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The history of Germany and its German heritage has been recorded as being much richer than most genealogy researchers realize. Before Germany there was Germania, a very large controlled area that covered several countries of the same area in today’s time. The German heritage is different for each of the families from this area. From the Roman and German tribes that fault battles all across the country trying to gain control to the many influences German history has contributed to the world.

The Tree Maker has written this information to help those history buffs that want to know more about their German heritage. We hope you will find this information of help in your research for your coat of arms, family crest, or the finding of direct line names within your lineage.

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History of Germany and its German Heritage

Display your German coat of arms or your Germany heritage

The History of Early Germany and its Heritage: The origin of the German people is unknown. However, as early as the time of Alexander the Great, in the fourth century B.C., there is mention of German tribes around the Baltic Sea, in what is now Scandinavia. Moving southward and eastward, they reached the Rhine about 200 B.C. and soon afterward pushed on into northeastern Gaul. In 102 -101 B.C. the tribe of the Teutones {Teutons} invaded Illyria, Gaul, and Italy, but was defeated by the Roman general Marius. In his Commentaries Julius Caesar tells of his encounters with certain Germanic tribes in his Gallic Wars.

At various times in Roman history the Romans were concerned with different German tribes, and by the beginning of the Christian era, Roman dominion had been firmly established in Germany. In 9 A.D., however, when Emperor Augustus attempted to force Roman customs upon the German people, they rebelled under the leadership of Arminius and completely destroyed the Roman armies under General Varus. Never again did the Romans establish themselves in Germany, and in the early centuries of the Christina era they were often forced to defend themselves against the invasion of powerful German tribes. It is interesting to note that the Germans in reference to themselves did not use the name Germani; the Romans from a Gallic word probably formed it.

The roman historian Tacitus, writing about A.D. 100, gives in his Germania a valuable and interesting account of the customs and lives of the early Germans. Although they were all of German blood, speaking a common language and living under identical institutions, they were divided into many tribes. The early tribal names mentioned by the Romans have little historical significance; the better-known groupings of later times were confederations of tribes, such as the Alemanni, Franks, Vandals, Burgundians, Angles, Saxons, Lombards, and Goths. The Germans lived in a land of fen and forest, dwelling in small villages of wattled huts and practicing a rude form of agriculture. Most of the people were free peasants, but above them was the class of nobles and below ere the serfs and the slaves. A rudimentary form of representation prevailed in the village council and in the county assembly and court; in time of war the assembled tribesmen chose their military chieftain. During the later years of the Roman Empire the tribes bordering on the frontier became civilized and Christianized. To a considerable degree these Germans also became romanized, learning and adopting Roman building and farming methods and copying in many instances the Roman way of life.

The Wanderings of the German Nations: Late in the second century A.D., furious warfare among the German tribes led to increasing pressure on the Roman frontier. Many thousands of German colonists entered the empire, and great numbers of the barbaric tribesmen took service in the Roman legions, some rising to posts of command. Germans and Romans also intermarried, and the cultures of the two peoples were intermingled.

This peaceful penetration ended with the invasion of Europe by the Asiatic Huns about 375. The Visigoths {West Goths}, driven from their homes by the invaders, gained permission from Rome to settle south of the Danube; then followed in 378 the Battle of Adrianople in which the refugees defeated and killed the Roman emperor Valens. Later the Visigoths under Alaric invaded Italy, and in 410 they captured Rome. Eventually, the Visigoths settled in Spain and southern France. The Romans were no longer able to hold back the barbarians, who quickly swept over the doomed empire. The Vandals wandered into North Africa; the Burgundians slipped into southeastern Gaul; Angles, Jutes, and Saxons crossed the sea into Britain; the Ostrogoths {East Goths} conquered Italy as well as the upper Danube region; the Franks spread out into northwestern Gaul; and, in 568, the Lombards subjugated northern Italy.

The Roman Empire had lived on, after the fall of Rome in 476, with its capital at Constantinople; but west of the Balkans its territory was occupied by the several German kingdoms, which were virtually independent. Eventually these Germans merged with their subject peoples, becoming Italians, Spaniards, French, and English, and their history became the history of their new homelands. In general, Roman culture gave way to German culture, bringing the Dark Ages to Europe. Farming, trade, political organization, and urban society declined, as a relatively primitive civilization replaced one that was more advanced. Even generations removed from barbarian tribal life, and, although Roman influences did not die, the more backward order prevailed.

