How to Conduct Genealogical Research
The Institute for the History of Frankfurt has a wide range of original sources that may be of interest to genealogists. Finding information about your own family is by no means easy. However, if you know certain details already, if you follow our advice and with a bit of intuition, you have a good chance of finding what you’re looking for.
Getting your bearings
As genealogy tends to be quite time-consuming, it is vital to prepare well before visiting the Institute or sending a written enquiry. First of all, make sure you have all the information that has been passed down orally through the generations and that you have viewed all the documents that are available to you. The more details you obtain about your ancestors, the greater your prospects of success and of obtaining results reasonably fast. In particular, it is helpful to know first and surnames, important biographical details and past addresses. Other details that may be useful are jobs, the number and names of spouses and the names of children or parents. When you send an enquiry, we would therefore recommend sending us all the information you have.
Use of facilities and charges
Once you have compiled all the required information, you can either view the relevant documents in our Reading Room or ask us to conduct a search. The cost of a search, which is based on the Institute’s Scale of Charges and Fees, is €10 per 10-minute period or part thereof. The fee is payable in advance and cannot be reimbursed if the result is negative. You can send your enquiries by letter, fax or email. When you write to us, please make sure you state your name, address, phone number and – if available – email address. If you want to view the sources yourself, you are welcome to do so during the opening hours of our Reading Room – Mondays to Fridays, 08:30 to 17:00 hrs – upon prior order of the archive materials through our Online Search Databases or by email. If you wish to view material on microfilm or microfiche, we recommend asking the Reading Room Supervisor to reserve a microfilm reader for you (phone +49 69 212-37 914 or email).
Below you will find the most frequently used sources for genealogical research. However, it is always worthwhile taking a look at our online search databases.
The City of Frankfurt has address books dating back to 1832. From 1868 onwards they are available on microfiche and contain the names of single people and of the heads of households, in each instance together with the relevant address. The names of both spouses were not recorded until about 1980. Address books between 1834 and 1943 will eventually be made available online, via the University Library.
Baptismal records, notices of marriages, baptismal records and records of deaths
Recordings of baptisms, marriages and funerals in Frankfurt started in 1533, when bookkeeping was first conducted for the General Alms Box. The first records in 1533 covered baptisms and marriages. In 1565 funerals were added, and in 1603 notices of marriages. Until 1814 the majority of persons mentioned in those books were Protestants, but from then onwards records also covered births, marriages and deaths within other denominations and faiths. Records of baptisms and births (1533-1850), deaths (1565-1850), notices of marriages (1603-1851) and marriages (1533-1848) can be viewed on microfiche in the Reading Room. Please remember that the oldest records are not necessarily presented in alphabetical order. Alphabetical registers only occurred sporadically during the first 100 years and were partly arranged by first names. Sort orders based on surnames did not become common until the mid-17th century.
Civil status documents
The documentation of births, marriages and deaths in civil registers started in Frankfurt in 1849 (marriages) and 1851 (births and deaths). These records continued to be kept as civil registers after the Prussian Civil Status Act in 1874. The oldest civil registers (for Frankfurt and its suburbs at the time) are now available at the Institute for the History of Frankfurt. As soon as the relevant update period has passed, the registry offices of Mitte and Höchst submit their documents to the Institute for the History of Frankfurt. This happens at regular intervals, and it means that genealogical and academic research can be conducted on any of the birth registers completed at least 110 years ago, marriage registers of at least 80 years ago and death registers completed at least 30 years ago.
The civil registers of the district of Sindlingen for 1874 to 1888 are kept at Stadtarchiv Hattersheim (Hattersheim Town Archives). The civil registers of the district of Unterliederbach for 1874 to 1900 can be found at Liederbach Town Hall, and the civil registers for Zeilsheim for 1874 to 1905 are at Stadtarchiv Hofheim (Hofheim Town Archives). To conduct a search in registry office documents, you need at least the surname and a specific period of time if you do not know the exact date. A large number of civil registers have now been digitised and can be searched in the online database ARCINSYS and in the Hessian Regional History Information System.
The Citizens’ Books, kept from 1311 onwards, list all the individuals who swore citizens’ oaths. There are also recordings of individuals with secondary citizens’ status – so-called Beisassen – from 1778 to 1849. Both Citizens’ Books and Beisasse Books can be viewed on microfiche in the Reading Room. Microfiche recordings are also available of the following: a directory of citizens who had moved away with the Council’s approval between 1562 and 1635, a directory of individuals accepted as citizens for a specific period of time between 1598 and 1684 and an Advocates’ Book of Oath, 1814-1866.
Jewish residents were not granted citizenship until the early 19th century, when reforms were conducted in the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt in 1812. A directory of those first Jewish citizens is available and can be viewed in the Reading Room on microfiche, along with the Jewish Citizens’ Books, 1824-1849. The Institute also has microfiche recordings of an Israelite Advocates’ Book of Oaths (1825-1848), a directory of the Jewish community (1810) and an Israelite community register (early 1817).
The first registration cards were introduced in 1868, when Frankfurt became part of the state of Prussia. This practice continued until 1932. Cards were arranged alphabetically, by surnames, and the index is now known as Nullkartei (Zero Index). Due to wartime destruction, only about half of these index cards still exist. As some of our stocks are still under copyright (as specified in the Hessian Archives Act) and are therefore inaccessible to the public for conservation reasons, this material can currently only be analysed by our own staff. The Institute is, however, preparing to digitise these stocks and to put cards online whenever they cease to be under copyright. This project started in 2016.
In 1932 new registration documents were introduced, so-called Hausstandsbücher (household books). The books are arranged by addresses, in chronological order of the residents moving into their homes. Each Hausstandsbuch is associated with a directory listing the names of residents at a given address or building. These directories, too, have been preserved. To find a person within a Hausstandsbuch, however, you need to have the address, so that the relevant book can be identified. These stocks, too, were reduced to about half during the war. As this archived material is still under copyright, it cannot be accessed by visitors in the Reading Room and searches may only be conducted by our own staff.
Except for one index card from the district of Bergen-Enkheim, no registration documents of Frankfurt’s suburbs have survived from the time before those towns and villages became part of Greater Frankfurt.
Should you require information from registration documents from 1945 onwards, please contact the Bürgeramt (Citizens’ Office).