Adressbuch · City Directories · German

German City Directories

City directories are an amazing resource. Not only do they list the residents who lived in the city in the stated year, but they give other helpful information. They are a mini census that details a person’s movements and job changes from one year to the next.

Use of the city directory for its residential listing is obvious. But the directory also lists the businesses that our ancestors may have frequented. It gives tidbits of information about the city and may include pictures. Our ancestors did not live in this digital era that we do. They had no internet. The city directory was their Google!

But do you know that there are German city directories? They are known as Adreßbücher or Adreßbuch (singular). That funny character “ß” is known in German as an “Eszett” and, in this context, is pronounced like a double “s.”  If you are researching urban areas in Germany, you might consider this resource. And because we do live in a digital age, some of these are available online:

  • FamilySearch has a few databases in their German digitized record collection, listed as city directories.
  • Ancestry.com has several collections. Search for the Keyword “Adressbuch” in their Card Catalog. If you are not a subscriber, you may use this website at your local library that subscribes to it.
  • Verein für Computergenealogie [Society for Computer Genealogy] has an Adreβbuch database. There is an ongoing project to populate that database. This organization also has over 1,200 digitized directories that may be view from DigiBib (their digital library).
  • Zentral und Landesbibliothek Berlin (Central and State Library of Berlin) has digitized Berlin city directories, 1799–1943 (with some gaps). I wish I had Berlin ancestors!
  • Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (Germany Digital Library) has some digitized Adreβbücher. Search using the keyword “Adressbuch.”
  • Check the holdings of libraries and archives related to the German locality where you do research to see what Adreβbücher might be digitized.

Not everything is online. Not by a long shot! If you do not find the directories you seek in online sources, start by checking the Family History Library (FHL) catalog. Do a “Place” search in their catalog using the name of the city or the region. You may also do a “Keyword” search for “adressbuch.” I did that today and found 1,379 results. If FHL has a microfilmed version of an Adreβbuch, you may rent and view it at your local Family History Center or authorized library. Check the holdings of libraries and archives related to the German locality where you do research to see what might be in their collection, even if it’s not digitized.

Remember that these digitized collections continue to grow and change, so be sure to check websites frequently. Best of luck and happy hunting!

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