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Alsace – Lorraine / Elsass – Lothringen

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Alsace – Lorraine (French) / Elsass – Lothringen (German) Team Page

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The area known today as Alsace – Lorraine was for most of its historical time separate entities. The idea of putting Alsace together with Lorraine was actually, a German one, and happened during one of the times that Germany had control of the areas. It was done in 1871 after the Franco-German War as an efficiency measure. The German Imperial Territory of Elsass-Lothringen was comprised of 5,067 square miles (13,123 square km) of territory that was ceded by France to Germany in 1871. This territory was returned to France in 1919 after World War I. Then it was ceded again to Germany in 1940 during World War II in 1945 again returned to France. During the rest of its history Alsace and Lorraine were independent of each other with their own cultures and allegiances.

During The Treaty of Mersen parts of Alsace or Lorraine were under Germanic rule.

Essentially after their nephew King Lothair of Lotharingia died, his kingdom was divided so that Lorraine along with Belgium and the Netherlands went to Charles of France while Alsace and the banks of the Lower Rhine went to Louis the German. Germany as a country did not exist until 1871 but the concept of people with a Germanic culture existed since Roman times.

In 1815 Lorraine lost Saarlouis and Saarbrücken to Prussia as part of the Rhine province. Areas between Queich and Lauter Rivers went to Bavaria. Prussia and Bavaria eventually became part of what we call Germany today in 1871.

Following the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/1, all of Alsace except for the Belfort territory and the northeastern part of Lorraine went to Germany. By 1871 Alsace-Lorraine became a buffer zone between France and Germany. Alsace (without Belfort) with Moselle and 1/3 of Meurthe in Lorraine made an imperial state. Prussia, Baden and Bavaria wanted to annex the area to their states, but it remained a territory of the German Empire.

Alsace History

  • 900s Alsace belonged to the Holy Roman Empire as part of the Duchy of Swabia-Alsace.
  • 1300s-1400s During this period many wars were fought between France and what would eventually become the country of Germany for control of the area.
  • 1520s Protestant Reformation swept through the cities but many of the rural areas remained Catholic
  • 1618-1648 During the Thirty Years' War the area was overtaken with Swedish, Austrian and French troops. The French took control in 1639.
  • 1648 - Numerous immigrants arrived from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Lorraine, Savoy and other areas. Anabaptist refugees came from Switzerland, especially Bern. Strassbourg became a main center of the early Anabaptist movement
  • 1681 Strassbourg becomes part of France.
  • 1697 Lower Alsace (northern) went to France.
  • 1789 The French Revolution brought the first division of Alsace into the departements of Haut- and BasRhin (upper and lower Rhine respectively)
  • 1790 Saales and Schirmeck were moved from Lower Alsace to Vosges. Alsace was divided into Bas-Rhin (Lower Rhine) and Haut-Rhin (Upper Rhine).
  • 1798 Mulhouse, a republic in the Swiss confederation since the 16th century, joined France.
  • 1801 All land west of the Rhine was made part of France.
  • Language before 1870 in Alsace (French / Elssas German) 77% spoke some form of German. French was mainly for the upper class. During German rule French was considered a foreign language and only taught in secondary schools. Even through the language and race was mainly German, the majority of the citizens preferred to be part of France.
  • Prussian: 1870-1871
  • 1872 Part of the Department of the Vosges (Vallee de la Brusche) was annexed to Alsace Lorraine.
  • 1890 Population was 77% Catholic, 21% Protestant, 2% Jewish, with 678 Mennonites in lower Alsace and 1,012 in Upper Alsace.
  • 1919 Alsace became part of France following World War I. The old Alsatian departments of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin were restored.
  • 1939-45 Alsace became part of Germany during World War II.
  • 1945 German control of Alsace was returned to France. Alsace takes in the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and, since 1871 the Territory of Belfort.

Lorraine History

  • 840, Charlemagne's son Louis the Pious died. The Carolingian Empire was divided among Louis' three sons by the Treaty of Verdun of 843. The middle realm, known as Middle Francia, went to Lothair I, reaching from Frisia in Northern Germany through the Low Countries, Eastern France, Burgundy, Provence, Northern Italy, and down to Rome. On the death of Lothair I, Middle Francia was divided in three by the Treaty of Prüm in 855, with the northern third called Lotharingia and going to Lothair II. Due to Lotharingia being sandwiched between East and West Francia, the rulers identified as a duchy from 870 onward, enabling the duchy to ally and align itself nominally with either eastern or western Carolingian kingdoms in order to survive and maintain its independence. Thus it was a duchy in name but operated as an independent kingdom.
  • 870, Lorraine allied with East Francia while remaining an autonomous duchy. In 962, when Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, restored the Empire (restauratio imperii), Lorraine was designated as the autonomous Duchy of Lorraine within the Holy Roman Empire. It maintained this status until 1766.
  • 959 Lower Lorraine (northern part) included territory in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Upper Lorraine covered parts of France, Germany (near Trier) and Switzerland. The name Lorraine was adopted by the duchy of Upper Lorraine and totally separated from Lower Lorraine.
  • 1250 Lorraine left the Holy Roman Empire to join France.
  • 1300s-1400s During this period many wars were fought between France and what would eventually become the country of Germany for control of the area.

