History and Organization of the German Nobility Associations
The end of the monarchy in Germany in 1919 brings about a significant change for the German nobility. The new constitution of the new Republic of Germany – the Weimarer Reichsverfassung – describes the situation: “privileges or disadvantages through birth or standing are by public law no longer granted. Titles of nobility are only valid as part of the name and can not be conferred.” Consequently, the nobility was not completely abolished, as it was in Austria, where titles are no longer permitted. The nobility – we call it the “historical nobility” – is still active in Germany and represented by the German Nobility Associations.
24 regional associations within the German Federation of Nobility Associations “Vereinigung der Deutschen Adelsverbände – VdDA” with individual statutes consisting of members of their particular areas. The VdDA as well as the regional associations are representing exclusively the German speaking historical nobility. Head of each association is an elected president.
Part of the regional nobility associations are able to accept corporate memberships of noble family associations as their members.
The VdDA does not accept individuals or individual family associations as members.
Objectives of the associations
- representation of the association’s internal interests
- safeguarding and reinforcing interests by organizing recurring events or reunions
- upkeep and cultivation of traditions and culture
- safeguarding values and awakening leadership responsibility
- support and interest in genealogy
- maintaining contact to families and family associations
- maintaining close relations with other European nobility associations
- organizing youth activities: special events, bicycle tours, balls, regular
- meetings, international youth exchange, special workshops for strengthening the identity, values of nobility and introduction of an ethic codex
- combating improper use of titles, also titles acquired
- through adoption; disclosure of false titles.
Legal Committee (Adelsrechtsausschuss – ARA)
The Legal Committee of the German Nobility created after the Second World War, is responsible for the entire German language chapter and surveying and protecting the historical nobility.
Very important is the general principle: the membership with the German nobility is based on the nobility law valid until the end of the monarchy in Germany 1919, the historical nobility. This principle is also valid for the processing of the German nobility books (Gothaisches Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels), which is placed under the supervision of the ARA.
All German nobility associations as well as representatives of the nobility in Austria, in Switzerland and in the meantime also in Alsace are part of the ARA.
The ARA has to decide on all questions of nobility law, even if there is no special application. It means especially the membership of the historical nobility, the right to use noble names and titles as well as all adoption cases within the noble society. It has also to decide on the right to use noble coats of arms.
The Adelsrechtsausschuss can, following careful investigation and consideration, in very exceptional cases, grant individuals or families the “noble legal non-objection permit for use of their titles” These individuals or families are then instated within the historical nobility.
The Adelsrechtsausschuß represents the nobility of the “German tong” which is Switzerland, Austria, Alsace and the Baltic Germans.
More information on the Adelsrechtsausschuss can be found under
Transfer of noble names
Following the wedding of a noble woman with a commoner the husband has, according to the public law since some years, the right to choose the noble family name of his wife as common name. Their children will also carry the noble name. But these peoples are – of course – not noble in the sense of historical nobility.
Also in case of divorce the divorced husband has in case of a new wedding with a non noble woman the right to transfer his chosen noble family name on his new wife and their common children.
Also these people are – of course – not noble in the sense of historical nobility.
Gothaic Genealogical Reference Books of Nobility
(Gothaische Genealogische Handbücher des Adels – GHdA)
Published regularly, update the family trees for those families who decide to be represented in the new edition.
There are different series of the Gothaic genealogical reference books, of which the cover is printed in different colours:
- Adelige Häuser (gentry) in grey
- Freiherrliche Häuser (barons) in blue
- Gräfliche Häuser (counts) in green
- Fürstliche Häuser (princes) in red.
- An additional edition is the Adelslexikon (noble dictionary), which contains special details of the noble families.
German Archives of Nobility (Deutsches Adelsarchiv)
Located in Marburg, collecting and keeping up to date pertinent information and documents in preparation of the Gothaic Genealogical reference books is the centre for all documentary information concerning the German nobility.
Among its important publications there is Adelsrecht, edited by Sigismund Freiherr v. Elverfeldt-Ulm (Limburg an der Lahn, 2001), with contributions from numerous experts.
German Bulletin of Nobility (Deutsches Adelsblatt),
Published monthly, editing articles of historical interest as well as pertaining current events. It also keeps its readers informed about family news (weddings, birth announcements, obituaries etc.) and, most important, publishing the calendar of events and activities for the young generation.
Youth’s Club (16-35)
Each regional association is provided with an independent youth president, responsible for all youth affaires of his association (organization of balls, special common events, international affaires).
A youth delegate from VdDA to CILANE is responsible for the implementation of the resolutions taken during the meetings of the CILANE youth.