Re: Geography mystery: Did any part of Polish Russia became German between 1880 and 1900? Specifically where? #poland #germany

Judith Singer

In the 18th century, most of our "Russian" Jewish ancestors lived in what is commonly referred to as Poland but was formally known as the Commonwealth of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This Commonwealth, grown weak for many reasons including internal divisiveness, was split by agreement among the three surrounding empires, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, in a series of three partitions occurring from 1774 to 1795. In the 1795 partition, most of what is now Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire and one area which included Suwalki was allocated to Prussia. It was named "New East Prussia". You can read more about its history in Wikipedia at That article also includes a map of the area.

In the 1807 Treaty of Tilsit, Austria ceded the eastern portion of New East Prussia to Russia, so it was under Austrian rule only for about twelve years. Nevertheless, the self-identification of Jewish residents as Austrian or German remained strong for many decades thereafter. Some of the discussions of Suwalki in JewishGen's Yizkor book for Suwalki refer to this, specifically at  and

The members of one branch of my family were originally from this area. On emigrating to the United States, they identified themselves on their ship manifests, censuses, marriage documents, etc. variously as originating in Russia, Poland, Germany, or Lithuania, the changes depending in part on the changing of national boundaries but sometimes for no reason that I have been able to determine. 

Join to automatically receive all group messages.