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German Genealogy

Elsaß-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine)

(Reichsland / State) [Presently in France]

Some basic facts about Alsace-Lorraine: (from Uncapher, Wendy K. and Linda M. Herrick. German Maps & Facts for Genealogy. Janesville, Wisconsin: Origins Books, 2002)

  • Size: 5,600 sq. miles (comparable to Connecticut with 4,872 sq. miles)
  • Population: 1806 - 1,259,711; 1821 - 1,291,141; 1836 - 1,480,809; 1846 - 1,556,444; 1851 - 1,577,050; 1866 - 1,597,228; 1871 - 1,549,738; 1875 - 1,531,804 (744,878 males; 786,926 females)
  • Dominant Religion: Catholic (1871 - Evangelical - 270,251; Catholic - 1,235,706; Other - 2,132; Jewish - 40,918; Non-Christian - 731)
  • Since 1919 part of: France (except 1940-45)
  • Formerly: Imperial Territory
  • Prussian: 1870-1871
  • Principal crops: cereal, hops, tobacco, potatoes, fruit, vegetables, flax, hemp, grapes
  • Industry: wine, fishing, textiles, steel
  • Minerals: potash, iron, coal
  • Rivers: Rhine, Meuse, Mosel
  • Language: Before 1870 French was the dominant language in what was to be German Lorraine. In Alsace 77% spoke some form of German. French was mainly for the upper class. During German rule French was considered a foreign language and only taught in secondary schools. Even through the language and race was mainly German, The French sentiment was stronger, and the majority preferred to be part of France.
  • History: Combining Alsace and Lorraine was a German idea. Their past history was of two separate countries.

Some key events in the history of Alsace-Lorraine:

  • 870    Treaty of Mersen divided the areas according to language. Alsace went to Louis the German and became a German duchy in 925 which separated it from Lorraine

  • 900s    Alsace belonged to the Holy Roman Empire as part of the Duchy of Swabia-Alsace.

  • 959    Lower Lorraine (northern part) included territory in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Upper Lorraine covered parts of France, Germany (near Trier) and Switzerland. The name Lorraine was adopted by the duchy of Upper Lorraine and totally separated from Lower Lorraine.

  • 1250    Lorraine left the Holy Roman Empire to join France.

  • 1300-1400s    France started many wars to gain the Alsace-Rhine area from the Germans

  • 1520s    Protestant Reformation swept through the cities but many of the rural areas remained Catholic

  • 1618-1648    During the Thirty Years' War the area was overtaken with Swedish, Austrian and French troops. The French took control in 1639.

  • 1648    Became part of France through the Treaty of Westphalia following the Thirty Years' War, with some towns remaining independent.

  • 1648 - Numerous immigrants arrived from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Lorraine, Savoy and other areas. Anabaptist refugees came from Switzerland, especially Bern. Strassbourg became a main center of the early Anabaptist movement.

  • 1681    Strassbourg becomes part of France.

  • 1697    Lower Alsace (northern) went to France.

  • 1737-1766    Duchy of Lorraine, ruled by Stanislas Leszczynski, dethroned king of Poland, became a French province in 1766 as pre-arranged.

  • 1789    The French Revolution brought the first division of Alsace into the departements of Haut- and BasRhin (upper and lower Rhine respectively)

  • 1790    Lorraine had four departements: Meurthe, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges. Saales and Schirmeck were moved from Lower Alsace to Vosges. Alsace was divided into Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine) and Haut-Rhin (Upper Rhine).

  • 1798    Mulhouse, a republic in the Swiss confederation since the 16th century, joined France.

  • 1801    All land west of the Rhine was made part of France.

  • 1815    Lorraine lost Saarlouis and Saarbrücken to Prussia as part of the Rhine province. Areas between Queich and Lauter Rivers went to Bavaria.

  • 1870    Following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, all of Alsace except for the Belfort territory and the northeastern part of Lorraine went to Germany.

  • 1871    Alsace-Lorraine became a buffer zone between France and Germany. Alsace (without Belfort) with Moselle and 1/3 of Meurthe in Lorraine made an imperial state. Prussia, Baden and Bavaria wanted to annex to their states, but it remained a territory of the German Empire.

