Which documents can I find in the Stadtarchiv, which are not available?

  • First and foremost, the Stadtarchiv (municipal archives) stores a selection of documents that derive from administration work of the numerous municipal agencies. After storage periods (storage time depends on the type of document) in the municipal agencies, the documents are stored in the Stadtarchiv, including documents of the district of Bielefeld, which was resolved in 1973, and every former town, agency and borough in the district area.
  • Moreover, collections of families, well-known individuals, businesses, local parties, labor unions, groups and associations are stored if historical importance is ascribed.
  • The older historical tradition of the district (county commission/”Landratsamt” Bielefeld), as well as the documents of federal agencies in Bielefeld (tax office, customs, district court, police headquarters etc.) or other administrations (district government) are stored in the North Rhine-Westphalia State Archive “Department OWL” (Landesarchiv NRW Abteilung OWL) in Detmold.
  • The documents concerning the tradition of the county of Ravensberg and several monasteries in the district are in the North Rhine-Westphalia State Archive “Department Westphalia” (Landesarchiv NRW Abteilung Westfalen) in Münster.


Do I have to register in advance to use the reading room?

  • No, normally that is not necessary. Although you can avoid waits by providing us with information or questions beforehand, so that we can prepare documents and sources for you.
  • It is recommended to make a reservation in advance for the microfilm reader which reads, digitizes and copies newspapers stored on film. Bielefelder Newspapers before 1945 are available for free via the online portal „zeit.punktNRW“.


Are all documents accessible?

  • Essentially yes, but data privacy and the condition of the document can limit the accessibility. Due to the legal regulations of archives and the user regulations of the Stadtarchiv, the staff decides which document is accessible. The Legislation of the archives in North Rhine-Westphalia (Archivgesetz NRW) includes a disabling phase of records which can be shortened or repealed on a case-by-case basis. This piece of legislation creates a balance between the right of informational self-determination and academic freedom granted by the German constitution.


What do I have to pay for?

  • Independent research in the reading room of the Stadtarchiv is free – the use of the reading room with its equipment, as well as the papers and documents and our guidance is free of charge.
  • Copies or scans of the documents are charged according to the fee rates.
  • Using your own technical devices (laptop, camera (no flash)) is possible after informing our staff and also free of charge. Documents that are normally inaccessible, due to the disabling phase of records, are not allowed to be photographed and you are not allowed to publish your personal photographs of the documents.


Is there remission of fees?

  • Our staff does research concerning matters of pension payment (especially official proof of residence, as well as time spans of raising children) free of charge.


Which sources for genealogical research are available in the Stadtarchiv?

  • Especially relevant are about 2,000 volumes containing registers of births, deaths and marriages which are being continuously transferred from the civil registry offices to the Stadtarchiv since 2009. These registers of births, deaths and marriages of the former 17 registry offices, which all start on October 1st, 1874, are accessible in our reading room after the retention period has expired (for births 110 years, for marriages 80 years and for deaths 30 years). Our staff can make legally attested copies of them; unfortunately we cannot provide you with valid deeds.
  • Further, the Stadtarchiv stores the records (card files) of the local residents’ registration office which is mostly unavailable for the users to research in themselves due to the format (microfiche/-film) and the sensible data of hundreds of residents which are not subject to the user’s research. This also applies to the house books of Bielefeld-Mitte where residents are listed according to the house they lived in.
  • If you are concerned with the time period before 1874, please consult the books of the churches that are available in the State Archives of the Westphalian Protestant Church (Landeskirchliches Archiv der Evangelischen Kirche von Westfalen) in Bielefeld and in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Paderborn (Erzbistumsarchiv Paderborn) for the Catholic Church.


My ancestors emigrated from Bielefeld – what is there to find?


Where did the documents of the “Gestapo” (Geheime Staatspolizei = secret federal police force) go?

  • The Gestapo was a state-operated police force wherefore documents concerning the Gestapo could only be stored in the North Rhine-Westphalia State Archive (Landesarchiv NRW). However, the Gestapo records of Bielefeld were, as far as it is known, destroyed by the airstrike in 1944 or records created later on were destroyed towards the end of the war: http://www.bielefeld.de/ftp/dokumente/01_Organisation.pdf.
  • The Stadtarchiv has construction documents of the office buildings (Siekerwall 9), which i.e. reveal the office arrangements, and occasional Gestapo letters in some specific cases.


I am looking for documents of denazification – where can I find something?

  • The Stadtarchiv only stores documents of denazification (especially political questionnaires with information about membership in the NSDAP and its divisions) if those documents concern the municipal employees. There are no documents of the whole urban population stored in the Stadtarchiv.
  • The records of the general denazification with about 35.000 documents of individual cases in the city and the district of Bielefeld alone are located in the North Rhine-Westphalia State Archive “Department Rhineland” (Landesarchiv NRW Abteilung Rheinland) in Duisburg.


My relative was a soldiers in WW I or WW II – are there documents in the Stadtarchiv? Who can help me?

  • The Stadtarchiv has the registers of deaths of soldiers in the First and Second World War from various registry offices. These documents may give evidence of the military unit and the circumstances of death. In very rare cases, there are documents from private records, i.e. military letters or military IDs.
  • There are very few additional documents for the First World War after the destruction of the Potsdamer Reichsarchiv in April 1945.
  • To receive further information about soldiers of the Second World War, you can contact the Bundesarchiv in Berlin, which stores the documents of the Deutsche Dienststelle (formerly Wehrmacht inquiries’ office/Wehrmachtsauskunftsstelle) in Berlin; a fee is required.


Are there documents of my house?

  • The Stadtarchiv only has construction documents of buildings which were demolished or destroyed by bombings in the Second World War. But especially for buildings in the city center, there is occasional evidence in records of the Ausgleichsamt, an agency that handled compensations for bombings and other war damage.
  • Construction documents of existing buildings are available at the city construction consulting service (städtischen Bauberatung). The inspection requires a fee and the consent of the owner.
  • In our collection of photographs, which contains approximately 75,000 pictures, are also numerous pictures of streets and buildings – to view these pictures, you can send a request to the Stadtarchiv.


My business/my association celebrates its jubilee but has little to no historic documents – where could I find something?

  • The Stadtarchiv stores nearly 70 records of businesses and 40 records of associations in Bielefeld; and new records are added constantly. If your business or association is not yet added to the compilation, press accounts, newspaper ads or commemorative publications concerning foundings or jubilees can be helpful. When it comes to businesses, the various series of the trade office records, which start about 1920, provide helpful evidence. Moreover, official documents with former statutes, lists of members etc. can display the history of your association.
  • The Westphalia Archives of Economy (Westfälisches Wirtschaftsarchiv) in Dortmund could have more business documents since they store the records of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and Chamber of Crafts in Bielefeld. In these collections you can find business records and other documents.