m., and 1.30 p.m. (on Fridays only at 10.00 a.m.).
In order to find the correct signature for the files you need, it is crucial to assign the village or town you are looking for to one of the former seven court districts (Landgerichtsbezirke).
Friendly staff at the counter can give you a book to check the district your ancestor’s birthplace belongs to: ‘Die Zivilstandsregister und die Kirchenbuchduplikate im Nordrhein-Westfälischne Personenstandsarchiv Rheinland’ (Brühl 1996). After each place name you will find the abbreviation ‘LG’ for Landgerichtsbezirk. The seven districts are Aachen, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Elberfeld, Kleve, Köln, and Hamm.
Then ask for the most important research tool to help you find births, marriages, and deaths in the records of every village or town — and even in the largest cities, such as Cologne: the ‘Dezennaltabellen’. These are alphabetical indexes of births, marriages, and deaths divided up into 10 year periods.
Once you have established a name and date in this index, you can order the volume of the relevant civil record via the PC with the signature of the court district, place name, abbreviation for births (G = Geburten), marriages (H = Heiraten), or deaths (S = Sterbefälle), the year and the month (for instance 1833 February), and then receive the relevant volume for this period.
If the records you order are available in digital format, you can search for these on one of the PCs. If you need to make copies, you can also order these on the PC and choose between paper printouts or scans. If you are searching through original volumes, scans can be ordered at the counter.
If you have German ancestry and need help obtaining onsite records, we can help! With professionals who specialize in German research and onsite agents with access to archives around the globe, we would love to help you learn more about your German roots. Contact us to discuss your specific goals.