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Old 12-30-2012, 05:53 AM
 
Location: Kenmore, WA
7,492 posts, read 6,481,772 times
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I've started to build our family genealogy, and am learning that I know very little about the history pertinent to the 19th century for the geographic locations pertaining to the family.

My great-great-grandfather, born 1846, is purported to have immigrated through a New Jersey port (not Ellis Island) as a young man with his wife and two eldest children. They migrated to Minnesota, then sometime later moved to Wisconsin, where my great-grandfather and grandfather was born. Grandfather later moved back to New Jersey, and then (finally) to Michigan.

Can anyone recommend historic resources covering those years for German immigrants to the North Midwestern and North Eastern US? I know the global/national political history, but very little about the people affected by politics, religion, and economics more specific to those areas mentioned.

I am hoping to not only uncover my sister's and my genetic history, but build a historic time line to explain the families' movements.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:00 PM
 
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Are you looking for a broad written history of the midwest in the 19th century? Others may be able to help you with this, but I'm going to recommend another route.

Determing your ancestor's exact time of arrival, exact places lived, and occupation(s) over time will help you to find the right local history sources which will broaden your understanding of not only your own ancestor's experience, but also of American history itself. Local history research is a great way to learn about American economic history, migration patterns, and religious history - which is also helpful in understanding our fellow Americans today!

Have you read census backwards from near the time of your ancestor's death back to 1850 or so? Census info provides not only location information but also occupation. Reading census will also help you to learn about nearby families - from what places did other families come? There often was a familial connection between neighbors. Census records also can teach about the economic basis of the locations in which your ancestors lived. Were most people farmers? Miners? What sorts of merchants were there? Were there alot of bricklayers? Prisoners?

To discover when he arrived, you may find his ships passenger (arrival) record. Your local library might have a subscription to Ancestry (which has ships passenger lists on-line) or they might own Filby's set of books entitled "Germans to America", in which he should be listed. Ancestry also has naturalization indexes, which are lovely to find so that you can then go to the actually court where filed and get a full copy of your ancestor's naturalization record. If you can find your person on the 1910 census you can easily find out what year he naturalized. It's important to note that there was no actual "Germany" until 1871. So your ancestor might have been Prussian, or Hessian, or even a Germanic person from Russia. Census may not provide this info, but the naturalization record will.

Once you have names of counties in which your ancestor lived in America, you can go to www.worldcat.org and search under that county name. You should find many local and regional history books which can be ordered through your local library via Interlibrary Loan.

When you find a published county history book for the first place he lived in America, for example, you will learn about why people emmigrated to that specific spot. Was it a mining region? Farming? Was there a brewery there, or a big cartage business? Where did the other new settlers come from? Were they also German? You might even find a story about your ancestor himself. Local histories published between the late 1880s and 1910s are full of juicy personal information about individual families. Church histories tell alot about a region, too. You may also find first person accounts of settlement -diaries which have been published. These are so juicy and wonderful! Many local histories also contain copies of photos or engravings of local businesses and churches and schools and places of interest and people.

Also, just wanted to say that Ellis Island didn't open until 1891, and New York was only one of many important ports of entry for immigrants. It's odd that the term "Ellis Island" is so strong in the minds of the public that everyone thinks they must have had an ancestor who passed through! Many if not most of us have no Ellis Island ancestors at all! Our people came through Quebec - Philadelphia - Charlston - Galveston - New Orleans - San Francisco - or even Hoboken!

Have fun!
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Old 12-30-2012, 05:33 PM
 
Location: Kenmore, WA
7,492 posts, read 6,481,772 times
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This is a great start! Thank you, 601!

I am planning a more specific research, as you suggested, but I am starting with a broad sweep because there is so little I know about these people. My mother's family on the paternal side, because my grandmother died when mom was just six, and grandpa lived longer. My dad's side is a real challenge because he discovered at 21 that his mom was actually his aunt, and her sister -- his mom died shortly after his birth. That coupled with the fact that he kept his step-father's name, and Grandma was married no less than five times! Aye! That's going to take some good investigative research.

I know my great-granddad was born in Wausau, WI and was a Finish Carpenter. I thought his parents were from Germany, except that my great-aunt recently said she thought they were from a place called Pommer-something, which I later learned was the German name for Pomerania. So, this will be an adventure in discovery!

Thanks, again. I hope there are more people with more suggestions as helpful as these!

Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Are you looking for a broad written history of the midwest in the 19th century? Others may be able to help you with this, but I'm going to recommend another route.
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Old 12-31-2012, 02:46 AM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
8,925 posts, read 13,680,252 times
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See if you can track down a copy of: German Immigration to America in the 19th Century: A Genealogist's Guide: Maralyn A. Wellauer: 9780932019066: Amazon.com: Books
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Old 12-31-2012, 03:52 PM
 
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Since I live in MN in the winters and formerly worked in WI I decided to get unlazy and find you some sources for those states.

