Break Through Your Brick Walls with the Editors of Family Tree

By Family Tree Editors Premium

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.

New course: Cluster and Collateral Research

Dive into collateral research (focusing on indirect relatives such as siblings of great-grandparents) and cluster research (looking at those who don’t share blood but may have lived nearby) in this 4-week Family Tree University course starting Dec. 14.