The 19th Century

1803-1815 Napoleon Bonaparte started his campaign to rule Europe. This time period was known as the Napoleonic Era. Napoleon continued his conquest eastward toward Prussia. 1

1806 Napoleon forced the end of the Holy Roman Empire formed by Charlemagne in the 10th century. Prussia declared war on France, and a Napoleonic army defeated Prussia. Prussia lost areas to the west, south, and north including the Suwalki Province. 2

1806-1813 The population of East Prussia decreased in 1805 from 988,000 to 799,000 in 1813 when it was under French or Russian occupation. 3

Note: For a map of the Napoleonic Era 1807 to 1814 see Civil Registers in Russian-Ruled Poland (Salt Lake City, Utah: Family History Library, 1988), 1. This map shows that Suwalki was a province during the era from 1807 to 1814 when this part of what is now Lithuania was a protectorate of the French Empire and was known as the Grand Duchy of Warsaw.

In 1807 East Prussia was saved from Napoleon by Russia, 4 but after Napoleon defeated the three partitioning powers—Austria, Prussia, and Russia, he established the Duchy (principality) of Warsaw as a protectorate of the French Empire. 5

New East Prussia was taken from Prussia and annexed to the Duchy of Warsaw. 6

Serfdom (personal bondage) was abolished in Prussia. 7 The tenant peasant still had to pay to, or perform for, the landowner or the lord’s judicial jurisdiction over them. The abolition was conditional until 1848. 8 Another side effect of the abolishment of serfdom was an increase in landless farm laborers, now free, but lacking the means to buy land. 9 By 1850 all servitude (obligation to perform free work for the land owner) was abolished. 10

1810 Germans constituted 6% of the population of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, with the
heaviest concentration in the north and northwest. 11

1814-1815 Napoleon weakened. The German states began to reorganize under the leadership of Prussia. 12 Prussia joined allies to crush Napoleon who was defeated at Waterloo. The Congress of Vienna formed the German Confederation, restored some Prussian territories, and reduced several hundred German states to 39. 13

The Congress of Vienna included New East Prussia (Suduva in Lithuania) in the palatinate of Augustavas in the newly formed Kingdom of Poland under a Russian protectorate. 14

Note: For a map of East Central Europe in 1815 see Magocsi, Historical Atlas of East Central Europe, 76. The map shows that in 1815 the allied powers—Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia— redrew the map of Europe to give the victors the territories that had been previously conquered by Napoleon.
Russia gained territory along its western border where a Polish principality was named. This territory was known under a variety of names—The Kingdom of Poland, Congress Poland, Congress Kingdom, and Russian Poland. This area remained with these borders until Poland and Lithuania regained their status as independent nations after World War I. In this blog the term Kingdom of Poland is generally used.

1830 The gradual increase of German emigration to the United States and Canada coincided with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. 15

1843-1859 The first large wave of German immigrants to the United States (especially from 1846 to 1857) began. 16

1847 The Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church was organized in protest against the Americanization and liberalization of the Lutheran Church in America. 17 Families from Suwalki Province and those with the –at surname were often members of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church.

1848 The independent history of East Prussia ends as it increasingly became part of the Prussian Kingdom. 18

1860 A railway from Berlin to Koenigsberg (on the west border of East Prussia) to
Eydtkuhnen (on the border of East Prussia and Lithuania) was completed. 19 By 1867 the railway was completed to St. Petersburg, Russia. 20

1863-64 The Second Polish uprising against Russia took place, followed by the decree
that all public records, including parish registers, must be in Russian. Prussian policies designed to forcibly Germanize the Poles under its rule led to anti-German sentiment in Russian Poland. 21

The palatinate of Augustavas was divided into two provinces, Lomza and Suvalki,and
Seven districts: Kalvarija, Marijampole, Vilkaviskis, Naumiestis, Seinai, Suvalki, and Augustavas. 22

1864 Serfdom (personal bondage) was abolished in Russian Poland. 23

1865-1874 The second large wave of German emigrants to the United States peaked in 1873. Many people left to avoid military service. Others emigrated because the Industrial Revolution was destroying cottage industries. 24

1870-1871 Prussia’s victory over France in the Seven Weeks War (in 1866) led to the unification of North and South Germany and the creation of the Second German Empire or “Zweite Reich.” Bismarck became the first chancellor. 25

1871-1907 Over 500 were killed and thousands made homeless in anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia, with a first serious wave in 1881-1883 and a much more serious one in 1903-1907. This coincided with the forced relocation of all other Russian Jews to the Pale of Settlement in 1882-1891. 26

1871-1918 The Second German Empire lasted for almost 50 years and came to an end at the conclusion of World War I in 1918. 27

1892 Ellis Island opened as an immigration receiving center in New York, through
which about 20 million immigrants passed until 1954, 28 most from southern and
eastern Europe. Few immigrants from East and West Prussia (or Germans as a
whole) passed through it. 29

1893-1896 An economic crisis in the United States ended large-scale immigration from
Germany. 30

1 Hall, The Atlantic Bridge to Germany: Volume VIII, ix.
2 Brief Look at German/Prussian History, 1.
3 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-22.
4 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-22.
5 Polish Encyclopedia of 1923 (Geneva, Switzerland: Atar Limited, 1922-1926), 750.
6 Researching Lithuanian Ancestral Towns, 9.
7 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 583.
8 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 583.
9 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-23.
10 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-27.
11 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 583.
12 Reimer, The German Research Companion, 5.
13 Brief Look at German/Prussian History, 1.
14 Researching Lithuanian Ancestral Towns, 9.
15 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 584.
16 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 584.
17 Reimer, The German Research Companion, 6.
18 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-28.
19 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-27.
20 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-28.
21 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 585.
22 Researching Lithuanian Ancestral Towns, 9.
23 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 583.
24 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 585.
25 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 586.
26 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 586.
27 Reimer, The German Research Companion, 7.
28 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 587.
29 Brandt, Genealogical Guide to East and West Prussia, IX-31.
30 Brandt, Germanic Genealogy, 587.

About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
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1 Response to The 19th Century

  1. Jennifer Chapman says:

    I have a question that I thought you might be able to answer. Do records (either church or civil) exist for Wizajny parish before 1808? Thank you for any help you can provide. Jennifer

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