  • 1872    Part of the Department of the Vosges (Vallee de la Brusche) was annexed to Alsace Lorraine.

  • 1890    Population was 77% Catholic, 21% Protestant, 2% Jewish, with 678 Mennonites in lower Alsace and 1,012 in Upper Alsace.

  • 1919     Alsace became part of France following World War I. The old Alsatian departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin were restored. The Lorraine (Lothringen) section became the department of Moselle.

  • 1939-45    Alsace became part of Germany during World War II.

  • 1945    German control of Alsace was returned to France. Alsace takes in the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and, since 1871 the Territory of Belfort. Lorraine corresponds to the departments of Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, and parts of the departments of Meuse and of Vosges.

The German name of the Kreis (county) is listed first, with the French name in parentheses.  Metz (Metz-Ville) and Strassburg (Strasbourg-Ville) are city kreise.

Lorraine/Lothringen Upper Rhine/Oberrhein Lower Rhine/Neiderrhein
Moselle Oberelsass/Haut-Rhin Unterelsass/Bas-Rhin
Blochen (Boulay) Altkirch (Altkirch) Erstein (Erstein)
Diedenhofen Ost (Thionville Est) Colmar (Colmar) Hagenau (Haguenau)
Diedenhofen West (Thionville Ouest) Gebweiler (Guebwiller) Molsheim (Molsheim)
Forbach (Forbach) Mülhausen (Mulhouse) Schlettstad (Selestat)
Metz (Metz-Ville) Rappoltsweiler (Ribeauville) Strassburg (Strassbourg-Ville)
Metz (Metz-Campagne) Thann (Thann) Strassburg (Strasbourg-Campagne)
Saarburg (Sarrebourg)   Weissenburg (Wissembourg)
Saargemünd (Sarreguemines)   Zabern (Saverne)
Salzburgen (Chậteau-Salins)    


Elsaß-Lothringen (Alsace- Lorraine) -

  • Burgert, Annette Kunselman. Eighteenth Century Emigrants from the Northern Alsace to America. Camden, Maine: Picton Press, 1992. "Prepared for distribution to members of the Pennsylvania German Society during 1992 as Volume XXVI in its series of publications on Pennsylvania German history and culture"–T. p. verso. Alphabetical list of emigrants from the Northern Alsace, now part of France; contains indexes of ships and surnames.
  • Koch, Herbert. Die Kirchenbücher von Elsaß-Lothringen. 1911. Family History Library film 9492892.

  • Schrader-Muggenthaler, Cornelia. The Alsace Emigration Book. Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1989-1991.
  • Schrader-Muggenthaler, Cornelia. Baden Emigration Book: including emigration from Alsace.  Gives 7,000 names from Baden to America from the 18th and 19th centuries. Only those going to America were selected. Also includes several hundred Alsacian emigrants.
  • Wesner, Doris. Alsatian Connections: Family Genealogies of Alsatian Emigrants to America. Apollo, Pennsylvania: Closson Press, 1995-


Marriage Law in France - Since 1792, all marriages in France have been required to be performed under civil jurisdiction and, since 1800, such marriages had to take place at the community's town hall (mairie). French law required that witnesses - usually four in number - participate in a marriage. French law required birth certificates and proof of residence for both bride and groom. If the prospective bride or groom was under the age of consent (30 years for a man, 25 for a woman), a parent or parent surrogate was required to give consent before the marriage could be performed. Consent of a living parent of either member of the pair was required even if there had been no contact for years or if the parent was in an asylum. If a parent was deceased, a death certificate or a notarized proof of death had to be presented. If both parents were deceased, the approval of grandparents or a family council was required. The civil marriage registers give many details such as the birth date and birth place of the bride and groom and their parents' names, including the mother's maiden surname. If the parents have died, their death date and death place are recorded. There are usually four witnesses, with their age, occupation, residence, and relationship. Civil marriage records contain the complete birth information of the couple's children who are born out of wedlock. If a marriage contract was made, the date, the name of the notary, and the town where this contact was written may be included. Civil marriage records may also mention the date of the banns (publication). The poor faced severe problems in paying for the documentation of their marriages at civil registry offices.