FAQ: Westfalen (Westphalia)

December 1998


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Q1: Where is Westfalen (Westphalia)? 
Q2: What was Westfalens's recent history? 
Q3: What were the administrative areas of Westfalen? 
Q4: What were the court districts in Westfalen in 1890? 
Q5: How do I find locations and maps for Westfalena? 
Q6: When were civil registers introduced? 
Q7: Is there a listserv for Westfalen family researchers? 
Q8: Any websites of interest to Westfalen researchers? 
Q9: Were there Mennonites in Westfalen? 
Q10: Are there emigration records available? 
Q1: Where is Westfalen? 
A1: Westfalen (pronounce:vest-FAA-len) was a Prussian province 
since 1815 in the western part of Germany and Prussia,  
(NOT part of West Prussia which was in the Eastern part of Prussia).  
Capital: Muenster. 
Westfalen today is part of Land Nordrhein-Westfalen of the new Germany. 
The industrial Ruhr area is part of Westfalen. 
Q2: What was Westfalen's recent history? 
A2: In 1807-1813 part of Westfalen was part of the Napoleonic Kingdom of 
    Westphalia with Napoleon's younger brother Jerome as king. In 1815  most of Westfalen became Prussian, Osnabrueck and the northern Muensterland  went to Hannover and Oldenburg. 
Until the secularisation in 1803 the Catholic church held the largest  area under her sovereignty (dioceses of Muenster,Paderborn,and Koeln). 
In 1895 the population was 48% Evangelical,51% Catholic, 0.7% Jewish.  Predominantly Evangelical were the 6 northern Kreise of Reg.Bez.Minden  (Minden,Luebbecke,Herford,Halle,Bielefeld-Stadt and B.-Land) and Kreise  Altena,Hagen-Land,Schwelm,Siegen,Wittgenstein of Reg.Bez.Arnsberg.  Mostly Catholic were the Reg.Bez.Muenster(except Kreis Tecklenburg),  the southern part of Reg.Bez.Minden (Kreise Wiedenbrueck,Paderborn,Bueren,  Warburg,Hoexter) as well as the Kreise of the former Duchy of Westfalen   in Reg.Bez.Arnsberg. 
Q3: What were the administrative areas of Westfalen? 
A3: In 1890 Westfalen consisted of 3 districts and 43 Kreise (counties): 
Regierungsbezirk (district) Arnsberg with 21 Kreise (counties): 
The district population was 55.6% Evangelical,43.3% Catholic,0.7% Jewish. 
Regierungsbezirk (district) Minden with 11 Kreise (counties): 
The district population was 62.5% Evangelical,36% Catholic, 1% Jewish. 
Regierungsbezirk (district) Muenster with 11 Kreise (counties): 
The district population was 11.5% Evangelical, 88% Catholic,0.7% Jewish. 
Each Kreis was headed by the Landrat who presided over the Landratsamt. 
The Landratsamt records are deposited in the state archives. 
The Landrat was in charge of passport and emigrations matters and reported 
to the district Regierung who in turn gave data to the provincial 
Oberpraesidium in Muenster. 
Q4: What were the court districts in 1890? 
A4: The highest provincial court in Westfalen and for the Rheinland 
 Kreise of Duisburg,Essen,Muehlheim,and Rees as well as the principality 
 of Lippe Amt Lipperode and Stift Kappel was the Oberlandesgericht in Hamm. 
The lower courts (Landgerichte) and lowest courts (Amtsgerichte) were 
Landgericht Arnsberg with (19) Amtsgerichte: 
Landgericht Bielefeld with (14) Amtsgerichte: 
Landgericht Bochum with (5) Amtsgerichte: 
Landgericht Dortmund with (8) Amtsgerichte: 
Landgericht Hagen with (11) Amtsgerichte: 
Landgericht Muenster with (18) Amtsgerichte: 
Landgericht Paderborn with (17) Amtsgerichte: 
 Of special interest are the land deed records with no published  
survey known todate. 