Empire under the Franks: While the other Germans migrated, the Franks merely expanded from their old homeland into northwestern Gaul, which they invaded in 481. By 486 the ambitious Frankish chief Clovis had defeated the Romans in Gaul and had set up his court in the old city of Paris. The Frankish kingdom expanded in all directions, conquering the Burgundians, Alemanni, Thuringians, and Bavarians and ending Visigoth power in southern Gaul. From the time of Clovis to the Treaty of Verdun in 843 the history of Germany is identical with that of France.

After the death in 814, of Charlemagne his great empire disintegrated. The Treaty of Verdum divided the empire among the three sons of Louis the Pious, Charlemagne's son and successor. The western kingdom grew into modern France; and the middle kingdom, including modern Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Alsace-Lorraine, northern Italy, and part of Switzerland, became a battleground and a buffer state. The eastern kingdom, which developed into modern Germany, went to Louis the German, the son of Louis the Pious. Louis reigned until 876 and made some advancement toward national unity. The son of Louis, Charles the Fat, succeeded for a time in reuniting the three kingdoms - France, Italy, and Germany, but as he was unable to defend his empire against the Northmen the nobles deposed him and elected his nephew, Arnulf, in his stead {887}.

Roman Empire and German Feudalism: On the death of Louis the Child, the last of the Carolingian dynasty {the line of Charlemagne}, the kingship became elective. The first king, Conrad I {911-18}, Duke of Franconia, could neither unite feudal Germany nor defend it from the attack of the Magyars of Hungary. The most powerful of the nobles, Henry of Saxony, succeeded Conrad in 919 as Henry I {the Fowler}, first of the Saxon line and considered to be the creator of the German Empire; he united the dukedoms under his rule, built fortresses, reformed the military system, defeated the Hungarians, and instituted many internal reforms. The royal power was greatly increased under his son and successor, Otto I {936 -73}, who was surnamed the Great. Otto restricted the power of the nobles, making himself complete master in his own kingdom; he defeated the Hungarians on the Lech in 955; in 961 he acquired the crown of the Lombards, thus imposing his dominion over Italy; and in 962 he was crowned emperor in Rome by Pope John XII, thus founding the Holy Roman Empire, which existed until 1806.

The political consequences of the intimate union of Church and Sate which was thus established were unfortunate for Germany; in pursuing the pretension of world dominion, in attempting to subjugate rebellious Italy, and in carrying on the long struggle between Church and State, the emperors dissipated their power and lost control of Germany, which became increasingly feudal as the other nations of western Europe became centralized states.

When the Saxon dynasty became extinct in 1024, the election fell on the Duke of Franconia, who reigned as Conrad II {1024 - 39}, founding the Franconian, or Salian, dynasty, which continued in power until 1125. The early monarchs of this line were strong rulers; in Germany they held their own against the feudal lords, and in Italy they dominated the Papacy.

Empire against the Papacy. The struggle between emperor and pope was base on the papal theory that, since the pope held supremacy over the Church and the Church held supremacy over the State, all rulers should be the pope's vassals. The emperor, on the other hand, maintained that the nobles who elected him conferred his authority upon him and that he should control Episcopal appointments in his realm. In 1076 Pope Gregory VII stirred up a revolt in Saxony in order to break the power of Henry IV {1056 - 1106} and in 1077 he forced the Emperor, in order to preserve his throne, to present himself as a penitent before the Pope at Canossa. The continuing State-Church controversy led to renew civil war in Germany, and Henry himself died a fugitive in his own land. He was succeeded by his son, Henry V {1106 - 25}, the last king of the Franconian line.

Finally, during the reign of Henry V, a compromise settlement of the controversy was reached in the Concordat of Worms {1122}. This concordat decreed that henceforth the pope or his legate should have the right to fill bishops' and abbots' sees in the presence of the emperor or his representative. The emperor, however, retained the right to invest a bishop or abbot with the regalia of his office, and the symbols of temporal authority were to be bestowed before those of spiritual authority.

Hohenstaufens and the Holy Roman Empire: When Henry died in 1125, the papal party prevented the election of Frederick of Swabia of the House of Hohenstaufen, the nearest heir of the Franconian line, and the throne went instead to Lothair, Duke of Saxony, who reigned until 1137 as Lothair II. Frederick and his brother Conrad, nephews of Henry, revolted, but were put down by the new emperor. Then in 1138 Conrad, Duke of Swabia, ascended the throne as Conrad III and founded the Hohenstaufen dynasty. Lothair III's son-in-law, Henry the Proud, of the House of Welf, Duke of both Bavaria and Saxony, opposed him. Out of their conflict grew the factions known as the Welfs and the Waiblingers {named after the Hohenstaufen estate of Waiblingen in Swabia}; the Welfs supported the Papacy in its struggle with the imperial authority, while the Waiblingers upheld Conrad in his great struggle with the pope. When the contest was carried into Italy, the German names of the rival political groups were corrupted into Guelph and Ghibellines.

Conrad III died in 1152, after taking part in the Second Crusade, and was succeeded, on his own recommendation, by his nephew Frederick, Duke of Swabia, who reigned as Frederick I, or Frederick Barbarossa {Red Beard}. When Pope Eugene III crowned him in 1155 he added the word "holy" to the name of the empire, making it the Holy Roman Empire, the name by which it was thereafter known. His ambition to become another Augustus in a great empire comprising all Christendom brought him into bitter conflict with the Papacy and with northern Italy, where the commercial classes of the rising towns formed the Lombard League to protect their liberties. Frederick led six expeditions into Italy, but eventually had to recognize the rights of the Lombard cities. In Germany he crushed Henry the Lion of the House of Welf and broke up Henry's great duchies of Saxony and Bavaria. This partition, intended to weaken the great duchies by dividing them into a number of petty principalities which would by vassals of the emperor, strengthened Frederick's position at home, but it had a tragic effect on the nation: when he perished in the Third Crusade {1190}, Germany was split up into nearly three hundred principalities, lay and clerical.

Frederick Barbarossa was succeeded by his son, Henry VI {1190 - 97}, who by marriage and conquest added to his realm the Norman kingdom comprised of Sicily and southern Italy {called the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies}. Henry died suddenly, leaving an infant son, Frederick. Civil war then broke out in Germany between the rival claimants of the Welfs and the Hohenstaufens. Finally in 1212 the youthful Frederick {already King of Sicily since 1194} was crowned King of the Romans; in 1215 he was crowned emperor by Pope Honorius III. One of the most brilliant and remarkable rulers of the Middle Ages, Frederick II was little interested in Germany, which he visited only three times. His primary objective was to unite Italy and Sicily into a compact state; this ambition brought him into conflict with the Lombard cities and with the Papacy. Frederick died in 1250; with the death four years later of his son, Conrad IV, the imperial line of the Hohenstaufens came to an end.

The period of the Hohenstaufens is filled with contentions with the popes and the Italian cities and with constant internal strife. The royal power became insignificant, and neither German king nor Roman emperor in reality existed. Some of the rulers seemed little concerned about Germany, dividing their time between Sicily and the Crusades, and Frederick II, one of the ablest of medieval rulers, was not in Germany for fifteen consecutive years.

The Rise of the Hapsburgs and its Heritage in Germany: The period between the death of Conrad IV in 1254 and the election of Rudolph of Hapsburg in 1273 is known as the Great Interregnum. The right to choose the emperor had been gradually usurped by a few of the powerful nobles, who were called electors, and on the extinction of the Hohenstaufen line these electors practically offered the crown for sale. Various bidders appeared, and the two offering the largest bribes, Richard of Cornwall and Alfonso of Castile, were elected, but neither of them was crowned emperor at Rome or acquired any real power.

Finally, in 1272, Pope Gregory X ordered a new election, and in the following year Rudolph I {1273 - 1291}, of the House of Hapsburg, was raised to the throne. He in a measure restored order and strengthened the royal authority. Through his defeat of Otttokar II of Bohemia he acquired lands in southeastern Germany. The most important of these was Austria, which his son Albert received with the title of duke; and from this time dates the rise of Austria and the House of Hapsburg.

