The Peoples of East Prussia

Early East Prussian Peoples

The province most family researchers know as East Prussia was the originally a duchy and a kingdom. In the 19th century the original land that was Prussia became a province known as East Prussia.

The first surviving Protestants were the Waldensians. The Early French Hugonauts, the Salzburgers, and ethnic Poles populated the southern part, and the Unitarians, also known as the Polish Brethren, settled there as well.

Lithuanians settled in the northeast. Eventually this area was known as Klein (Little) Lithuania or Prussian Lithuania. Most inhabitants were Lithuanians until great plagues of 1708-1711.

The early Hugonauts and Waldensians played a major role in the repopulation of the northeastern area where Lithuanians had settled. The eastern half of East Prussia, which became known as the Gumbinnen Administrative District in the early 19th century, became an ethnically mixed region.

Native and Non-Germanic Settlers

Other groups who settled in East Prussia included the English and Scots, the Balto-Prussians, and Lithuanians.

The Balto-Prussians were also known as the Pruzzen, Prussian, or Borussians. Lithuanians, Cours (Latvians), Mazurians, and East Slavs were represented as well as Kashubians, Mazurians, Poles, and Jews. Scots and English came as sailors, soldiers, and merchants. Swedes came as soldiers in the armies and navies of Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden. Today’s DNA has revealed this mixture of people as well as historical documents. In the 19th century there were Russian Old Believers.

East Prussian “Colonists”

The Swiss came under the Settlement of Swiss Colonists within the Framework of the Repopulation of East Prussia: Investigation of a Group Which Emigrated in 1712 from the Rural Baliwick Municipality of Sax-Forseck. Those from Franconia (The Ehmer Franconian Card Index File) also populated East Prussia.

Specific references to the population lists of people who lived in certain localities in East Prussia are available through the Verein fur Familienforschung in Ost and Westpreussen. VFFOW.

Those from the northeastern Prussian territories were mostly Pommern, Niederunger or Vistula Valley Lowlanders.

Baltic Germans

Baltic Germans in Estonia and Latvia were involved in trading in the Hanseatic League in the 15th century. Notice the absence of any reference to Germans in Lithuania in these early centuries.

Baltic Germans are a distinct group from the two groups of Germans who settled in Lithuania.

However, there were some Germans in the early 1700s in Kovno, now Kaunas, Lithuania, who were involved with trading in the Hanseatic League.

South Prussia (1793-1807) and New East Prussia (1795-1807) Colonists

Later in the 18th century southwestern German Swabians from Wuerttemberg and nearby states and Mecklenburgers were recruited to settle in South Prussia and New East Prussia from 1793 to 1806.  Lithuanians and Salzburgers also settled in New East Prussia. Later arrivals came from Wuerttemberg. Fewer numbers of southwest Germans and Mecklenburgers settled in New East Prussia than in South Prussia.

Map of Early 19th Century Migratory and Political History

This map shows how the migrations coalesced once the borders of East Prussia remained stable in the second decade of the 19th century. This map may narrow one’s search as it shows areas of Catholic and Protestant Germans, Lithuanians, and Poles. Green shows the dominance of Protestant Lithuanians in the northeast. Darker blue shows German Protestants in the Konigsberg Administrative District. The next largest group are Protestant Poles in the southeast.

Two groups, both in Konigsberg, show two kreise of Catholic Poles in lighter red and two kreise of Catholic Germans in lighter blue.

An Alternative View: Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 65.

After Poland regained its status as a nation after World War I, this encyclopedia was written to help explain a variety of subjects from the Polish perspective. About the people who settled this area, the authors wrote:

In the Middle Ages the Germans who colonized Prussia and the Kingdom of Poland were primarily Northern Germans (Lower Saxons) and Germans from the Centre (Franconians). A few Dutchmen and Southern Germans (Bavarians) also came to this area. After Poland was partitioned in the late 18th century, Germans emigrated from all parts of Germany. In the Kingdom of Poland, the most numerous were Prussians, South Saxons, Franconians of the Palatinate, and Swabians from Württemberg.

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2019 Post 1 East Prussia


This series of posts presents one researcher’s study of East Prussia specifically for those researching ancestors in what is now Lithuania and whose origins probably lie in East Prussia. At least one family story suggests that movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was easier than it is today as their ancestors easily crossed the border between the German and Russian Empires. Perhaps the next 19 posts will help Suwalki Province researchers find one kernel of evidence that may result in finding a village of origin in East Prussia.

