[Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Catholic Poles and Lutheran Germans

Jerry Frank franklyspeaking at shaw.ca
Sat Sep 14 09:51:48 PDT 2013

I have not heard of Lutherans being registered in Catholic churches in Volhynia.  If any readers find such records, please let us know.  Most certainly they did so in Russian Poland, not because they wanted a church connection but because they were mandated to do so by the government as long as there was no Lutheran church nearby to accommodate the registration.  Jews also registered at Catholic churches until their synagogues were given permission to do registrations, I think in the 1830s or so.  Mennonites registered at Lutheran or Catholic churches because they were not officially recognized as a church.

In Volhynia, government regulations were more lax, at least until the 1890s.  Although parish buildings were few and far between, a Betshaus (literally prayer house) was a common entity.  Registration was done through the local Lutheran Kantor (lay preacher / teacher) which most communities, or groups of communities, had.  He was authorized to perform baptisms, conduct funerals, and teach confirmation class.  Only the pastor could serve communion and perform marriages.  When the pastor came through the area, he would copy the Kantorate records into the official church book.  The Kantor did not always do a good job.  I recall seeing a note on one of the pages of St. Pete records where the pastor was decrying the poor quality and accuracy of the records he had received from a Kantor.

If some records for a particular event are missing in Volhynia, it is not generally because they are recorded at a Catholic church but rather that the Kantor missed the entry, the pastor missed copying it, a book for a particular period of time is missing, etc. 

German Catholics in Volhynia were quite rare.  Those there were often in the cities, occupied in some special trade rather than in farming.   

Jews in Volhynia were not large estate owners.  They were not permitted to own land in the 19th century.  They were numerous in number, being part of the Pale of Settlement.  I don't know the percentage of farmers vs. tradesmen but for those that were farmers, think "Fiddler on the Roof".

Rumors of Jewish connections seem to abound among Germans from Russia but I have never seen any verified stories of such a connection.  Don't forget that Jews did not use surnames until mandated to do so by Napoleon in the late 1700s.  It is far more likely that they adapted or adopted a German surname than that they are your ancestor.  I am not saying that the possibility should never be explored but if other options remain open to you, consider them first.  I am not aware of any particular history that suggests that German Lutherans married Jews, certainly no more so than that they married a Catholic, a Pole, a Ukrainian or any other faith or ethnicity.  Such events occurred but they were very rare in the 19th century or earlier.

And finally two comments from the other part of the thread.  The Vistula Germans tag is commonly applied to those Germans who lived along the Wisla River east of Thorn and on to Warsaw.  As of 1815, this territory became part of Russian Poland so after that year there would be no migration of Vistula Germans to Russian Poland.  They were already part of it.

And regarding Germans being known as Russians after 1854 - this was not the case.  They always remained German by ethnicity (of course often adapting some local customs and food items along the way).  But they became Russian as a nationality based on the controlling power at the time.  For example, in 1921, the Germans in western Volhynia who had been Russian, now became Polish.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Charlotte Dubay" <hoeserhistory at aol.com>
To: ger-poland-volhynia at sggee.org
Sent: Saturday, September 14, 2013 9:45:57 AM
Subject: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] Catholic Poles and Lutheran Germans

Linda Susak wrote on Sept 14, 2013: 

In my family, Vistula Germans, before they moved to Russian Poland sometime after 1860s, the difference was between Catholic and Lutheran.  The people married each other or people from other German villages.  It was a great "sin" to marry a Pole because he/she was Catholic.  One sibling of my grandmother did this, and the family never spoke to him again.  He was totally ostracized from the community.

From: Krampetz at aol.com
To: hoeserhistory at aol.com, ger-poland-volhynia at sggee.org
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2013 8:56:29 PM
Subject: Re: [Ger-Poland-Volhynia] German Prussians vs German Russians

There are two kinds of Germans from Russia too..
    Those that were from Russia (Volhynia) and
    Those from Poland, who gave Russia as their home.  
           -because they  were told they were Russian sometime after 1854(?)

Char writes:
Yes, prejudice between Catholics and German Lutherans ran deep. (I married a Catholic, and they loved him, but hated it when I "converted"- big to do on both sides - and this was in early 50s!) 

But actually in Heimthal and Volhynia area it was sometimes different - out of necessity. As I previously wrote, there were few actual parish buildings for church attendance. (The brick manse/church at Heimthal in particular wasn't  built until after my family left there in 1894.) So history shows that the Lutherans many times were married, or baptized USING A CATHOLIC CHURCH! Guess they figured it out: some church was better than none church! 

The Catholic church records are said to be thorough; I don't know procedure to get to the records, so I have not done this search. Should. I am missing protestant baptism records that were not found at St. Pete's.

I haven't done research to see what the population was in Volhynia for Catholics. Should do that, too. That would be interesting.  I know that Jewish farmers were rare. The Jews were generally business men and ran almost all of the factories in the full Volhynia region when my ancestors were there (100 some factories, and more than 100 run by Jews - I forget the statistic). Just a small % of the Jews were "farmers", (if I remember, like 3%) and they were generally owners of larger estates. 

I tried to do some research on local Judaism because some cousins think that our ggrandmother's family was Jewish, and perhaps converted in Heimthal. This thought is held because of old photos and whisperings in the family years ago. But I have had no luck finding Bonderman(n) history. Even had a Jewish genealogist do some checking for me in his records, but can't seem to find the surname Bonderman anywhere near. Weichman(n) families held Christian baptisms way back into history. And logic doesn't hold that there would be a peasant Jewish family in with all the German peasants/farmers - for love and marriage to happen...

New thought: isn't it strange that there is history shown that German Lutherans married Jews, but held such animosity toward Polish Catholics! hmmm. (Prejudice toward Poles was also very great in the Dakotahs as my German Lutheran ancestors arrived there. Couldn't date a "Polack" - or a "Russian". Guess that they took their opinions with them wherever they went. hah)

My ggrandfather lived in Bromberg as a child, and they hated Poles. The Prussian government would not allow Polish to be spoken on the streets of Bromberg just prior to my ancestors leaving the area. You were jailed if you did. No churches, or Polish schools were allowed to be built in Bromberg then, even though Poles were the majority and had been there way longer than the Germans (which you all probably know...). This was in early 1860s. We assume that his father died in the 1848 wars for "freedom" and more peasant rights. History seems ironic - and certainly seems to repeat itself.

Charlotte DuBay
hoeserhistory at aol.com

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