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Alsace-Lorraine an Enclave of Ethnic Germans in France
Any time you see an ethnic German's birthplace in the U.S. censuses flipping back and forth between France and Germany, there's a strong probability the individual was born in Alsace-Lorraine, an ethnic German enclave that is, today, in France, but has at times been ruled by Germany.  The history of the region is complex, so for the purposes of genealogy, it might be best to simply consider it a "country" in and of itself, without placing it in either Germany or France.  If a formal country must be used, then its current location dictates that it be placed in France, not Germany.
Timeline of Alsace-Lorraine greatly simplified!
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Year(s) Event region of Alsace-Lorraine
1618-1648 Thirty Years' War end of rule by Holy Roman Empire
1648-1871   ruled by France
1871 Treaty of Frankfurt ceded to Germany
1871-1918   ruled by German Empire
1919 Treaty of Versailles restored to France
1919-1940   ruled by France
1940-1944   ruled by Third Reich
1945-present   ruled by France
Alsace and Lorraine are officially, today, two of the 27 Regions of France.  Alsace is comprised of two departments:  Haut Rhin (the former Upper Alsace) and Bas Rhin (the former Lower Alsace).  Lorraine is comprised of four departments:  Meuse,   Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle and Vosges.
Histories as given by Webster's New Geographical Dictionary (1977, Merriam Co., Springfield, MA) a must-have book for any genealogist!

ALSACE [or Ger. ELSASS or ancient ALSATIA]:
Old German and later French province, NE France, bet. Rhine river and Vosges Mts., in modern depts. of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin [France].
History:  Ruled by Rome (see STRASBOURG); gradually penetrated by Germanic peoples; created a Frankish duchy; part of Middle Kingdom (see LORRAINE) assigned to Lothair I by Treaty of Verdun 843 A.D.; belonged to Holy Roman Empire 870-1648; united to duchy of Swabia 925; broken up into feudal principalities controlled chiefly by Bishop of Strasbourg and Hapsburg family in 14th century; Upper Alsace given to Burgundy 1469, but soon broke free; a center of the Peasants' Revolt of 1526; occupied by French in Thirty Years' War [1618-1648]; linked with France by means of Louis XIV's "Chambers of Reunion" 1680; consolidated into provinces of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin [France] after 1789 and under Napoleon; ceded to Germany by Treaty of Frankfurt 1871.  For recent history, see ALSACE-LORRAINE.

LORRAINE [or Ger. LOTHRINGEN or ancient LOTHARINGIA]:
1 Medieval kingdom, originally part of Austrasia (q.v.); by Treaty of Verdun 843 became part of realm (sometimes known as Middle Kingdom) of Emperor Lothair I; inherited by his son Lothair II 855-869, from whom it received name Lotharingia (Lat. Lotharii regnum); controlled by Germany, esp. King Louis the Child, until 911.
2 Duchy, formed by division of kingdom of Lorraine 959 into 2 duchies: Lower Lorraine, bet. Rhine and Schelde (later developing into separate duchies of Brabant, Limburg, etc.) and Upper Lorraine, commonly called Lorraine, region of upper Meuse and Moselle; French claim to it relinquished by Hugh Capet 987; ruled from 11th cent. continuously by a ducal family until its union with Hapsburgs; gradually reduced in size as French kingdom expanded; bishoprics (Les Trois-Évêchés) of Metz, Toul, and Verdun seized 1552 by Henry II of France; at time entirely held by French sovereigns; ruled 1737-66 by Stanislas I Leszczynski, dethroned king of Poland and father-in-law of Louis XV; permanently French from 1766; its chief cities Metz and Nancy; a province in revolutionary France, divided later into departments of Meuse, Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, and Vosges; after Franco-Prussian War 1871 ceded to Germany as part of Alsace-Lorraine (q.v.).
ALSACE-LORRAINE [or Ger. ELSASS-LOTHRINGEN]:
Frontier region bet. France, West Germany, Belgium, and Switzerland; except for Rhine on E has had indefinite boundaries.
History:  Formed from French province of Alsace, French department of Moselle, and some subdivisions (arrondissements) of the former dept of Meurthe which were ceded to Germany by Treaty of Frankfurt 1871; administered in three divisions, Upper Alsace (Ger. Ober-elsass), Lower Alsace (Unter-elsass), and Lorraine (Lothringen), under the German Empire 1871-1918; subject to unsuccessful attempts to Germanize 1880-1910; restored to France by Treaty of Versailles 1919.  In World War II held by Germany 1940-44; retaken by French and American armies and again restored to France.
STRASBOURG [or Ger. STRASSBURG or ancient ARGENTORATUM]
Industrial and commercial city, [capital] of Bas-Rhin dept., NE France, on the Ill river ab. 2 m. W of its confluence with the Rhine...
History:  Important from ancient times because of strategic location; a Celtic settlement; passed to Romans; destroyed by Attila; in late 5th cent. restored by Franks; in 842 scene of Oath of Strasbourg; linked to Germany through homage of Duke of Lorraine to Henry I 923; attained status of free imperial city 1262; some work done here by Gutenberg on movable type c. 1436; occupied by French 1681 and formally ceded 1697; under German rule 1871-1918; in World War II occupied by Germans June 1940 - Nov. 1944 and suffered considerable damage.
AUSTRASIA [or OSTRASIA]:
The eastern dominions of the Merovingian Franks, extending from the Meuse river to the Bohemian Forest.
History:  Emerged as eastern part of kingdom of Franks after division of lands which followed death of Clovis (511 A.D.); ruled by Merovingian kings, alternately as separate kingdom and as kingdom in conjunction with rule of Neustria (q.v.), 6th cent.; original seat of authority of mayors of palace of house of Pepin who founded Carolingian line of Frankish kings in 8th cent.; although recognized as territorial division in partitions of land which were customary at ruler's death, ceased to exist in Frankish empire as it was consolidated by Charlemagne (768-814).
NEUSTRIA
The western part of the dominions of the Franks after the conquest by Clovis in 511, comprising then the NW part of modern France bet. the Meuse, the Loire, and the Atlantic Ocean.  See AUSTRASIA.  After 912 the name was applied to Normandy.

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