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Home > Databases > Local heritage books > Memelland

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Local heritage book of Memelland

click to zoom map
(Click on the map to zoom)

The Memelland is a territory separated from East Prussia after WWI, to which the Memel river formed the southern boundary. The lower course of the river separates into several branches, and here the boundary follows the course of the Russ and Skirkwieth rivers. For the Kurische Haff and Kurische Nehrung (the narrow tongue of land on the Baltic Sea, separated by a bay from the rest of the area), the boundary is the old line of separation between Kreis Memel and Kreis Fischhausen (two of the counties).

Consequently, Memelland includes the old Kreis, or county, of Memel and those parts of the old counties Heydekrug, Tilsit and Ragnit which are north of the river. From the last two counties mentioned the new county of Pogegen was formed (for an enlarged view, click on the map).

After being separted in accordance with the Versailles treaty, Memelland was first under the administration of the League of Nations (French authorization), then in 1923 it was occupied by military volunteers mainly from Lithuania. The area was subsequently annexed to Lithuania until, in 1939, it was returned to the German Reich and again integrated into East Prussia.

After fleeing the Red Army in 1944/45, and also after a very thorough evacuation (in the 50's and 60's) of the considerable number of Germans who either remained there or were taken to Siberia, the large majority of Memellanders and their descendants live in Germany at this time. The area once known as Memelland today belongs to Lithuania.

This databank combines entries of genealogical information from all 3 counties of the Memelland and some Lithuanian parishes (e.g. Schwelschen) on the (former) border, listing the ancestors and descendants of all persons living in the Memelland from the beginnings of recorded information until they fled to other places in October 1944.

So far our sources include the following:

  • church registers and civil records
  • Ahnenpässe (German passports from the Nazi time, which listed several generations of a person's ancestry)
  • certificates of all kinds
  • lists of parish members
  • family announcements in newspapers (e.g. obituaries)
  • muster rolls (for military)
  • address books from before WWII (like a city directory or phone book)
  • oral and written communications of all kinds

Since many original records (such as churchbooks) were, during the course of military operations and the coming of the Red Army, deliberately destroyed in some cases by the Russians, or are still missing to this day, many connections had to be made without absolute proof. These educated guesses may have led to mistakes, but such hypothetical connections are always indicated as such. Besides this, connections have been temporarily made in cases of great probability and these can be checked as the indexing of information continues. Unfortunately, sources are not listed along with information - these are, however, in my personal databank and will be gladly supplied upon request.

(Please note also the Instructions for using the register of names and place names, and the abbreviations being used)

Corrections, additions and copies of documents, Ahnenpässe or other sources are always very much wanted:

Instructions for using the Register of Names and Place Names:

Names of people and places are usually listed just as they appear in the record itself. For this reson the research must, unfortunately, consider all possible spellings of a name. Besides the common spelling variations (e.g. Meyer, Meier, Mayer or Maier, etc.), you should also try variations based on the following:

a is frequently changed to o in Memelland names: Szabries = Szobries
ae check also under e
c check also under cz, k, z
ch frequently changes to k : Heinrich = Endriks
chs check also under x
cz check also under c, sch, sz, tsch
d check also under t
e check also under ae, oe
eu check also under ei
f frequently changes to p : Friedrich = Pridriks
i check also under ue, y
j check also under g
k check also under c, ch
o can also stand for a in Memelland names
oe check also under e
p can also stand for f in memelland names
s check also under z
t check also under d
tsch check also under cz, c
sch check also under cz, sz, ß
ue check also under i
x check also under chs
y check also under i
z check also under c, s, sz, ß
ß check also under sch, sz

As one extreme example we can list the name Füllhaase, which also shows up written as Pilosas!

Examples of place names:
Jündschen = Gündszen
Norkaiten = Narkaiten
Schilleningken = Szilleningken, Szileninken

The following German first names correspond to these Memelland forms of the names:

Adam = Adoms, Adams
Christian = Kristions
Christoph = Kristups, Kristop
David = Dowids, Dawids, Dows, Daws
Erdmann = Erdmons, Ertmon
Friedrich = Pridriks, Pricz, Priez
Georg = Jurges, Jurge, Jurris, Jurs, Jurgutis
Hans = Ansas, Anskis, Anussis
Heinrich = Endrikis, Endriks, Endris
Jakob = Jokubs, Jakubs
Johann = Jonis, Jons, Janis
Martin = Martins, Mertins, Merczus
Max = often Miks! or Mikkelis!
Michael = Mikkelis, Mikkel, Michel, Miks
Wilhelm = Willums, Willoms, Willems, Willus
Anna = Annikke, Anicke
Barbara = Barbe, Barbike
Dorothea = Urte, Orte, Urtike, Urtuzze
Elsa = Elze, Elsze, Elske
Hedwig = Edwikke, Adwikke
Ilse = Ilze, Ilsze, Ilße
Katharina = Katryne, Katrine, Katre
Madline = Madlyne
Maria = Marinke, Mare, Marike
Regina = Ragine
Ursula = Szule

In the Memelland names, a woman's surname takes a certain ending depending on her marital status:
Unmarried women (those we used to call Fräulein) from particular regions get endings like these (using the name 'Aszmons' as an example):

-ate (e.g. in the parish of Proküls); Aszmonate = Miss Aschmann
-alle (e.g. parish of Memel Land); Aszmonalle = Miss Aschmann
-ikke (parishes of Ruß and Werden); Aszmonikke = Miss Aschmann

Married women, on the other hand, get the ending -ene for example:

Aszmonene = Mrs. Aschmann
Bendikene = Mrs. Bendiks
Zunnene = Mrs. Sunnus

Unfortunately, these forms are not always totally consistent in the data bank. In earlier periods of time this will hold true, but in the 20th century it is sometimes hard to decide which form a person actually used for herself. It was just at that time, especially from 1923 on, that there was a plarizing tendency with respect to languages and name forms - for or against either the German or Lithuanian - which threatened to divide the population of this area into two irreconcilable camps.

Abbreviations used in the entries to this data bank:

J = year(s)
kA = no age listed
M = month(s)
MD = Memel steamship
MR = Memeler Rundbrief (a newspaper)
S = page
SS = special publication
St = hour(s)
StA = civil registry office
VFFOW = Society for Family History Research in West and East Prussia
W = week(s)

:: More links
Pfeil Province East Prussia
Pfeil Memelland
:: Contact
For further information concerning these data and, if you have additions, corrections or questions, please contact:
(Messages please in German, English or Lithuanian!)