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Schlesien (Silesia) FAQ

By Adalbert Goertz, Colorado Springs CO
Please, send any correction and suggestions to
Adalbert Goertz

Visit Adalbert Goertz's Website at http://www.cyberspace.org/~goertz/ , it is packed with worthwhile information.


Q1:   Where is Schlesien (Silesia)?
Q2:   What was Schlesien's recent history?
Q3:   What were the administrative areas of Schlesien (Silesia)?
Q4:   What about the remaining Silesian areas outside Prussia?
Q5:   What were the court districts in Schlesien before 1900?
Q6:   Is there a listserv for Schlesien family researchers?
Q7:   How do I find locations and maps for Schlesien before 1945?
Q8:   What books discuss hints and sources for East German searchers?
Q9:   What type of land records are available?
Q10: How can I get information on Polish archives?
Q11: When were civil registers introduced?
Q12: Any websites of interest to Schlesien researchers?
Q13: Are there links to dictionaries on the web?
Q14: Are there emigration records available?


Where is Schlesien (Silesia)?


Schlesien was a Prussian province. Its capital was Breslau.


What was Schlesien's recent history?


Most of Schlesien was conquered by King Friedrich II of Prussia in the three Silesian wars from Austria (1740-1763), the third war being the Seven-Years-War (1756-1763). In 1895 the population of 4.4 mio comprised 1.97 mio.Evangelicals, 2.38 mio. Catholics  incl. 0.99 mio.Poles, 47,593 Jews.

After WWI Schlesien lost some areas to Poland and Czechoslovakia.

Schlesien was cleansed of its ethnic German population and given to Poland in 1945. The Western powers were silent on the ethnic cleansing. Breslau was renamed Wroclaw.


What were the administrative areas of Schlesien (Silesia)?


In 1900 the province of Schlesien had the following districts and
Kreise (counties):

Regierungsbezirk (district) of Breslau with 24 Kreise (counties):

Breslau-Stadt, Breslau-Land, Brieg, Frankenstein, Glatz, Gr.Wartenberg,  Guhrau, Habelschwerdt, Militsch, Muensterberg, Namslau, Neumarkt, Neurode, Nimpgtsch, Ohlau, Oels, Reichenbach, Schweidnitz, Steinau, Strehlen, Striegau, Trebnitz, Waldenburg, Wohlau.

Regierungsbezirk (district) of Oppeln with 20 Kreise (counties):

Beuthen-Stadt, Beuthen-Land, Falkenberg, Gr.Strehlitz, Grottkau, Kattowitz, Kosel, Kreuzburg, Leobschuetz, Lublinitz, Neisse, Neustadt, Oppeln, Pless, Ratibor, Rosenberg, Rybnitz, Tarnowitz, Tost-Gleiwitz, Zabrze.

Regierungsbezirk (district) of Liegnitz with 21 Kreise (counties):

Bolkenhain, Bunzlau, Freystadt, Glogau, Goldberg-Hainau, Goerlitz-Stadt, Goerlitz-Land, Gruenberg, Hirschberg, Hoyerswerda, Jauer, Landeshut, Lauban, Liegnitz-Stadt, Liegnitz-Land, Loewenberg, Lueben, Rothenburg, Sagan, Schoenau, Sprottau.

In 1919 the province was divided into two provinces:

Niederschlesien (Lower Silesia) being the districts of Breslau and Liegnitz and Oberschlesien (Upper Silesia) being the Oppeln district.

The terms lower and upper refer to the main Oder river of Silesia.

Each Kreis was headed by the Landrat who presided over the Landratsamt.

The Landratsamt records are deposited in the Polish archives with published brief inventories.

The Landrat was in charge of passport and emigrations matters and reported to the district Regierung who in turn gave data to the provincial Oberpraesidium in Breslau.


What about the remaining Silesian areas outside Prussia?


Oesterreichisch-Schlesien (Austrian-Silesia) remained with Austria after the Breslau peace treaty of 1742 with Prussia as an Austrian duchy and crown land.

In 1890 it comprised the following districts:

Staedte (cities) of Troppau, Bielitz, Friedek.

Bezirkshauptmannschaften (land districts) of Bielitz, Freistadt, Freiwaldau, Freudenthal, Jaegerndorf, Teschen, Troppau.

