Thursday, March 22, 2018

Saying your family is from Posen is like saying you are from New York


Do you mean Posen, or do you mean Posen?

Well, do you mean New York, or do you mean New York? 

In that way, Posen is just like New York.  When you say you are from New York, do you mean New York State or New York City.  Most people actually default to New York City based on our common assumptions, but the State is much bigger and probably has more people overall.   Here in America, we assume that if you say you are from New York, then you are from the city.   Most people when they talk about the rest of New York either say "Upstate New York" or "near Buffalo" or their exact town to ensure they are understood.

When my relatives came to America, they just listed Posen on their immigration forms.  I'm sure your family did the same thing.  The problem with that is that we just assume they meant the city of Posen, Prussia.  However there are a lot of other cities in the greater province of Posen. 

1848 map of Posen Province
In fact the Grand Duchy of Posen was about 11,000 sq miles large. About a fourth the size of New York state. It had a lot of cities in it besides the capital city of Posen in Posen.  Cities like Kempen, Lissa, Rawitsch, Schroda, Bromberg, Gnesen, and Kolmar. 

To make things even more complicated and confusing, the Prussian Province of Posen was divided into two government regions: Posen in the south, and Bromberg in the North.  So, the address of the City of Posen was actually something like Posen, Posen, Posen, Prussia.

How to do genealogy research for family from Posen

First off, you are in luck. There are a number of great online resources for Posen research, and if you write to the registration offices they are very helpful.

The strangest part is that all the resources are in Polish, and you'll have to do some Google Translating to get around. After WWII Posen was given back to Poland.  However all the records are still in German, so you are looking for are German language records on Polish sites. So, between English, Polish, and German you should be fine.

BaSIA:  Your first stop is to visit the BaSIA Project, the Database of Archival Indexing System for all of Wielkopolska (Greater Poland region in west-central Poland).   They have indexed over 4 million records, many of them with links to the original scanned images!  There are birth, marriage, and death records. And not just for the city of Posen. All Posen!

Poznan Project: While working with BaSIA you may also try the Poznan Project, which is a sister project dedicated to indexing and transcribing all the 19th century marriage records for Posen.  It can be helpful to find the exact record, and then go back to BaSIA to narrow your search down to find the image links.

Luft's Naturalized Jews of Posen: If you have any Jewish relatives, the book Naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy of Posen in 1834 and 1835 by Edward David Luft is a really great resource.

Posen City Card for Isaak Wolff and Family
Posen City Cards: There is a treasure trove online. It is the City of Posen Population Census, and spans the years 1870 to 1931.  These cards list out all the family members in a household along with their birth dates and places. Sometimes their death dates and address changes.  These are amazing, and there is a searchable index!  Now, these are only for the city of Posen, but like New York many many people ended up in the big city at some point.  My own family was from Lissa originally, and they have a Posen City card for their time there. 

Keep searching. You might just discover an entire tree of family members you never knew about!






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