Break Through Your Brick Walls with the Editors of Family Tree

Break Through Your Brick Walls with the Editors of Family Tree

Have a genealogy brick wall standing in your way? Send it our way and your question may be featured in one of our upcoming magazine or website articles!

From time to time, our readers hit a brick wall in their own research, and they come to us for advice on how to proceed. While it may take us some time to dig into questions submitted, we love finding solutions to the road blocks our readers have encountered. Below, you’ll find a question that one of our readers sent us via email regarding finding records of life events that occurred in Germany during WWII. We’ve provided the feedback given by two members of our editorial team, as well as what Contributing Author David A. Fryxel has to say on the topic. This one’s definitely perfect for anyone who is researching their German ancestors during the Second World War.

genealogy brick walls family tree magazine editors answer questions

Hidden behind the iron curtain

“I want to research a German ancestor who was separated behind the Iron Curtain from his West Berlin family during WWII. He was never seen again. I would like to find out what happened to him. Has Family Tree done any articles on this subject? Did the Nazi’s keep death records of citizens during that time? Does Family Tree have any resources available on this subject? I have looked through your stores German books, etc., but most look like they are for pre-1900 research? Can you give me any suggestions on how to search for these records online or in an archive?”
-Mary S.

“This is an excellent question. In general, genealogical resources are from before World War II, often because of privacy laws. You’re correct that most of our German write-ups are pre-1900, mostly (I think) because most German-Americans immigrated before then. Most WWII records that I’ve seen are focused on Holocaust victims. The FamilySearch Wiki provides a good overview of various research topics, including Berlin Genealogy.” – Andrew Koch, Editor and Content Creator

“In Europe, the long history of wars has taken a toll on records as well as the populations they recorded. Nations relatively unscathed by war since the beginning of modern record-keeping, such as those in Scandinavia, are most likely to have intact records stretching back centuries. In other countries, such as present-day Germany, record loss may be spotty; here, too, copies of destroyed records may still exist in regional archives or diocese or archdiocese repositories. Blame the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) for the loss of most pre-1650 German records.” – Contributing author David A. Fryxell, taken from  Are You Really at A Genealogy Brick Wall?

“If you think your ancestor may have been part of the military, Deutsche Dienststelle is an excellent resource. The records they house include personnel documents, listings, documents on military losses and a register containing over 18 million soldiers from World War II.  You have to fill a request form, provide known information (obligatory: name and birth date) on your ancestors, check options what kind of information you are interested in. You also have to state your relationship, e.g. „grandson“. The cost for their service generally ranges from 8 to 20 Euros. It should be noted, they do generally send their replies in German, but a simple online translator may be able to help with this.” – Ashlee, Online Content Director

More resources from Family Tree Magazine

Locating German Records

How to Trace Your German Genealogy

Tips for Researching an WWII POW in Germany

Willkommen to Your German Roots

Holocaust Records Genealogy Guide

If you have a question for us, send it along to Selected topics may be used for upcoming website content or in our magazine.

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  1. My 3rd great grandfather is my brick wall. He seems to be very illusive. He is never with his family. Any help you can help me with to break this brick wall would be greatly appreciated. I am the great great granddaughter of his son James Henry Dabb. Thank you for your help.
    William John “John” Dabb
    Abt. 1837 – Born, Cornwall, England
    24 Oct. 1857 Marriage to Mary Ann Goldsworthy
    Father listed in Marriage Record as Aminadab Dabb. I can find no other reference anywhere of an Aminadab Dabb. I am thinking his father is Melchizedeck Dabb but have no proof of that either.
    Son James Henry’s Death record of 1905 in Dickinson County Michigan lists father as Wm. J. Dabb and Mother as Mary A. Rowe. Rowe is Mary Ann’s new married name. She marries Henry Rowe before 1880. I cannot find a record for this marriage either.
    1861 England Census finds Mary Ann Dabb as a copper miners wife at age 23 with 3 children. Mary Hannah age 3. William John age 2 and James Henry age 7months. Living in Skinners Bottom, Mount Hawke Parish, St. Agnes, Cornwall, England. She is listed as the Head of the household, Married and (Wm. John Dabb or John Dabb) is nowhere to be found.
    1871 England Census finds Mary A. Dabb living with her mother Jane Goldsworthy in Skinners Bottom, St. Agnes, Cornwall, England. She is 33 a dressmaker still listed as married. William J age 12 is a tin dresser, Mary A, age 13 and James H. age 10 is also a tin dresser. William John is nowhere to be found.
    1874 Feb. 14 – Daughter Mary Ann Goldsworthy Dabb age 16 dies in Skinners Bottom, Mithian, Cornwall. England.

    1880 US Census finds Mary Ann remarried to a Henry Rowe living in Negaunee, Marquette County, Michigan, USA. She is 41, William J is 21 and James Henry is 19. Both Laborers. She has another son by Henry Rowe, Thomas G. who is 4 and born in Pennsylvania.

    1881 2 Aug – Son James Henry Married in Marquette County Michigan. No Parents listed on Records.
    1905 31 Mar – Son James Henry Dies in Iron Mountain, Dickinson County, Michigan, USA Parents listed on Death Certificate are Wm. J. Dabb and Mary A. Rowe

    Extra no connection yet:
    John Dabb travels to US NY in 1860 with Arthur Paul

    Thank you again for your help. Donna Revello