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German Genealogy

German Military Records

Beginning in 1867 or 1871, young men were required at age 20 to register for four years of military service. This is one reason many emigrated at this time. The Prussian Army went through a reform from 1862 to 1867, led by General Albrecht Roon. The development of a modern General staff by Helmuth von Moltke and the sponsorship and utilization of the railway system to move and concentrate large numbers of troops ensured victory over Denmark, Austria and France from 1864 to 1871. Obligatory universal service without substitution was introduced. At age 20, a young man served three years in the regular army, followed by four years in the reserve. The 27-year-old then passed to the Landwehr where he remained liable to call-up for another year. A further four years of service, under the direct supervision of the regular army, remained. In 1870, the army could call on all males between the ages of 20 and 28 producing an army of 730,000 men with almost another 200,000 in the Landwehr as a second line of reserfve. (From: Gravelotte-St Privat 1870, End of the Second Empire, by Phillipp Elliot-Wright, Osprey Publishing; compiled by Justin Kassulke and posted on Pommern-L).

There is no central archive for German military records. German states each had their own system of keeping military records before 1867. These records are now stored in several German state archives. In 1867 the armies of all but four German states were integrated into the armies of Prussia (Bavaria, Saxony, Baden, and Württemberg). Military records of the Bavaria, Baden and Württemberg armies are held in the München, Karlsruhe, and Stuttgart archives respectively.

In 1945 the Prussian military records were almost completely destroyed by the U.S. bombing of Potsdam, where the records were archived. Researchers must therefore rely on pre-1945 publications for Prussian military information.  Destroyed in the February 1945 air raid were the personnel rosters and card indexes (Stammrollen und Karteimittel) of the Prussian Army, the transition army (Übergangsheeres), the Army (Reichswehr), and the Imperial Navy (Kaiserlichen Marine). Many of the records that do remain are difficult to access without knowing the regiment of the soldier.

The German military had its own parishes and regimental chaplains, but many of the records for these parishes have been lost or destroyed. There are some military church books maintained by the military chaplains for individual regiments available in the Family History Library. Military parish records may be useful only if the soldier married in a garrison church or, as a married soldier, had children who were baptized or confirmed there. His death might be recorded if he died while on active status. Some of these have been microfilmed by the Family History Library and can be searched by parish name. Unfortunately these German military records are the only ones in the Mormon microfilm system.

Records of soldiers treated in military hospitals (along with extracts from their personnel rosters) can be found at: Krankenbuchlagerr Berlin, Wattstrasse 11-13, 13355 Berlin and the Bundesarchiv - Militärarchiv, Wiesentalstraße 10, 79115 Freiburg / Breisgau.

Lists of Prussian and other German officers are generally available in book series with titles such as Rangliste der Königlich Preussischen Armee.

Some military records from non-Prussian German states are available in their respective state archives. For specifics, see Ancestors in German Archives: A Guide to Family History Sources. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2004.

World War II German military personnel may have service records at: Bundesarchiv - Zentralnachweisstelle, Abteigarten 6, 52076 Aachen or Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) Eichborndamm 179, 13403 Berlin.

German military cemetery listings for World Wars I and II can be found online.

A final military collection is held in the United States. In the National Archives and Records Administration's Record Group 242 - called "Collection of Foreign Records Seized" are the Rasse und Siedlungs Hauptamt (German for "Chief Office for Race and Settlement") files. See more information under "SS Collections" below.

Types of German military records include:

  • Military church records (Kirchenbücher) dating from the 17th century, including garrison records, parish registers, and regimental church records;

  • Personnel files (Stammrollen) for common soldiers and noncommissioned officers enrolled in a military or naval unit, including date of birth, place of birth, name of father and possibly mother, and if living or deceased, length of service and which regiment, religion, married or single and number of children, and date of release;

  • Published officer files (Offizier-Stammlisten); Officer rolls (Ranglisten);

  • Regimental histories (Regimentsgeschichten); and,

  • Discharges from military duty (Freischein).

  • Some officers' lists for the 1800s that are available in the Family History Library include: Rang- und Quartier-Liste der Kõniglich Preussiche Army, years 1824 to 1899 with some gaps (FHL films 823898 to 823926).

The following pamphlet lists the archives where existing military records for each state are found:

  • Reschke, Horst A. German Military Records as Genealogical Sources. Salt Lake City, Utah: Reschke, 1990. (Family History Library book 943 M2r; fiche 6001596; computer number 592812.)

The British raised about 25,000 German mercenary troops, commonly referred to as "Hessians," although not all of them were from Hessen. Some of them deserted or were sold, and many remained in the United States or went to Canada after the war. See Hessiche Truppen im amerikanischen Unanhängigkeitskrieg (known as "HETRINA"): FHL film 1,020,516 item 6-7 and 1,020,542 items 5-6. Indexes from this resource list each soldier's name, year of birth, place of origin, rank, and military unit and the source of the information.

Resources

  • Algona [Iowa} Prisoner of War Camp. Camp Algona was the base camp for 34 satellite facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. It housed more than 10,000 German prisoners of war between 1943 and 1946. The prisoners were used to help reduce the labor shortage created by the war. The museum's collection includes interviews with more than 60 former prisoners, photographs and other artifacts.
     
  • Battle of the River Plate 
     
  • Behind Barbed Wire: Midwest POWs in Nazi Germany. Des Moines, Iowa: Traces, 2004.
     
  • Captured German and Related Records on Microform in the National Archives.   National Archives - Collection of Foreign Records Seized (Record Group 242)  
     
  • Germans in the American Civil War 
     
  • Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)  - Organization for the notification of next-of-kin of members of the former German Wehrmacht who were killed in action.
  • Eger, Wolfgang. Enthält ein Gemeinsames Orts- und personenregister und ein gemeinsames Register der militärischen Einheiten. Neustadt an der Aisch: Verlag Degener & Co., 1996. (Family History Library book 943 K23, Vol. 23 of series) - Register of about 1,200 military church books from all over Germany. Includes indexes to persons, localities, and military units. Includes Protestant church books in repositories in the "neue Bundesländer" and Catholic church books in repositories in the "alte Bundesländer." This is a companion volume to volume 18 in the same series - same author, same title - which listed over 4,000 Protestant church books in repositories in the "alte Bundesländer.").
     
  • Eger, Wolfgang. Enthält einen Index der Regimentskirchen Bücher bei der Zentralstelle für Genealogie in Leipzig und einen Orts- und Personenregister. Neustadt an der Aisch: Verlag Degener U Co., 1993. (Family History Library book 943 K23, Vol. 18 of series) - A list of Protestant military church books arranged alphabetically. Includes indexes to persons, localities, and military units. Also includes a list of military church books in the Zentralstelle für Genealogie, Leipzig.) Companion volume to volume 23 in the same series (same title, same author). Volume 23 is Protestant church books in the "neue Bundesländer" and Roman Catholic church books in the "alte Bundesländer."

  • Feldpost im Zweiten Weltkrieg / War letters in Word War II.  Together with the Museum für Kommunikation Berlin a large amount of letters are to be examined for scholarly purposes. We collect war documents.
     
  • Ferguson, Laraine K. "German Military Records: History and Genealogical Records," German Genealogical Digest, Vol. 11, No. 2, Summer 1995.
     
  • Finding German Military Records.  From genealogy.net.
     
  • Förster, Gerhard, et al. Uniformen europäischer Armeen. Berlin: Militärverlag, 1978. - Illustrates the uniforms of European armies.
     
  • German Prisoner of War in Utah Photos. GenTracer. Contains German Prisoners of War in Utah photos as well as POW death index, a listing of POW cemeteries and more.
     
  • German SS Records. These records were created mostly in the 1930s by members of the German SS. Enlisted men and officers of the German SS wanting to marry had to submit Ahentafels showing the ancestry of both the bride and groom. For enlisted men the charts had to include data on ancestors dating back to 1800 and for officers back to 1750. The Ahnentafels have information on many Germans who were born and died long before the Nazi's assumed power in 1933. For more information see SS Collections: RuSHA (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt) listed below.

  • Gräbernachweis des Volksbundes Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e.V.  Find the burial place of a German soldier in this searchable database that is updated regularly. (In German)
     
  • The Hessian Page  - The loyal German auxiliary soldiers of King George III, who settled in America after the American Revolution (1776-1783).
  • The Hessians and the Other German Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War  - Online edition of the 1884 original.
     
  • Hessische Truppen in amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg (Hetrina): Index nach Familiennamen. Band 1. Veröffentlichungen der Archivschule Marburg, Institut für Archivwissenschaft, No. 10. Marburg: Staatsarchiv, 1972. Publication of muster rolls for Hessian units serving the British in North America. Data on enlisted men is included.
     
  • Hirsch, Paul. Bibliographie der deutschen Regiments- und Bataillonsgeschichten. Berlin: Mittler & Sohn, 1906. A bibliography of published military records and regimental histories, containing 869 entries. These lists are of use mainly when researching noble families, since the majority of the officers were noblemen.
     