Proposed posts.  Changes possible.


POST M1 Overview and The Pruzi                                                                                           

POST M2 The Peoples of East Prussia                                                                                    


POST PH 1 The Rise of Prussia to 1772                                                                                   

POST PH 2 The Rise of Prussia 1772 to 1803                                                                       

POST PH 3 The Napoleonic Era 13-1807 to the Congress of Vienna 1815                

POST PH 4 1815 to present


POST HF-NF 1 East Prussia in Historical Fiction and Non-Fiction                                                                


POST R 1         Administrative Divisions of East Prussia                                         

POST R 2         Personal Research Strategy                                                 

POST R 3         Research Strategy: Simultaneous Use of Secondary and Primary Sources

POST R 4         Print and Online Maps                                                                      

POST R 5         Print and Online Gazetteers                                                 

POST R 6         Additional Secondary Sources: Periodical: Altpreussische Geschlechterkunde

POST R 7         Books and Print and Online Indices                                     

POST R 8         East Prussian Records in Searching by Surname

POST R 9         Steps beyond a Surname Sort                                                          

POST R 10       Tale of 2 Browsers                                                                 

POST R 11       Sources for East Prussia                                

POST R 12       List of GGS Articles on East Prussia and Online Sources     

Migrations: People of East Prussia

It is important to understand the varieties of people who lived in East Prussia and the reasons that they came here.

Migrations over the Centuries

Germans had been migrating east for centuries. No mass migration occurred at any one time. Most researchers agree that for Prussia the migration of Germans to the East began with the Teutonic Knights in the mid-13th century. Even the Teutonic Knights included many non-Germans. To understand the German movement to East Prussia, it is important to understand who these Prussians were. Migrations were both eastward and westward.

Image of Old Prussian “Commoners”

Who Were the Pruzi?

The Pruzi, often called the Old Prussians, did not become the people of Prussia, known for their military endurance. Prussia was composed of many German states, duchies, and kingdoms that banded together in the mid-19th century and formed the Second German Empire from 1871 to 1918. Prussia, the nation, was fused into the German Empire.

It is one of the great ironies of history that the conquered tribe, the Pruzi, became extinct, but the name Prussia remained among the nations of the world until the Allied Control Council formally dissolved the state of Prussia on February 25, 1947.  (Koch, 288.)

This map shows the 65,800 km, the approximate extent of the pre-conquest territory of the Prussian tribes, before they were assimilated by the Germans, Lithuanians, Poles, and Belarussians.


Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia

The author is indebted to Ed Brandt and Adelburt Goertz’s book Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia (Ost-und Westpreussen) Records, Sources, Publications and Evets), Minneapolis, MN: no publisher, 2002. This guide is the most detailed source for understanding the migrations of people to East Prussia. Both Brandt and Goertz are deceased now but their legacy is unmatchable. The depth of their research provided Brandt with resources to make statements like these: One third of East Prussians reportedly have at least two Preussen ancestors if they go back five generations. GGJ, VOL 2, No. 4, Winter 1999. Page 9.


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Bilder Post 5 A Few Images

In addition to the four images below, many chapters feature parishioners and exterior and interior views of the remaining churches on interest of individual researchers.

Translation: The defeated Napoleonic Army on their retreat from Russia to France, marched through Wilna. The exhausted and demoralized soldiers did not spare the churches, but stole church vestments and wrapped themselves in them to prevent freezing to death.


Translation: We do not understand for every dilemma a clear definition, and not for every sorrow a consolation, but we have for every need a prayer and that is a great deal. This we believe.

Translation: With praise and honor to the highest good of the father of all excellence to the God who creates all miracles, to the God who my soul with his deepest consolation fulfills to the God who all  lamentation quiets—Prayers of our God the honored/highest.

