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Directories are alphabetical lists of names and addresses. Some German directories list all the adult residents or tradesmen who lived in a town or area at the time the directory was published. A directory of book sellers was published in Augsburg in 1564. The earliest German city directory, for the city of Halle, was published in 1701. Directories have become common since then. The German Term is "Adressbuch", plural "Adressbücher".
Address books, AKA city directories, can be a big help when researching in larger towns and cities. Some directories cover a larger, more rural area, such as a Kreis. Others exclude large segments of the population. For example, the city directory of Vienna, Austria, does not list servants and laborers for many years. Some address books only include businesses [like today’s “Yellow Pages”]. It pays to check out the book’s introduction pages.
The most helpful directories for genealogical research are town directories of local residents and businesses.
In recent years, directories have usually been published annually and may include names, addresses, occupations, and other helpful facts. Particularly in large cities with several parishes, addresses often help you find your ancestor's parish. Directories sometimes have town maps and may include addresses of churches, cemeteries, civil registration offices, and other locations of value to the genealogist.
The modern counterpart are telephone directories.
The first directories were published in London (1677) and Paris (1692) and the first German directory, published in 1701, was modelled after them. Other German cities soon followed: Berlin, Cologne, Lubeck, Dresden, Königsberg and Frankfurt / Oder. However, these early directories were more properly Court Calendars (Staatskalender) listing the ruling family and other nobility, officeholders and government offices. It was only in the last third of the 19th Century that the directories began to be more reflective of the whole population listing the heads of households with their residential address, industries and commercial undertakings with their business address, public institutions (especially hospitals, schools and public amusement places), religious organisations, political parties. Many published maps of the growing cities and might be prefaced with a history of the place or an essay proclaiming the achievements of the town.
Finding a Directory
Using a German-language-specific search engine (i.e. Google.de) search for " [town name] + Adressbuch" or "town name] + historisches Adressbuch".
The Family History Library has some German city directories. Most date from the 1830s to the mid-1900s. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:
GERMANY, [STATE - DIRECTORIES]
GERMANY, [STATE, [TOWN] - DIRECTORIES]
Another way to find city directories is to use Keyword Search. Type "[town name] + Adressbuch " in the search field.
GenWiki Portal and Project
GenWiki has an "Adressbücher" (directory) portal.
GenWiki is creating a database by volunteers transcribing historical directories. You are able to search on a Surname, Given name(s), Place and Occupation. There is a functionality to list all books in the database which lists the place name, short title and year of publication. A further functionality allows you list all places.
- Historic Addressbooks Database: Search (English interface).
Ancestry has an indexed collection of mostly German address books (directories). It can be found by typing "address books" in the Card Catalog title search field.
The German instance of WikiSource includes an article titled "Adressbücher" (address books). The article includes sections on regional and town address books with links to each volume. The books available on the ComGen website are not included in this listing, so that needs to be searched separately. The article includes German-language books from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.
A list of digital libraries by towns, regions, states, and countries is found on the German Digi Bib homepage. It is a good idea to check libraries on all levels of jurisdiction. Here are examples of several digital libraries that have a collection of town/ city directories.
- Bavarica search the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek relating to Bavaria, published up to the year 1870. Full text searching.
- CompGen DigiBib includes numerous digitized address books
- Kujawsko-Pomorskiego Digital Library in English, German and Polish. This library has a number of directories available. Search for "ADressbuch + [town name]". Note: Other Polish digital libraries also have directories in their holdings. Check the list on the German DigiBib homepage for links.
- Munich Digitization Center (MDZ) - holdings include ober 100 directories
- Court Almanacs / Staatskalendera- collection of Cocrt Alaanacs and Stste Cacendars in(including personel rosters) from several German states.
Aachener Adressbücher from 1850.
- Bayreuther Hausnummern-, Adreß- und Einwohnerbücher - Einführung Rainer-Maria Kiel, "Bayreuth House numbers, address books and residents, 1807 - 1937" (2007, Bayreuth, University Library). A list of Bayreuth directories with an introduction by Rainer-Maria Kiel. (In German)
- Bayreuth Directories digitised and downloadable at the Library, Bayreuth University. (In German)
The Central and Regional Library, Berlin (ZLB) digitized Berlin address books from 1799 to 1943. Now the digital address books are offered free on the Internet for viewing. You will find residents by name, streets as well as directories of industry, government agencies, associations. A keyword search and systematic search are possible, but not a full text search.
- Berliner Adressbücher In German and English.
- Adressbücher der Stadt Freiburg from 1798.
The Ruprecht-Karls-University, Heidelberg in co-operation with the Heidelberg City Archives has digitised and placed online the Adressbücher der Neckarstadt for the years 1839 to 1945.
A current telephone directory for Germany is available online. It is useful for determining if a particular surname is found in or around a certain locality. That can be especially useful if the ancestral home town has a common name. Websites like "Geogen" that show surname distribution, use this directory as the source.
A wiki article describing an online collection is found at:
Notes and References