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30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - Sources on the East German past

09. November 2019, Heike Leiacker - Anniversary, Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Historical Events, History, Knowledge

After the new travel regulations have been announced, thousands of GDR citizens cross the border at Invalidenstrasse in Berlin on 10 November 1989, Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1989-1110-041 / Hirschberger, Ralph / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-1989-1110-041,_Berlin,_Grenz%C3%BCbergang_Invalidenstra%C3%9Fe.jpg).

09 November is a special day in German history. In the year 1989 this finally meant something positive. On this day, the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) announced a new and long-desired travel regulation. People now could directly leave the GDR in the direction of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). This caused the fall of the Berlin Wall and finally led to the German reunification.

For genealogy, the division of Germany plays quite some role, too. The foundation of two separate states and especially the construction of the Berlin Wall and the closing of the inner-German border tore families apart and led to very different living environments in East and West Germany. Until today this affects the German society. On the occasion of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall we are having a look at the historic events and also discuss sources that can be useful for researching ancestors and relatives in the former GDR.

30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall - Sources on the East German past

To dare more archiving

20. February 2019, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, General, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Documents

The State Archive Hamburg

Archives and especially the preserved documents stored there are indispensable for genealogy. Hardly any research would be possible without them. However, they are not only relevant for family research, but function as information stores as well as places of commemorative culture.

Due to a lack of space and financial reasons, it is impossible to preserve everything. Every archive therefore has to appraise the offered collections and to make choices. Everything that is disposed leads to a loss of information. The question is how serious the loss is. Therefore, it is important to determine the archival value. In order to do so, among other things the source value and the epistemological value play a role. One problem is that appraisal might vary - due to different times and different persons/groups of persons - as perspectives and research interests are changing.

To dare more archiving

German Archive Day 2018

02. March 2018, Andrea Bentschneider - Archives, Societies, Museums, General, Germany, Historical Documents

Poster of the German Archive Day 2018 under the motto „Democracy and Civil Rights“, VdA (www.tagderarchive.de).

Since 2001, thanks to the initiative of the Verband deutscher Archivarinnen und Archivare e.V. (VdA, Organization of German Archivists), German Archive Day takes place every two years. It is to display the multifaceted purpose of the archives to the public and appears since 2006 under different mottos.  This year Archive Day takes place on 03 and 04 Mar carrying the motto "Democracy and Civil Rights".

German Archive Day 2018

Tangible history – The Kiekeberg open air museum

21. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, General, Germany, Hamburg

Pringen Hof from Kakenstorf, built in 1797, furnished according to about 1800.

Pretty groups of houses and gardens, vivid and sensorial history, old domestic animal breeds and many opportunities to try out things – the Kiekeberg open air museum near Hamburg is always worth visiting: For interested genealogists who want to know more about how their ancestors might have lived in the region, for general history fans or whole families. There is something for every interest and every age.

Tangible history – The Kiekeberg open air museum

Periods applying to archive material

12. May 2017, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, Genealogy, General, Germany, Historical Documents, Tips and Tricks

Archive file register, photo by moi (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AArchives_entreprises.jpg)

Genealogy isn’t always simple. Sometimes legislative restrictions that are in themselves very reasonable can complicate our work. Today we would like to give a short overview of different periods applying to archive material in Germany. This is further complicated by German federalism. Many regulations only apply to one particular federal state.

Periods applying to archive material

When the impossible happens

19. March 2017, Andrea Bentschneider - Archives, Societies, Museums, General

This week was a good week. We had the opportunity to experience a rare ancestry research sensation.

For more than four years we have been looking for information on a client’s biological father about whom she only knew the name and his place of residence in 1945/1946. Not even the date of birth was known. Hearsay in the family indicated a connection to Austria, but we were not able to verify anything about this for a long time.

When the impossible happens

Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy

28. February 2017, Heike Leiacker - Archives, Societies, Museums, Germany, Hamburg, Historical Events, Historical Documents, General

Flood in Hamburg, 17.02.1962; picture by Oxfordian Kissuth (own work). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHamburg_-_Flutkatastrophe_1962.jpg

In the night of 16 to 17 February 1962 the hurricane Vinicinette caused a storm flood at the North Sea coast of Germany. Hamburg was affected especially hard, the early warning systems failed and the danger wasn’t taken seriously. The residents of Hamburg were surprised by the water in their sleep. 315 people died in the city alone (of 340 people in total).

Documents that might have helped genealogists today were destroyed as well. The public record office itself was left unharmed, but the records of some administrative bodies were affected. It’s hard to estimate, how many records of private companies were lost as well. If one of your ancestors worked in any of those affected companies prior to 1962, it might be hard to find information today.

Flooded… Catastrophic influences on genealogy