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What 19th century provinces now belong to Poland?

What 19th century provinces now belong to Poland?

The starting point for most genealogical research is the second half of the nineteenth century. This was the period of the most massive emigration from Central Europe to the USA, Canada and Australia. Also the memory of our living ancestors and most of the written data concerning our family history dates back usually to the turn of the century or a little earlier. That's why it is so important to understand the history of Poland during the last 200 years and to be aware of all the boundary changes and the considerable destruction of the church records where births, marriages and deaths of the inhabitants were registered.


This is the map depicting the most important boundary changes in Poland since 1815.


It might appear very complicated at first glance but I hope it won't be difficult to understand after reading the explanations below.
The present political boundaries are shown by the little red dots. The territories of former provinces (existent prior to WWI) which now belong to Poland are shown with different colors and marked with numbers which refer to the descriptions below the map. The territories of Poland's neighboring countries are generally shown in grey but some areas are marked with subtle colors. Those are the former parts of adjacent provinces in present-day Poland, which now belong to other countries. The white lines show the boundaries between countries in 1871 and the green one - the boundary between Poland and Germany in 1938.


By clicking the area of a particular province or its name below the map you get a detailed historical description and a map of it.



Note: several less important boundary changes have not been shown for convenience. Those concern the incorporation of the western Cieszyn area ("Zaolzie") into Poland in 1938, some minor modifications in Tatra or Masuria, the exchange of some areas between Poland and the USSR in 1951 and several others. Also the Nazi administrative division has not been introduced due to its minor importance for genealogy. Most of those details are discussed in the descriptions of provinces.


As can be seen from the map, the territory of Poland includes parts or provinces of the following countries (according to the 19th century map of Central Europe):

  • (1) most of the Kingdom of Poland or Congress Poland (partially autonomous, but under Russian rule)
      • A smaller NE fragment of Congress Poland (2) now belongs to Lithuania (its northern part) and Belarus (the southern one). The latter one belonged to Poland between the wars.
  • (3) a fragment of Russia (Bialystok area)
  • From the Austro-Hungarian Empire:
  • from the Kingdom of Prussia (Germany):
    • (8) Posen (Wielkopolska or Greater Poland)
      • (between the wars this area was returned to Poland, except for some western fragments which were part of a German province created then and called Grenzmark Posen - Westpreussen)
    • (9) West Prussia (Prusy Królewskie/Westpreussen)
      • After WWI this province was divided into four parts (as shown on the map): the largest, middle region was incorporated into Poland, the city of Gdansk/Danzig with a small surrounding area became The Free City of Danzig, the western fragment remained in Germany and was incorporated into Provinz Grenzmark whereas the eastern part was incorporated to Ostpreussen.
    • (10) the southern half of East Prussia (Prusy Wschodnie/Ostpreussen)
      • most of the northern part of East Prussia now belongs to Russia and constitutes the so-called Kaliningrad Oblast.
      • (It was already after WWI that the southernmost fragment of East Prussia around Dzialdowo/Soldau was incorporated into Poland)
    • (11) most of Pomerania (Pomorze/Pommern)
      • (a small westernmost part of this province still belongs to Germany)
    • (12) a fourth of Brandenburg
    • (13) most of Silesia (Slask/Schlesien)
      • (during the period between the wars some eastern parts of Silesia belonged to Poland, now only the three westernmost districts are in Germany and the southernmost fragment, so-called Hlucinsko, belongs to the Czech Republic)
  • (14) a little fragment of the Kingdom of Saxony (Sachsen) near Zittau, which also belonged to Germany, but not to Prussia.

As you can see from the above explanations, it is quite complicated to identify the 19th century administrative affiliation for a specific location in Poland. Additional information regarding this problem can be found in another section.


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