West Prussia - Church Records

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Kulm Church Records: The Real Home of International Film 71824

Death records, kept from 1848 to 1880 for the city of Kulm/West Prussia together with a family register and an alphabetical index were microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah. The Family History Library call number of the film is 71824 and was catalogued under Evangelical Church Records, Kulm (Stadt), West Prussia.

In 2008, in an effort to make the family register more user-friendly and readily accessible, discrepancies between the catalogue description and the content of the film were discovered. While spot checking certain birth, marriage and death dates with other records from this locality, nothing would match. Family names such as Banko, Flegel, Raugust.etc.,and other genealogical data, did not appear in the other records of the Evangelical Church for Culm/West Prussia. Neither could the parishioner's names be found in Catholic or Mennonite records.

In the death records for 1848-1880, the family names were mostly German. The place of birth was mainly Culm, but other place names outside of West Prussia appear in the record. More confusing was the fact that the scribe treated some place names as if they were not part of the area, but as far-removed localities as a foreign country. Birth entries, for example, sometimes indicate that a person had been born in "Prussia" in 1770, 1783, 1777. Why, then, would Culm (West Prussia) and Prussia be treated as two different entities?

Going back in history, we learn that the Province of West Prussia did not exist until 1772. Before that, West Prussia (with Culm) was part of Poland and was referrred to as "Polish Prussia". The records of the Evangelical Church of Kulm/West Prussia begin in 1772; the Catholic records begin in 1640 and start out in Latin and Polish - a reflection of the historical situation.

To further complicate matters, the place name Culm or Kulm does exists in the Kingdom of Saxony, Brandenburg, Posen and Thüringen. It was not possible to match family names from any of these areas against the records contained in film 71824.

Another avenue of research was to check settlements outside Germany. It turned out that a colony named Kulm existed in Bessarabia, Akkermann, Russia. Birth, marriage and death records for this locality matched the family register from "Kulm/West Prussia" exactly. All of the previous research problems could now be explained.

The colony of Kulm in Bessarabia was founded in 1814. The village was first known as Madar. Later it received the name Kulm in rememberance of the victory of the allies against Napoleon I in 1813 at Culm (but in Northern Bohemia). The modern name for the Bessarabian Kulm is Pidhirne, Tartyne, Odesa, Ukraine.

The researcher should not be misled by the header page that was inserted at the time the records were copied onto microfilm. The death records of 1848-1889 together with the register and index originate not from the West Prussia Kulm, but from the colony in Bessarabia that took the name Kulm in the early 1800s.