Silesia (Schlesien), Prussia, German Empire Genealogy

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Guide to Silesia (Schlesien) ancestry, family history, and genealogy before 1945: birth records, marriage records, death records.

Silesia (Schlesien),
German Empire Wiki Topics
Church in Kl. Tschanz.jpg
Getting Started
Major Record Types
Reading the Records
Additional Silesia (Schlesien)
Record Types
Silesia (Schlesien) Background
Silesia (Schlesien) Ethnicity
Local Research Resources
Germany Record Types
Germany Background

In this region, part of Germany which was lost to other countries after World War II, many records, both church/parish registers and civil registration records, were damaged, destroyed, or misplaced.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

Silesia is a historical region in Central Europe. Historical territories of Silesia include:

  • The Prussian Province of Silesia (German: Provinz Schlesien) was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1919.

  • The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1740 and established as an official province in 1815. It became part of the German Empire in 1871. This is the region featured in this article.

  • In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within the Weimar Republic, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1938 to 1941 as a province before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.

  • Upon the implementation of the Oder-Neisse line according to the 1945 Potsdam Agreement, most of the Prussian Silesia Province became part of Poland, incorporated into the Lubusz, Lower Silesian, Opole and Silesian Voivodeships.

  • A smaller western part of the former Silesia Province lies within modern German states of Saxony and Brandenburg.
  • The German-speaking population left or was expelled following World War II, though a minority remains. Wikipedia

Getting Started[edit | edit source]

Getting Started with Germany Research

Links to articles on getting started with German research:

See More Research Strategies

Germany Research Tools

Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:

See More Research Tools
Ask the

Historical Geography[edit | edit source]

Prussian Silesia (Schlesien)
within the German Empire

German Empire - Prussia - Silesia (1871).svg.png

Different Areas of Silesia Austrian Silesia.png Austrian Silesia, now Czech Silesia, Within the Czech Republic see Opava Land Archives, Czechia. České Slezsko po roce 1920 na mapě Česka.png

Silesia (Schlesien) in Modern Poland

Posen partition.png

  • In the map on the right, the Oppeln region comprised Oberschlesien or Upper Silesia. It was pre-dominantly protestant (Lutheran) and most church records were written in German.
  • The Breslau and Liegnitz regions made up Niederschlesien or Lower Silesia. It was pre-dominantly Catholic and most records were written in Polish.
County (Kreis) Map of Silesia

Administrative regions:
Oppeln (Violet), Breslau (Gold), Liegnitz (Green)

Schlesien Verwaltungsgliederung 1905.svg.png

For a larger map, click here.

History of Silesia (Schlesien) in the German Empire
Geo-Political Differences Today
FamilySearch Catalog
(organized by 1871 Meyer's Gazetteer)
Wiki Pages

Silesia (Schliesien)

  • 1919:Upper Silesia became Opole, Lesser Poland, and Silesian Voivodeships, Poland
  • 1945: Hlučín Area of Moravian-Silesian was ceded to Czechslovakia.
  • 1945: the small Lusatian strip' west of the Oder-Neisse line merged into Saxony
  • 1945: the rest of Poland became Lubusz, Lower Silesian, and Opole Voivodeships of Poland


Preussen, Schliesien

Use the Kartenmeister Gazetteer to determine the Polish name and Voivodeship of your formerly German town.

Research for Austrian or Czech Republic: Opava Land Archives, Czechia

Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for Silesia (Schlesien)[edit | edit source]

Most of the information you need to identify you ancestors and their families will be found in two major record groups: civil registration and church records. To locate these records, follow the instructions in these Wiki articles.

1. Find the name of your ancestor's town in family history records.[edit | edit source]

Records were kept on the local level. You must know the town where your ancestor lived. If your ancestor was a United States Immigrant, use the information in the Wiki article Germany Finding Town of Origin to find evidence of the name of the town where your ancestors lived in Germany.
Also, see:

  • The Schlesienkartei, card index to Silesia records prepared by the Association of East German Genealogists (AGoFF), indexes a broad range of Silesian genealogical records. So this provides the closest you might get to a province-wide index.
  • Germany Displaced Persons Research: If your ancestors were evacuated from their homes at the end of World War II, see this article.

2. Use gazetteers and/or parish register inventories to learn more important details.[edit | edit source]

Your ancestor's town might have been too small to have its own parish church or civil registration office. Find the location of the Catholic or Lutheran (Evangelical) parish that served your ancestor's locality. Find the name of the civil registration office (Standesamt) that serves your ancestor's locality. Use the Wiki article Finding Aids For German Records for step-by-step instructions.

Germany was first unified as a nation in 1871. An important gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, "Meyer's Gazetter" for short, details the place names of villages, towns, counties (kreise), and higher jurisdictions used at that time. In the Research Wiki, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Historical Records, the records of Germany are organized using those place names.

At the end of both World Wars, the boundaries of the states were changed dramatically, as areas of Germany were distributed among the Allied nations. Eventually, after re-unification in 1990, the states of Germany settled into what they are today. It is also necessary to understand Germany by this system, as it affects the locations of civil registration offices, archives, and mailing addresses used in correspondence searches.

Consult Kartenmeister for parish and Standesamt information.[edit | edit source]

If Kartenmeister is having temporary technical difficulties, check back later.
For the provinces of East Prussia (Ostpreussen), Posen, Pomerania (Pommern), Silesia (Schlesien), parts of Brandenburg, and West Prussia (Westpreussen), areas which no longer belong to Germany, the online gazetteer Kartenmeister most efficiently tells you parish information:


Kartenmeister Search Engine

To use Kartenmeister, simply enter the German name of the town in the search field.

Kartenmeister search.png

A Typical Kartenmeister Record

The most important information points here are the

name of the Lutheran parish, the name of the Catholic parish, and the location of the civil registry office (Standesamt):

Kartenmeister entry.png

3. For birth, marriage, and death records from 1 October 1874, use civil registration.[edit | edit source]

Follow the instructions in Silesia (Schlesien), German Empire Civil Registration.

4. For baptism, marriage, and death records, use church records or parish registers.[edit | edit source]

Follow the instructions in Silesia (Schlesien), German Empire Church Records.

More Research Strategies and Tools[edit | edit source]

  • These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
Miscellaneous Vocabulary:
  • Fraktur Font -- Many forms and books are printed in this font.
German Given Names:

Take These Online Classes to Prepare[edit | edit source]

  1. Watch the Specific Geography portion to learn how to use and to get the details of the German and Polish names of your town and its higher jurisdictions.
  2. Watch the General Resources portion to learn how to check for parish registers using
    1. The PRADZIAD Database Description of how to use it:
    2. Szukaj w Archiwach
    3. The Lost Shoe Box, with links to:
      1. Geneteka
      2. Metryki GenBaza
      3. Szukaj w Archiwach
    4. Archion, Cooperative of protestant archives ($)
    5. Archives Portal Europe
  3. Watch the Silesia portion, which begins at 52:09 minutes.

Displaced Persons Research[edit | edit source]

Towards the end of World War II, the Germans had to flee from the advancing Russian troops. Many families were split up along the way. These displaced persons eventually found new homes all over West Germany. Some eventually emigrated to the United States, Canada, and other countries. Many areas of German were given to Poland, and the German citizens were expelled. Several organizations have worked to gather data on displaced Germans in order to reunite families and provide aid.