Seeking help to locate Prussia ancestor’s family town 1830s #poland #germany


Hi everyone. I’m looking for help on the best way to locate my great grandfather, Marcus LANSKEY’s home town or province. I’m having difficulty because his location of birth is listed in the US Census as PreuBen, Prussia, Poland or Germany, depending on the date of the census. I’m guessing this is because the territory has changed multiple times. Here is what I know:

Surname: LANSKEY
Given Name: Marcus
Birth: 1834
Death: 1915, Newark NJ
Married Sarah Richards 4/30/1862 Newark, NJ
Had 3 children: George, Virginia, Ada
Census shows US date of arrival as either 1850 or 1854

1860 Census:Marcus Lanskie from PreuBen. It looks like he was a boarder.

Civil War Draft Card: 1863-65
Shows place of birth as Germany

1870 Census: Marcus Lansky
Place of birth listed as Prussia

1880 Census: Macus Lauskey
Place of birth listed as Poland

1900-1915 Census: 
Shows place of birth as Germany

I have been unable to locate the 1890 Census or US Immigration records.


1. Do the dates that the place of birth are listed as PreuBen, Prussia, Poland and Germany give you any information on what modern day country the province would be located in?

2. When I’m researching, should I be researching in Poland or Germany? Is there any specific locality in each country I should search?

Note: I have ordered Marcus’s death certificate from the NJ State Archives and I’m hoping it might give me his parents names or locality. His headstone is very simple and just reads “Father, Marcus Lanskey, 1934-1915. There is no Hebrew wording.

Thank you in advance.

Carrielynn Apgar
Albany, New York


Jill Whitehead

Would this be East or West Prussia? Those who came from the Suwalki Lomza Guernias in NE Poland, on the borders with Konigsberg (now Russian Kaliningrad) often said they came from Prussia rather than Poland in UK records. This area had been part of East Prussia in the late 18th and early 19th century until Napoleon established the Duchy of Poland. It then became part of Russian Poland during most of the 19th century, and then the German empire again during WW1 and WW2. You have to look at the timescale and which empire was in charge at the time. 

Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK 

Archange Bousquet

Hi Carrielynn,

We had similar questions about an ancestor's place of origin in Europe. One thing that brought a little clarity was reading the instructions given to the US Census takers for the years in question. It has been a while but I recall that they were told to record the place of origin as the current name of the political state of the place at the date the census was taken not what it may have been when the ancestor was born or emigrated. I viewed these instuctions on Ancestry but they are probably available for free elsewhere.
Best wishes,
Jeanne (Lurie)lurierj@...


The 1860 census index shows the place of birth as PruBen, which is the German spelling for Prussia, the "B" is actually the German character for "ss", however the handwritten/actual census shows "Prussia".  I suggest that you always look at the actual document whenever possible.
If you haven't searched for them already, I suggest looking in any local newspapers for articles on Marcus Lanskey, including obits, if available, as well as any naturalization documents, Marriage documents, and birth documents for his children.  

Rich Meyersburg
Laurel, MD

David Levine

This might help:
  • "Germany" as in the country (Deutsches Reich) was not created until the unification in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian war
  • Before 1871, and after 1814, "Germany" referred to the area of independent countries in that geographical space
  • Before 1814, "Germany" referred to the lands of the Holy Roman Empire including what was the territories that later were the "Austrian" part of the Austro-Hungarian empire (as opposed to the Hungarian part)
  • In the 19th century, Prussia was the largest German state by far. Almost all of northern "Germany" from France in the West to Russia in the east was part of the Kingdom of Prussia
  • Between the 1770s and 1793, Prussia also took a part of Poland in the partition
  • See: for a map
1860 PreuBen   -> He came from Prussia the country
1863-65 Germany  --> here they used the geographical term
1870 Prussia -->  Still state of Prussia
1880 Poland  -> This is either a mistake (because he was Jewish and the enumerator assumed; or, this is valuable information in that your ancestor is saying he came from the part of Prussia taken from Poland in the partition
1900-1915 Germany  ---> The correct post-1871 unification term for Germany is used here

David Levine
San Francisco, CA, USA