West Prussia, Germany Genealogy
Guide to West Prussia 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 West Prussia
Most of your genealogical research for West 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
The Provinz of Westpreußen was established in 1773 when the First Polish Republic was divided between Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Provinz 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. 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.
For German Research, You Must Know Your Ancestors' Town
- To begin using the records of Germany, knowing that your family came from West 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 West Prussia or Westpreussen portion, which begins at 45:35 minutes.
- West and East Prussian Maps
Districts by 1818
- Deutsch-Krone (Wałcz between 1466-1772 and since 1945)
- Flatow (Złotów between 1370-1722 and since 1945, most of district was part of Poland between 1920–1939 and since 1945)
- Graudenz (Grudziądz between 1466-1772, 1920–1939 and since 1945)
- Konitz (Chojnice between 1466-1772, 1920–1939 and since 1945)
- Kulm (Weichsel) (Chełmno between 1466-1772, 1920–1939 and since 1945))
- Löbau (Lubawa between 1466-1772, 1807–1815, 1920–1939 and since 1945)
- Marienwerder (Kwidzyn today)
- Rosenberg (Susz between 1466-1772 and since 1945)
- Schlochau (Człuchów between 1466-1772 and since 1945)
- Schwetz (Świecie between 1466-1772, 1920–1939 and since 1945)
- Strasburg (Brodnica before 1772, between 1920–1939 and since 1945)
- Stuhm (Sztum between 1466-1772 and since 1945)
- Thorn (Toruń today)
- ManyRoads offers detailed genealogical help, source materials, and tools to assist in searching for German/ Prussian ancestors who lived in pre-1945 West 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