Post 2 Research Experience with Germans from Kreis Wilkowischken/Vilkaviskis, Lithuania

The sources for records in my 2010 family history book were microfilmed Family History Library records from AGAD (Archives in Warsaw) and the Lithuanian State Historical Archives in Vilnius, all of which are now digitized (or planned to be) on Germans from Kreis Wilkowschken/Vilkaviskis, Lithuania Facebook Group. Some of these records come from the AGAD website, some directly from Family Search. A third source is the donated records explained in Post 1.

My research had concentrated on the three immigrant families who had left Wylkowiszki between 1900 and 1908. In 2012 I started this blog to share some of my research strategies. Since the publication of my book, I divided my research three ways: search for the origins of my Spurgats in East Prussia; study Suwalki records on FHL microfilm and online (as they became available through 1898); purchase more records through my Family History Tour guide from the Lithuanian State Historical Archives; and do a little of my own translations. In 2013 after I actually visited the 23 villages I had documented in my records, I became more interested in the families that did not immigrate and concentrated on finding their birth, confirmation, marriage, and death records. Starting in 2017, the microfilmed EWZ records from NARA and Family Search also helped locate those and their descendants who remained in Germany. I hoped that someday online records might help.

In 2014 a German cousin in the Hutop family found me, and a close research relationship and five more years of collaborative research in Kreis Wylkowiszki, Germany, Canada, and the United States resulted. Now I had two families to search for in the East Prussian records.

The AGAD (Archives in Warsaw) online records were still out there, but I had just not had the time to devour them.

Through Germans from Kreis Wilkowischken/Vilkaviskis Lithuania I found records in Kreis Wilkowischken I had never expected to see.  As of this writing I have over 80 additional records of Spurgat families! Many are in my direct line of Spurgat ancestors or one of the families who immigrated. Some are new names, and I keep trying to connect them with those elusive East Prussian parish clues. Some are records that prove or expand a family story from a Spurgat descendant in Germany. Some are 20th century records I had previously purchased from the Lithuanian State Historical Archives. All are treasures beyond expectation. I have also found additional records in the Hutop and related families.

I kept two lists: one of Spurgats and Hutops, etc. where I copied the records for translation. The other, much much longer, lists all the names of the maternal ancestral lines and those who married into the Hutop and Spurgat families in succeeding generations. This is when I realized that many 20th century marriages in Germany, Canada, and the United States had their roots in Kreis Wilkowischken families regardless of the displacement and aftermath of two world wars. I would never had understood the magnitude of these connections if it had not been for this Facebook group.

The confirmation lists, usually overlooked in genealogical presentations, (because they were not the official Polish and Russian records but written as the more familiar German names), are almost the best records of all. As Christine, a new German friend put it, “I can see all of them, your family and mine, sitting on the same bench in the church on the same day.” What more insightful connection that is!

One set of circa 1867 confirmation records even provides the East Prussian and Suwalki birthplaces of confirmands! But not my family.

The migration patterns have become more evident. As researchers we think of the modern-day borders between the Kalinigrad Oblast of Russia with Lithuania and Poland. Yet we have family stories from more than one researcher who attest that their ancestors told stories of travel between East Prussia and Suwalki Province as part of daily life, to church, and to school. As researchers, we must consult the history books and walk in their footsteps to conduct our research wisely. Previously, the single word “Prusia”, as the birthplace on the 1874 death record of a great grandmother, was my only clue that the movement of East Prussians into Suwalki Province lasted until her circa 1838 birthdate. A recently discovered record in another researcher’s family now indicates that an East Prussian birth of 1850 on a confirmation record that this movement east existed for more than 40 years after Suwalki Province belonged to East Prussia as part of the New East Prussia, only existing from 1795 to 1807.

What I have gained is an entirely new perspective of Internet research and the possibilities beyond my lifetime. Seeing the repetition of family names throughout the 19th and 20th centuries helps me understand the endurance of ancestral families, especially of a minority in a different empire. My family left behind many connections we are now able to rediscover.

The next post will discuss “the old and the new.”

One goal is to have an actual searchable online database ready for a ‘beta’ launch. Payment for the hosting site is required as the work continues. With each new upgrade there will be more connections, more patterns, and more enlightenment to share with each other.

Please continue to support in every way possible the work of Owen, Lorinda, and Margarete as they continue their work.


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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