Residential addresses were gathered in the German Reich beginning in 1874. This data was gathered by police offices using a medium that was entirely new in its day, preprinted index cards.
These registration cards were always meant for the ‘head of the household’. If he had a wife or any children, they were also noted on the card. In some cases the dates of marriage or death were entered. People who had been married – widows or people who were divorced – received their own cards, as did unmarried women. People who lived in sublets, however, were registered on the cards of those from whom they rented the residence; they did not receive their own cards.
The central card index was kept in the police headquarters. It was arranged alphabetically, using the so-called ‘phonetic alphabet’, according to which surnames are generally sorted by sound, regardless of spelling.
These registration cards are an ideal medium to search for a person, as they are sorted by name, independently of address. They may also contain information on family relations or registry office documents.
A registration card index of this kind has been kept in Berlin since 1874. In 1943 it was relocated for protection from destruction by bombs, and it survived after the end of the war; its return to the city was planned but did not take place. In the end, residents of Berlin were registered in an entirely new way after the immense changes brought by war: ‘house lists’ were compiled and transferred to a new card index. The old card index is considered lost.
In 1948, as the newly compiled card index was in East Berlin and remained there after Berlin’s political and administrative division, another new card index was compiled in West Berlin from all available old cards as well as new registrations. This card index, parts of which reach back to the prewar period, is now preserved by the Landesarchiv. It comprises around 2.8 million cards.
The card index contains the registration data of all residents of West Berlin who were in the city after 1945 and who deregistered by 1960. Also registered are isolated cases from the period before 1945. The oldest date of birth that has been found thus far is from 1846.
If you are looking for a former resident of Berlin, you can commission a search in the card index. Please use the following forms: EMK-Antragsformular (PDF) | EMK request form (PDF; English version).
Annually printed ‘address books’ for Berlin were published based on the card index. They are completely preserved up to 1943. These books were digitised by the Berlin Zentral- und Landesbibliothek (ZLB), and can be seen online: digitised address books of the Berlin Zentral- und Landesbibliothek. This also includes telephone books up to 1991.
For people who lived in Berlin after 1960, registration records can be found at the Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten (LABO) (State Office for Residents’ and Regulatory Affairs) in the central Berlin ‘registration office’ (Meldeamt) on Friedrichstraße.
Learn more at our site Search for a Person an the Landesarchiv.