Understanding Your ...

Ancestors in Specific Locations:
Mecklenburg, Germany

Today the province of Mecklenburg where my ancestors lived is called Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The modern state, formed after World War II, has much different boundaries that the Mecklenburg of the past. It takes in much of the old Mecklenburg duchies as well as a portion of the western part of Pommerania (the rest is now part of Poland).

In previous centuries, the map of Europe looked much different than it does today. Germany, as a nation, didn’t exist until 1871. In 1618, the most dominant German power was the Holy Roman Empire ruled by the Catholic Hapsburgs from Vienna. Germany was fragmented into many states, varying in size and power, ruled by semi-independent princes. The Reformation had also split the country, with most of the southern states remaining Catholic while the northern states converted to Lutheranism.

Mecklenburg historically was composed of duchies. At the time of the Thirty Years’ War, the province consisted of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, where my family lived, and Mecklenburg-Gustrow. (A division made in 1701, which lasted until the twentieth century, separated the land into Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburgeltiz.) With an area similar to Connecticut, Mecklenburg-Schwerin was the bigger of the two duchies, and located on the western side.

The dukes of Mecklenburg squabbled constantly and mismanaged the duchies’ finances, often leaving the province in perilous circumstances. This enabled the greater powers that surrounded Mecklenburg to take advantage of the small, weak province. However, while in later history Prussia annexed much of the area around it, Mecklenburg remained independent until Germany’s unification in 1871.

Mecklenburg was known for being perhaps the most backwards of the German states. Fritz Reuter, the famous writer from Mecklenburg, often said that everything happened one hundred years later in his home province.

Life in Mecklenburg was different than life in other German states. However, it shared many characteristics and the people, of course, experienced many of the same events of history. You will find that quite a bit of the information below applies to other German states.

The list below shows the arrangement of information in this section. For more information, click on that link. To learn more about how to do genealogy research in Mecklenburg, look at the Useful Sources and Links for Mecklenburg section or check out the Records section.

 Some Major Events in History
   Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)
   Bauernkriegen or Farmer Wars (1733-1755)
   Seven Years’ War (1756-1763)
   Napoleon in Mecklenburg (1806-1813)
   Metternich and the German Confederation (1815)
   1820 Abolition of Serfdom
   Revolutions of 1830 and 1848
   Unification of Germany (1871)
 Peasant Life
   Living Conditions
   Some Demographic Statistics
 Useful Sources and Links