1) The WPA guides for those states remain the quickest and most fun way to learn state history. I own originals for several states, and read them for pleasure. Many are in re-print, and you can surely find them via ILL or your local bookseller or Amazon.

2) I receive the catalog of the Minnesota Historical Society Press. Some titles that might be of interest:
Boosters, Hustlers and Speculators (re the Twin Cities 1849 - 1883)
Calling this Place Home (women, Wisconsin, 1850 - 1925)
Creating Minnesota (A general social history - can get this one in e-book)
Germans in Minnesota (They have a whole series of these for a variety of ethnicities. Only 112 p., so just an overview)
The Northstar State (a general history in essay format, also on e-book)
Oh! I forgot about A Place Called Home (I own this one - it's about the rise and evolution and decline of the Midwestern small town. A pretty good read and maybe right up your alley!)
A Popular History of Minnesota (is a modern version of the WPA guide. Fun to sample.)

3) From the WI Historical Society Press there's
A Short History of Wisconsin
Germans in Wisconsin (just 72 p. - these ethnicity focused books - I don't know how useful they are)
They Came to Wisconsin (written for children, but often these books are a quick way to get an overview)

Both states have multivolume tomes which are The History Of . . . and written 1950s/60s. If you're into that sort of thing (blech!)

Looks like a few general "Midwestern" histories exist out there, but I know nothing about them:
"The American Midwest - an Interpretive Encyclopedia"
and
"The Identity of the American Midwest".

And to conclude - just want to put a plug in for visiting historic sites as a way to REALLY learn history. There are a variety of good sites in this region - I used to work for Old World Wisconsin. It's a wonderful huge site with homes and farms (originals, moved on-site) from various parts of the state and representing different immigrant groups. Go visit if you can, it really is a treasure! Even the website is pretty informative: oldworldwisconsin.wisconsinhistory.org.
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Old 12-31-2012, 04:24 PM
 
Location: Kenmore, WA
7,492 posts, read 6,481,772 times
Reputation: 10932
Quote:
Originally Posted by 601halfdozen0theother View Post
Since I live in MN in the winters and formerly worked in WI I decided to get unlazy and find you some sources for those states....
All I can say is: "WOW!"

Sort of daunting, isn't it? I knew this was going to be a project... but my, oh, my. (gulp)

I think I need to start a notebook...
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:14 PM
 
Location: Nescopeck, Penna. (birthplace)
12,351 posts, read 7,517,455 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LookinForMayberry View Post
My great-great-grandfather, born 1846, is purported to have immigrated through a New Jersey port (not Ellis Island) as a young man with his wife and two eldest children. They migrated to Minnesota, then sometime later moved to Wisconsin, where my great-grandfather and grandfather was born. Grandfather later moved back to New Jersey, and then (finally) to Michigan.
The New Jersey reference caught my eye. I'm descended from the youngest of six brothers who emigrated in the late 1840's. I think you're going to find that the failure of a revolution in Germany in 1848 had a lot to do with the intensification of German emigration in the years immediately following.

But to return to the original point, those six brothers moved further west into Pennsylvania a few years later, and settled in Columbia County (Bloomsburg area) in a community that came to be known as Jerseytown. This area was also noted for strong "Copperhead" or pacifist sentiments during the Civil War, and it's likely that the loss of many relatives and ancestors during the Napoleanic Wars played a part in that.
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:32 PM
 
Location: Minnysoda
8,639 posts, read 8,539,479 times
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I would suggest you look closely at the immigration patterns of Germen people from Russia. Mass numbers of Ethnic Germans emigrated here during those periods. Although technically Russian these people retained the German language and culture....(this earned those remaining in Russia a trip to Siberia in '41) known as the Volga Deutsch and Black Sea Deustch...

European Heritage Library - European history, cultures, historical memory, and European and immigrant identities

Volga Germans - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

AHSGR - Homepage
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Old 12-31-2012, 06:53 PM
NCN
 
Location: NC/SC Border Patrol
21,135 posts, read 21,899,724 times
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German American - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
I did a search online for Germans moving to America in the 1900's and came up with this reference amoung some others.

If you want to get some of the books listed in one of the other posts for just a short time most libraries do Interlibrary loans. I have gotten some books that are from the reference departments in some libraries for a short time. It can be really interesting. Your local library will be able to help you in your search. Sometimes they will just send you a copy of pages that involve your particular name. Each library has its own rules. Many college libraries can be a good source.
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