FAQs Re: Prussian Peasants Book

This section includes Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and links related to the book, Prussian Peasants Seek American Dream by Robert Joseph Bublitz.

Why Did You Write The Book, Prussian Peasants Seek The American Dream?

The primary reason I researched and wrote this book is to preserve my mother’s thirty-year family genealogy and Prussian history research for all to learn and enjoy the information about their heritage. Additionally, in 2018 approximately twenty percent of the U.S. Population and half the population of five states are descendents of Prussian Ancestors.  Surprisingly, most people including descendents are not even aware of this fact since very few books or documents exist which describe the peasant way of life in Prussia.  Instead, most of the existing documentation focus on the military aspects of the kingdom and their monarchs.   

How would you describe Prussia?

Prussia, which was ruled by a monarch (The Hohenzollern’s), became a great power over a five hundred year historical period with a population of approximately forty million people toward the end in the early 1900s, in which every able-bodied man was a trained soldier.  Prussia is recognized as not only one of the great powers in the eighteen hundreds but likely the first military power in Europe.  Prussia eventually became the backbone of  Unified Germany with Prussian Otto Bismark serving as the first president.

Prussia remained a Kingdom in the German Empire until Germany became a republic in 1918.  Prussia was abolished as a state in 1947 and divided among West Germany, East Germany, the Russian Republic of the USSR (now Russia) and Poland.  

What was the importance of Prussia?
Prussia which began as a relatively small region in 1415 gained considerable land through military conquests and the kingdom emerged as one of the five major world powers alongside Britain, France, Austria, and Russia.  Prussia is said to have been “an army with a country" whereas if the need arose, a million man army could be assembled on short notice. 

How much information is included in the book about the Kingdom of Prussia?

The introductory chapter provides a succinct description of Prussia including organization charts and photos.  An appendix provides an additional a four to seventeen page description of each province and provincial capital along with a reference maps and photos.

Where is Pomerania and Prussia?

Prussia was known as the breadbasket of Europe because of grain production in the Pomerania (Pommern) Provience which was approximately one-hundred-twenty miles directly north of Berlin.  The north border of Pomerania lies along the Baltic Sea.  The capital was Stettin (now Polish Szczecin).  Pomerania had an area about one fifth the area of Wisconsin.  Its greatest length in the north-south direction was about 50 miles.  From east to west Pomerania stretches about 175 miles.

What Was a Gutsbezirk?

Gutsbezirks, were agriculture estate districts in rural communities comparable to municipal units. In a Gutsbezirk there was no community representation.  Rather, they were managed by the respective landowners.  Therefore, all public rights and obligations were met by the landlord.  On 1 January 1928 there were 11,894 independent estate districts in Prussia alongside about 1,000 urban and 29,000 rural communities.  After 30 September 1928, all estate districts were largely dissolved.  On the basis of proposals from the district councils, they were incorporated into neighboring rural towns or transformed themselves into rural communities.

What was it like to be a Prussian Peasant?
Life was very challenging for Prussian Peasants.  Men were primarily engaged in agriculture on noble Gutzbezirks and/or eking out an existence on their own small acreage.  A woman either worked as noble estate servants and/or alongside their husbands on their own small plot of land. Nobles owned most of the land and buildings.  It was difficult to impossible for Peasants to accumulate any wealth or improve their social standing or life condition.  Serving in the Prussian military was mandatory for all men.

One Author Compared Prussian Peasants to Southern U.S. Plantation Slaves, is This a Fair Assessment?

Both the lifestyle of slaves and Prussian peasants were difficult, especially the physically demanding agriculture field work.  In each case, people were unable to accumulate wealth for their labor or own real estate.  The peasants could vote, but the system was rigged in favor of nobles.  Slaves did not have voting rights and were bought and sold by plantation owners (masters).  Prussian peasants were fairly free to move about.  Slaves were frequently whipped for punishment on plantations, whereas beatings were rare on Prussian Gutsbezirks.  Considering each group, the slaves had the most difficult way of living.

Did you find an abundance of Prussian History Documents and Descriptions of Peasant Life?

