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German Genealogy

Braunschweig (Brunswick)

(Herzogtum / Duchy) [Presently in Niedersachsen] [Presently in Nordrhein-Westfalen]

Some basic facts about Brunswick: (from Uncapher, Wendy K. and Linda M. Herrick. German Maps & Facts for Genealogy. Janesville, Wisconsin: Origins Books, 2002)

  • Size: 1,424 square miles (comparable to Delaware at 1,933 square miles)

  • Population: 1831 - 245,798; 1846 - 269,034; 1855 - 269,213; 1864 - 292,708; 1871 - 312,170; 1875 - 327,493 (163,282 males and 164,211 females)

  • Dominant Religion: Protestant (1871 - Evangelical - 302,989; Catholic - 7,030; Other - 754; Jewish - 1,171)

  • Since 1949 part of: Niedersachsen

  • Formerly: Duchy

  • Prussian: No

  • Principal crops: grains, potatoes, sugar beets, fruit

  • Livestock: horses, cattle

  • Industry: sugar, concrete, sausage, timber

  • Minerals: coal, silver, copper

  • Rivers: Leine, Oker

Located in northwestern Germany, Brunswick was made up of three larger sections (Braunschweig-Helmstedt-Wolfenbüttel, Holzminden-Gandersheim, and Blankenburg) and six small enclaves which were totally surrounded by Prussian land: Thedinghausen along the Weser River near Bremen; Harzburg located between Hanover and Saxony; Calvörde bordered by Hanover and the Province of Saxony; Bodenburg located inside Hanover; Ölsburg located inside Hanover; and, Ostharingen located inside Hanover.

Brunswick was originally part of the Duchy of Saxony, but was constantly being divided among the ruling families (at one time being ruled by seven different branches of the Guelph family). Some of the more famous branches were Brunswick-Luneburg, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Brunswick-Bevern, Lüneburg-Celle, and Grubenhagen. In 1596, after all but one of the branches had died out, the two sons of Ernst of Lüneburg, who owned most of Brunswick, divided the land and created the two lines of Dannenberg and Lüneburg-Celle. The Lüneburg-Celle line later was called Hannover and eventually became the King of Hannover. The Dannenberg line took the name of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in 1635 and ruled Brunswick until 1735 when it became Braunschweig-Bevern line.

Brunswick suffered during the Reformation in the 1500s and during the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). It was transformed from a Catholic area to a Protestant one. The vast majority of the population was Lutheran.

After 1735, the House of Brunswick-Bevern was closely associated with Prussia, although Brunswick was never considered a Prussian province. During the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), Brunswick's Duke Ferdinand and his nephew were officers in the Prussian army.

A treaty with Hanover in 1788 gave the towns and factories in Zellerfeld, Grund, Wildemann and Lautental to Hanover. Brunswick received the forest land. There was joint custody of Rammelberg and Juliushall.

Brunswick was never large enough to play an important part in the politics of Germany. Brunswick owed debts to the English, who had come to their aid during wars in Germany. To pay their debt, Brunswick soldiers were sent to America during the American Revolution to fight for the English. Some of those German soldiers did not return home, but started new lives in America.

During Napoleon's raid through Germany, Brunswick sided with the Prussians. In 1806, Napoleon dissolved the Duchy of Brunswick and it became annexed to the Kingdom of Wetphalia, which Napoleon organized for his brother Jerome. This lasted until 1815, when the Treaty of Vienna dissolved the Kingdom of Westphalia and removed French control of German lands. Brunswick then became an independent Duchy again. Revolution swept through Brunswick before 1830, but Duke Wilhelm restored order after 1830, and new reforms were put in place.

In 1844, the state joined the Prussian Customs Union, which allowed trade to be conducted among Prussian provinces.

In 1871, Brunswick joined the newly created German Empire. After World War I, the last duke was deposed and Brunswick became a free state in the Weimar Republic in 1919. After World War II, it was in the British zone of occupation until 1946 when Brunswick became part of the modern state of Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) along with Hanover, Oldenburg, and Schaumburg-Lippe. The exclave of Calvorde became part of Saxony-Anhalt, which was located in East Germany.

The population of Brunswick was made up of Low Saxons, who originally spoke Plattdeutsch (Low German). The area to the north was most heavily populated because the south was hilly or mountainous. Less than a quarter of the population had a role in agriculture or forestry. The main crops were wheat, sugar beets and potatoes. The sugar beet waste products were used for the cattle industry.

The rights of primogeniture in Brunswick allowed the oldest son to inherit the family land instead of dividing it among all the surviving heirs. But this was not universally done throughout Brunswick. Some districts gave the land to the youngest male.

In the early 1800s, the population grew due to better life expectancy. This created more landless peasants looking for jobs. Marriage restrictions were instituted to slow the population growth, but this only increased the number of illegitimate births. Emigration was high during the 1840s, but dropped off through the 1850s. The marriage restrictions were repealed in the 1860s, and marriages increased. In the late 1800s, some migrated to other parts of Germany.

Civil registration was begun in 1876 in Brunswick, and the government kept records of births, marriages and deaths. The State archives have a Auswandererlisten (emigrant record) of those that left with permission. (Niedersächsisches Landesarchive-Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel, Forstweg 2, D-38302 Wolfenbüttel)


Braunschweig (Brunswick) -

  • Emigrant List from the former Duchy of Braunschweig 1846-1871 except the City of Braunschweig & the County of Holzminden, by Fritz Gruhne (surnames from the book)
  • Gruhne, Fritz. Auswandererlisten des ehemaligen Herzogtums Braunschweig. Ohne Stadt Braunschweig u. Landkrels Holzminden. 1846-1871. (Braunschweig) Braunschweigischer Geschichtsverein, 1971. 293 p. 24 cm. (Quellen und Forschungen zur braunschweigischen Geschichte, Bd. 20)  Emigrants are listed by town; a surname index follows. Does not include emigrants from the city of Braunschweig and the district of Holzminden. Every Name Index to this work.
  • Heinemeier, Dan C. History of Brunswick: Life in a German Duchy from Roman Times through 1900. Arlington, Virginia: Heinemeier Publications, 1999.
  • Smith, Clifford Neal. Brunswick Deserter-Immigrants of the American Revolution. McNeal, Arizona: Westland Publications, 1973, (1994 printing).54 p. (German-American genealogical research monograph, ISSN ISSN 0094-7806 ; 1)  Alphabetical list of deserter-immigrants giving birthplace, age, date, and place where the individual left service.