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Information in English Introduction to researching and accessing archival records at the Hamburg State Archive

Introduction to researching and accessing archival records at the Hamburg State Archive

Structure of the Archives Holdings

The records held at Hamburg State Archive (Staatsarchiv Hamburg) are given to us by the administration of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. To maintain the coherence of the documents, the records are organised into collections (Bestände) according to the authorities, public offices and courts where they were created. These collections are showing the tasks and responsibilities of the administration in the past and in the present.
The guide to our archival holdings (Beständeübersicht) provides an initial insight into which documents the Hamburg State Archive holds and which period in time these documents come from.
Therefore to locate any records, you should always try to find out which authority was responsible for the time in question, i.e. where the documents were created.
The more detailed your question is when searching for records, the more specific your research can be.

Finding Aids (Findmittel)

In our online database (Online-Findmittel) you will find many inventories with nearly 1,000,000 archival units. In the reading room, you can search using the database or printed and handwritten catalogues and card indexes.

Visiting the Reading Room (Lesesaal)

You do not need to register before visiting the reading room. You can just come along and visit us during our opening hours. Everybody has the right to read records and other units kept by the State Archive for official, scientific, local history or journalistic purposes and to safeguard legal interests.
You can use our finding aids and the archival units for free.
Unfortunately, WLAN access is not yet available at the State Archive. You can use the PCs in the reading room for free for research purposes. You can also print individual pages.

Information and advice

During your visit, you can consult our advisory service (Beratungsdienst) in the reading room regarding your questions. The advisory service provides a short introduction to doing research yourself and information on the responsible authorities and their archival holdings at the State Archive. Please see our website for consulting times.

Ordering records, registers or other archival units

Each archival unit bears a reference code (Signatur), which gives it a unique identity within its archival collection. The unique identifier can consist of a simple number (e.g. 23) or a combination of letters and numbers (e.g. III A 4).
The reference code (Bestellsignatur) consists of the number of the archival collection and the number of the archival unit, and is used for the unique identification of the records and other units kept at the State Archive. If you want to order an archival unit you will need both numbers: the one of the collection an the one of the archival unit, i.e. the reference code. An example of a correctly completed order form can be found on our website.
If you already have the collection number and reference code, you can order up to 10 units  per day to be accessed in the reading room.
Send the order form by e-mail to Lesesaal@staatsarchiv.hamburg.de or by fax to 040 4279-16050. Please order at least two opening days before your visit.
The archival units will be kept for you in the reading room for four weeks from the order date. Registers of births, deaths and marriages are the only exception: - these remain in the reading room for only one week.
Orders for the same day can be submitted in person in the reading room up until 11.15 am. They shall be retrieved no later than 1.30 pm. Orders for the morning of the next day of opening must be submitted by 1.30 pm on the previous day.

You can also order reproductions of records from home. You will need the reference code an the reproduction order form of the ElbeWerkstätten.

Access to the archival records

You can access the records in the State Archive's reading room during opening hours.
Users are not permitted to copy or photograph archival material for conservation reasons. However, you can place an order for copies from the external service provider, Elbe-Werkstätten.
Please note that the records and the finding aids are in German language. Most of the documents created before the 1930ies are handwritten. Unfortunately, we cannot read or translate entire texts for you. We provide handouts and tools to assist you in dealing with unfamiliar fonts and expressions.
The Hamburg Archives Law (Hamburgisches Archivgesetz) recognizes three types of closure period: the general closure period (30 years from creation of the archival unit), the term of protection for personal archival material (10 years from the death of the person concerned) and the term of protection for archival material subject to the confidentiality regulations (60 years from creation of the archival unit). To use records in the State Archive freely, all closure periods must have expired or been formally reduced.

Copies and Scans

In the reading room, you can order photocopies or scans of archival records. If you already know the reference code of an archival unit, you can also place an order for reproductions of the archival material by post or e-mail. To do this, please complete the Elbe-Werkstätten GmbH reproduction order in addition to the order form and send them to the State Archive together.
You can request certified copies of registers of births, deaths and marriages, if you know the register number, registry office (Standesamt) and reference code (Bestellsignatur). Detailed information on ordering copies and use of the registry office documents can be found in German on our website: Use of registry entries in the State Archive.

Downloads

Order Form for Archive and Library Materials (pdf) »(PDF, 19 bytes).
Order Form for Archive and Library Materials »(VND.MS-EXCEL, 26 bytes).
Rules Governing the Use of the State Archive - As of: 2004 »(MSWORD, 38 bytes) .
Rules Governing the Use of the State Archive - As of: 2004 - Appendix 1 Request for Use »(MSWORD, 29 bytes).
Elbe-Werkstätten Reproduction Order, as of August 2012 »(PDF, 559 bytes).
 General Terms and Conditions for Elbe-Werkstätten, as of 2010 made available »(PDF, 19 bytes).