For a period of about 10 years, roughly 1857-1868, the Department of State asked each consulate to report on the fees it charged for services on a quarterly basis. These reports served two primary functions. First, they alerted the Department to the consulate’s activities, and provided the Department with concrete information as to the consulate’s value to the nation. Put another way, the reports let the Department know if paying for the building’s upkeep (if the consulate had a physical location) and the consul’s support was worth the expenditure. Second, consuls often received a portion of the fees as part of their salary; therefore, consuls had a vested self-interest in reporting the fees.
Each Statement consists of a series of columns. The headings included the person or company’s name for which the consulate performed the service, the date on which the consulate performed the service, the type of service the consulate performed, and the fee the consulate charged for the service. Services included issuing passports, securing translations of German documents, certifying copies of documents, assisting with local legal matters, issuing marriage contracts, and assisting former soldiers and their dependents living abroad file for pension or other benefits for military service. These records are often the only mention of your family you will find among the records.
Given the value of the Quarterly Statement of Fees, MAGS created an index to help you locate the information. Although you can perform a general search on the public part of the MAGS website, the details of each record will reside on the members-only portion of the MAGS website, enhancing the value of your MAGS membership. The database includes a synopsis of the information included in the Quarterly Statement and a citation to the records if you wish to examine the records yourself.
For additional information on the Quarterly Statements and the associated despatches, see the guide to the corresponding consulate available to MAGS members on the members-only portion of our website.
Note on fees for marriage contracts in the database: The fee for a marriage contract was $2, as was the fee for a certification of that contract. Therefore, each couple usually paid $4 for both of those services. Because the database is indexed with both spouses’ names to provide an easier search if you only know one person’s name, it may appear as though both the prospective groom and bride had to pay $4 each for both of these services. That was not the case; each couple only paid $4, not $8.
NARA Record Group 59, General Records of the Department of State
Microfilm T213: Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Hesse-Cassel, 1835-1869
Microfilm T390: Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Hesse-Darmstadt, 1854-1871
Microfilm T391: Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Hesse-Homburg, 1854-1866
Microfilm T473: Despatches from U.S. Consuls in the Duchy of Nassau, 1854-1869
Microfilm T419: Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Oldenburg, 1856-1869