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German Genealogy

Jurisdictions of the Second German Empire of 1871-1918.

Before the late 1800s there was no single country called Germany. There were German people and there was a German language, but they lived in a number of different kingdoms, principalities, duchies, etc. Each of these had its own local rulers and laws.

The first half of the 19th century saw the first movement toward German unification. It began with a power struggle between the two most prominent German states - Prussia and Austria. Prussia eventually emerged victorious and became the dominant state in the unified Germany.

In 1871, with the formation of the Second German Empire,  Prussia (Preußen) was comprised of 13 provinces, with Otto von Bismarck as Chancellor. In addition there were some independent states forming the North German Confederation with Prussia. This union included, in addition to Prussia and Austria, Schleswig, Holstein, Alsace-Lorraine, and Westphalia. The union became an economic power. The confederation maintained trade links with the remaining German states provided by the Zollverein and it set up favorable trade relations with England, Belgium, France, and Italy. The economic prosperity enjoyed by the Confederation soon drew the remaining German states, including Thuringia, Saxony, Wurttemberg, and Bavaria, into the union.

Throughout the formation of this Confederation, Bismarck was able to ensure Prussian dominance within a united Germany. In effect, the Prussian army became the new German army and the Prussian chancellor became the prime minister of Germany. Most significantly, the Prussian king was elevated to the title of German Emperor in 1871. All of these events transformed Germany into an important world power in both the 19th and 20th centuries.

The empire was composed of:

  • Four Kingdoms (Königreiche): Bayern/Bavaria, Königreich Sachsen/Kingdom of Saxony, Württemberg, and Königreich Preußen/Kingdom of Prussia.
  • Six Grandduchies (Großherzogtümer): Baden, Hessen (Hessen-Darmstadt), Mecklenburg-Schwering, Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Oldenburg, and Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach.
  • Five Duchies (Herzogtümer): Anhalt, Braunschweig, Sachsen-Meiningen (in Thüringen), Sachsen-Altenburg (in Thüringen), and Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha (in Thüringen).
  • Seven Principalities (Fürstentümer): Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (in Thüringen), Schwarzburg-Sondershausen (in Thüringen), Waldeck, Reuß-ältere Linie (in Thüringen), Reuß-jüngere Linie (in Thüringen), Schaumburg-Lippe, and Lippe (Lippe-Detmold).
  • Three Free Hanseatic Cities (Freie Städte): Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck.
  • One Imperial Province (Reichsland): Elsaß-Lothringen (Alsace-Lorraine).

Thüringen (Thuringia) described a geographical region; it had no political boundaries during the time of the Second German Empire. It was comprised of smaller Saxon states between the Thuringian Forest on the south, the Narz Mountains on the north, the Werra River on the west, and the Saale River on the east. It also included parts of the Kingdom of Saxony, the Kingdom of Bavaria, and the Saxony Province of the Kingdom of Prussia.

Germany 1871. Map of Germany in the 1871 Borders.

  • Anhalt / Anhalt (Herzogtum / Duchy) [Presently in Sachsen-Anhalt]
  • Baden / Baden (Großherzogtum / Grandduchy) [Presently in Baden-Württenberg]
  • Bayern / Bavaria (Königreich / Kingdom) [Presently in Bavaria]  [Presently in Rhineland-Palatinate]
  • Berlin / Berlin (Stadt / City) [Presently in Berlin as city-state]
  • Brandenburg/ Brandenburg (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Brandenburg]
  • Braunschweig / Brunswick (Herzogtum / Duchy) [Presently in Niedersachsen] [Presently in Nordrhein-Westfalen]
  • Bremen / Bremen (Freistadt / Free City-State) [Presently in Bremen as city-state]
  • Elsaß-Lothringen / Alsace-Lorraine (Reichsland / State) [Presently in France]
  • Hamburg / Hamburg (Freistadt / Free City-State) [Presently in Hamburg as city-state]
  • Hannover / Hanover (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Niedersachsen]
  • Hessen / Hesse (Großherzogtum / Grandduchy) [Presently in Hessen]
  • Hessen-Nassau / Hesse-Nassau (Provinz / Province)  [Presently in Hessen] [Presently in Rhineland-Palatinate]
  • Hohenzollern/ Hohenzollern (Reichland / State) [Presently in Baden-Württenberg]
  • Lippe / Lippe (Fürstentum / Pincipality) [Presently in Nordrhein-Westfalen]
  • Lübeck / Lübeck (Freistadt / Free City-State) [Presently in Schleswig-Holstein]
  • Mecklenburg-Schwerin / Mecklenburg-Schwerin (Großherzogtum / Grandduchy) [Presently in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern]
  • Mecklenburg-Strelitz / Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Großherzogtum / Grandduchy) [Presently in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern]
  • Oldenburg / Oldenburg (Großherzogtum / Grandduchy) [Presently in Niedersachsen]
  • Ostpreußen / East Prussia (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Poland and Russia]
  • Pommern / Pomerania (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Poland]
  • Posen/ Posen (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Poland]
  • Preußen / Prussia (Königreich / Kingdom)
  • Rheinprovinz / Rhineland (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Nordrhein-Westfalen] [Presently in Rhineland-Palatinate]
  • Sachsen / Saxony (Königreich / Kingdom) [Presently in Sachsen]
  • Sachsen / Saxony (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Sachsen-Anhalt]
  • Schaumburg-Lippe / Schaumburg-Lippe (Fürstentum / Principality) [Presently in Niedersachsen]
  • Schlesien / Silesia (Provinz / Province) [Presently mostly in Poland] [Presently in Sachsen]
  • Schleswig-Holstein / Schleswig-Holstein (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Schleswig-Holstein]
  • Thuringia
  • Waldeck / Waldeck (Fürstentum / Principality) [Presently in Nordrhein-Westfalen]
  • Westfalen  / Westphalia (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Nordrhein-Westfalen]
  • Westpreussen  / West Prussia (Provinz / Province) [Presently in Poland]
  • Württemberg / Württemberg (Königreich / Kingdom) [Presently in Baden-Württemberg]