Family / Prussia

Research Progress

Our Earliest Story (prepared in 2021)

I have gone back about as far as I can with the sources that are available to me. I remain hopeful that some more church books from Liegnitz District have survived beyond those preserved by the LDS. Maybe as Bishop’s copies stored in Wroclaw archives or the like, that have not yet seen the light of day. But I do doubt they survived the world wars, Russian occupation and/or natural disasters. I will continue to pick around the edges on this front and am hopeful I will unravel some more possible relationships. With a full set of baptismal, marriage and burial records, and with the detail in which the Germanic churches recorded family information it is very possible to piece together generations of information – the issue is finding complete records still in existence. Missing volumes mean missing links, and without the links the chain to find generations is broken.  Another untapped source I feel are land records. And from what I understand they are available, but nothing I am aware of is digital and all require a lengthy trip to Poland – and probably some high level language skills. We know some names, dates and some related locations to get this search started once/if the records become available.

Basing our history on the development of surnames, the establishment of ‘Hoffmann’ (likely in earliest form ‘Hofmann’) can be traced back to the Liegnitz locality. This timeframe goes back to around the period of the reformation. The adoption of the surname Hoffmann was not unusual. It became highly used so any relationship between families should be treated with due caution.

Conjecture back earlier than this can only be gleaned from Dad’s DNA. We can assume that the Wyatt’s contributed to the UK result (Wales, Ireland, Devon, Cornwall etc). The highest proportion is made up of Germanic and Eastern Europe. Remembering that the Jarick line is Lusatian, the residue for the Hoffmanns/Polaks/Piltz (and with the generation another step back (Hoffmann/Hayn/Lux) this keeps us genetically in this area. Whether this be Slavic or Germanic our family movement through the centuries can probably be tied to historic migrations and colonization.

Ethnically our Hoffmann heritage could be Slavic or Germanic, and likely a combination of the two. 

Nationality-wise, the Hoffmanns would have flowed with whatever the dominant ruling class was as borders and authority changed in volatile Eastern Europe. 

9th Century Silesia was exclusively inhabited by Slavic peoples. By the 10th century the Czech Premyslids and Polish Piasts vied for control. All of the Silesian Piast rulers encouraged the immigration of Germans, who increased the region’s agricultural productivity, developed its coal mining and textile weaving, and populated new towns. As such the population took on an increasingly German character. There was some division across Silesia, initially with 3 principalities being established. It further fragmented and at one point there were as many as 16  sub-principalities operating. Largely the area became a province of Poland and part of the Piast Dynasty prior to 1335. After this it became ruled by the Bohemian crown and part of the Holy Rome Empire. Apart from a period (1425-35) where it was ruled by Hungary, here it stayed until 1526 when the crown passed to the Austrian Habsburg Dynasty.  The reformation turned Silesia almost entirely Protestant and then ensured an alignment with Protestant Bohemia and Saxony in rebellion against the Habsburgs. In 1742 Silesia was taken by Prussia. 

 In her eulogy it was read that GGGGrandmother Lux was born into the Kingdom of Prussia. This is probably the most accurate description. Prior to taking up citizenship after our Australian Immigration I would describe us as Silesian Prussians.

Religion-wise, prior to the Reformation we were part of the Holy Roman Empire. But as the Liegnitz region was an early adopter of the teaching of the Reformation we would have been Lutheran from an early stage.

We know that by 1791, Samuel Hoffmann (my 4xG Grandfather), the only son of Gottlieb Hoffmann had moved from Rosenau, which was 9.7km south of Liegnitz city, to marry the daughter of Samuel Hayn. The Hayn’s farmed in Panthen, a small village a few kms north of the centre of Liegnitz. Samuel Hoffmann worked land to the east of Liegnitz in the village of Gross Beckern and had 10 children in this location, raising 8 to adulthood. 

The church the family likely attended while residents at Rosenau, was in the neighboring village of Oyas (now Gniewomierz)   As I have found no records for Rosenau/Oyas the information prior to this is largely conjecture. Roseanu was a small village, and the Hoffmann family was well known, were not without resources and likely had substantial land holdings here. (Again I question whether this was our family, or maybe we were related). Samuel Hoffmann was the only son (there could have been daughters), so our surname would have departed with him. Gottlieb Hoffmann (Samuel’s father) may have had brothers, and as such there could have been cousins and wider family in the area. Gottlieb was referred to as a Bauermann. As such he likely farmed rather than owned. Our last piece of information from Rosenau (prior to the 1945 expulsion) is that an Emil Hoffmann was the main property owner and ‘Community Leader’. The village had a population of 314 people at this time. In this period the Lux family had similar holdings in Bienowitz.             

Edging earlier (Research carried out in 2022)

I gained access to the heritage resources of the LDS again in April with the easing of COVID restrictions after about 10 months. The Church had also been working on access to their collections during this period. But it is still restricted to physically attending centers (I am very lucky we have one close). It is time consuming work. 4 to 6 hours a week is necessary but I am creeping forwards (or backwards in this case). Research via digitisation rather than by the actual microfilm is much easier. There are still some gaps in their conversion. A number of years between when  the LDS stopped availability of films and had digitised what we were after also occurred when no research could be carried out.

The names of my 6xGreat Grandfathers on both sides of Maria Rosina Hayn (Samuel Hoffmann’s wife) were Caspar Hayn and Caspar Primpke. They would have both been born around 1720.

As I identify family members of this time we are slowly moving out of Prussian rule to being part of the previous Austrian Habsburg Dynasty! 

Although I have given up on directly following the Hoffmann line back at this point, I have found some links of this new research centering on the village of Barschdorff (Became Barschdorf and is now Bartoszów). This location is between where our Hoffmanns emigrated from and the area of Rosenau/Oyas. The Hoffmann surname is appearing here amongst other surnames that have definite family ties to known relatives. It is going to take a lot of luck – but it is the closest evidence I have seen.  
From a social perspective, it is interesting to study the movement of family. Mobility was restricted, opportunity to mingle with people outside of a known circle was also limited. The church obviously brought communities from villages together, and the same family surnames are being mentioned together. This observation is consistent even when viewing it over a century (but I note that I am not seeing any inbreeding – this is similar to Germanic communities in AU when marriage has been very much kept within the community).

A handful of the church books have been indexed. And these indexes have mention of family names living in similar village locations much earlier. There are errors and omissions – but it does fast track research. As a new strategy I am jumping back a hundred or so years and using these names to assemble families and potentially work forward. 


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