Translation: The best time of the year is mine. Then sing all the little birds, heaven and earth is filled completely, much good music is given tongue. Martin Luther

This concludes the five additional posts on History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania (Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen) by Hermann Jaekel

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7th Anniversary Post

GOALS for Year 7:

GOAL PARTIALLY MET: Almost but not quite, but there have been 24 posts in the last 12 months.
Try to continue to post in the middle and end of each month. The delay in recent months has been due to a move after 38 years and related issues and the necessity of putting my own genealogical research on the back burner of my life. Hopefully, it will start to burn bright again. Please note new email address whjch will appear soon in the comment section.
GOAL MET: Categories are updated through February 2019.
Encourage everyone to keep reading of the blog by checking the Categories and Tags list which has been updated through February 2019. Several new followers have emerged: some are beginners just learning to use FHL microfilmed/digitized records for Suwalki Province. Many answers to their questions are already posted on the blog. Other followers include those who ask the most astute questions. Those lead me to think carefully before responding and provide ideas for future posts.
GOAL MET: If I receive a question about a topic that has not yet been published, but I have a reasonable draft started, I have been known to send that to a researcher rather than make him/her wait for the answer to their question.
GOAL MET: Posts about all three conferences were included.
Provide a report on conferences attended or expect to attend: Germanic Genealogy Society, National Genealogical Society, and The Society for German Genealogy in Eastern Europe.
GOAL MET: Continue the EWZ series with explanatory steps.
GOAL MET: Share books of interest.
GOAL MET: Include results of FHL microfilm/digitized records.
GOAL MET: Discuss “Lithuanian” DNA and the results of another DNA “cousin.”
STEPS TAKEN TOWARD GOAL: Provide an update on the future availability of records.
Major series include posts about Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen (History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania) by Hermann Jaekel.

Post the middle and end of each month.

East Prussia –Migrations, Political History, Historical Fiction and Non -Fiction, and Research

Answer comments as quickly as possible.
Respond to specific questions from researchers by sending them unpublished posts.
Report on conferences (if attended) with one or more posts.
Possible report on research which reveals result of translations of four family letters and resulting EWZ research which led to a very personal connection. Oh, my!
Write one or more posts in collaboration with another researcher.
Support new young researchers including the Facebook group, Lietuvos Liuteronų Genealogija. It is amazing to see the variety of information available online.
Support Owen, the genealogist, gave me the Facebook group link. His work is exemplary! It is exciting to connect with new, young researchers!
Also, Owen has started a Facebook group Germans from Kreis Wilkowischken/Vilkaviškis Lithuania

Your comments provide the encouragement I need to reach the ten-year anniversary!
If you have made a comment that I have not responded to, please send another comment so we can communicate further by e-mail with a new address associated with the account.

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Bilder Post 3 Continuation of Keeping Track of the Lithuanian of the Past

Similar people like the merchants were:

Zacharias Schneider
Jakob Schneider
The Goldsmith’s wife Judita Luxian, born Gebel
Hans Müller
Gerge Neumann
Friedrich Meinhardt
The Goldsmith apprentice Hans Rentel with his sister Elisabeth, the widow of Goldsmith Falten Heine
Dietrich Witt
Gottfried Clement and
Michael Martens
The Steinschneider (gem cutter) Johann Klemendt
The Siegelschneider (signet ring maker) Christoph Albrecht Vogel
The Uhr (clockmakers) –Hhans Klassen, Jakob Jerkewicz with this apprentice Jakob Dika, Johann Scherer.
The papermaker – Hans Tochtermann
The Leineweber (linen weaver) David Gebau,
The Orgelbaueren (organ farm wife) Gertrud Cornelschin,
The Rotgiesser (copper worker) Hans Ulrich Bader
The Kannengiesser (tin or pewter tankard maker) Hans Rebel
Thomas Milda and Nikolaus Klansing
The Zimmermeister (carpenter with his own shop) Martin Eichhof with the Knecht (boy/servant) Andreas
Der Maler (pinters) Baltzer, Hirdler and Johnn Schrötten (516 words)
Der Weinhändler (wine merchant) Christian Fohs (Voss)
Die Weinschenker (wine tavern) Hans Magdeburger with his young one (appentices) Andreas Bahrss, Martin Ehm and Daniel Hanke
Die Kretzmersche (Inn-Keeper) Maria Lang, Hans Rentels sister with her sons Georg and Tobias Lang.
The Beutler (glove macher) Peter Heiland
The Kinditor (pastry maker) Michael from Saalfeld
The Zuckerbäcker (pastry maker) Joh. Pess
The Büchsenmacher (rifle maker) Erasmus Erxleben with his Eidam (son in laws) Jakob Theu, Girge Langner, Hanss Petzelt, Hanss Baldtmann, Lorenz Gsell, Andreas Henck, Adam Jakob, Casper Sehler, and Michael Schneider.
The Büchsenschiffter (rifle pin? makers) Christoph Hoffman, Tobias Schtemplin, Ernst Fiescher
Der Büchsenschifftergeselle (rifle journeyman) Balzer Jäschke and Merten König
Die Bortenmacher (lace maker) and Posamentierer (edging braid maker) Wilhelm Alssdorfft, Peter Duncken, Hans Baltzae, Johann Kreidner with apprentices Mathias and Vincent (653 words)
Der Felzmacher (felt maker) Valentin Pfanners and the
Knopfmacher (button maker) Hans Nitsch
Der Sattler (saddler) Erhard Erhardus
Die Riemer (strapmaker) Gierge Schöbel and Gerae Winckler
Der Messerschmied (knife maker) Friedrich Franz Lang
Die Schneider (tailors) Walter Schaden with his journeymen Siegmund, Michael Burchart, Pankraz Klessel, Nicolaus Franz Samuel Jonas Schwedt, Johann Zimmerman and Berent Lerss (711 words)
Die Dressler (joiner, works with woods) Merten Gerlach and Bastian Baltzer
Die Tischler (cabinetmakers) Petter Gramell and Gerge Esenbach
Der Schuhmaker (shoe maker) Hans Stöltzner
Der “Barbierer” (barber) Christoph Satriebe
Der Hofschlosser (hof= place or home) locksmith) Adam Beyer
Der Artzt und Sr. Medicinae (Sr) Paul Moller, who had studied in Königsburg, with his 2 step-sons Georg and Andreas Strunck.

