Research in formerly German areas of Poland

+16 votes
706 views
My German ancestors on my father's side were from the part of Germany that is now Poland (Prussia and Pomerania, from what I can tell). I've had a lot of difficulty in locating any records for these areas. I'm sure many records in these areas have been damaged/destroyed by war, border/administrative changes, etc., but I was wondering if anyone had any experience with these areas and/or could point me in a direction I may not have thought of.

Thank you!
in Genealogy Help by Chloe Stevens G2G3 (4.0k points)

Hello, Chloe,

With the name "Prussia" you have to pay attention. I'm born in Buedngen/Upper Hesse and lived in Glauberg where my hessian ancesters can be found until 1676. It never belongs to Prussia, but i found in internettrees of some families, who live now in the USA or Canada, that they write: "Glauberg, Prussia", because non-historicals in America think that Germany was the same as Prussia.

You need a city or village of origin of an ancestor for searching, if the ways of the other two answers didn't work. Or a province of Prussia. Now the following provinces belong to Poland: East-Prussia (Ostpreußen), West-Prussia with Gdansk/Danzig (Westpreußen-Danzig), Pommerania (Pommern, Hinter-Pommern), Poznan/Posen, Silesia/Schlesien (Niederschlesien, Oberschlesien), East-Brandenburg (Brandenburg east of the Oder/Odra).

If you don't have any idea of the origin, perhaps the names of the family can help. Some family names are typical for some regions:

East-Prussia: names endiung on -at, -eit, -uhn, -ies...(perhaps also typical for West-Prussia or Danzig?)

Pommerania, Brandenburg, SIlesia/Schlesien: ending on -ke

Silesia/Schlesien: Scholz

Perhaps there are more typical names, but those I found until now. My family name is typical for East Prussia: Albrecht Kauschat

I wish you good luck

Albrecht,

How fascinating about the last names! Interestingly, one of the surnames I am searching for (Dombraske, though occasionally spelled Dombracki/Dombraski) fits this system, as I believe they were from East Brandenburg.

Thanks for your comment!

The articles below and above on Prussia are instrumental, it seems, on finding Prussian and even German Records.

Your description is part of what makes researching German families so daunting. I wonder, do you know if there are collections of Jewish records in that area? We now have a Jewish Roots project and I'd like to add a way to access those records in that area.

I suggest you use GOV for searching for places. It often gives you historical administrative context.

I have found helpful research links here. http://forum.genealogy.net/index.php. Scroll down to Former German Provinces. There is a forum also. Everyone is very willing to help.
I think the community at http://forum.ahnenforschung.net/ is larger.

5 Answers

+8 votes
 
Best answer
Hi Chloe,

I live in Gdansk, Pomerania, formerly a part of Prussian Empire. Despite the loss of many records there is hope :)

I suggest you look at:

http://www.wikitree.com/g2g/195129/useful-webpage-for-research-in-poland

http://genealodzy.pl/index.phtml

http://www.geneteka.genealodzy.pl/index.php?lang=eng

http://www.ptg.gda.pl/index.php/default/lang/en-utf-8/

 

I will be happy to help with a specific research :)

Filip
by Filip Szczucki G2G Crew (740 points)
selected by Erik Oosterwal
Filip,

Thanks so much for your suggestions and encouragement, I will definitely look into those!
Hello Filip:

I was hoping you could help me.  My Felix family is from Loosen, Schlochau, Pommern, which I understand is now Loza, Poland.  It is a very small village.  I have the baptism record of my great father in 1850 that shows it was certified by the church of Ruthenberg.  Elsenau 5 Jun 1888, is also on there, possibly where it was archived???  I believe they were Lutheran.

I am told that I probably won't find anything since the records were destroyed during the war.  Do you have any suggestions?
Hello Sherry,

I don't know if this is of any value - just a couple of facts I was able to collect.

All the three villages - Loosen, Ruthenberg and Elsenau (in Polish Łoża, Raciniewo and Olszanowo, respectively) are within a mile or so from each other. Elsenau had the main parish church while Ruthenberg acted as a filial church/chapel.

I found some digitized civil records of that area (http://skany.koszalin.ap.gov.pl/27/) dating to early 1900's, which is probably later than what you are after.

The church records from Ruthenberg and Elsenau do not show up in any database which probably confirms they were lost in the turbulent history of previous century.

Are you looking for any particular documents? I see that you have traced Karl Felix's birthplace to Alsace - how his son got to be born in Loosen would be an interesting story as it's quite some distance for 1850s.
Thank you so much for your time to check on this.  I really appreciate it!

 I will look at the database you found.  Perhaps Karl Felix or his wife, Friederike’s death certificate can be found there. They did not migrate here to the U.S.  I am looking for any leads showing that their son was not the only child or showing their marriage, or anything really.  :-).

I got that Karl was born in Alsace from his son’s death certificate. Of course you know that is only as good as the informant’s information.