  • Images of the Imperial German Army & Navy  - Carte de Visites, postcards, and other images.
     
  • Imperial German Army - Pre 1914  - Including orders of battle, names of officers, and some photos.
     
  • Institut Deutsche Adelsforschung - Adelige Offiziere und Militärs 1500 bis 1945
     
  • Institut Deutsche Adelsforschung - Rangliste der Königlich Preußischen Armee 1806 (bis 1827) Register zu Offizierslisten mit 6.684 Personal-Nennungen.
     
  • Internment of German Americans in the United States During World War II 
     
  • Langsdorff of the Graf Spee 
     
  • Lyncker, Alexander von. Die altpreußische Armee 1714-1806 und ihre Militärkirchenbücher (Old Prussian army and its military parish registers, 1714-1806). Berlin: Verlag für Standesamtswesen, 1937. (Family History Library Film 477806, item 1; Family History Library book 943 M2L v. 1) These records were destroyed in WWII, but the garrison towns listed may give clues on where to search.
     
  • Lyncker, Alexander von. Die preußische Armee 18076-1867 und ihre sippenkundlichen Quellen (Old Prussian army and its genealogical sources, 1807-1867). Berlin: Verlag für Standesamtswesen, 1939. (Family History Library Film 477807, item 1; Family History Library book 943 M2l v. 2) These records were destroyed in WW II, but the garrison towns listed may give clues on where to search.
     
  • Meyers Orts- und Verkehrslexikon des deutschen Reich. (FHL film 496,640, 496,641; Fiche 6000001-6000029).  Wright, Raymond S. III., Meyers Orts- und Verikehrs-Lexikon des Deutschen Reiches. Originally Published in Leipzig, 1912. Reprinted by Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, 2000. - In the description of the town found under its name in Meyers-Ort, check for the location of the Bezirksbommando (district military authority, or what we might refer to as the local draft board) indicated by the initials BKdo. The varous regiments (listed by regiment number), listed with their garrisons of the German army, are found on pages 52-63 of Volume III (the appendix to Volume II) of the reprint published in 2000, with notes and instructions by Raymond S. Wright. The first column of this section (title Einteilung und Standorte der deutschen Wehrmacht) gives the regiment number; the second column is the regimental names; the sixth column gives the Standort, or the town where the regiment was garrisoned.

  • Minert, Roger P. In Harm's Way: East German Latter-Day Saints in World War II. Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009.
     
  • National German Military Grave Registration Service - This organization maintains a database of more than 2 million names of missing and dead German soldiers from both World Wars. You can search this database online or write to them for assistance. Notes for searching: Nachname=surname; Vorname=first name; supplying a date of birth or death is optional. Click on "Suche beginnen" to start your search. You then must register with your name and address to continue the search. On the registration form, the following items are required: Vorname (first name), Nachname (last name), Straße / Nr. (Street & Number), Land/Plz/Ort (Country/Postal or Zip Code/City). Then click on "Zur Ergebniseite" to continue. On the next screen click "Suchanfrage ausführen." (In German)
     
  • Overkott, Franz. In Rußland Vermisste aus Rheinland und Westfalen nebst angrenzenden Gebieten in Napoleons "Großer Armee," 1812-1813. (List of soldiers from the Rhineland and Wetphalia missing in action in Napoleon's Russian Campaign, 1812-1813). Neustadt an der Aisch: Verlag Degener & Col., 1963. (Family History Library book 943 M2o; film 908102, item 5) - Lists 3326 soldiers drafted by Napoleon and sent to Russian during his Russian campaign, but who never returned.
     
  • Prussian Miliary Records. Courtesy of Dana Merkoulov / Charles of Houston Texas.
     
  • Rang- und Quartier-Liste der Königlich Preussische Army. (Officer rolls in the Prussian Army). FHL films 823898 to 823926. Officers' lists for the 1800s.
     
  • Reschke, Horst A. German Military Records as Genealogical Sources. Salt Lake City, Utah: Reschke, 1990. (Family History Library book 943 M2r; fiche 6001596; computer number 592812.)
     