In addition to 4 Polish servants and helpers, he had also a German servant Christian Moldenhauer.
Bürger (citizen) of Königsberg University and also a Wilnaeve lawyer was Arnold Zeleski—his wife was born Wichert. Two of her brothers, Christopher and Albert Wichert attend the Old City Gymnasium (classical secondary school) in Königsberg.
There were also 2 clergymen of the German congregation Augsberg belief—Johann Malina and Magister Otto Mattesius as well as the reformed Wilna preacher Jakob Chelchovius. All 3 studied in Königsberg.
Of royal and similar civil occupations:
Hans Trilner—Royal Polish Münzwardein from Wilna ( )
Johann Gutzlaff, from the same place, “Bedienter of the Duke Boguslaw Radziwill” attendant of important person
Friedrich Zülech of Wilna – “Chirurgus” (surgeon) of the Duke
Samuel Kolander, “Burger (full citizen– burgher) of Wilna and “Bedienter” of the same gentleman (attendant).

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History of the Protestant German Settlement in Lithuania Post 2

Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen by Hermann Jaekel


The second and third posts have been translated for their historical intent. This rare information indicates that Germans had settled in Lithuania’s two largest cities, Kovno and Wilna, in the 17th century. Each city has a distinct history.
Kauen (Kaunas, Lithuania) is at the northeast edge of Suwalki Province. Today one can visit “Prussian Kaunas” on the west side of the Memel/Neman/Nemanus River.
Kaunas, Lithuania, formerly Kovno

Bridge between Kaunas and Prussian Kovno



Prussian Kovno



Wilna (Vilnius, Lithuania) has a different history. Wilna was also part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but never part of New East Prussia. Wilna became Russified and Polonized when it was part of the Russian Empire from 1795 to 1914. It came under German control from 1915 to 1918. Before Lithuania became independent after WWI, Vilnius came under the control of Poland, the Bolsheviks, and Lithuania. In 1922 Vilnius became the capital of Lithuania.

Vilnius University Observatory Tower



A view of Vilnius from Vilnius University Observatory Tower



Translation of Spuren litauendeutscher Vergangagenheit

Keeping Track of the Lithuanian of the Past

Notes: (1) The first few words in bold indicate paragraphs in the original document. (2) Although the following paragraph indicates both “Wilna and Kauen citizen lists” it appears that most names are associated with Wilna. (3) The translation has been typed as exactly as possible from a hand-written document.