A limited number Prussian History document exist in English since history is written by the victors (mostly in German) and the nobles (written in a variety of languages).  Prussian History documents in English are also rare since, in 1871, Prussia became part of  Unified Germany and as a result, most of the documents describe German History. 

Documents describing Peasant Life in Prussia are even rarer since peasant’s education was limited. Many could not read and/or write.  This was a time when the ruling nobles regarded loyalty, obedience and hard work in high esteem.  Intellectual prowess was reserved for the noble class.  In addition to books and other documents, much of the text describing peasant life was gleaned from observing the way my grandmother continued to live in America as though she never left Prussia.

Did you experience any difficulties during the research phase because of language?

Yes, first, very few documents are in English that describes Prussia and Prussian peasant life. Additionally, I found the German to English translation of these document complicated.  One example is included in the book to show the difficulty.  Another issue I experienced was that many Prussian History documents that exist have been changed from Prussian to German history and the areas of Prussia which have been annexed to Poland are currently being changed to Polish history.  Also, many of the historical documents are printed using the "German black fracture" font which is undecipherable by any current translator.  

What were your most important discoveries in researching and writing this book?

  • The most important discovery in researching the book was the fact that approximately twenty percent of the U.S. population in 2018 are descendants of Prussian ancestors and most American are not even aware of this statistic.  Unknown in my teenage years, two of my best friends were also descendants Prussian ancestors.
  • Understanding what peasant life was like in Prussia, why peasants emigrated, their ocean voyage and the new life they experienced in America.
  • Discovering my Great Grandparents marriage certificate which confirmed the names of my Paternal Great-Great-Grandfathers (five generations back).
  • Insight into the source of my own values, beliefs, behavior, feelings, emotions, etc, as other Prussian descendants will discover in reading this book.

What were some of the surprises during the research phase?

  • The detail and quality of the maps which were constructed without the use of aerial photography or satellite imaging.  These maps were apparently constructed from non-GPS based transits using benchmark and closed loop surveying methods to ensure accuracy.  Included is a fourteenth-century map and several maps from the eighteen hundreds. 
  • The quickly built extensive rail system that was constructed during the late 1800 which is illustrated on the maps.
  • The likely source for the visions and personal experience with “God” that were common among peasants during the Fall grain harvest.  The scientific basis for the phenomenon was solved by my youngest daughter while studying for her master's degree in nutritional science.
  • Initially, I Wonder how the large several thousand acre fields were plowed, then I learned about steam engines, steam plows (a/k/a land locomotives) and portable steam engines.
  • The presence of electricity on noble estates during the eighteen hundreds.
  • The vast difference between noble and peasant life.    
  • The practice of witchcraft in such a religious society.
  • That birth records indicated whether the child was legitimate or illegitimate.  Children born out of wedlock in Prussia could not vote or attend public universities.      

How did the poor peasants afford immigration to America?

In the case of the immigration of the Albert Dorn Family including four daughters and three sons; one son emigrated to the United States in 1891, worked for a year as a farm laborer and then received an advance on the next year earnings.  The author believes this money exceeded the savings the family accumulated in over fifty years of living in Prussia.  This money and the family savings was used to pay the emigration expenses from Prussia to America.  In Prussia, peasants often lived on noble estates and owned only personal property which was likely sold except for the clothes on their back and what they could carry in bags during the sea voyage.  Typically, upon arrival in the United States, most of their shoes were nearly completely worn out from walking.  The migration path for other immigrants was very similar.

How long was the sea voyage?

Under sail, it usually took nearly a month and was very dangerous because of storms at sea and the wooden construction of sailing vessels.  The introduction of steam engines reduced the travel time to seven to ten days and was much safer because the ships were of larger steel construction with fewer people becoming sick during the crossing.

Was witchcraft practiced in Prussia?

Yes, it was very common practice.  However, some have suggested that declaring a woman a witch was a technique for taking away a single noble female's assets.  Three women are mention in the book who practiced witchcraft.  One was Sedonia von Borcke, one of the richest potential heirs in Pomerania.  A two-volume set of books describes Sedonia’s life which may be downloaded from Gutenberg.com on the internet site and read for free.  

My grandmother spoke of visions and conversations with God when she was a teenage girl while working in the fields during the grain harvest in Pomerania, have you heard similar incidents?

