Where is "Russia-Poland?

+3 votes


I'm trying to find the actual location of my ancestors birthplace called “Russia-Poland”. My Great Grandfather Wilhelm Wagner (1873 – 1941) [Wagner-1873] arrived here in 1897 or '98. He was followed in 1901 by his wife, Amelia Hodores (1872 – 193?) [Hodores-1] and 6 yr old John Wagner (1895 – 1963) [Wagner- 1872], my grandfather, settling in Cleveland, Ohio. According to the 1910 and 1920 census many of the Wagners' neighbors were also from “Russia-Poland”. A search of maps from turn of the century Europe provides no place with that identity. The US Census data provides us with conflicting information: 1910 for Wilhelm, Amelia and John report place of birth as “Germany”, and 1920 as “Russia-Poland.” On John's naturalization papers in 1922 his birthplace is identified as “Russia”. By the 1930 census John is married and reports his and his parents place of birth as “Russia-Poland” while Wilhelm reports his own and Amelia's birthplace as “Poland.” In 1940, the most recent census to be released, Wilhelm reports his birthplace as “Germany” and John's is recorded as “Russia”. The Wagner's spoke German as their native tongue though Amelia's maiden name “Hodores” is of Polish origins. I'm thinking that there was some disputed border region that might have used an ambiguous name. Any help would be appreciated. 

in Genealogy Help by Living Thompson G2G6 Mach 2 (22.6k points)
retagged by Keith Hathaway

4 Answers

+4 votes
Daniel, you've got it. It's a border region that may have switched jurisdictions between Poland and Russia. My husband's emigrating ancestors came over at the same time and had the same designation on some of their census records. Their language was "yiddish" or "jewish" indicating Judaic origins. I have yet to actually find their town of origin. But you can bet it was in the disputed border regions between Russia and Poland.
by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (827k points)
Jillaine, Thanks for helping me confirm my hunch was right.   I would love to find a town name, but so far no luck.  Wagner was such a common name that I haven't been able to pinpoint the details of their emigrrtion, so I'llkeep looking, Thanks.
+4 votes
Hi Daniel. I have had similar problems with ancestors who emigrated in the mid-1800s. Not only did State/National borders change over the years, but also the names ( or spelling) of towns and cities. Although my ancestors came from "Prussia" (which, in 1855, was part of the "German Empire"), you will find a very detailed explanation of the shifting borders at Wikipedia. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussia > Hope this helps. Peter
by Peter Knowles G2G6 Mach 6 (66.3k points)
Peter, Thanks for the assist,  I've studied this article earlier as I have other ancestors that did come from Prussia,  My Grandmother had always been adament the he wasn't from Prussia,  So I'm assuning for the time being that they were from a German enclave in the border region.  If I can find their immigration records I might find a town name.  Thanks again/
+4 votes

Normally I don't answer my own questions but finally figured this out in some detail:

After the Great Northern War the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was reduced to a vassal state of Tsarist Russia. To prevent a war between Russia and the Habsburg Austrian Empire, France mediated the First Partition of Poland between them and Prussia in 1772. Intervening events resulted in revisions leading to the Third Partition in 1795 and the final dissolution of the remnants of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Under populated, Catherine the Great offered incentives of freedom of religion and exemption from conscription to attract immigrants. Many ethnic Germans settled in Russia-Poland. Following the same pattern as the Volga-Germans, near the end of the 19th century Russia began to renege on its promises and many ethnic Germans immigrated to the United States.  
by Living Thompson G2G6 Mach 2 (22.6k points)

The Volga-Germans and the Black Sea Germans, are also referred to as the "Germans from Russia."  So, IF you think your ancestors might fall in either of those groups, there is A LOT of resources out there for this niche group.

Be sure to join the German project, and follow some of the tags too.  I've linked the Germany project below.  You'll find some links to pages like Volga Germans and Black Sea Germans.

Germany Project (wikitree.com)

+2 votes

The following is based on my experience as an amateur genealogist:   

Poland Russia and similar hybrids usually refer to Suwalki, and sometimes to Kleipeda and White Russia (Belarus). Suwalki also bordered on Kongsberg--Alexotas in Suwalki was always regarded as a suburb.   The general Suwalki region was contested between Lithuania and Poland, now mostly in Lithuania.   However, census records sometimes refer to birthplace and sometimes to last residence, and the borders fluctuated over time.  So, one has to be careful as to what the reference means. 

Because of its border status, Suwalki was often a place of refuge for those seeking to emigrate to the West.  So, a lot of families that originated in Vilna or Kovno (Vilnius and Kaunas) transited through Suwalki and were temporarily registered there.   Occasionally, people from Grodno or even Minsk used the Poland Russia designation also--indeed, this was true of any region that had been part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth but was incorporated into the Russian Empire after the three Partitions.  

In particular, the Kleipada (German: Memel) area (and further north into Livonia around Riga in Latvia) were frequently still called German by ethnic Germans long after these regions were acquired by Russia.  (This was actually East Prussia but I seldom find this term in census records. Riga and Dwinsk mostly had ethnically German populations.)  

So, the designation Poland Russia often depended on one's own ethnic background.  

Sometimes, onomastic analysis combined with crew passenger lists from Hamburg can resolve these ambiguities.   

by Louis Lome G2G Crew (700 points)
edited by Louis Lome
Thanks Louis. I find all of this information very interesting.

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