Re: Birthplace #germany #lithuania #poland #russia

Stephen Weinstein

On Sat, Nov 14, 2020 at 05:26 PM, <mattianlevine@...> wrote:
conflicting places in my research. The census data for the birthplace of one of my ancestors varies tremendously. The following places are listed as birthplaces of the same ancestor on various census': Russia, Poland-Russia, Germany, Lithuania (Russia-Kovna).
This is not really as conflicting as it sounds.

I encountered one case of a census taker who listed "Russian" as the native language of Jews from Poland who would not have spoken Russian as their first language.  It seems most likely that the census taker heard Jews from Russia speaking Yiddish, assumed it was Russian because the speakers were from Russia, and later heard Jews from Poland speaking it, and recognized it as the language as the language spoken by Jews from Russia, and continued assuming it was Russian.  Things happen.

The same physical location on the earth would be variously referenced by different country's names at different times.

Depending on how a question was phrased, it could have been interpreted as "When you lived there, in what country was the place where you lived" or "What country is it now" or "Of what country where you a citizen or subject" -- and if the question was "What country is it now", the average person might not know the answer.

Americans often use the word "Russia" to mean anywhere governed from Moscow (including the entire Soviet Union when it existed), even if not officially part of Russia.

Lithuania was part of Russia (ruled by the Czars) for a long time, was briefly independent, then became part of the Soviet Union (although not part of the Russian SSR), and finally became independent again.

Parts of what is now Poland were ruled at various times by Russia, Prussia (northeastern Germany) and even Austria.

And Galicia was eventually split up, with part of it become part of Poland and part becoming part of Ukraine.

But someone might know only that they were from Galicia and not which side of a border that wasn't established until after they left.

Or they might answer "Poland" when asked for the name of the country now ruling the place but "Emperor of Austria" when asked "who ruled you before you came to America".
Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, California, USA

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