Which BADEN is which?

by Carla HELLER
Content and concept of the web page is protected under
©Copyright, 2000 by Carla Heller.
 All rights reserved.  May not be reproduced or distributed in any form, including via the Internet or World Wide Web, without written permission.

NOTE: Information on the formerly separate German state of
extensively in this discussion of BADEN.  For a fuller definition and history
of WÜRTTEMBERG, please click on either or both of the following links:
 Württemberg Information I  or  Württemberg Information II

Researchers who have genealogical ties to the European localities referred to as "BADEN" are often a little perplexed by what this designation really means.  The name and German word BADEN (which literally means "baths") refers to more than one place, and some of these have confusingly modified their names in the course of their history.  Particularly difficult for family researchers is deciding whether an ancestor's coming "from Baden" means that the person was from the former German "state" of Baden (a regional entity, covering a lot of square mileage) or the separate Baden-Baden, an individual town of more limited size, which is situated within that state.  (Making this distinction makes as much difference as properly distinguishing between, say, the state and the city of New York.)

Because of the simple difference in size between the German STATE of Baden and the German town of BADEN-BADEN, there is always a greater probability that an ancestor's origins are within the STATE---far fewer people populated and emigrated from the town.  (The present-day population of the town of Baden-Baden is still less than 50,000.) There is a greater likelihood that someone who "emigrated from Baden" came from a particular town or village situated WITHIN the borders of Baden, the STATE---not from the town of Baden-Baden.  Please be aware of this probability.


I.  BADEN, former "state" (politically a former margravate and former grand duchy) of southwestern Germany, individually 3,842 square miles in area. The state of Baden has been combined with the formerly separate and neighboring state of Württemberg, and known as "BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG" only since after World War II (post-1945)If you have ancestors from this area who emigrated earlier, their region was not called Baden-Wuerttemberg at the time.  Records for separate German states were created and maintained independently of each other.

The former state of Baden bordered on France and the Rhenish Palatinate (German region of Rheinland-Pfalz) in the west, Switzerland in the south, Hesse (German region of Hessen) in the north, and the German regions of Bavaria (Bayern) and Württemberg in the east.  Major cities in the state of Baden included Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Pforzheim, Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Rastatt and, in the south, most of the large area known as the "Black Forest" (Schwarzwald in German).

Until the French Revolution, the area was a confusing patchwork of petty margravates (sovereign border territories with individual rulers known as margraves) and states governed by church hierarchies.  In 1771, the originally separate margravates of Baden-Baden in the south and Baden-Durlach in the north were united and called simply, "Baden," under the same branch of the Zähringen (Baden's ruling house).

In 1806, through the instrumental participation of Napoleon Bonaparte, Baden was created a grand duchy---an enlarged and more prestigious sovereign territory known as a "Grossherzogtum" in German.  (The designation of "Grossherzogtum Baden," sometimes shown on an ancestor's German-language documents, simply means "Grand Duchy of Baden" and refers to the overall state of Baden during this era, including all the cities, towns and villages within its borders.)  The existing ruler of the former margravate was henceforth created a grand duke (Grossherzog in German), a sovereign just below the rank of a king.

The grand duchy of Baden was severely shaken by the Baden Revolution of 1848, which temporarily unseated the Grand Duke Leopold before being forcibly suppressed with the help of Prussian troops. Baden later sided with Austria (against the German kingdom of Prussia, Baden's ally) in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), but nevertheless joined the newly-unified German Empire in 1871.  For the next 47 years as part of the Empire, Baden still maintained its status as a grand duchy, with the reigning hereditary grand duke of the house of Zähringen continuing as local ruler.  Following World War I (in 1918), the Grand Duke abdicated along with most of Europe's monarchs, and Baden ended its status as a grand duchy and joined the so-called "Weimar Republic" in Germany.

After World War II (which ended in 1945), Baden was temporarily divided into two parts, and for a time was occupied by U.S. armed forces. The separate states of Baden and Württemberg were then officially merged (along with the formerly separate state of Hohenzollern) to form the new state of Baden-Württemberg, the official name under which it continues today.  The central Neckar River region with the state capital of Baden-Wuerttemberg at Stuttgart (population 584,000) is the modern industrial and cultural center.  During the era following World War II in which Germany was politically divided, Baden-Wuerttemberg was within the boundaries of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BDR), or West Germany.  The near half-century of "separate Germanies" ended in 1990, with the removal of the infamous Berlin Wall and formal re-unification of the German nation. 

II.   BADEN (also later known as BADEN-BADEN) a town always situated within the former state of Baden (see above) in southwestern Germany, and since 1952 part of the modern state of Baden-Württemberg (see above).  The German town of Baden-Baden is located on the edge of the "Black Forest" (Schwarzwald) region, southwest of the large city of Karlsruhe and not far from Germany's western border with France.

Originally known ONLY as "Baden," this town was officially redesignated as "Baden-Baden" in 1931.  The town of Baden-Baden was founded as a Roman garrison in the 3rd century, and remains of Roman baths have been found in the city.  Baden-Baden has been popular with patrons of its natural mineral springs (as one of Europe's most fashionable bathing spas) for centuries.  (The word "spa" comes from the Latin salus per aquae,"health through the waters.")  Victoria, Britain's queen from 1837-1901, was an annual visitor who made the health benefits of Baden-Baden's springs especially desirable during her reign.  The official 1931 name change to Baden-Baden largely came about  to distinguish the German town of Baden from spa towns of the same name which are located in other countries (see below).The double name was intended to convey the concept of the "town of Baden within the state of Baden," placing it very specifically within Germany in geographic terms.

Baden[-Baden] was the town of residence of the margraves (early sovereigns) of the state of Baden until the early 18th century.  The town also has many parks and a large casino (built 182124).  The estimated current population of the town of Baden-Baden is about 48,000.

People researching genealogical ties in southwestern Germany should be aware that various records or paperwork for immigrants sometimes ignore the distinction between Baden, the German state, and Baden-Baden, the German town. On many such official documents, the single designation of "Baden" was used interchangeably for both.  Whether your ancestor's documentation shows "Baden" or "Baden-Baden," be sure to keep the difference between the two places in mind, and be prepared to redirect your research focus from one to the other.  If you don't find evidence of your ancestral origins in the town of Baden-Baden, consider that they may well be in another town within the state of Baden, instead.

III.   BADEN, a single spa town in eastern Austria, also known as Baden-bei-Wien, Lower Austria province, on the Schwechat River near Vienna. The hot sulfur springs of this picturesque city have been frequented since Roman times. From 1945 to 1955, this Baden locality served as the Soviet military headquarters for Austria.

IV.  BADEN, a single spa town in northern Switzerland, Aargau canton, on the Limmat River (ancient name Aquae Helveticae). A noted spa since ancient times, the town has hot sulfur springs. It is also a manufacturing center known for electrical-engineering works and other factories. The Swiss diet (parliamentary body) met at this Baden locality from about 1425 to 1712.  This Baden was the capital (17981803) of Baden canton under the Helvetic Republic. Estimated population 14,100.

Content and concept of the web page is protected under
©Copyright, 2000 by Carla Heller.
 All rights reserved.  May not be reproduced or distributed in any form, including via the Internet or World Wide Web, without written permission.