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German States and Provinces as of 1912 and Their Current Locations

Last night (19 May 2020) I presented a webinar called “Discover the Holdings of German Archives,” hosted by the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) and Legacy Family Tree Webinars. It will be free for one week to anyone and after that, available to Legacy Family Tree Webinar subscribers.

One of the most confusing things about German research (besides that handwriting) is the geography of the areas historically considered German. This post is an attempt to bridge some of that gap.

Before World War I, the German Empire was at its largest. This map from 1918 is one of the better ones that I could find freely available online.

1024px-Deutsches_Reich_(1871-1918)-de [1]

Meyers Gazetteer is the main gazetteer for German research. See my earlier blog post about German Gazetteers for more detail. This post identifies all of the German states and Prussian provinces as of 1912. I detail to what German states or other countries those locations currently belong. I identify relevant FamilySearch Wiki articles and relevant volumes of Kevan Hansen’s Map Guide to German Parish Registers.

Always know the history of the town you are researching, as it may differ from some of the generalizations included in this post.

Note: The German versions of state and province names have been used throughout. The only exceptions are the names Prussia and Germany. In the headings below, the first word is the German name. The word after the “/” is the English version. If there is only one name, then it is the same in German and English.

I hope you find this post useful and happy hunting!

Anhalt

The duchy of Anhalt was created in 1863 by combining the duchies Anhalt-Bernburg, Anhalt-Dessau, and Anhalt-Köthen. Though not part of Prussia, it was surrounded by the Prussian provinces Brandenburg, Hannover, and Sachsen. Today it is part of the German state Sachsen-Anhalt.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Anhalt,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 27]

Baden

This grand duchy was bordered on the west by the Rhine River, which divided it from Elsaß-Lothringen. To Baden’s north was the grand duchy of Hessen. The kingdom of Württemberg lay on its eastern border and Switzerland bordered it on the south. Baden was combined with the kingdom of Württemberg and the Prussian province Hohenzollern to create the modern state Baden-Württemberg.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Baden,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 2]

Bayern/Bavaria

Historically Bayern was a kingdom. Besides the area currently known as Bayern, it also controlled the Palatinate region (English for “Pfalz”), which was geographically disconnected. The main area of Bayern was bordered on the south and east by the Austrian Empire, to the west by Württemberg. Its north border was shared with the grand duchy of Hessen, the Sachsen duchies (that became Thüringen), and the kingdom of Sachsen.

The historic Pfalz region is divided between the modern states of Rheinland-Pfalz and Saarland.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Bavaria_(Bayern),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 14–23; Pfalz in vol. 13]

Brandenburg

Long owned by the Hohenzollern family that ruled Prussia, this province was surrounded by Sachsen and Hannover to its west, Mecklenburg and Pommern on the north, Schlesien to its south and the eastern border included Westpreußen and Posen. After World War II, the areas of Brandenburg that were east of the Oder and Neisse Rivers went to Poland, which accounted for about one-third of its geography. The remaining area is now the modern state called Brandenburg. It surrounds the modern city-state of Berlin.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Brandenburg,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 41–43]

Braunschweig/Brunswick

The duchy of Braunschweig consisted of several geographically disconnected areas in northern Germany. It was bordered by Hannover and Westfalen on the north; the principality of Lippe on the west; and the Prussian province of Sachsen on the south and east. Today it is part of the modern state Niedersachsen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Brunswick_(Braunschweig),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 27]

Bremen

This port city lies at the mouth of the Weser River. It was, and still is, a Hanseatic and free city. The Hanseatic League is an organization of north German cities that was created to protect their trade interests. Bremen’s south border was the kingdom of Hannover. Bremerhaven, literally, Bremen’s harbor, is a port town within Bremen. Today Bremen is one of Germany’s three city-states.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Bremen,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 57]

Elsaß-Lothringen / Alsace-Lorraine

Elsaß and Lothringen were two separate provinces that in the early 1800s were under French control. In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, these provinces were combined and went to Germany. After World War I it was returned to France, only to be lost to Germany in World War II. After that war it was again returned to France where it remains today.

When Elsaß-Lothringen was part of Germany, France sat on its western border; the grand duchy of Baden to its east; Switzerland to the south. Its northern border was shared with the grand duchy of Luxembourg, the Rheinprovinz (part of Prussia), and the Pfalz (part of Bayern).