Yes, my grandmother also described these visions and conversation with God.  Additionally, one Sunday when we stopped to pick-up one of the grandmother’s friends for a church service, she described similar visions and conversations.  The potential sources of this phenomena are described in detail in the book.

Who were the Hapsburg’s

A branch of the Hapsburg family were the ruling monarchs of Prussia.  Another branch ruled Austria and other parts of central Europe. 

What is the relationship of the Polish town of Boblice (former German: Bublitz) to the Bublitz family surname?

Uncertain at this point, except the town name and our family surname are the same.  More research is needed to answer this question.

What was the history of religion in Prussia before the Reformation (abbreviated answer)? 

1. First, there were the Teutonic Knights from 1190 to 1561 along with the Templars and the Hospitallers.

2. Second came the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 to 1806.

3. Third, came Martin Luther and the Lutheran Religion (Evangelist Church) and the Reformation.

4. Prussia tried to consolidate the Calvinist and Lutheran religion into a declared state religion but instead settled for acceptance of multiple religions.

Detail answer to "what was the history of religion in Prussia before the Reformation?

David Nicolle's study of Teutonic Knights from 1190 to 1561.  The Military Order of Teutonic Knights was one of the three most famous Crusading Orders; the others being the Templar's and the Hospitallers.  Like these two, the Teutonic Knights initially focused upon the preservation of the Crusader States in the Middle East.  Wielding their swords in the name of their faith, the crusading knights set out to reclaim Jerusalem.  Unlike the Templar's they survived the crises of identity and purpose which followed the loss of the last Crusader mainland enclaves in the late thirteenth century and like the Hospitallers, they managed to create a new purpose - and a new field of combat - for themselves. Whereas the Hospitallers focused their energies in the eastern Mediterranean battling against Muslim armies, the Teutonic Knights shifted their efforts to the Baltic, to the so-called Northern Crusades against pagan Prussians and Lithuanians and, to a lesser extent, against Orthodox Christian Russia.  As a result, the Order of Teutonic Knights became a significant power, not only in the Baltic but in north-central Europe as a whole.  Paradoxically, however, it was their fellow Catholic Christian Polish neighbors who became their most dangerous foes, breaking the Order's power in the mid-fifteenth century.  The Teutonic Knights lingered on in what is now Estonia and Latvia for another century, but this was little more than a feeble afterglow.  The Teutonic Knight: 1190-1561 by David Nicolle and Teutonic Knights by William Urban's books examines this fascinating military and religious order in detail, revealing the colorful history of the crusades within Europe itself which changed the future of the continent.

Could you describe the organization of the book?  

The book is organizations into the following main sections: 
  • The main manuscript, 
  • Table of Contents (TOC) and Table of Figures (TOF), 
  • Extensive Appendix, 
  • Glossary of Terms, Index, and Bibliography.  
The book is approximately five hundred pages long and represents approximately thirty years of effort by my mother and approximately five years by myself.

The Table of Contents (TOC), is nine pages.  TOC provides a detailed outline of the manuscript from which an individual can obtain a good feel for the manuscript which they are about to read.    The Table of Figures which is also nine pages contains three-hundred-twenty-nine photos, maps, tables, and timelines.

Footnotes include brief author notes to clarify unfamiliar terms used in the text.  Also, footnotes are used to document the sources of quotes or references for information used in the book.  Five-hundred-and-ten footnotes and author notes are provided in the book.

Seven-page glossary of terms provides a more detail description of terms than the footnotes.

The fifteen-page index allows the reader to quickly look-up subjects that interest them before or after reading the book.

The thirty-three page bibliography provides the reader with the references used in preparing the book making it easy for the reader to conduct their own research.  

How many people are Mentioned In the Decendants Section of the book from Karl and Wilhelamina Bublitz?

Approximately eight hundred known people are mentioned in the Decendants and Surname Index of Given Names Reports from ancestors, Karl and Wilhelmina Bublitz.  Also included are Surname Distribution Maps for Germany and the USA.

When will the book be available?

The book is planned for availability in Q2, 2020. 

Page Last Updated: 04/08/2020