In 1920 the area was incorporated into the new Czechoslovakia.

In 1945 the German population suffered the same ethnic cleansing as the rest of Silesia and East Germany.


What were the court districts in Schlesien before 1900?


The highest Silesian court was the Oberlandesgericht in Breslau with records deposited at the Wroclaw archives today.

The lower courts (Landgerichte) and lowest courts (Amtsgerichte) were Landgericht Beuthen with (5) Amtsgerichte:

Beuthen, Kattowitz, Koenigshuette, Myslowitz, Tarnowitz.

Landgericht Breslau with (5) Amtsgerichte:

Breslau, Kanth, Neumarkt, Winzig, Wohlau.

Landgericht Brieg with (6) Amtsgerichte:

Brieg, Grottkau, Loewen, Ohlau, Strehlen, Wansen.

Landgericht Glatz with (11) Amtsgerichte:

Frankenstein,Glatz, Habelschwerdt, Landeck, Lewin, Mittelwalde, Muensterberg, Neurode, Reichenstein, Reinerz, Wuenschelburg.

Landgericht Gleiwitz, with (6) Amtsgerichte:

Gleiwitz, Nikolai, Peiskretscham, Pless, Tost, Zabrze.

Landgericht Glogau with (15) Amtsgerichte:

Beuthen, Carolath, Freistadt, Glogau, Gruenberg, Guhrau, Halbau, Herrnstadt, Kontopp, Neusalz, Polkwitz, Priebus, Sagan, Sprottau, Steinau.

Landgericht Goerlitz with (10) Amtsgerichte:

Goerlitz, Hoyerswerda, Lauban, Marklissa, Muskau, Niesky, Reichenbach, Rothenburg, Ruhland, Seidenberg.

Landgericht Hirschberg with (12) Amtsgerichte:

Bolkenhain, Friedeberg, Greifenberg, Hermsdorf, Hirschberg, Laehn, Landeshut, Liebau, Loewenberg, Schmiedeberg, Schoemberg, Schoenau.

Landgericht Liegnitz with (8) Amtsgerichte:

Bunzlau, Goldberg, Haynau, Jauer, Liegnitz, Lueben, Naumburg, Parchwitz.

Landgericht Neisse with (8) Amtsgerichte: 

Falkenberg,Friedland,Neisse, Neustadt, Oberglogau, Ottmachau, Patschkau, Ziegenhals

Landgericht Oels with (10) Amtsgerichte:

Bernstadt, Festenberg, Gr.Wartenberg, Militsch, Namslau, Neumittelwalde, Oels, Prausnitz, Trachenberg, Trebnitz.

Landgericht Oppeln with (14) Amtsgerichte:

Gr.Strehlitz, Guttentag, Karlsruh, Konstadt, Krappitz, Kreuzburg, Kupp, Landsberg, Leschitz, Lublinitz, Oppeln, Pitschen, Rosenberg, Ujest.

Landgericht Ratibor with (10) Amtsgerichte: 

Bauerwitz, Gnadenfeld, Hultschin, Katscher, Kosel, Leobschuetz, Loslau, Ratibor, Rybnik, Sohrau.

Landgericht Schweidnitz with (10) Amtsgerichte:

Freiburg, Friedland bei Waldenburg, Gottesberg, Nieder-Wuestegiersdorf, Nimptsch, Reichenbach, Schweidnitz, Striegau, Waldenburg, Zobten.

The whereabouts of the records for the Landgerichte and Amtsgerichte
is unknown. Of special interest are the land deed records (Grund- und
Hypotheken-Acta) with no published survey known to date..

These records usually start with a land title history (=tituli possessionis)
going back 50 or more years from the beginning of the first deed book (1783).

Legal basis for these land records is the Prussian Hypotheken-Ordnung of 1783.

Stadt-Gericht (1802-1849), Kreisgericht (1849-1879),

Amtsgericht (after 1879).

Since Schlesien enjoyed a special status in the Prussian monarchy, all
state records remained in the province with no records transfered to the
Berlin archives.

Last testaments and wills, Erbscheine, orphan records would be deposited in the local Amtsgericht (in the Hypotheken-Acta, if land ownership and remarriages were involved).