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Elsass-Lothringen,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 33–38]

Hamburg

This port city lies at the mouth of the Elbe River. It was, and still is, a Hanseatic and free city. The Hanseatic League is an organization of north German cities that was created to protect their trade interests. Hamburg’s south and west border was the kingdom of Hannover, while its neighbor to the north and east was Schleswig-Holstein. Today Hamburg is one of Germany’s three city-states.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Hamburg,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 56]

Hannover / Hanover

Hannover was a Prussian province in the northwest area of Germany. The Netherlands and Oldenburg were to the west, the north was bounded by the North Sea and Schleswig-Holstein, the eastern border was shared with Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the provinces of Sachsen and Brandenburg. To the south were Westfalen and Lippe. Today this is primarily part of the modern German state of Niedersachsen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Hanover_(Hannover),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 30–32]

Hessen / Hesse

This grand duchy was in the southwest region of Germany. It was surrounded by Rheinprovinz to the west, Hessen-Nassau to the north, Bayern on the east, and its south border included Baden and the Pfalz (owned by Bayern, but not contiguous with it).

Hessen and Hessen-Nassau share history until 1567 when Philip, landgrave of Hessen, died. Hessen was divided among his heirs, creating Hessen-Darmstadt, Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, and Hessen Rheinfels. Hessen-Marburg and Hessen-Rheinfels were subsequently incorporated into Hessen-Kassel and Hessen Darmstadt. Hessen-Darmstadt became the grand duchy Hessen.

Hessen-Kassel was a strong entity in the 1700s and maintained its own standing army. The Hessian soldiers from here were the ones who were hired to fight in the American Revolution. The landgrave of Hessen-Kassel at that time, Frederick II, was the uncle of King George III, who ruled Great Britain. After the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, Hessen-Kassel was combined with Hessen-Nassau.

The section of the grand duchy Hessen west of the Rhine River went to the modern German state Rheinland-Pfalz, while the remainder was combined with a majority of Hessen-Nassau and Waldeck to create today’s state called Hessen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Hesse_(Hessen),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 1]

Hessen-Nassau / Hesse-Nassau

This Prussian province was surrounded by Rheinprovinz to the west, Westfalen and Waldeck to the north, Hessen and Bayern on the south, and its east border included Provinz Sachsen and some Sachsen duchies.

Hessen and Hessen-Nassau share history until 1567 when Philip, landgrave of Hessen, died. Hessen was divided among his heirs, creating Hessen-Darmstadt, Hessen-Kassel, Hessen-Marburg, and Hessen Rheinfels. Hessen-Marburg and Hessen-Rheinfels were subsequently incorporated into Hessen-Kassel and Hessen Darmstadt. Hessen-Darmstadt became the grand duchy Hessen.

Hessen-Kassel was a strong entity in the 1700s and maintained its own standing army. Its Hessian soldiers were the ones hired to fight in the American Revolution. The landgrave of Hessen-Kassel at that time, Frederick II, was the uncle of King George III, who ruled Great Britain. For a brief period in early nineteenth century, this area was known as Kurhessen. After the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, Hessen-Kassel was combined with Hessen-Nassau.

Today Hessen-Nassau, less the area east of the Rhine River, is part of the state called Hessen. The area east of the Rhine River now belongs to Rheinland-Pfalz.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Hesse-Nassau_(Hessen-Nassau),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 9–10]

Hohenzollern

The Hohenzollern Lands were created in 1850 when the duchies Hohenzollern-Hechingen and Hohenzellern-Sigmaringen were merged, at which point they became a Prussian province. This area was mostly surrounded by Württemberg, with a small shared border with Baden. Today this area is part of the German state Baden-Württemberg.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Hohenzollern,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 6]

Lippe

This principality, historically known as Lippe-Detmold, was bordered by Westfalen on its south and west sides, Hannover to the north and east, as well as Hessen-Nassau to its east. It is different than the principality Schaumburg-Lippe, which is now part of Niedersachsen. Today the historic area of Lippe, or Lippe-Detmold, is part of Nord-Rhein Westfalen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Lippe,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 39]

Lübeck / Luebeck

This city lies at the mouth of the Trave River. It was and still is a Hanseatic city. The Hanseatic League is an organization of north German cities that was created to protect their trade interests. On its western border was Schleswig-Holstein. Part of the grand duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz were on its eastern border. Today it is a city in Schleswig-Holstein.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/L%C3%BCbeck,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 57]

Mecklenburg-Schwerin

In 1701 the area known as Mecklenburg was divided into the duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1815, they were both elevated to a grand duchy.

The Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin had the Baltic Sea to its north; Schleswig-Holstein, Hannover, and a small part of Mecklenburg-Strelitz to its east; Brandenburg to its south; and Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Pommern to its east. Today it is part of the modern German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Mecklenburg-Schwerin,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 3]

Mecklenburg-Strelitz

In 1701 the area known as Mecklenburg was divided into the duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. In 1815, they were both elevated to a grand duchy.

The grand duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz had two main land masses that were not contiguous. The largest bordered Mecklenburg-Schwerin on its eastern border. The smaller could be found on Mecklenburg-Schwerin’s northeastern border. Today it is part of the modern German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Mecklenburg-Strelitz,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 3]

Oldenburg

The grand duchy of Oldenburg was bounded by the North Sea to the north and by the kingdom of Hannover on all other sides. It contained three distinct areas, Oldenburg, Eutin, and Birkenfeld. Today Oldenburg is part of the modern German state Niedersachsen. Eutin became part of Schleswig-Holstein, and Birkenfeld is part of North-Rhein Westfalen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Oldenburg,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 4]

Ostpreußen / East Prussia

The Prussian province of Ostpreußen was the eastern-most province of Prussia, being bordered by the Russian Empire on its south and east. To its north was the Baltic Sea and Westpreußen was to its west.

Today, the northern part of Ostpreußen, known a Memel, belongs to Lithuania. The central area belongs to Russia and is known as Kaliningrad. The remainder belongs to Poland and may be identified by the districts Bialystok and Olsztyn.

Read more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/East_Prussia_(Ostpreussen),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 46–48]

Pommern / Pomerania

The Prussian province of Pommern was bordered by the Baltic Sea to the north. The grand duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz formed its western border. Brandenburg was to its south, while Westpreußen was to its east. Sometimes it was referred to by its geographic divisions Vorpommern and Hinterpommern. Vorpommern was the area west of the Oder River, while Hinterpommern was east of that river.

Today the historic area of Hinterpommern is part of Poland, identified by the districts of Koszalin, Stettin, and Gdansk. Vorpommern became part of the German state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Pomerania_(Pommern),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 49–50]

Posen

The Prussian province of Posen (known in the Polish language as Poznan), was bounded to its east by the Russian Empire, to its west by Brandenburg, while Westpreußen was on its northern border and Schlesien was to the south.

Today this province is part of Poland, comprising the districts of Poznan, Bydgoszcz, and Zielona Gora.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Posen,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 51–52]

Reuß ältere Linie / Reuss Older Line

Also known as Reuß Greiz, this is a Sachsen principality whose history coincides with the Sachsen duchies. Its west was bordered by Reuß jüngere Linie, Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach and the province of Sachsen, while the kingdom of Sachsen was on its east. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Reuss_Older_Line_(Reuss-Greiz_or_%C3%A4ltere_linie),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Reuß jüngere Linie / Reuss Younger Line

Also known as Reuß Schleiz, this is a Sachsen principality whose history coincides with the Saxon duchies. It was bordered by all remaining Saxon duchies except Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha; the province of Sachsen; and the kingdom of Sachsen. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Reuss_Younger_Line_(Reuss-Gera_or_j%C3%BCngere_linie),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Rheinprovinz / Rhineland Province

The state of Rheinprovinz shared its western border with the countries Belgium, Luxembourg, and  the Netherlands. On its south was France and the Pfalz (part of Bayern). Its eastern neighbors included Westfalen, Hessen-Nassau and Hessen.

Today this region is divided as follows. The northern portion is part of Nord-Rhein Westfalen; the central/south area became part of Rheinland-Pfalz and the southern-most portion is now part of Saarland.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Rhineland_(Rheinland),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 11–13]

Sachsen-Altenburg / Saxe-Altenburg

This is one of the Saxon duchies. It was comprised of two geographically separate land masses. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Saxe-_(Sachsen-)_Altenburg,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha / Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

This is one of the Sachsen duchies. It was comprised of two geographically separate land masses, and a few exclaves. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen, except for Coburg, which went to Bayern.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Saxe-_(Sachsen-)_Coburg-Gotha,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Königreich Sachsen / Kingdom of Saxony

The kingdom of Sachsen bounded on the north by the province of Sachsen; to the west by the Sachsen  duchies (now Thüringen); and to the east by Schlesien. The southern border was shared with the Austrian Empire.