The administrative region of Lorraine is larger than the 18th century duchy of Lorraine, which gradually came under French sovereignty between 1737 and 1766. The modern region includes provinces and areas that were historically separate from the duchy of Lorraine proper. These are:

  • Barrois
  • Three Bishoprics: non-contiguous territories around Metz, Verdun, and Toul, which were detached from the Holy Roman Empire in the 16th century and came under French sovereignty.
  • Several small principalities, which were still part of the Holy Roman Empire at the time of the French Revolution.

Some historians consider the traditional province of Lorraine as limited to the duchy of Lorraine proper, while others consider that it includes Barrois and the Three Bishoprics. The duchy of Lorraine was originally the duchy of upper Lorraine, and did not include the entire area since called Lorraine.

The case of Barrois is the most complicated: the western part of Barrois (west of the Meuse), known as Barrois mouvant, was detached from the rest of Barrois in the early 14th century and taken over by French sovereignty. The largest part of Barrois (east of the Meuse River) was the Duchy of Bar, part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 15th century, it was united with the Duchy of Lorraine by the marriage of the Duke of Bar, René of Anjou, with Isabella, daughter of the Duke of Lorraine. Thus the duchies of Bar and Lorraine were united in personal union under the same duke, although formally they were officially separate until being annexed and incorporated into the Kingdom of France in 1766.

During the French Revolution, four departments were created from the main parts of the territories of Barrois, Three Bishoprics and the Duchy of Lorraine:

  • Meuse,
  • Meurthe,
  • Moselle and
  • Vosges.
  • 1737-1766 Duchy of Lorraine, ruled by Stanislas Leszczynski, dethroned king of Poland, became a French province in 1766 as pre-arranged.
  • 1790 Lorraine had four departements: Meurthe, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges.
  • 1801 All land west of the Rhine was made part of France.

Language: Before 1870 French was the dominant language in what was sporadically to be German Lothringen / French Lorraine.

  • Prussian: 1870-1871
  • 1919 The Lorraine (Lothringen) section became the department of Moselle.
  • 1945 Lorraine is returned to France, it corresponds to the departments of Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, and parts of the departments of Meuse and of Vosges.


Alsace 48.3182° N, 7.4416° E Lorraine 48.8744° N, 6.2081° E

Current Resources

a. Library/Libraries

b. Vital Records

c. Religious Facilities

d. Local Genealogy Groups

e. Local Cemeteries

f. Colleges and Universities They often have local records and have professors who are versed in local lore so can be a wonderful resource and many are multilingual.

g. Local Phone Books


Fairy tale cities, old world craftsmanship, vinyards, mountains, waterways, urban centers, old world markets, and some of the best food… that is Alsace and Lorraine. It is a unique blend of French and German culture at its best.

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Comments: 7

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It's great to have this page as a resource. Would it be possible to provide guidance on the appropriate location to report in our Alsatian profiles to respect the Wikitree policy about using location names in their own language? I have been able to work it out for after 1790, but am not sure how to handle earlier times when it was under the French Kingdom but seemingly no administrative structure. Also suggest adding Meyer's Gazetteer https://www.meyersgaz.org/ - good for both names and maps.
posted by Thomas Randolph
when under French rule the language would be French when under German rule it would be German. meyers gazette is more canted to Gwemany than France. Wikipedia has done a good job of explaining the alignments of various town by time. I would use rhem before meyers.
posted by Laura (Pennie) Bozzay
Laura, when I use wikipedia for Oberhoffen-sur-Moder, for example, I don't see any information about how it was administered prior to the creation of the Département du Bas Rhin. And looking at the Britannica entry, it notes "...The Peace of Westphalia (1648) gave France an informal protectorate over Alsace, and full control was established during the reign of Louis XIV, after the French had occupied Strasbourg in 1681. In the 18th century Alsace enjoyed considerable autonomy under the French crown, and Alsatians took advantage of their status outside the French customs system to develop a flourishing transit trade. The administrative incorporation of Alsace into France was completed by the French Revolution (1789), when the area was administratively divided into the two départements of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin, and its existence as a separate province was ended." So other than being considered under France, it seems administratively the towns were fairly independent. So pre-1790, should the location be recorded simply as 'Oberhoffen-sur-Moder, Elsass, France' since it is not clear there was an administrative hierarchy going up to Haguenau or Strasbourg?

Also, I would still recommend Meyer's Gazetteer-- it does include much of Alsace and provides a fairly easy-to-navigate map from that period that I have not found elsewhere, showing villages that no longer exist. Thanks! P.S. I see now that the France Project recommends "Before 1790: The location field should include : Place (i.e. town or village), Province, France", so Oberhoffen-sur-Moder, Alsace, France should then be correct.

posted by Thomas Randolph
edited by Thomas Randolph
Elsa’s is only used under German rule. So it would not be used under France or Alsatian administration
posted by Laura (Pennie) Bozzay
Is there any thought toward a sticker or category for Alsatian ancestors in particular? It might help compile them/help better trained eyes recognize when the place names need translated etc.
posted by Jillian Kern
The area falls under 2 projects. France and Germany. I can contact both leaders but I don’t know of any plans for a sticker
posted by Laura (Pennie) Bozzay
Welcome new Team member Cyndi Lear!
posted by Traci Thiessen

Categories: Germany Project