  • SS Collections: RuSHA (Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt). (Available on microfilm at the NARA - National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland (NARA at College Park, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, Maryland 20740-6601)- Rasse-und-Siedlungs-Hauptamt (RuSHA).  Microfilm Publication A3343, Series RS. 7,811 rolls).  Biographical records of the Rasse- und Siedlungshauptamt-SS (RuSHA, SS Race and Settlement Office), whose responsibilities included safeguarding the racial "purity" of the SS. This collection contains approximately 240,000 dossiers for individual SS personnel and their spouses, who submitted detailed personal and family background information to receive permission to marry. Seized fairly intact by U.S. forces in 1945, the records are mostly complete for married SS personnel during the period 1932-44, with some accompanying correspondence dated as late as March 1945. Each dossier might include some or all of the following documents: personal questionnaires (Rasse- und Siedlung-Fragebogen), usually accompanied by photographs; family genealogical charts (SS-Ahnentafel - data back to 1800, for officers, data back to 1750; these Ahnentafels have information on an incredible number of Germans who were born and died long before the Nazi's assumed power in 1933); medical examination reports (Ärztlicher Untersuchungsbogen); RuSHA summaries on family background investigations (SS-Erbgesundheitsbogen); summary questionnaires prepared as character references for the prospective bride; final RuSHA evaluations of individuals applications (Verlobungs- und Heiratsgesuch; Aufnahmegesuch); and related official correspondence (e.g., cover letters, follow-up inquiries regarding gaps in genealogical information). Some dossiers also include identification papers, correspondence with church and local authorities relating to birth and death records, notices of expulsion from the SS, and hospital reports regarding wounds and injuries suffered. The dossiers are reproduced on 7,826 16mm rolls of BDC Accessioned Microfilm A3343, series RS. The rolls are not arranged in a single sequence, but in several parts that correspond to a single alphabetical arrangement (with exceptions) of the dossiers as follows: Aakerwik, Torstein - Bock, Ernst: rolls A001 - A548; Bock, Herbert - Dorn, Friedrich: rolls A5001 - A5564; Dorn, Kurt - Fügar, Edgar: rolls B001 - B545; Führer, Hans - Hahn, Karl: rolls B5001 - B5526; Hampel, Erich - Hoven, Heinrich: rolls C001 - C553; Hoy, Horst - Knoche, Walter: rolls C5001 - C5555; Knochen, Helmut - Leithe, Gustav: rolls D001 - D605; Leitinger, Ernst - Miessner, Wilhelm: rolls D5001 - D5542; Mlarnik, Karel - Pfaff, Karl: rolls E001 - E561; Pfannkuch, Andreas - Rose, Conrad: rolls E5001 - E5554; Rose, Heinrich - Schran, Fritz: rolls F001 - F595; Schratt, Anton - Sternkopf, Franz: rolls F5001 - F5532; Stetter, Erwin - Wawra, Franz: rolls G001 - G604; and, Weber, Adalbert - Zwolak, Wilhelm: rolls G5001 - G5542 There is a thirty-one-volume paper index for the record group to which the Ahnentafels belong, but only the SS applicant is indexed.
     
  • Städtler, Erhard. Die Ansbach-Bayreuther Truppen in amerikanischen Unabhängigkeitskrieg 1777-1783. Freie Schriftenfolge deer Gesellschaft für Familienforschung in Franken, Band 8. Nürnberg: Kommissionsverlag Die Egge, 1956. Treatise on the Ansbach and Bayreuth mercenaries leased to the British government for service in North America during the American Revolution. The author relied heavily on materials in the British Museum.
     
  • Where Can I Find German Military Records?
     
  • World War II Internment Camps  - From the Handbook of Texas Online.

Some of the military actions in which Germans were involved include:

  • 1618-48    Thirty Year's War
  • 1740-48    War of Austrian Succession
  • 1756-83    American Revolution. Several German states, led by Hessen, provided troops to fight the British.
  • 1805-15    Napoleonic Wars. Rheinland was temporarily occupied by France
  • 1863-64    War with Denmark. Prussia seized Schleswig-Holstein
  • 1866          Prussia and Austria fought a very short and decisive war, in which Austria's influence was significantly reduced (Austro-Prussian War)
  • 1867          Army reorganized. Prussia absorbed the armies of all other states except Bayern, Sachsen, and Württemberg.
  • 1870-71    Franco-Prussian War. Germany annexed Elsaß-Lothringen. The Prussian army consisted of 18 Corps, consisting of: 13 Prussian Corps; 1 Sachsen Corps; 1 Württemberg Corps; 1 Bayern Corps; and 1 Corps of mixed nationality.
  • 1914-18    First World War. Elsaß-Lothringen returned to France. Parts of eastern Germany ceded to Lithuania and Poland.
  • 1939-45    Second World War.