Friday, 15 May 2009

Ancestry releases German phone books collection


Ancestry has launched online a new collection - German Phone Directories, 1915-1981 - a unique collection of phone books containing the names and addresses of more than 35 million people who lived in Germany’s major cities during the 20th century. This is the first time that these phone books, which are held in paper-form at the German National Library, have been digitised and made available online.

An estimated 49 million Americans (one in six) and nearly three million Britons (one in 20) claim German heritage – many will be descended from German immigrants whose names can be found in these phone books.

As phone books provide an annual account of an individual’s location, they are a hugely valuable resource for tracing people’s movements around Germany before or after the two World Wars and the Great Depression, during the tyranny of the Third Reich and following Germany’s division by the Berlin Wall.

The information they contain: for the cities of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Leipzig, is especially useful when supplemented with complementary documents such as passenger lists and censuses, which can help trace individuals’ movements around the globe.

In addition to everyday Germans, the phone books contain names of some of the country’s most famous - and infamous - citizens, including:

Albert Einstein – The Nobel Prize winning physicist is listed in the 1930 Berlin directory as Prof. Dr. Univ. His phone number was 2807

Marlene Dietrich – The legendary actress who starred in Shanghai Express is listed in the 1930 Berlin directory living at 54 Kaiserallee. Her telephone number was H1 Pfalzburg 2142

Eva Braun – Mistress and later wife of Adolf Hitler, Ms Braun is listed in the 1937 Munich directory living at Wasserburger Strasse. Her telephone number was 480844

Rudolf Hess – Hitler’s private secretary and later Deputy Fuhrer is listed in the 1938 Hamburg directory, which describes his title as ‘SS-Untersturmfuhrer’

Dr Karl Braun – The physicist, inventor and Nobel Prize winner travelled to the US in 1914 but was forbidden to return when America entered the First World War. He is listed in the 1915 Berlin director, with no further entries after that year. Braun died in Brooklyn, New York in 1918

Otto Lagerfeld – The father of the famous fashion designer Karl appears in the 1933 Hamburg directory living in the wealthy Elbchaussee. His telephone number was 462349. It is believed that Karl Lagerfeld still owns an exclusive villa on that street

Kaiser Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert von Preußen – Germany’s last Kaiser is listed in the 1915 Berlin directory residing in the Royal Castle Berlin. His phone number was 482

The German Phone Directories, 1915-1981 also list names and addresses for many of Germany’s major businesses operating during the 20th century.

Josh Hanna, Senior Vice President of Ancestry International, comments: “Few countries in the 20th century have experienced the scale of social and economic change that Germany has, and as many Germans moved around the country and the world before and after the two world wars, these directories will play a vital role for those with German heritage trying to trace their family to a particular place and time.”

The German Directories, 1915-1981, will be available on all Ancestry websites to members and through a 14-day free trial.

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Anonymous said...

This should be an excellent resource for anyone with recent German ancestry. Now, if only would add similar resources for Irish and Scottish cities!

Stephanie at Irish Genealogical Research

Chris Paton said...

Hi Stephanie - they have already done so! The British Phone Books Collection 1880-1984 has a great many records for Scotland and Ireland. Here's part of the blurb from the site:

"This collection contains British phone books published between 1880, the year after the public telephone service was introduced to the UK, and 1984, from the historic phone book collection held by BT Archives. The database currently contains 1780 phone books and provides near full county coverage for England as well as containing substantial records for Scotland, Ireland, and Wales."

Bear in mind that after the Partition of Ireland in 1921 the records are likely to be for Northern Ireland only. But yes, definitely a useful resource!