Land records are also deposited at Preussische Generalkommission 
in Muenster. 
Last testaments and wills, Erbscheine, orphan records would be 
deposited in the local Amtsgericht (in the Hypotheken-Acta, if land 
ownership and remarriages were involved). 
A remarriage of a widower/widow was always documented in the Amtsgericht 
stating in detail the estate rights of surviving children as well as 
rights and duties of parents and step parents. This is a source at the 
Amtsgericht which is widely unknown and untapped (and unfilmed by the LDS). 
Q5: How do I find locations and maps for Westfalena? 
A5: An atlas is usually not the best tool to locate small towns or  villages. Maps of scales 1:25,000 (Messtischblatt) or 1:100,000  (Karte des Deutschen Reiches and Kreiskarten) and gazetteers  (Ortsverzeichnis) are. 
The best German gazetteer is 
  Meyers Orts- and Verkehrslexikon des Deutschen Reiches,1912 edition, 
   which is available on microfiche in the LDS Family History Centers. 
 There is LDS microfilm #068814 available of 
   Karte des Deutschen Reiches, scale 1:100000, 1km = 1cm 
   which may be loaned thru the LDS Family History Centers. 
   It covers Germany for 1914-1917. 
   Topographical maps (Messtischblaetter 1:25000) may be  
   purchased from 
       Landesvermessungsamt Nordrhein-Westfalen 
       Muffendorfer Str. 19-21 
       Postfach 20 50 07 
       D-53170 Bonn 
   (Ask for their map catalog or Kartenverzeichnis) 
Q6: When were civil registers introduced? 
A6: Civil registers of births,marriages,deaths were introduced in 
    Westfalen by the French in 1808. 
    The Civil registry office is called Standesamt. 
Q7: Is there a listserv for Westfalen family researchers? 
A7:  There is a mailing list westfalen-l for Westfalen. 
    To subscribe send text: 
        subscribe westfalen-L 
    to: majordomo@genealogy.net 
Q8: Any websites of interest to Westfalen researchers? 
A8:  http://www.genealogy.net/gene/reg/rindex.htm 
 * Staatsarchive in Nordrhein-Westfalen 
  * Staatsarchiv Detmold 
           E-Mail: NWStADetmold@t-online.de 
If you have no access to the Web (www), you can direct web files to  your email box by sending a request to 
        or to 
with the message HELP or 
    get http://..... 
Consult also 
     Germanic Genealogy (by Edward R.Brandt et alii), 2nd edition. 
           1997, St.Paul MN, 517 pp.,1st edition, 1995. 
Q9: Were there Mennonites in Westfalen? 
A9: Westfalen and Muenster have been associated with the Anabaptist  uprisings of the 16th century. Since those days, no Anabaptist nor  Mennonite congregation was found in Westfalen until recently. 
Here are some statistics for Mennonite individuals in the 3 districts 
of Westfalen: 
(see Mennonite Life,April 1969,83-86) 
           1821  1831  1843  1852  1861  1871  1880  1890  1900  1925 
Muenster      -     1     8    13    32    31    29    52    68   131 
Minden       29    63    49    66    71    11    10     6    15    16 
Arnsberg     78    72    50    30    26    17    15    19    31   159 
Q10: Are there emigration records available? 
A10: The state archives have many emigration records which were  filmed by the LDS FHL. 
For details see: 
     Learned, Marion Dexter, 1857-1917: 
    Guide to the manuscript materials relating to American history 
          in the German state archives, Washington, D.C., 
    Carnegie Institution of Washington. Publication no. 150 , 1912, 352 p.: 
                     -also Kraus reprints NY 1965- 
p.150-153:StA Muenster 
     (there are a number of updates  done by the LOC Manuscript Division,  
     call no.L173.L4 Suppl. 1929-1932, vol.1 p.259-267 for Muenster).