Notes on German archives I visited or consulted

This is a work in progress

A general note on research in the Pfalz and the region along the Rhine generally. Until the Napoleonic era, records concerning people were either civic records concerning land, taxes and such, or church records concerning baptisms, marriages and deaths. Civic records can be found in some cases back to 1000 CE and earlier. The church records were not started until 1558 when the Council of Trent ordered baptism records kept, or later. The records were generally kept only at the church, town hall, palace, etc., where the event took place. And there many were destroyed with the buildings that housed them. Such destruction was particularly heavy during the Thirty Years War. A Lutheran church census of the Pirmasens area showed that many of the small parishes that existed in 1620 had no population left in 1661. For much of the Pfalz, there are no records surviving from before 1700.

During 1790's the whole administrative structure of the region was changed, with the lands west of the Rhine annexed to France. All land was divided into Departments, which were further divided into communes. As with counties in the US and townships in some states, all land was within a commune (kreis in German). Communes were ordered to establish formal population registers, and churches were ordered to turn over to the communes the people records (baptisms, marriages, deaths) which they held. After Waterloo, the commune system and requirement for population records continued (to this day). The church records from before 1800 met various fates - some were returned to individual churches, some remained with the communes, some went to central church archives. Thus, at the commune you can normally find the population registers from 1800 (unless they were destroyed in a war or fire), and perhaps church records from earlier centuries. For cities, you may also find tax lists, guild memberships, and other economic records which have names in them. But you must also check other places - churches, Land archives and central church archives for material prior to 1800. In addition, if you are lucky enough to find some noble roots you may have to look further, including to archives still in private hands.

Research at the kreis level can be complicated by mergers in the last few decades. The original communes had the same name as the major population center in the commune. The merged communes may have a name referring to the region, or a hyphenated version of the names that were merged.

As with virtually every archive I have visited, those in Germany are staffed with knowledgeable, sympathetic people. However, they may not speak English. And in the Pfalz they may not speak a form of German understandable to those who know only Hochdeutsch.

Das Zentralarchiv der Evangelischen Kirche der Pfalz
Hochstadt 1722 - 1970.

Landesarchiv Speyer
Regierungsbezirk Rheinhessen-Pfalz Landesarchiv Speyer,

Otto-Mayer-Str. 9, 67346 Speyer, Postfach 1608, 67326 Speyer, Tel.: 49 6232 9192-0, Fax: 49 6232 9192-100
Hours: Mo-Th 8.00-17.00, Fr 8.00-16.00
Has on fiche the Hochstadt records (which start at 1722) from the Evangelische Archive. I researched 1722 - 1768 (call F6 221) and 1769 - 1798 (call F6 222). This is a wonderful new facility, and probably THE place to start research in the Pfalz.

Kaiserslautern, Germany. Servicemens' Family History Center
Lauter Strasse 1 (behind the church), Kaiserslautern, Rheinland Pfalz, Germany, Phone: 49-631-950125. This is a place to browse the LDS records on the Internet, and order records from the archives in Salt Lake City. There is practically no material on the Pfalz, other than tapes which had been ordered by a few people. The staff had no experience in research IN the Pfalz, and knew virtually nothing about the local archives.

Landau in der Pfalz (kreisfreie Stadt)
Stadtarchiv Landau (Pfalz), Marienring 8, 76829 Landau (Pfalz), Tel.: 49 6341 13-155
Only materials related to Landau and the immediate surroundings. This is because Landau was occupied by the French from 1648 to 1816. The city was a military outpost some distance outside France proper. The archives are in a massive old mansion that also has a museum of local history. If you stop there, check out the museum. The archive's holdings start at 1684.

last update 24 June 2001

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