Silesia, Germany Genealogy

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Silesia

Guide to Silesia 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 Silesia

Most of your genealogical research for Silesia 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.



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History

The Prussian area known as Silesia consisted of two regions, Upper Silesia (Oberschlesien) and Lower Silesia (Niederschlesien). It was bordered on the west by Saxony, on the north by Brandenburg, on the east by Poland, and on the south by Czechoslovakia. The Sudenten Mountain range ran along its southern border. Two major rivers, the Oder and the Neisse ran through it. Two major cities were Breslau and Görlitz.

As a result of various wars, Silesia is now divided between three different countries. The largest portion of Silesia is in modern-day Poland. A small portion of southern Silesia was ceded to Czechoslovakia in 1918 and is now in the Czech Republic. In 1945 as a result of the Potsdam Conference, the line between Poland and East Germany was drawn along the Neisse river dividing Görlitz between East Germany and Poland. The portion of Görlitz that remained in Germany retained its name. The portion that went to Poland is now called Zgorzelec. The Polish name for Breslau is Wrocław.

In the German language this province was referred to as Schlesien. The English name is Silesia and the Czech name is Slezsko. In Polish, it is now referred to as Śląsk. Prior to WWII, cities and villages used German place names and now have mostly Polish names.

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For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town

  • To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from Silesia 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.


** The Sclesienkartei, 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.

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.


Here is part of an entry from MeyersGaz.org. (The whole entry can be studied at Heusenstamm, MeyersGaz.)

The most important facts here are:

  1. Heusenstamm is in Offenbach Kreis (Kr).
  2. It has its own Standesamt (StdA) or civil registration office.
  3. It has its own Catholic parish church.
  4. By clicking on the "Ecclesiastical" option, we learn that the closest protestant church is 2 miles away in Bieber.


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  • If you find several towns of the same name, checking each one for the birth record of your ancestor may be needed to narrow down the field.

Kartenmeister

Next, find your town in Kartenmeister.com to learn the Polish name and upper jurisdictions that the town became known by after 1945.

Kartenmeister Search Engine

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

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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):

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Take These Online Classes to Prepare

  1. 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.
  2. Watch the General Resources portion to learn how to check for parish registers using
    1. The PRADZIAD Database
    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

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.

Jurisdictions

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County (Kreis) Map of Silesia

Administrative districts: Oppeln=Violet , Breslau=Gold, Liegnitz=Green
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Research Tools

  • Gliwiceregion records online with FamilySearch.
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  • There is a site for digitized books of Silesia. These books are mostly in German and Polish and you can download them to your computer. To use this site, click here digitized books
  • For "Heimatbriefe" (Homeland newsletters) for various areas in Upper Silesia please go to this site

Websites