9 Fun Facts to Decipher German Vital Records

  1. The bolded letters in the top corners of the certificates tell you what type of certificate it is:
      1. A = Birth
      2. B = Marriage 
      3. C = Death

2. Birth and death certificates are usually one page. Marriage certificates are always two pages. Be sure to “turn the page” so you don’t only download the first page of your marriage certificate. The first page lists information about the bride, groom, and their parents, while the second page lists the witnesses and includes the signatures of all parties. 

3. The first handwritten word on each certificate is the town where the document was issued, followed by the date the document was issued. This date could be the same day as the event (birth, marriage, death) or one or several days after. For marriages, it should be the same.

4. For birth and death certificates, the first person listed on the certificate is the person reporting the event. 

5. For marriage certificates, the person listed in spot #1 is the groom. The person listed in #2 is the bride. The people listed in #3 and #4 are the witnesses. 

6. The typed words “der Persönlichkeit nach ____ bekannt”, with nothing written on the line before “bekannt”, means that the person’s identity is known to the registrar. The typed words “der Persönlichkeit nach [type of identification] anerkannt” means that the person’s identity was verified by a certain document shown to the registrar.

7. The occupation will be listed before the names on these vital records. Example: “der Schneider Johann Schmidt” (the tailor Johann Schmidt) 

8. The place of residence can be found after the typed words “wohnhaft zu”.  

9. The typed word “am” (“on the” for our purposes here) signifies that a date will follow. The dates are written day-month-year on these certificates.

I hope these fun facts help you work with your vital records! Luckily, half of these forms are in the typed Fraktur font, so they are a bit easier than forms that are completely in the old German handwriting! For more help, with marriage, and death record forms, vital record cheat sheets are available in the shop. Good luck!

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7 Tips for Reading German Marriage Certificates

Author’s Note: If you would like the entire translation reference guide for your marriage certificate, it can be found here. If it’s handwriting help you are looking for, consider joining our Premium group – weekly access to live “office hours” where you can ask Katherine your tricky transcription and translation questions – and get immediate answers (also includes a download of the marriage certificate reference guide).

When researching your genealogy, marriage certificates can be a gold mine of clues to your ancestors’ lives. Names, occupations, places of residence and other interesting tidbits of information often fill the short documents to the brim. However, if you don’t speak German, deciphering these clue-filled pages can be a bit of a challenge (not to mention the difficulty of deciphering the handwriting!) But what if it didn’t have to be so challenging? Below, seven common phrases you might find on German marriage certificates and what they mean:

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1. “Vor dem unterzeichneten Standesbeamten”: “Before the undersigned registrar”.   This is often the beginning sentence of the marriage certificate, underneath the city and date it was issued.

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2. “der Persönlichkeit nach bekannt/der Persönlichkeit nach _______ anerkannt”: “His (or her) identity known”/”His (or her) identity verified by_________”. In the first instance (bekannt), the registrar personally knows the individual and does not need a form of identification. In the second instance (anerkannt), the registrar verifies the person’s identity with a form of identification, filling in the blank with the ID that was presented. It could be a passport, birth certificate, baptismal certificate, military ID, etc.

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3. “geboren den_____ des Jahres_____”: “Born on the (day, month) of the year____”. The year was usually written out in letters rather than numbers.

4. “wohnhaft zu”: “residing in/resident of”. This is then followed by the name of a city or town.

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5. “Sohn/Tochter des_____”: “son/daughter of the______”. This line is normally followed by the occupation of the father, the father’s name, his wife and his wife’s name. If the parents are deceased or if there is any other relevant information about them, it is also mentioned here.

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6. “Zeugen”: “witnesses”. The name, age and occupation of the witnesses, as well as how they were identified, are listed underneath the witness section (usually the second page of the marriage certificate).

7. “Vorgelesen, genehmigt und unterschrieben”: “Read aloud, approved and signed”.  The names of the newly-married couple, as well of the names of the witnesses, are signed underneath this phrase.

vorgelesen

With these tips, deciphering marriage certificates should become a little bit easier. And if you would like to consult a professional translator, don’t hesitate to contact me here – I would be happy to be of service.

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