During the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries the intellectual forces of the Renaissance were beginning to be felt in Germany, notably in the invention of movable type by Gutenberg at Mainz {about 1454}. However, there was but little of interest in the history of the country. The imperial crown was passed around from one house to another and was openly offered to the highest bidder, the only care of the electors being to choose a prince not strong enough to endanger their authority. At one time there were three rival emperors ruling simultaneously. The first noteworthy event was the promulgation in 1356 by Charles IV {1348 - 1378} of the Golden Bull, which secured to four secular and three ecclesiastical princes the right of election and defined their power. Another noteworthy event was the war of the Hussites.

In 1438 Albert II of Austria was elected emperor, and from this time until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire the crown was regarded as hereditary in the Hapsburg family, although the electors always made a formal choice. Frederick III {1440 - 1493}, who succeeded Albert, was the last German emperor to be crowned by the pope. The greatest of the early Hapsburg emperors was Maximilian I {1493 - 1519}. His reign marked a strong tendency toward centralization and the material growth of imperial authority. Although he restored much of the former imperial glory, his war with the Swiss Confederacy in 1499 lost to the empire the last sections from which an independent Switzerland was formed.

The Period of Charles V in Germany: Maximilian was succeeded by his grandson, Charles V {1519 - 1556}. Besides Germany and Austria, the Hapsburgs now ruled a vast empire that included Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Transylvania, Italy, Sicily, Spain, Alsace, Lorraine, Burgundy, Luxemburg, and the Low Countries. Charles bestowed the Austria possessions of the House of Hapsburg on his brother Ferdinand, who may be said to have founded the monarchy of Austria-Hungary. In his reign came the sale of papal indulgences in Germany that touched off the Reformation, under the leadership of Martin Luther. The German peasants emboldened by the revolutionary mood of the Reformation, revolted unsuccessfully {1524 - 1525} against feudal oppression. The Peace of Augsburg {1555}, with which the struggle between the Catholics and the Protestants was for the time terminated, granted the Lutheran states the right to establish Protestant worship.

In 1555 Charles V abdicated; he assigned Spain and the Netherlands to his son Philip II and turned over the empire and the Austrian lands to his brother, Ferdinand I. The Roman Catholics began a counter-reformation during the reign of Ferdinand {1556 - 1564}. While Matthias {1612 - 1619} was on the throne, his cousin Ferdinand was crowned king of Bohemia in 1617, and the attempt to force the Protestants of that country to accept him as their ruler led to the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War {1618 - 1648}. The struggle closed in the reign of Ferdinand III, by the Peace of Westphalia. Germany by this treaty was divided into over two hundred independent states, which owed only a nominal support to the emperor and became in fact simply petty monarchies. The imperial authority was completely wrecked and never afterward recovered. The war had devastated and impoverished Germany beyond measure, national feeling had been crushed, and all unity had been destroyed.

Rise of Prussia: The interest of German history after the Treaty of Westphalia centers largely in the rise of Prussia. The Great Elector, Frederick William of Brandenburg {1640 - 1688}, gained increased territory for his state, and by strengthening the royal authority and forming a standing army brought Prussia rapidly forward. His son, Frederick III {1688 - 1688}, added to his title of elector of Brandenburg, that of King of Prussia in 1701. Normally the King of Prussia was still subject to the emperor, but from this time on, the emperors were in fact merely rulers of Austria, and the imperial dignity was an empty honor. With the death of Charles VI {1711 - 1740}, the male Hapsburg line became extinct. The attempt of Charles by the Pragmatic Sanction to secure his dominions to his daughter Maria Theresa brought on the War of the Austrian Succession.

After a two years' interregnum, the electors chose Charles Vii of Bavaria as emperor {1742 - 1745}, and on his death Maria Theresa's husband, Francis I {1745 - 1765}, was elected. His successor, Joseph II {1765 - 1790}, tried to establish the imperial authority in southern Germany, but was prevented by Prussia. In 1756 war broke out between Maria Theresa and Frederick the Great of Prussia {1740 - 1786}. The advantage was decidedly with Frederick, and under this great ruler, whose statesmanship was as remarkable as his generalship; Prussia became the equal of Austria and showed itself as the one possible center for a united Germany. The French Revolution destroyed the remnant of the empire, and after the formation by a number of German states in 1806 of the Confederation of the Rhine, under the protectorate of Napoleon, Francis II formally resigned the imperial crown and the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist.

