Familienrekonstitution avant la lettre

Volksgenealogie und historische Demographie im Kontext von völkischer Wissenschaft, Rassenkunde und Rassenpolitik


  • Jürgen Schlumbohm Göttingen




family reconstitution, Dorfsippenbuch, Ortsfamilienbuch, historical demography, völkisch sciences, racial science


International literature on the history of historical demography leaves no doubt that Louis Henry and his associates ‘invented’ the method of family reconstitution in the 1950s and revolutionized the study of demographic behaviour in the past by using individual level data from parish registers. This article adds a largely ignored prehistory to this narrative through three points. First, from the 1920s, family reconstitutions were carried out on a large scale in German-speaking countries. They served a wide variety of scholarly, popular and political purposes. Second, many family reconstitutions were used for analysing demographic behaviour, often in ways similar to Henry’s historical demography. Third, most family reconstitutions and a large part of demographic research based on them were closely linked to racial science. Many of these scholarly activities helped propagate and implement the racial policy of the Nazi regime, and many of the institutions and persons promoting them were strongly involved in enforcing it.