A remarriage of a widower/widow was always documented in the Amtsgericht stating in detail the estate rights of surviving children as well as rights and duties of parents and step parents. This is a source at the Amtsgericht which is widely unknown and untapped (and unfilmed by the LDS).

If you are looking for records which describe the life and tribulations of your ancestors, you cannot miss looking at the court records.

Land reform changed the ownership structure of the rural populace which is refl purpose and a prime genealogical source available in the archives at
Breslau (Wroclaw).


Is there a listserv for Schlesien family researchers?


There is a genealogy list

For anyone with a genealogical interest in the Schlesien/Silesia region of Germany.
To subscribe send message to -
with the single word subscribe in the message subject and body.
To join the digest-mode list -

DEU-SCHLESIEN-D, send same message to

A more general list is  PRUSSIA-ROOTS-L@rootsweb.com

  To subscribe send the word "subscribe" (without the quotes) as the only text in the body of a message to

PRUSSIA-ROOTS-L-request@rootsweb.com (mail mode) or
PRUSSIA-ROOTS-D-request@rootsweb.com (digest mode).


How do I find locations and maps for Schlesien before 1945?


An atlas is usually not the best tool to locate small towns or villages. Maps of scales 1:25,000 (Messtischblatt) or 1:100,000 (Karte des Deutschen Reiches and Kreiskarten) and gazetteers (Ortsverzeichnis)are.

The best German gazetteer is -

Meyers Orts- and Verkehrslexikon des Deutschen Reiches,1912 edition,   which is available on microfiche in the LDS Family History Centers.

 There is LDS microfilm #068814 available of  Karte des Deutschen Reiches, scale 1:100000, 1km = 1cm which may be loaned thru the LDS Family History Centers.  It covers Germany for 1914-1917.

Topographical Maps (Messtischblaetter 1:25000) may also be purchased from -
 Bundesamt fuer Kartographie und Geodaesie
10785 Berlin, Germany

E-mail: kart@ifag.de


see also


For German-Polish place name dictionary, see -



What books discuss hints and sources for East German searchers?


Wegweiser fuer Forschung nach Vorfahren aus den Ostdeutschen und  Sudetendeutschen Gebieten sowie aus den deutschen Siedlungsraeumen   in Mittel-,Ost- und Suedosteuropa (AGoFF-Wegweiser):

Verlag Degener & Co, 91413 Neustadt, Germany (1991 and later)         (The out-of-print English edition is being revised presently)

Germanic Genealogy (by Edward R.Brandt et alii), 2nd edition 1997, St.Paul MN, 517 pp.,1st edition, 1995.

Kowallis, Otto K.:  A genealogical guide and atlas of Silesia/compiled from original maps by Otto K. Kowallis, Vera N. Kowallis. Logan, Utah :  Everton Publishers,  c1976. xiv, 442 p. :  maps ;  28 cm.

Triest, Felix: Topographisches Handbuch von Oberschlesien, 2. Aufl.,       reprint of the first ed., Breslau 1864

Verlag: Thorbecke, Sigmaringen, Beitraege zur Geschichte und Landeskunde Oberschlesiens 2 vols. (1984), ISBN 3-7995-6511-6

W.Krallert: Atlas zur Geschichte der deutschen Ostsiedlung,            Velhagen & Klasing, Bielefeld-Berlin-Hannover 1958.

There have been some calls recently for books in English on the German exodus and ethnic cleansing in East Germany and Eastern Europe:

Thorwald, Jurgen: Es begann an der Weichsel.  1951

Das Ende an der Elbe. 1952.

English:  Flight in the winter; [New York]  Pantheon  [1951] 318 p.  22 cm.
CALL #: 940.542 T52F

De Zayas, Alfred M. Anmerkungen zur Vertreibung der Deutschen aus dem Osten.

English: The German expellees :  victims in war and peace/                   Alfred-Maurice De Zayas ; [original German version translated by John A. Koehler]. New York :  St. Martin's Press,  1993. xlii, 177 p., [24] p. of plates :  ill., map ;  22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [161]-169) and index. 

