Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America

Church Records / OSBs

Church & Community Records

Church records are the primary sources of birth, marriage and death information for our Ostfriesen ancestors.  Information that was gathered varied in early records and parents of couple being married or deaths may not have been recorded.  Community/civil registration was implemented under French rule beginning in 1811 but reverted back to churches a few years later after Napoleon lost control of the area.  Civil registration was resumed in 1874.

Many original Ostfriesen records can be rented through the LDS On-line Catalog and viewed at LDS Family History Centers around the country.  These primary sources were recorded soon after the occurrence of events and are generally the most accurate sources of information, though inconsistencies and errors can occur.

Many people have worked countless hours to summarize church records into community family books, or Orsippenbuchs (OSBs).  These records are secondary sources since they are extracted from the original from the original records but they are often the best available resources for researchers who cannot access the original records store in German archives.  While the books are published in Germany, we maintain a copy of all the Ostfriesen OSBs in our research library and stock most of the OSBs for researchers who desire to purchase copies of the books.  The OSB prefaces can be a rich source of information about communities, and OGSA volunteers have translated several prefaces into English.  Check the list of published OSBs and translated prefaces and our catalog for pricing and availability information.

The OSBs are published in German but they use common symbols such as a "*" to indicate a birth date and others for marriages, deaths and burials.  This listing of the common OSB symbols may be helpful for your research efforts.  Our German wordlist can also provide additional guidance on occupations, cause of death, and other information that might be included in the OSBs. 

Additional research may be required if you did not see the original of your ancestors in the OSB list.  There are hundreds of named places in Ostfriesland that may have had one or more houses that are part of a larger community.  An excellent reference of place names (Ort) to Church communities (Kirchspiel) is located on the Tote Punkt (Dead Ends) Ostfriesland website.

Demographic Information

Census information from Ostfriesland is not readily available but the Schatzungsregister 1719 by Erhard Schulte and the Kopfschatzung 1757 by Wiard Hinrichs provide detailed information and population summary statistics.  These books are available for review in the OBSA Library and available to order through our catalog.

Census statistics can provide insights into our ancestors' communities.  The links below are summarized from 1875 census statistics published in Ostfriesland Land und Volk in Wort und Bild.  Mit Holzchnitten, etc., published in 1881.  The summary includes a town or area, which may have a church if it is large enough, Amt - a governing region, the Church district, and a summary of the residents by religion.

Population Summary

Population by Area/Community


Doris Reuter has an excellent website with an alphabetical list of churches with links to historical information, pictures and videos.

Leer Reformed Church Index

Leer is one of the larger cities in Ostfriesland and one of our members, Jeanee Thompson, compiled an index of names found in the Leer Reformed Church's records.  Check the Index to Names in the Leer Reformed Church Records if you had family from this region.  You may find some connections.