Confederation: Napoleon's plan to add Germany, or at least the states of the Confederation, to his empire was frustrated; and at the Congress of Vienna, which met to restore order out of the chaos into which European affairs had been plunged, the German states were organized as a confederation, with the emperor of Austria as president in 1815. The various German states were independent in internal affairs, and interstate disputes were to be settled by a diet. East state was to have a constitutional form of government, but this provision was little observed until the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 forced the German rulers to accede to the demands of their subjects. In 1830 was formed the Zollverein, which secured free trade among the several states. In 1848 a national assembly met at Berlin for the purpose of framing a national constitution, but the rivalry of Austria and Prussia prevented any successful results, and the Prussian King, Frederick William IV, refused the title of Emperor of the Germans.

Frederick William IV was succeeded by William I {1861 - 1888}. The new king soon styled policy of "blood and iron" made possible the final firm union of the German nation. The rivalry between Prussia and Austria was encouraged by Bismarck, who was making ready for the struggle which he knew would come. The final cause of the outbreak was the contention over Schleswig-Holstein, which had been taken from Christian IX of Denmark. War began between Austria and Prussia in 1866. The outcome was complete success for Prussia, and in 1867 the North German Confederation was formed, with the King of Prussia as president. The Catholic states of the south, Bavaria, Baden, and Wurttemberg, held aloof, joining the Confederation just before the close of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

The Germany Empire: By the treaty, which followed the Prussian victories in the Franco-Prussian War of {1870 - 1871}, France lost Alsace and Lorraine and was compelled to pay a large indemnity. The most important result to Germany, however, was the enthusiasm and the spirit of nationality awakened by the Prussian success. The German Confederation was charged to the German Empire, and William I, King of Prussia, was proclaimed German emperor on January 18, 1871. The title, to be hereditary in his family, descended at his death in 1888 to his son Frederick III. The latter lived but a few months after his accession and was succeeded by his son, William II, or Kaiser Wilhelm {1888 - 1818}. William at once showed his intention to keep personal control of the government and accordingly in 1890 dismissed Bismarck, who did not approve of his policy.

About 1883 Bismarck had aided in the formation of the Triple Alliance, which included Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy. Caprivi, his successor, renewed this in 1891. Under the chancellorship of Hohenlohe, who succeeded Caprivi in 1894, rapid progress was made in the extension of German dominion in Africa. Toward the close of the century, Germany acquired Northeast New Guinea, the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Caroline, Palau, and Marshall islands in the Pacific, and shared the Mariana and Samoa islands with the United States. The murder in 1897 of two German missionaries in China gave Germany a pretext for demanding the cession of the port of Kiaochow in Shantung, China; and the murder of the German ambassador in Peking in 1900 compelled Germany to take a prominent part in the expedition of the European powers against China. In 1905 and again in 1911 William II deliberately provoked the French in Morocco, but each time Great Britain supported the French position, and the Emperor was obliged to withdraw.

Meanwhile Germany had strengthened its army and built up a navy that rivaled that of England. This aggressiveness alarmed the major powers, and in 1907 Great Britain, France, and Russia banded together as the Triple Entente. But the Kaiser, as the German emperor had been called since 1871, countered the move by reaching agreements with Bulgaria and Turkey; the bonds uniting Germany with Austria-Hungary and Italy held until Italy's withdrawal in 1915.

Read more about Germany and its German Heritage in World War I and later, by looking up Germany and World War I.

Of course much has changed since then and the nation of Germany is a thriving country proud of its heritage. Germany is a place that you would be proud to display your German genealogy, family coat of arms or surname history.




Display your German Heritage or Family History from Germany

Our family tree charts can display your family history and the German heritage of your lineage. Show your surname history with its origin in Germany. Our genealogy charts can normally show the full names of your direct lines along with the birth and death dates. Free pedigree chart if needed.

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The Tree Maker has listed this information so our customers can have a little knowledge on their German heritage. The history of Germany is rich and should be shown with pride. We have many types of products within our genealogy site that will be idea for displaying your family tree, family crest, coat of arms or surname history. Feel free to give us a call with any questions you may have.




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