West Prussia (Westpreußen) History

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In the Middle Ages, the geographic area of Provinz Westpreußen was inhabited by Slavic and Baltic tribes: by Pomeranians in Pomerelia west to Vistula river, by Old Prussians and later Masovians in Kulmerland, and by Old Prussians (mainly Pomesanians) in the part of the region located east to Vistula river and north to Kulmerland. Due to immigration and cultural changes, the population became mixed over centuries and consisted of Germans, Kashubians, Poles, as well as Slovincians, Huguenots, Mennonites, and Jews, among others.

In the Thirteen Years' War (1454–1466), the towns of the Prussian Confederation in Pomerelia and the adjacent Prussian region east of the Vistula River rebelled against the rule of the Teutonic Knights and sought the assistance of King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland. By the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466, Pomerelia and the Prussian Culm (Chełmno) and Marienburg (Malbork) lands as well as the autonomous Prince-Bishopric of Warmia (Ermland) became the Polish province of Royal Prussia, which received special rights, especially in Danzig (Gdańsk). The province became a Land of the Polish Crown within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) by the 1569 Union of Lublin.

The Provinz of Westpreußen was established in 1773 when the First Polish Republic was divided between Prussia, Russia and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Proviz Westpreußen was divided in 1806 by Napoleon, and restored in 1815. In  1919 the Treaty of Versailles granted most of Westpreußen to the Second Polish Republic. This action created the "Polish Corridor" and granted Poland access to the Baltic Sea. Westpreußen was disestablished in 1922.

During the long period of German administration and settlement, most civil records and many church records used for researching family history were written in the German language. A notable exception was Catholic church records, which were kept in the Latin language.