Utilizing data from a sample of German village genealogies, it is possible to document the changes in reproductive patterns on the family level that started to take place in Germany during the nineteenth century and formed the basis for the secular decline in fertility which eventually encompassed the entire country. One striking finding from this study was the substantial diversity among the small sample of villages in terms of the timing of the emergence of family limitation. While couples in all villages who married during the last half of the eighteenth century appeared to be characterized predominantly by natural fertility, the emergence of family limitation began as early as the turn of the nineteenth century in some places and as late as the end of the nineteenth century in others. Occupational differentials with respect to family limitation were also examined. There is little evidence that changes in birth spacing played an important part in the initial phase of the fertility transition. Rather, the underlying process appears to involve a change from fertility patterns that were characterized by the absence of parity-dependent control to one in which attempts to terminate childbearing in response to the number of children already born becomes widespread.