East Prussia, Germany Genealogy
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Guide to East Prussia - Ostpreußen ancestry, family history, and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.
Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for East Prussia
Most of your genealogical research for East Prussia will be in three main record types: civil registration, church records, and, when available, a compiled town genealogy ("'Ortssippenbuch" or "Ortsfamilienbuch" in German). These articles will teach you how to use these records on digital databases, as microfilms, or by writing for them.
- Civil registration
- Church records
- Town genealogies
- Finding Genealogy Records from the former German East
East Prussia (Ostpreußen), a former province of Prussia and the 2nd and 3rd German Empires was located in extreme Northeast Germany. It was dissolved in 1945.
Historically, East Prussia was at the center of the development of historical Prussia.
From 1824–1878, East Prussia was combined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia, after which they were reestablished as separate provinces. Along with the rest of the Kingdom of Prussia, East Prussia became part of the German Empire during the unification of Germany in 1871. By the end of the 19th century, most of the inhabitants of East Prussia spoke German.
From 1919 to 1939 East Prussia was separated from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig (Polish: Gdańsk). In 1939, East Prussia had 2.49 million inhabitants, 85% of them ethnic Germans.
In 1945, at the end of World War II, East Prussia was overrun by Soviet troops, and about 600,000 of its civilian inhabitants were killed. Much of the region was incinerated by the RAF in 1944, and finally overrun by the Soviet Red Army in early 1945.
At the end of World War II, East Prussia was divided by two land transfers and the authorized expulsion of ethnic Germans. Much of the area was given by to the Soviet Union. 99% of the remaining German population, those who had not left by the end of the war, were expelled by the Polish and Soviet governments between 1945 and the 1950s. The region's bombed-out remains were repopulated with people forcibly relocated from all over the Soviet Union.
For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from East Prussia will not be enough to use the records of Germany. Records are kept on the local level, so you will have to know the town they lived in.
- Details about the town will also help:
- the county or "Kreis" of that town,
- where the closest Evangelical Lutheran or Catholic parish church was (depending on their religion),
- where the civil registration office ("Standesamt") was, and
- if you have only a village name, you will need the name of the larger town it was part of.
Research to Find the Town
If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.
- Use Gathering Information to Locate Place of Origin as a guide in exhausting every possible record to find what you need.
- Or watch this webinar: Online Class: Finding German Places of Origin
Meyers Gazetteer and Kartenmeister
If You Know the Town, Next Use Meyers Gazetteer
Once you know the town name you need, the other facts you need are contained in Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, the gazetteer on which the FamilySearch catalog for Germany is based.
- Use MeyersGaz, the digital gazetteer, to find the details you need, particularly the Kreis (county) it belonged to, found after "Kr".
- MeyersGaz Help Guide
- Abbreviation Table
Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)
Next, find your town in Kartenmeister.com to learn the Polish name and upper jurisdictions that the town became known by after 1945.
A Typical Kartenmeister Record
Take These Online Classes to Prepare
- German Research: Strategies and Sources for Eastern Provinces. Be sure to download the class syllabus.
- Watch the Specific Geography portion to learn how to use MeyersGaz.org and Kartenmeister.com to get the details of the German and Polish names of your town and its higher jurisdictions.
- Watch the General Resources portion to learn how to check for parish registers using
- Watch the East Prussia or Ostpreussen portion, which begins at 47:58 minutes.
Geographical Location Today
- After a new administrative reform on 1 January 1999 in the southern part of Poland, the area has been, almost in its entirety, the Warmia-Masurian Voivodeship with the capital Olsztyn.
- The former Northeast Prussia today forms the Russian Oblast Kaliningrad with the capital Kaliningrad . After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, this region is now an exclave of the Russian Federation.
- East Prussia Research Websites
- Free Tools, Techniques & Guides to Help conduct Prussian/German Research
- East Prussia: history with maps for East Prussia
- Finding Genealogy Data in Central & Eastern Europe
- 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
- Finding Online Records in Poland