Searching for Persons and Ancestors

The archival material at the Federal Archives contains a large number of person-related documents. They can, for example, help to clarify service periods and nationalities. To a limited extend and time-wise essentially limited to the 20th century, they may also be significant for genealogical research.

However, the Federal Archives are not a central archives for person-related documents. It is not possible to conduct a simple search by name across the entire holdings, especially since case files are generally not indexed by name, even if they often contain personal references.

Civil or ecclesiastical registers of birth, marriages and deaths are not kept at the Federal Archives. As a rule, they are located at registry offices, parish offices or church archives. In general, it is advisable to start researching ancestors at municipal archives or state archives of those regions, which seem likely to be relevant due to their proximity to the birth place or the place of residence of the person you are looking for. The Archives portal D’s overview might help to select the correct archives.

On some of the most frequently requested areas of research about persons you will find more information in the following articles:

Research on the NS era

Personal documents of military provenance until 1945

Prisoner files of the GDR

Whereabouts of documents of former youth detention centres (Jugendwerkhöfe) of the GDR

Note on documents from "denazification proceedings"

In the Allied zones of occupation, numerous so called “Spruchkammerverfahren”, trials at civilian tribunals, in which Germans had to answer for their behaviour during the Nazi era, have been conducted in the context of the so called “Entnazifizierung” (denazification). The files from these proceedings are not kept at the Federal Archives, but at the state archives responsible for the place of residence of the person concerned.

At the Federal Archives’ branch in Koblenz, however, the holding Z 42 “Spruchgerichte in der Britischen Zone” is kept. The proceedings of these courts are a peculiarity of the British occupation zone. Their goal was to convict members of Nazi organisations who had been declared criminal by the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg.