Hesse (Prussia) Genealogy Research

Karte Hessen 1930 selbst gezeichnet gemeinfrei (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Karte Hessen 1930 selbst gezeichnet gemeinfrei (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you may already know, the region of the world sometimes referred to as Prussia was both large and diverse, incorporating lands far beyond East & West Prussia. My wife’s family comes from one such area, the lands between Kassel and Darmstadt in what is today: Hessen, Germany.

If you, like me, are looking for genealogical search aids and portals for the region of today’s German Province (State) of Hesse, here are numerous. But be aware, you will need to use your German skills to make the sites I have provided work optimally for you. If you do not read or speak German, you may wish to download and install Google Chrome as a browser of choice for the translation task, as it has the ability to translate pages instantly.

But before you begin any search, you really should learn a bit about the area and its history; and that is especially true of this region! To that end, what follows are some brief excerpts of the region(s)  from Wikipedia (along with links to the source articles).

The Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt (German: Landgrafschaft Hessen-Darmstadt) was a State of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled by a younger branch of the House of Hesse. It was formed in 1567 following the division of the Landgraviate of Hesse between the four sons of Landgrave Philip I.

The residence of the landgraves was in Darmstadt, hence the name. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, the landgraviate was elevated to the Grand Duchy of Hesse following the Empire’s dissolution in 1806. (see: Wikipedia for more.)

The Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine (German: Großherzogtum Hessen und bei Rhein), or, between 1806 and 1816, Grand Duchy of Hesse (German: Großherzogtum Hessen)—as it was also known after 1816—was a member state of the German Confederation from 1806, when the Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was elevated to a Grand Duchy, until 1918, when all the German monarchies were overthrown. Before 1866, its northern neighbour was its former sister Landgraviate, since 1803 an Electorate, of Hesse-Kassel – for this reason, this state was sometimes colloquially known as Hesse-Darmstadt. (see: Wikipedia for more.)

Hesse-Nassau Province (German: Provinz Hessen-Nassau) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1868 to 1918, then a province of the Free State of Prussia until 1944.

Hesse-Nassau was created as a consequence of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 by combining the previously independent Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel), the Duchy of Nassau, the Free City of Frankfurt, areas gained from the Kingdom of Bavaria, and areas gained from the Grand Duchy of Hesse (Hesse-Darmstadt; including part of the former Landgraviate of Hesse-Homburg). These regions were combined to form the province Hesse-Nassau in 1868 with its capital in Kassel and redivided into two administrative regions: Kassel and Wiesbaden. (see: Wikipedia for more.)

The Electorate of Hesse (also known as Hesse-Kassel [and Kurhessen]) was a state elevated by Napoleon in 1803 from the Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel. When the Holy Roman Empire was abolished in 1806, the Prince-elector chose to remain an Elector, even without an Emperor to be elected.

In 1807, with the Treaties of Tilsit the area was annexed to the Kingdom of Westphalia, but in 1814 the Congress of Vienna restored it, under its previous name.

The state, consisting of several detached territories to the north of Frankfurt, survived until 1866 with the name of an electorate within the German Confederation. It contained a superficial area of 3699 square miles, and its population in 1864 was 745,063. (see: Wikipedia for more.)

With that background, hopefully you have a bit of an understanding of the region (geography) and history. Now on to the lists I hope you will find to be both useful and informative:

Should you desire more, you will find additional German Research Resources throughout ManyRoads including many historical maps, research links (select those under German/ Prussian headers), Geschichte Hessens (Histories of Hessen) and German/ Prussian Histories.

If you are stumped and do not really know where to start I offer the following:

  • Please feel free to join & participate in the Ethnic German Genealogy group on Linkedin (managed by me…).
  • Use our Contact page to get in touch with me directly, I am happy to schedule a chat to brainstorm options for your search (there is no charge).