German Army archives date back to the 15th century and have a high genealogical value, consisting of regimental and garrison records such as officer lists, assignment rolls, and birth, marriage and death records of soldiers and their families. Read o
Army archives are collections of historical records, containing source documents that have been preserved for cultural value or evidentiary importance. They are unpublished material with distinct information and no copies are retained. Archivists are involved in the process of organizing and preserving the archives, and help access relevant information. Past records of the German Army are particularly useful for research and in tracing genealogies. The National German Military Grave Registration Service contains a database with over two million names of soldiers who either died or went missing during the two World Wars.
Various forms of German Army Archives
The German Army was quite large, and most of the states in Germany had conscription laws for young men to register for compulsory military service. The navy was relatively smaller; military archives providing evidence of soldiers who served in the military exist in the form of family records, censuses, biographies, photographs, medals, civil registration records, church records, emigration documents and probate records. The key to find significant information lies in finding the soldier’s regiment.
Record-keeping of past centuries
In the 16th century, the Söldnerheere army hired troops from other nations, and after the Swedish-Polish war (1655-1660), Kurfürst tried to form a permanent army by introducing commissions and directives for troops, and appointing officers. The established Kanton system supplied troops since 1690, and Prussian nationals were recruited. Regiments were assigned to levying districts, and from 1726, the enrollment lists were maintained by parish priests.
Around 1814, every Prussian Province had a commissioner, and levying of males was regulated. Yearly inspections were conducted, and fit men were recruited in the infantry, cavalry or the garrison. The records of officers consisted of their regiments, hire, release, service period and promotion. Each officer had his record maintained in a separate file, since 1874.
The Ranglisten published on monthly, quarterly and yearly basis existed till 1911. The Quartalrollen, comprising the common soldiers’ records existed from 1660 to 1822. The Conduitenlisten, containing officer’s qualifications existed from 1859 until the First World War. The common soldiers in the Prussian army were not documented well enough.
Information contained in German Army archives
The oldest army records that date back to 1485 contain only the soldiers’ names. Those of the mid 1800s contain information on pensions, conduct, place of service, promotions and several details that pertain to the military career of each soldier. They also contain personal information such as the soldier’s age, residential address, birthplace, occupation, names of their family members and a general physical description.
Germans also served in the armies of other nations such as Denmark (before 1772), America (American Revolution and Civil War) and Britain (as Hessians).
Though the German Army archives have a high genealogical value, it is not easy to find information from them as they may be incomplete, or without indexes, or not properly arranged. Some of them have been photographed and are not readable enough. After the integration of most of the German states in to the Preußen army, soldiers of most states were recorded in the Preußen records, most of which were destroyed during the Second World War in 1945.