The best source for genealogical information and family research in Mecklenburg is the church records. Church records, also called Kirchenbuecher, are particularly valuable in Mecklenburg because the civil authorities did not begin registering births, marriages, and deaths until after 1876. Generally recorded at the time of the event, parish records contain births, baptisms, marriages, confirmations and deaths. The data recorded in these records varied over time. Later records usually have more information than early ones.
Church records in Mecklenburg really began in 1602 when the Evangelical Lutheran Church issued a proclamation requiring every parish to maintain a church book. Prior to that proclamation only a very few churches kept records. At first the proclamation only required churches to keep baptisms, marriages, and confessions. Later the proclamation was revised to include death registers. Finally, in 1815, all parishes were required to add confirmations. A uniform system of record keeping was introduced in Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1786 and in Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1810.
Unfortunately, a great number of the early Mecklenburg church records were destroyed by wars or fires. In the early 1700's some churches began making copies of their church books because they were worried about this destruction. In 1786 Mecklenburg-Schwerin passed a law requiring the duplication of church books, but there was so much to be copied that this could not be done. In 1787 the law was amended to say that only the books after 1740 had to be copied. In 1874 the Evangelical Church Council of Mecklenburg-Schwerin requested that all duplicate copies of church books up to 1750 be handed over for safekeeping to the Confidential and Main Archives in Schwerin. In 1914 another proclamation required all church registers up to the year 1786 to be turned over to the Confidential and Main Archives.
Mecklenburg-Strelitz passed a law requiring duplicates of church records in 1803. This law required that the copies be turned in to the main archive in Neustrelitz. This law was reconfirmed in 1927.
Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz were united on January 1, 1934. The holdings of the archives in Schwerin and Neustrelitz were all combined in the archives in Schwerin. A central office for parish registers was created on May 1, 1934, also in Schwerin, because those under the Nazi regime had to prove their ancestry. All parish registers were brought to this office if they had not already been deposited in one of the archives or were not still in use in a parish. These parish registers, over 2,000 volumes, were carefully inventoried, taking note of gaps in the registers.
During World War II., the Mecklenburg church records were moved for safe-keeping to salt mines in Grasleben. After the war this area fell into the British occupation zone and the British authorities sent the records to a palace just outside the city of Goslar in the Harz mountains for storage. Later the records were deposited in Ratzeburg, the only Mecklenburg city that ended up in West Germany. The church records of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz up until 1875 are now in Schwerin and are available at the church archives. There is a fee for using the archives. The archive is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The Mecklenburg church records were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah in 1951 and they are all available at the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. Copies of these microfilms are available for your research at local Family History Centers all over the world. Go to Family Search. Click on "Custom Search", then "Family History Centers" to find the Family History Center closest to you. You can also click on the "Family History Center Catalogue, then click on "Place Search" and put in the village you are looking for to find the film numbers for the church records.
CHRISTENING RECORDS: Children were usually baptized within a few days of birth. The pastor recorded the date, the child's name, the names of the parents, and the names of the godparents. Later records show the birthdate as well as the christening date. Prior to the late 1700s, many pastors did not record the name of the mother.
MARRIAGE RECORDS: The marriage usually took place in the home parish of the bride. The pastor recorded the names of bride and groom, whether each was single or widowed, and the date of the marriage. The earliest marriage records give little information about the parents of the couple. In most cases, until the beginning of the 1800s, marriage registers recorded only the names of the bride's parents. In Mecklenburg-Strelitz the names of the groom's parents began to be recorded after 1810. This practice was introduced in Mecklenburg-Schwerin sometime after 1820. The birthdates of the bride and groom began to be entered in marriage registers during the 1800s. Some marriage registers even give the birthplaces of the bride and groom.
DEATH RECORDS: Deceased persons were usually buried within a few days of their death. The pastor recorded the name of the deceased, the burial date, and death date. Early death registers did not record the place of birth and age of the deceased, but later records usually did. Death records from the 1800s often give the cause of death and even the name of the spouse or other survivors.
ILLEGITIMATE BIRTHS: Originally, when a child was born in Mecklenburg out of wedlock, he would receive the surname of the father if the father was known. In Mecklenburg-Schwerin after 1838, by law, an illegitimate child received the surname of the mother if the birth was not followed by the marriage of the parents. The name of the child was recorded as "angeblich" (alleged) in the church books, if relying on the mother's word. Even if the parents eventually married, the child would still be listed with the mother's surname in most cases because the pastor usually did not go back and change the birth record. In general, the name of the father was recorded up to the year 1860 after which the practice gradually came to a stop.