CALL #: DJK 28.G4D413 1993

De Zayas, Alfred M. Anmerkungen zur Vertreibung der Deutschen aus dem Osten.

English: A terrible revenge :  the "ethnic cleansing" of the east European Germans, 1944-1950 /  Alfred-Maurice de Zayas ;

[original German version translated by John A. Koehler].1st pbk. ed. with additions.  New York :  St. Martin's Press,  1994. xlii, 179 p. :  ill., maps ;  21 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [153]-171) and index. 

CALL #: DJK 28.G4D413 1994


Germans  Europe, Eastern  History  20th century.
World War, 1939-1945  Refugees.
World War, 1939-1945  Atrocities.
Population transfers  Germans.




What type of land records are available?


In addition to the deed and mortgage records deposited at the courts (Amtsgerichte) a prime and practically unknown source is the Generalkommission fuer Schlesien zu Breslau with records deposited at the state archives in Wroclaw and comprising 42400 volumes for the years 1769,1816-1928.


How can I get information on Polish archives?


For information on archives consult the web site:





Krusch:Geschichte des Staatsarchivs zu Breslau (=Mitteilungen der Preuss. Archivverwaltung, XI), Leipzig 1908.

Staatsarchiv Breslau-Wegweiser durch die Bestaende bis zum Jahr 1945, Schriften des Bundesinstituts fuer ostdeutsche Kultur und Geschichte, Bd. 9,  1996, ISBN 3-486-56045-X; R. Oldenbourg Verlag Muenchen, 480 pp.

According to norbert.attermeyer@t-online.de the table of contents of the Breslau-Wegweiser is -

I. Akten der Staatlichen Verwaltung
   Akten von Behoerden der allgemeinen Verwaltung 1740 - 1945
   Akten anderer Behoerden der Staatsverwaltung 1740 - 1945

II. Akten der Selbstverwaltung
    Akten schlesischer Staedte
    Akten schlesischer Gemeinden

III. Akten von Justizbehoerden und Notariaten
     Akten der Staatsanwaltschaften
     Akten schlesischer Gerichte
     Akten schlesischer Notariate

IV. Akten von Unternehmen, Finanz -, Kredit- und Versicherungsinstituten       sowie Landgutakten
     Akten von Industrie - und Handelsinstituten
     Akten von Finanz-, Kredit - und Handelsinstituten
     Akten der Landgueter

V. Akten von kulturellen Einrichtungen, Bildungsinstitutionen und religioesen Organisationen
    Akten von Schulen und wissenschaftlichen Einrichtungen
    Akten von Einrichtungen der evangelischen und der katholischen Kirche und von Kloestern

VI. Akten politischer, sozialer und kultureller Organisationen, von Berufsverbaenden und von Vereinen

VII. Akten von Familien und Personen

VIII. Lose Sammlungen, Karten und Plaene, die keinen Bestaenden        zugeordnet werden koennen

The 1997 flooding in Schlesien have damaged the archives severely according to the following report:

"In July 1997 there was a disastrous flood in the South-Western part of Poland. It caused much damage in the state archives of institutions and work establishments.

Particularly great damage suffered archives submitted to the Polish State Archives Head Office.

The State Archive in Opole.

Flooded cellars, damaged central heating and electrical installations.
The Nysa Section of the State Archive in Opole.
The water has flooded the resource of 400 m of archive files and a book collection, damaged an equipment and an elevation of the building.

The State Archive in Wroclaw.

All the resource ie. about 2000 m of archive files has been flooded, an electrical installation, bookshelves walls and equipment are destroyed.

The Section of State Archive in Wroclaw in Kamieniec Zabkowicki.

Ground floor rooms, and the some extend also archives have been flooded. Archives of institutions, amongst others the Voivodship Court in Wroclaw, the District Court in Koscierzyn-Kozle.

There suffered archives of schools and work establishments.

Undertaken and realized actions:

The Main State Archives Council is gathering information about damage. Through the Civil Defence Staff, as well as anti-flood staffs it has send a message informing about threat, and indispensable action to be undertaken in case of flooding an archive; to the subordinate institutions there has been sent an information concerning methods of preliminary protection of flooded archives, as well as disinfection and conservation activities; any advice and factual help can be obtained at the Central Conservation Laboratory at the General Archive of Historical Records

tel. (022) 831-54-91 int. 39
      (022) 635-45-32 int. 39/.

