This book was recommended to me by fellow researcher, A. S. and is downloadable as a pdf. It is an amazing book, so scholarly, complete, and thoroughly researched. I read the entire book to understand the story of a German family, whose ancestors were colonists in New East Prussia, although not from the area that would become Suwalki Province, and who immigrated to Canada after WWII. Their history and journey parallels some of those from Suwalki Province.
The chapter titles themselves tell the story:
I. Prussian and Saxon Subjects, Briefly, 1795-1815
II. Russian Subjects, Not so Briefly, 1815-1918
III. Polish Citizens, Doubtfully, 1918-1939
IV. German Citizens, Temporarily, 1939-1948
V. Canadian Citizens, Eventually, 1948-1961
Of particular interest to the readers of this blog and most helpful to researchers of our elusive German Lutherans in Suwalki Province whose origins most likely lie in East Prussia is the first chapter which covers the time period we think that most of our ancestors lived there.
Even though I thought I had researched the history of this area pretty well, I learned a great deal of important information for researchers.
The details which relate to the formation of New East Prussia and South Prussia and the Prussian administration of this province have provided a new perspective and a new very important resource.
Prussian Administration of New Lands
Germans had been colonizing and settling in Poland even before Germany officially controlled and then administered the lands that became New East Prussia and South Prussia.
The colonization of West Prussia in 1772 had been administered along the lines of mercantile interests. The policy was not deemed particularly successful. More than one reason was suggested: 1) the farms were too small to be efficient. 2) Generally, the farms were self-sufficient so a commercial emphasis did not prosper in the existing agricultural economy. A better plan was needed for New East Prussia and South Prussia. Enter Baron Friedrich Leopold von Schroetter, the Prussian State and Finance Minister responsible for New East Prussia, who had been educated in “new ideas in estate and farm management.” He believed that a different colonization policy with a two fold approach: its emphasis on good agricultural practice along with the development of towns and a screening of colonists which would include farmers, skilled craftsmen and artisans. In June 1801 King Frederick William II approved Schroetter’s policies for New East Prussia. 32 colonies were approved. Planning included public infrastructure–roads, drainage, forests, and surveying farms and towns. Annual reports provided the data of success.
The importation of Salzburgers and Swiss to East Prussia about 1730 had proved to be successful for “Lithuanian colonization”, so other non-Prussians were considered. Colonists from Wurtterberg and Mecklenberg consented to go to New East Prussia, the former because of over population and the latter because of poor economic policies. Free timber and exemptions from rents and no military requirements were additional enticements. Gradual rent payments led to eventual land ownership with inheritance rights. These requirements led to a need for accurate record keeping and the resources we have available today.
Napoleon and His Aftermath
At the time of Napoleon in the late 18th and early 19th centuries the map of Europe was redrawn as Napoleon defeated the Prussians, Austrians, and Russians. After the peace treaty in Tilsit in July 1807, Napoleon allowed the Prussians to keep West Prussia, but demanded that New East Prussia and South Prussia be ceded. Later both lands became part of the Duchy of Warsaw. However Napoleon’s defeat at the battles at Leipzig in 1813 and Waterloo in 1815 the map of Europe was redrawn once more. The “duchy was buried in June 1815…and the Kingdom of Poland resurrected as a vassal of the state of Russia.”
The notes include these sources:
Bussenius, Charlotte I. (1961) Urkunden und Akten zur Geschichte der preussischen Verwaltung in Südpreussen und Neuostpreussen 1793 – 1805 (Documents and files on the history of the Prussian administration in South Prussia and New East Prussia 1793 – 1805) Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum Verlag. This source “provided an annotated guide to the documents generated by the Prussian administrations in South Prussia and New East Prussia from 1793 to 1806.”
Müller, August (1928) Die Preussische Kolonisation in Nordpolen und Litauen 1795-1807 (The Prussian colonization in northern Poland and Lithuania 1795-1807 New East Prussia 1793 – 1805)Berlin: Karl Curtius.
Nachweisung der Kolonisten auf dem Platten Lande 1806, Berlin, Geheimes Preussisches Staatsarchiv, II, VI, pp. 82-129. This source lists detailed information about the colonists.
Staak, Gerhard (1935) “Mecklenburger als Siedler in Polen” Mecklenburg Zeitschrift der Heimatkunde (Mecklenburg Journal of History) Heft 1: 13-27, Heft 2: 46-53. This includes “a list of Mecklenburger colonists in Poland.”
Another researcher hired a professional researcher in Berlin researcher to locate his ancestral names in Nachweisung dee Kolonisten auf dem Platten Lande 1806 in the archives but he did not find any of “my ancestors in File 1104 of the Secret Prussian Archives.”