Finding Origins of German-Speaking Ancestors

7 million German immigrants came to the U.S. from 1845-1895 (9+ million if you include the 70,000 Luxemburgers, the Swiss, and those who came from the Austro-Hungarian Empire).

  1. 1846-1858.  Fled famine and revolution, including Luxemburgers, those from Western Bohemia, and Alsace-Lorraine.  Many left through LeHavre France and Rotterdam Netherlands.
  2. 1865-1879.  Migrated to escape compulsory military service in the Prussian Army, including those from Silesia and Brandenburg.  Many left through Bremen Germany and Antwerp Belgium.
  3. 1879-1890’s.  Peak in 1882–including those from Austro-Hungarian Empire, Switzerland, West Prussia, Pomerania, Posen [1/2 of Western Prussia and Eastern Silesia became Poland in 1919], Western Bohemia.  A major migration pattern was to leave Hamburg and sail to Hull England, travel across England by train, and ship out for America from Liverpool.

The majority of these immigrants came to New York City–Castle Garden, 1855-1892; Ellis Island, 1892 on.

German Ethnic Minorities included immigrants from:

  1. Slovenia
  2. Swabia (Lower Danube) and Saxons from Transylvania–settled in Cleveland OH, Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin
  3. Galicia
  4. Bukovina to Kansas
  5. Slovakia
  6. German enclaves in Hungary, Bohemia, and Moravia (now Czech Republic, and the largest ethnic group in the U.S. at the time)
  7. Burgenlanders from the Austrian border to Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Florida, and California.

The Swiss settled in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, early North Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Germans from Russia settling in Nebraska, Kansas, and Colorado tended to come from the Volga.  Those in North and South Dakota from the Black Sea areas.  Those in Wisconsin and Michigan tended to come from Volnynia.

Select Study Bibliography and Specific Origins:

Brandt, Edward R., etal.  Germanic Genealogy:  A Guide to Worldwide Sources and Migration Patterns.  3rd ed, 2007.  Available Germanic Genealogy Society, PO Box 16312, St Paul Minnesota 55116.  Essential work.

Frizzell, Robert W.  “Reticent Germans:  The East Frisians of Illinois,” Illinois Historical Journal 85 (Autumn 1992): 161-74.

Holmquist, June D. They Chose Minnesota:  A Survey of the State’s Ethnic Groups.  St. Paul:  Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1988.

Levi, Kate E., and Albert B. Faust.  Early German Immigrants in Wisconsin. 1898. Reprinted, Janesville WI:  Origins Press, 1990.  Short and powerful description of origins of Germans who settled in Wisconsin.

Minert, Roger P., ed. German Immigrants in American Church Records:  Volume 1, Indiana Protestants.  Rockland ME:  Picton Press, 2006.  Important new series, volume 1 is over 904 pages.

Rath, George.  The Black Sea Germans in the Dakotas.  Freeman SD:  Pinehill Press, 1977.

Rippley, LaVern J., and Robert J. Paulson.  The German-Bohemians:  The Quiet Immigrants.  Northfield MN:  St. Olaf’s College Press, 1995.

Sallet, Richard.  Russian-German Settlements in the U.S.  Fargo ND:  Institute for Regional Studies, 1974.

Windholz, Oren.  Bohemian Germans in Kansas:  A Catholic Community from Bukovina.  Hays KS:  for the author, 1993.

Read the introduction carefully and be sure to check the references–footnotes and bibliographies in each of these studies for additional sources to search.  Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS  Family History Expos prepares a syllabus for each regional and area Expo and Research Retreat that  is full of research directions for national and ethnic groups–written by some of the leading genealogists in America today.  You can order any syllabus on CD or printed book format from

PPS And some one told me that there is an index underway so you can determine in advance which events presented which national group or ethnic records in the handouts.  You will want to get this index and selected syllabus titles for your own research reference library.

PPSS  I spoke at the Nauvoo Research Retreat which just ended and I am on my way to the annual Family History Expos Research Retreat at the
Family History
Library in Salt Lake City Utah 28 Oct through 1 November 2013.  If you are not attending, why not plan to be with us in Nauvoo in April 2014 or in Salt Lake City in April 2014? Why not?



This entry was posted in Blog. Bookmark the permalink.