- Undertaken and planned actions:

- freezing of flooded resources,

- disinfection in progress,

- repair work in damaged rooms,

- conservation of records damaged by the flood,

- repair and modernization of buildings.

The preliminary cost of these work is estimated at 4.5 milion zloty. It will last up to the end of 1998 /in case of the conservation work even up the the end of 2002/.

"Poland Archive Disaster Appeal"

A Guide of the Breslau (=Wroclaw) archives:

Archiwum Paqstwowe we Wroc3awiu : przewodnik po zasobie archiwalnym do 1945 roku/pod red. Andrzeja Derenia i Ro&cislawa /erelika ;

[aut. Barbara Baworowska et al.] ;

Naczelna Dyrekcja Archiwsw Paqstwowych. [Archiwum Paqstwowe we       Wroclawiu]

Publisher: "Arboretum": Wroclaw: 1996

ISBN: 83-86643-95-1 [NDAP, popr.] 384, [2] pp. Bibliogr. s. 337-343.


When were civil registers introduced?


Civil registers  of births, marriages, deaths were introduced in October 1874. The Civil registry office is called Standesamt.

Prior to 1874, the church records (Kirchenbuecher) of the official churches (Evangelic and catholic) served as recognized documents for the purpose of proving one's birth, marriage, and death and had to meet certain standards of accuracy and completeness. Members of minor (unrecognised) churches had to record their vital statistics with the pastor of the official churches.

A  duplicate copy was deposited at the local court (Amtsgericht).

Most Standesamt (Polish: Urzed Stanu Cywilnego) records remained in the old offices and were taken over by the Polish authorities in 1945. They are listed in the Gazetteer of Polish People's Republic Localities.

The full title is SPIS MIEJSCOWOSCI POLSKIEJ RZECZYPOSPOLITEJ LUDOWEJ, published in Warsaw 1968, and on LDS microfilm #844,922.


Any websites of interest to Schlesien researchers?












Stiftung Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek Herne.
(ehemals Buecherei des deutschen Ostens)
Inhalt: Ueber die Bibliothek. Die Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek....

e-mail: charly@charly.ping.de


Herder -Institut Marburg e.V. Gisonenweg 5 - 7, 35037 Marburg/Lahn
Telephon: 06421/184-0, Telefax: 184-139
e-mail: herder@mailer.uni-marburg.de....



Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin.
Archivstra_e 12-14 D-14195 Berlin (Dahlem)
Tel.: (030) 839 01141 Fax: (030) 839 011 80



Polish-German place dictionary:


Genealogival sources:

http://www.feefhs.org/s&f/kbak-ae.html Sources A-E
http://www.feefhs.org/s&f/kbak-fg.html Sources F-G
http://www.feefhs.org/s&f/kbak-hk.html Sources H-K
http://www.feefhs.org/s&f/kblz-lo.html Sources L-O
http://www.feefhs.org/s&f/kblz-ps.html Sources P-S
http://www.feefhs.org/s&f/kblz-tz.html Sources T-Z

If you have no access to the Web (www), you can direct web files to your email box by sending a request to


or to


with the message HELP or  get http://.....

You can expect to receive the www-document in your email box.

You also may simply send message HELP to above addresses, if your request fails. This way you will find out whether or not you made a mistake in sending your request.

(This would NOT work for home pages with "frames")


Are there links to dictionaries on the web?


Links to Dictionaries to  Estonian, German, Hungarian, Latin, Slovak, Slovene, Russian, and others are found at:



Are there emigration records available?


The state archives have many emigration records.

For details see:

Learned, Marion Dexter, 1857-1917:

Guide to the manuscript materials relating to American history in the German state archives, Washington, D.C., Carnegie Institution of Washington. Publication no. 150 , 1912, 352 p.: -also Kraus reprints NY 1965- p.78-83:Breslau archives (there are a number of updates  done by the LOC Manuscript Division, call no.L173.L4 Suppl. 1929-1932, vol.1 p.118-132 for Breslau).

Suggestions for improvements are appreciated. Adalbert Goertz (goertz@cyberspace.org)


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