Berlin, Germany Genealogy
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Guide to Berlin ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
- 1 Informationi about Berlin, Germany
- 2 History
- 3 For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- 4 Research to Find the Town
- 5 If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
- 6 Using Berlin Directories to Narrow Down Your Place of Origin
- 7 Research Tools
Informationi about Berlin, Germany
Berlin, the capital of Germany, is also Germany's largest city. Because of its size, research can be time-consuming. In Meyer's Orts und Verkehrs Lexicon published in 1912 we find that at this time there were 70 Evangelical chapels, 15 Catholic chapels, 15 synagogues, 3 Reformed churches and 2 Baptist churches.
1237 is considered the founding date of the city. Two towns over time formed close economic and social ties, and profited from the staple right on the two important trade routes Via Imperii and from Bruges to Novgorod. In 1307, they formed an alliance with a common external policy, their internal administrations still being separated.
The Thirty Years' War between 1618 and 1648 devastated Berlin. One third of its houses were damaged or destroyed, and the city lost half of its population. Frederick William, known as the "Great Elector", initiated a policy of promoting immigration and religious tolerance. With the Edict of Potsdam in 1685, Frederick William offered asylum to the French Huguenots. By 1700, approximately 30 percent of Berlin's residents were French, because of the Huguenot immigration.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power. NSDAP rule diminished Berlin's Jewish community from 160,000 to about 80,000 as a result of emigration between 1933 and 1939.
All four Allies shared administrative responsibilities for Berlin. However, in 1948, when the Western Allies extended the currency reform in the Western zones of Germany to the three western sectors of Berlin, the Soviet Union imposed a blockade on the access routes to and from West Berlin, which lay entirely inside Soviet-controlled territory. The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989. On 3 October 1990, the German reunification process was formally finished. The founding of the two German states increased Cold War tensions. West Berlin was surrounded by East German territory, and East Germany proclaimed the Eastern part as its capital, a move that was not recognised by the western powers. East Berlin included most of the historic centre of the city. The West German government established itself in Bonn. In 1961, East Germany began the building of the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin, and events escalated to a tank standoff at Checkpoint Charlie. In 1989, with the end of the Cold War and pressure from the East German population, the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November and was subsequently mostly demolished. On 3 October 1990, the two parts of Germany were reunified as the Federal Republic of Germany and Berlin again became the official German capital. In 1991, the German Parliament, the Bundestag, voted to move the seat of the German capital from Bonn to Berlin, which was completed in 1999.
Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for Berlin
For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from Berlin will not be enough to use the records of Germany. Records are kept on the local level, so you will have to know the town they lived in.
- Details about the town will also help:
- the county or "Kreis" of that town,
- where the closest Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church was (depending on their religion),
- where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was, and
- if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger town it was part of.
Research to Find the Town
If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.
- Use Gathering Information to Locate Place of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
- Or watch this webinar: Online Class: Finding German Places of Origin
If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
Once you know the town name you need, the other facts you need are contained in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, the gazetteer on which the FamilySearch catalog for Germany is based.
- Use MeyersGaz, the digital gazetteer, to find the details you need, particularly the Kreis (county) it belonged to, found after "Kr".
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
|For Berlin Localities:
Enter "Berlin" in the Search field. A list of locations within Berlin will appear with hyphenated names. You will need to be able to narrow down your town of origin further than just "Berlin".
Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)
Using Berlin Directories to Narrow Down Your Place of Origin
- German Word List
- Latin Word List
- Handwriting Guide
- German Handwriting Tutorial
- Kurrentschrift Converter (enter German genealogical word, click on "convert", view your word in Kurrentschrift (Gothic handwriting)
Records of the Catholic church will usually be written in Latin: