Germans born in Poland/Prussia

+2 votes
I have ancestors who were Germans living in Poland in the 1800's. Are they then considered to have Polish or German Roots? The distinction matters since most of my family did not know that our ancestors may be considered Polish. We were told my Grandfather was from Germany. I was very surprised when I found his records.
WikiTree profile: Edmund Tust
in Genealogy Help by Lori Harlan G2G6 Mach 1 (14.4k points)
Lori, we have to always keep in mind that borders change, and sometimes quickly. Modern Poland was moved west after WWII, and some of the territory Poland gained was German for centuries untold. So, if your grandfather was born in that area, he might actually have been born in Germany, in a part that is now Poland.

1 Answer

+3 votes
Best answer

Hi Lori, I took a look at your Grandfather's profile and then did a quick search for the history of Łódź, his birthplace.  As far as I can see, when Edmund was born there in 1891, Łódź was part of the Russian Empire, not Prussia. (His birth record looks like Russian, language of the government in power at the time, not German or Polish.).  Łódź was still part of the Russian Empire after Edmund migrated and married Rosina in Pennsylvania in 1916.  So although he lived in a place that is in Poland today, he did not live in Poland.  From the history of
Łódź and the information you've provided, it would seem your Grandfather's roots most likely are German, not Polish.

You may find the Wikipedia article about Łódź to be helpful, as well as the Łódź timeline.

ETA: Because my grandfather was also born in 1891, in a different part of the Russian Empire, Edmund's story has been particularly interesting to me.  I went back today and took a further look at Edmund's profile page.  It is interesting to note that on his draft registration for WWI he is reported as born in State: (Poland), Nation: Russia, and as a Russian citizen.  During the same time frame, on his 1916 marriage registration, he is shown as born as Poland, with parents living in Poland.  On his WWII draft registration, he is shown again as born in Russia. 

by K Yager G2G6 (7.2k points)
selected by Lori Harlan
I think the records are the reason I am confused. That and with all the research I'm doing I really haven't taken the time to research history on his part of my tree. Unfortunately, all my Grandparents on both sides of the family died before I was born or when I was very young. I would love to be able to pick their brains. I now have a lot of profiles to edit. With all the records indicating Poland or Russia, how do I document them on their profiles? Do I need to list where the towns were actually located at that time or do I leave what is found on the indexes?

Thanks, Lori

Many sources use place names that are in use at the time the source is published.  These may not be the place names that were used when the subject of a profile lived there, due to changing borders (such as Prussia after WW I), dissolution of a political entity (USSR), unification (East and West Germany), independence (Namibia), creation of a new territory (Nunavut in Canada) and so on, just citing some 20th century examples.  I think your question is answered by the WikiTree Location Field Style Guide, which says, in part:

"Place names, and even boundaries, change over time. They also have different names in different languages. We aim to use the name that was used by the people in that place, at the time of the event you're recording. This standard is often difficult or even impossible to apply, but it is an ideal that members from all over the world can agree upon."  See Help: Location Fields

You mentioned that you now have a lot of profiles to edit.  Don't let it overwhelm you -- I think most of us have profiles that need work, and try to work on them as we can.  ~ Karen


Thank you. Your answer has been very helpful. Time to get to work. :)

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