We receive many inquires from readers looking to track down an old friend or relative in Germany, sometimes from decades ago.
In some instances, this sought-after person was a German exchange student that a family lost track of – especially before the days or easy email communication or WhatsApp.
In other cases, the person might be a distant relative, or someone the reader only learned they were related to after doing genealogical research.
People still living in Germany
Maybe you have tried “modern methods” such as Google and Facebook and not received any results. You can still use the web to your advantage.
Try a Google advanced search, in which you can narrow down criteria such as the town you think they live or their maiden name.
There are also a variety of websites designed just for finding people, such as intelius.com. When searching, try all possible versions of their name. For example, you can search the surname Müller as Mueller or Muller.
Also think about turning to job platforms such as LinkedIn, which has an increasing number of German users – many Germans are skeptical about using their real names on personal social media platforms.
Theoretically it should be possible to track down permanent residents in Germany due to an extensive Meldebehörde, or registration system. However due to data protection laws, German authorities aren’t able to provide information on most people.
A person registering at their local Meldebehörde. Photo: DPA
There are exceptions in cases death or illness of a close relative, or when someone is legally prosecuted.
However, there is an extensive online telephone directory (similar to the Yellow Pages) in which you can search for individuals who might not show up on Google.
If you’re looking to find a child who was adopted, you can turn to the youth welfare office of each State (Landesjungendamt) or the local welfare office of each district (Jungendamt).
Many Americans have lived in Germany through serving with the military. The website military.com offers a free “buddy service” finder, including a database with over 20 million records.
Trying to track down German origin
If you are trying to find out if you or your family has German origin in the first place, there are a slew of websites for doing genealogical research.
The German website comgen.de, from the Verein (or Association) for Computer Genealogy provides several comprehensive resources to help you research German origin, from finding old newspaper clipping to locating burial places or relatives.
We hope this helps you with your search – if you have additional questions or tips for locating someone in Germany, you can email us at [email protected]