Today, as small part of this kingdom east of the Neisse River belongs to the Polish state of Breslau. The remainder belongs to the modern German state of Sachsen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Saxony_(Sachsen),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 25–26]

Sachsen-Meiningen / Saxe-Meiningen

This is one of the Saxon duchies. It consisted of one main geographic area and several small exclaves. It was bordered by all remaining Sachsen duchies except the principality of Reuß ältere Linie and the province of Sachsen. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Saxe-_(Sachsen-)_Meiningen,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Provinz Sachsen / Province of Saxony

The Prussian province of Sachsen shared its border with the duchy of Braunschweig, the Prussian provinces of Hannover and Brandenburg, the kingdom of Sachsen, along with several Sachsen duchies, and the Prussian province of Hessen-Nassau.

Today this province belongs to the modern German state Sachsen-Anhalt.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Province_of_Saxony_(Provinz_Sachsen),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 27–29]

Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach / Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

This is one of the Saxon duchies. It contained three main land masses and several exclaves. It was bordered by all remaining Saxon duchies; the province of Sachsen; Hessen-Nassau; the kingdom of Sachsen; and Bayern. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Saxe-_(Sachsen-)_Weimar-Eisenach,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Schaumburg-Lippe

This principality was bordered by Westfalen on its west side and Hannover bordered the three remaining sides. It is different than the principality Lippe, historically called Lippe-Detmold. Today it is part of Niedersachsen, while Lippe is part of Nord-Rhein Westfalen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Schaumburg-Lippe,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 39]

Schlesien / Silesia

This Prussian province was surrounded by the Prussian provinces of Brandenburg, Posen, and Sachsen, as well as the kingdom of Sachsen and the empires of Austria and Russia.

Today small parts of this historic area belong to the modern German states of Brandenburg and Sachsen, while most of it belongs to Poland or the Czech Republic.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Silesia_(Schlesien),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 53–55]

Schleswig-Holstein

The Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein is bounded by the North and Baltic seas, Denmark, Hannover, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, as well as the cities of Hamburg and Lübeck. Historically, Schleswig and Holstein were separate duchies with histories tied to Denmark.

Today this area belongs to the modern German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Schleswig-Holstein,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 4]

Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt

This history of this principality coincides with the Saxon duchies. It contained several non-contiguous land masses. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Schwarzburg-Sondershausen

This history of this principality coincides with the Saxon duchies. It contained several non-contiguous land masses. Today it is part of the German state Thüringen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Schwarzburg-Sondershausen,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 24]

Waldeck

Waldeck was a small Prussian province surrounded by Westfalen and Hessen-Nassau. It is part of the modern German state of Hessen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Waldeck_and_Pyrmont,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 40]

Westfalen / Westphalia

The Prussian province of Westfalen shared a border with the Netherlands, in addition to Hannover, Lippe, Braunschweig, Hessen-Nassau, and Rheinprovinz. Today this area is part of the German state  Nord-Rhein Westfalen.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Westphalia_(Westfalen),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 39–40]

Westpreußen / West Prussia

The Prussian province of Westpreußen was bounded to the east by Ostpreußen and to the north by the Baltic Sea. Brandenburg was on its western border, while Posen and the Russian Empire shared its southern border.

Today all of Westpreußen belongs to Poland and may be identified by the districts Koszalin, Gdansk, Olsztyn, and Bydgoszcz.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/West_Prussia_(Westpreussen),_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vol. 44–45]

Württemberg / Wuerttemberg

The kingdom of Württemberg was bordered by the grand duchy of Baden to its west, along with the Prussian province of Hohenzollern. To the south was the Austrian Empire and the north shared a border with the grand duchy of Hessen.

Today, this area is part of the German state Baden-Württemberg.

Learn more: https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/W%C3%BCrttemberg,_German_Empire_Genealogy

[Hansen, vols. 5–8]

[1] “Deutsches Reich (1871–1918, ” map, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Empire#/media/File:Deutsches_Reich_(1871-1918)-de.svg : accessed May 2020).

 

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