Mecklenburg existed in various forms for hundreds of years. It began as a single duchy in about 1547. It was split into two duchies in 1621, each named for their major cities. Mecklenburg-Schwerin being the western duchy and Mecklenburg-Gustrow being the eastern duchy. Mecklenburg underwent further changes in 1701 that had no effect on its external borders. Mecklenburg-Gustrow dissolved and was combined into Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz was formed in its place along the eastern border. Mecklenburg-Strelitz was much smaller than Mecklenburg-Schwerin by comparison, being roughly equivalent in size to the state of Rhode Island in the United States. Mecklenburg-Schwerin increased in size and ended up approximately the size of the state of Connecticut.
Mecklenburg came under the occupation of Prussia for a few years beginning in 1759, like many of the surrounding political units. However, the two Mecklenburg duchies managed to remain autonomous for nearly another century. Mecklenburg-Schwerin came under the influence of another outside party in 1812 as Napoleon entered the region. It was during this period that the two Mecklenburg Duchies were elevated to the status of Grand Duchies and the Dukes became Grand Dukes.
Mecklenburg-Schwerin became a part of the German Empire in 1871 along with all of the other German States. The next border changes occurred in 1945, at the close of WWII, when Germany was split into two republics. Mecklenburg-Schwerin remained as a recognized area until 1952. At that time, the East German government dissolved what had been known as Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz for centuries. The resulting new jurisdictions were Neubrandenburg, Rostock and Schwerin. After the reunification of Germany, Mecklenburg again regained its status as a political jurisdiction. Mecklenburg is included in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
History of Emigration
Emigration from Mecklenburg to the United States began in earnest in the early 1800's, accelerated through mid century and began slowing after the unification in 1871. There had been some earlier migration to Russia in the late 1700's which has been documented in Karl Stumpp's book on "The Emigrants from Germany to Russia". It is estimated that during the peak years from 1850-1860 as many as 50,000 Mecklenburgers, about 9% of the population, emigrated primarily through the port of Hamburg. This resulted in the Mecklenburgers comprising 25% of the traffic through Hamburg during this period. Up to 50,000 more inhabitants left Mecklenburg in the next decade prior to unification, many of which settled in Hamburg.
Copyright © 1995-2004 Herb Femling
Updated May 23, 2004
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