Sherry
+4 votes
Hi Chloe,

Since Prussia covers a lot of territory unless we're talking about Prussia before its expansion, narrowing down your Prussian locations will be important.

To add to Filip's excellent suggestions... my Germans came from villages near the city of Posen/Poznan (which was in Prussia in the 19th century), and although we were stuck for years, we did have a village name. The Poznan Project (http://poznan-project.psnc.pl/) enabled us to find first one family marriage and later on others, giving us clues for additional parishes to investigate.

Once family members with a good command of the German script became involved, we found that many parishes had been microfilmed by the LDS, so we were able to make good progress. Keep in mind that the parish name is not always the same as the village name--in Poland, the Protestant parishes often covered several villages

Re "Prussia," try to find village names, as Prussia became huge and covered most of Germany as well as other areas. Keep in mind that any village name you find may be one of several by that name. On my other set of Germans, we had a village name and Prussia, and earlier researchers had assumed it was a village in the northwest (Eifel) region. We found that there were several villages by that name and hypothesized that we wanted the one in Sachsen-Anhalt. While we had to go to Magdeburg and look at microfilms in the church archive to prove our theory, we quickly located the ancestors and were able to trace them back to the 1660s.

People aren't wrong in saying German research (in Poland or elsewhere) is a special skill, but once you nail down your correct village/parish, you can usually make progress.

Good luck!
by Karla Huebner G2G6 (6.3k points)
Karla,

Thanks so much for your response!

Finding some of the village names has been quite difficult. I believe one family was from around Stargard, based on locations of photo studios and the fact that the woman I believe my ancestor's sister was born in Jacobshagen (Dobrzany). The others have been more difficult, since the village names did not really stand the test of time - one woman said she was from Schlossgut, but I have since been told that doesn't really refer to a specific place.

I do have one man who had listed Steinfort, Preussen as his birthplace in a marriage document, and another woman who said she was from a place called "Ushar, Germany" which I believe may be a misspelling of Oetscher, and I think I may have pinned down that it is present day Owczary in Lubuskie, Poland.

Do you know how to go about finding the parish names vs the actual names of the actual town/village?
Hi Chloe,

Glad to be of help. There are two main resources for dealing with village versus parish names (that I know of). One is Meyers Ort, the big gazetteer from a hundred years ago. I am pretty sure that the village listings include churches. You will find lots of online help, and printed books, relating to this gazetteer.

There's also an entire series of guides to parishes for pretty much every place that was ever in Germany. There are something like 40 volumes so far. I am forgetting the author's name, but they are available at libraries and also often sold at genealogy conferences. Perhaps someone else can chime in with the author name--seems like his first name is Kevan but I cannot think of his surname. I would try to use these at the library given that you might need to look at numerous volumes. Once you have an area more defined, then you might want to buy the volume since you will probably end up dealing with several parishes and villages in the neighborhood as you go further back in time.

I should add that my brother has had good luck searching the German Wikipedia for places as it covers more German and formerly German areas than English Wikipedia does.

Karla,

Thanks so much for this information.  My grandmother was born in Pudewitz or Pudewitx near Posen/Poznan in 1901 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1911.  We have names for a couple of generations back and know that her mother was born in Bruerizyn (Byuozizyn - polish spelling) in the province of Brandenberg.  You give me hope of finding some records.

+4 votes
Hi Chloe,

If you know that they ancestors in question likely came from some of the eastern provinces in Prussia - i.e. those east of the Oder River (just east of Berlin a bit for reference), then the best tool I've found for discerning which town is the best fit is www.kartenmeister.com.  It gives the geographical breakdown of : Town, Kreis (county), Province (state) and also provides the corresponding names for these designations in the current territories in Poland.  Overnight at the end of WWII, most of this area became part of Poland and the naming convention for most towns was changed from Germanic to Polish names - with some exceptions, especially in the furthest eastern areas of Prussia which already commonly used Polish or more "slavic" names.

Some immigration records recorded the towns they came from - especially if you're lucky and they left from Hamburg.
by Laura Kaatz G2G Crew (420 points)
THANKS to all of you who wrote above. This WHOLE conversation I'd label with a STAR! from Chloe Stevens on down!!
+1 vote
Getting a town, even a hint is crucial.  If your ancestors ended up n the US, check passenger lists - both arrival and departure (if you're lucky).  Citizenship papers are another good source. Check any relatives of your ancestors too.

Once you have a place, look at this map for record sources http://www.lostshoebox.com/poland/online-records/
by John Doppke G2G1 (1.4k points)
0 votes
http://pommern.tumblr.com/page/13 this is a link to a blog I find awhile back, called Pommerania in pictures. I like to scroll through when during fruitless research and at least get a feel of the place. A bit of fun to beat the frustration :)
by Kylie Haese G2G6 Mach 6 (65.6k points)

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