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Explained: How to find a lost friend or relative in Germany

Whether an old friend or family member, it's possible to reconnect with that person you lost track of a long time ago.

Explained: How to find a lost friend or relative in Germany
A happy reunion. Photo: depositphotos/belahoche

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.

There are also a few German-specific websites for finding old friends or keeping in touch with them such as Wer-kennt-wen.net and stayfriends.de.

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.

There are also state specific genealogy websites for finding family who come from Saarland, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony or Bremen, or Baden-Württemberg.

The general genealogical research websites Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com can also help you wade through documents and print and only resources to find family members or ancestors.

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]

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Reader question: Who can look after my children while they quarantine in Germany?

Under the latest German travel rules, vaccinated people are exempt from quarantine when returning from holidays abroad - but their unvaccinated children may not be. Here's who's allowed to take care of them.

Reader question: Who can look after my children while they quarantine in Germany?
Looking after children in quarantine can be tricky for working parents. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Germany’s new travel rules, which came into force on August 1st, were in many ways intended to make it easier for families to go on foreign holidays. 

While previously all children over the age of six had to submit a negative test or proof of recovery from Covid when flying into a Germany, now only children aged 12 and over have to show a negative test (or proof of vaccination and recovery) on their return.

READ ALSO: Germany to require Covid tests for all unvaccinated travellers arriving by ‘plane, car or train’

That essentially means that only children who are legally able to get vaccinated fall under the scope of the new rules when returning from abroad – so families whose kids are too young to get a jab won’t have to pay for tests for them.

Of course, in a global pandemic things are never quite that simple: under the latest rules, some families may still run into problems when returning from a high-risk or virus variant areas. If all the adults are vaccinated, they won’t have to quarantine, but unvaccinated children will face anywhere from five days (for a high-risks area) to two weeks (for a virus variant area) confined at home. 

Here’s what you can do if your children are in quarantine but you’re not – and you need a third-party to help look after them. 

Can grandparents or a babysitter come round to help out? 

In general, visitors aren’t allowed to enter the house during quarantine, the Federal Health Ministry told regional radio station BR24. If several people are allowed to pay visits and then leave again, it would be much harder to control the spread of the virus – which is, of course, the whole aim of self-isolation.

However, there are exceptions to this if there is a “good cause” for the visitors to be there, the ministry explained. This could mean, for example, that a carer could come into to check on an elderly resident in quarantine, or that a babysitter could come to look after the children in urgent situations.

Be aware, though, that even a “good cause” doesn’t give you a free pass to invite a rotating cast of babysitters and neighbours round to your home. Social contact should still be limited as much as possible, so it’s best to stick to a regular babysitter or relatives such as grandparents, who can come round regularly over the course of one or two weeks while your children are in quarantine. 

Can the children quarantine at someone else’s house? 

According to the Ministry for Health, that can be worked out on a case-by-case basis – and specific rules may vary depending on where you live.

READ ALSO:

The best thing to do is to contact your local health authority and ask them for advice on your situation. They’ll be able to advise you directly on whether, for example, the children’s grandparents or another relative can pick them up from the airport and take them to stay with them for the duration of the quarantine.

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