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Welcome to the Westpreußen page!
FamilySearch Wiki is a community website dedicated to helping people throughout the world learn how to find their ancestors. Through the Westpreußen page you can learn how to find, use, and analyze records of genealogical value. The content is variously targeted to beginners, intermediate, and expert researchers. Please visit the help page to learn more about using the site. The Westpreußen Portal Page is a work in progress, your contributions and feedback are essential!
Getting Started with Westpreußen Research
Conducting research in an area of the world where neither the government nor peoples of that former land remain can be challenging. The following articles are provided to assist you in conducting more effective searches:
- So you think your ancestor was Prussian…
- Researching “Lost” Eastern German Provinces
- Finding Former Eastern German Place Names
- Might your family be descended from Prussian Mennonites?
- Prussian Mennonite Research Materials
In the Middle Ages, the geographic area of Provinz Westpreußen (German: Westpreußen; Kashubian: Zôpadné Prësë; Polish: Prusy Zachodnie) was inhabited by Slavic and Baltic tribes: by Pomeranians in Pomerelia west to Vistula river, by Old Prussians and later Masovians in Kulmerland, and by Old Prussians (mainly Pomesanians) in the part of the region located east to Vistula river and north to Kulmerland. Due to immigration and cultural changes, the population became mixed over centuries and consisted of Germans, Kashubians, Poles, as well as Slovincians, Huguenots, Mennonites, and Jews, among others.
In the Thirteen Years' War (1454–1466), the towns of the Prussian Confederation in Pomerelia and the adjacent Prussian region east of the Vistula River rebelled against the rule of the Teutonic Knights and sought the assistance of King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland. By the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466, Pomerelia and the Prussian Culm (Chełmno) and Marienburg (Malbork) lands as well as the autonomous Prince-Bishopric of Warmia (Ermland) became the Polish province of Royal Prussia, which received special rights, especially in Danzig (Gdańsk). The province became a Land of the Polish Crown within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) by the 1569 Union of Lublin.
The Provinz of Westpreußen was established in 1773 when the First Polish Republic was divided between Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Proviz Westpreußen was divided in 1806 by Napoleon, and restored in 1815. In 1919 the Treaty of Versailles granted most of Westpreußen to the Second Polish Republic. This action created the "Polish Corridor" and granted Poland access to the Baltic Sea. Westpreußen was disestablished in 1922.
During the long period of German administration and settlement, most civil records and many church records used for researching family history were written in the German language. A notable exception was Catholic church records, which were kept in the Latin language.
Jurisdictions of Westpreußen (West Prussia)
In 1900 Westpreußen (West Prussia) was divided into two Regierungsbezirke, namely Danzig and Marienwerder:
|Regierungsbezirk||Communities||Area in square kilometers||Population|
|Total for Westpreußen||3,362||3,265||25,534.9||25,554.64||1,563,658||1,703474|
In February 1920, following its defeat in WW1, Germany was required by the League of Nations to cede the central portion of West Prussia to allow for the creation of the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig (Freie Staat Danzig); the remaining portions of West Prussia remained within the German Weimar Republic and either became the new Posen-West Prussia or were joined with the Province of East Prussia as Regierungsbezirk West Prussia (Westpreußen).
Following the ascent of Adolph Hitler and the Third Reich, the territory was reincorporated into the Deutsches Reich within Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia (1939). Following the WW2 defeat of Germany (1945), the region was ceded to Poland and its ethnic German populations were forcibly expelled from the region.
Westpreußische Kreise (Districts/ Counties)
It is important to note that none of the former German West Prussian Kreise (Districts/ Counties) exist in today's Poland. Today's post-WW2 governmental jurisdictions/ regions are uniquely Polish and are not reflective of any previous German governmental organizations or jurisdictions.
The 1920 governmental jurisdictions are listed below.
Note: the Polish place names apply, most appropriately, to post-WW2 genealogical research of the region; it is best, most prudent, to use German place names for any pre-1945 research.
Population Province West Prussia
- 1,343,057 (1875)
- 1,405,898 (1880)
- 1,433,681 (1890), of which 681 195 Protestant, Catholics 717,532, 13,158 other Christians, 21,750 Jews
- 1,563,658 (1900), of which 730 685 Protestant, Catholics 800,395, 14,308 other Christians, 18,226 Jews
Native speaker of the population in 1900:
- German: 1,007,400 (64.4%)
- Kassubisch: 99 357 (6.4%)
- Polish: 437 916 (28.0%)
- Bilingual German and Kassubisch: 1,349 (0.1%)
- Bilingual German and Polish: 16,130 (1.0%)
Population Province Posen-West Prussia
- 332 485 (1925)
- 337 578 (1933)
Official Statistics for 1905
|Kreis||Polish Name||Population 1905||Polish, Kasubian||in Percent||German||in Percent|
|Pr. Stargard||Starogard Gdański||62465||44809||71,73||17425||27,90|
Administrative structure province of West Prussia (before 1920)
- Berent (Landkreis)
- Danzig (Stadtkreis)
- Danziger Niederung (Landkreis)
- Danziger Höhe (Landkreis)
- Dirschau (Landkreis)
- Elbing (Stadt- und Landkreis)
- Karthaus (Landkreis)
- Marienburg i. Westpreußen
- Neustadt i. Westpreußen (Landkreis)
- Preußisch Stargard (Landkreis)
- Putzig (Landkreis)
- Briesen (Landkreis)
- Culm (Landkreis)
- Deutsch Krone (Landkreis)
- Flatow (Landkreis)
- Graudenz (Stadt- und Landkreis)
- Konitz (Landkreis)
- Löbau (Landkreis)
- Marienwerder (Landkreis)
- Rosenberg i. Westpreußen (Landkreis)
- Schlochau (Landkreis)
- Schwetz (Landkreis)
- Strasburg i. Westpreußen (Landkreis)
- Stuhm (Landkreis)
- Thorn (Stadt- und Landkreis)
- Tuchel (Landkreis)
- ManyRoads offers detailed genealogical help, source materials, and tools to assist in searching for German/ Prussian ancestors who lived in pre-1945 West Prussia.
- Prussian Research Help & Tools (Free)
- West Prussian Address Books
- Bund der Deutschen Minderheit Polens
- Deutsche Minderheit in Elbing
- Deutsche Minderheit in Polen
- Deutscher Freundschaftskreis in Waldenburg
- Die Elbing Seite
- Elbinger Heimatseite
- GenWiki Historic Gazeteer
- GenWIki: Portal:Westpreußen
- Heimatkreis Marienburg
- Heimatkreis Neumark- Westpreußen
- Heimatkreis Rosenberg - Westpreußen
- Heimatkreis Stuhm
- Heimatkreise Elbing-Stadt und Elbing-Land
- West Prussian Land Registers
- Westpreußen – Archiv
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- This page was last modified on 29 June 2015, at 15:38.
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