This was a document written in 1656—currently (i. e. 1964) in State Archive in Königsberg. It is a wonderful tribute and keepsake of the history of both cities—Wilna and Kauen citizen lists. They are the oldest and first list of names, when there was a great influx of merchants, artisans….
Of the German merchants in Wilna in the year 1655:
Conrad Frisius and his son Johannes
Christof Georgi with his two young ones (could be apprentices)
Wendel Mausskopf of Riga
Friedrich von Retzen of Insterburg
Georg Redinger
Johann Bechtold Humbert
Jakob Gibel with his young ones
Michael Schipke
Zachareas Weiss
Jakob Destaus with his mother-in-law
Susanne con Sichten and both sons
Jakob von Petten and Wilm von Sichten and a servant Wilm Fester
David Graffe
Georg Mansfield with his stepson Johann Strunk
Joachim Reitter with his young son Johann La Von (?)
Hans Hückemann
Andress Reymann
Barthel Kotzer
Adam Palczewski
Johann Defauss
Thomas Hötzens
Widow Helena and Wilnaer Ratsherr, royal secretary and councilman of the Zolhuesens in Grand Duchy Lithuania Heinrich Mones
The merchant Friedrich Pokoy from Mohrungen
Merchant journeyman and business servant/learner:
Abraham von Lichtenstein
Michael Hempel
Paul Schmaus from Nürenberg former business apprentice
Michael Schwarz
Mathess Wagner from Königsberg
Hans Giess from Riga
Abel Unsledt
Peter Croon with Nikolaus Richter
Grocers and Spice Merchants:
Michael Buchner with his young one Konrad Burchard
Wilhelm Moiler
Simon Katurla and his mother in law Barbara Horneiss
Friedrich Heldt
Valenin – Falter Bister with his mother in law Balzer Boydals widow
Georg Goltz

Post 3 will continue the list of 17th century Germans in Kovno and Wilna.

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Bilder Post 4 Final Post from Keeping Track of the Lithuanians from the Past

One sees that it was a commanding number of Germans who, about the middle of the 17th century, lived in Wilna and there held citizenship rights (meant they could vote, hold offices—an important right and had to be earned.

That the German community in Wilna in spite of attacks by the Poles is evident still in the 2nd half of the 18th century—they had vitality (Borrowed from Dr. Karger’s discovery of information about Wilna.

Still in the year 1753 there were 10 German bakeries in Wilna: Jakob Heiberg (Heiberg), Joachim Christ, Freist, Benjamin Ritsch, Wilm. Spring, Jakob Bluhm, Wolfram Reuterberg, Friedrich Kube, Johann Christian Kreinerz, Johann Nikolaus and Christian Friedrich. About the year 1765, there was evidence of German keymakers and smithy–Ivan Bauch, Albrecht Knoff, Ernest Hoppe, Heinrich Schubert and Jakob Berg—(mann?)

There were also more German names than Polish than in 1655.

In the year 1744 there were five German “Wagner and Bürger” that the Apotheker and Goldsmith were still German is moderately clear. In the year 1748 we count still 9 German goldsmiths in Wilna: Lorenz Wiljanz and Benjamin Kutscher as the oldest, Christop Gronmann, Georg Schnetka, Gottfried Ernst Schönberg, Andreas Eierlei, Christop Zesemann, Johann Zeidel (Seidel) and David Plat. Also, in the same manner, there still were German councilmen in the year 1792: the gentleman Friedrich Heine, and David Hertel. Very great were the numbers of German shoemakers at this same time. In a guild document which between Polish and German was laid out, there were 12 German shoemakers recorded.

It is over forty years since the opening of these old documents published in the Kownoer newspaper, the 2nd World War is spread all over the land and has not only the Lithuanian Germans have lost their old homeland but also Königsberg lies in ashes. With it are also the remains of the State Archives in Königsberg are ruined so that this article is the only source to determine our past.

The holy Gothic annekirchlein (little church) in Wilna, in which the first German service on Lithuanian ground was held. When Napoleon came through Wilna, he was so impressed by its sight that one must demolish it and build a new one in Paris.

Notes: (1) Wikipedia states this the original intent of this church was to serve as a place of worship for Catholic Germans. (2) The more accurate translation suggests that the verb is in the subjunctive mood and that the sentence should read: Napoleon was so impressed by its sight that he wished he could demolish it and build a new one in Paris. The Church of St. Anne is a much admired stop in Vilnius today!

Church of St. Anne July 2013



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