Highlights: Chap. 2 The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide by James M. Bielder

In Chapter 2: Identifying the German-Speaking Immigrant, James M. Bielder looks at two distinct groups of German immigrant: Those coming in the first wave and those in the second wave. He also talks fo records groups where you can get you start in identifying your immigrant ancestor.


Keys to Identifying the immigrant

            1. Establish a date of Arrival

            2. Determine the Original name.


The records pertaining to Immigration to check out:

Passenger Lists

            There is a helpful site from the National Archives about finding information in Passenger lists, Here.If you can’t find your ancestor doing a general search on Ancestry or Family Search, then try to find out more information, What port they came through, Date of arrival, Hometown of Ancestor might help determine which ports were closer to them, The ship name, would also help narrow down where to find them in the manifest. 

            To find these record you should know where you ancestor lived as he was becoming a citizen and find the record based on the state. 

Embarkation Records

            Bremerhaven was the most popular port of the 19thcentury but none of their records have been saved, Hamburg, however does have records available. And they are at Ancestry, Here.

U.S. Census Records

These often, depending on the year, the census can give birthplace, birthplace of father and mother, year of immigration information and some years they ask if they speak English. Census Records are searchable at both Ancestry and Familysearch.

Vital Records

Often Birth, Death and Marriages ask for place of birth, who the parents are and the place of bith of the parents. Vital records are harder to find. You have to know where they occurred. Some are online at Ancestry and Familysearch, but others are not. If you know where the birth, death or marriage too place you can get the records at the county clerk’s office, but they almost always cost something, usually about $20 per record, but his can change depending on the clerk’s office. Look at the county clerk’s office website of the county you are looking in for more information.

 The Take away from Chapter 2:

1. The first wave of German immigration to the United States

There were two immigration waves from Germany the first was in the 1700s. These immigrants often came with other family member. Most of these immigrants were from the Southwestern corner of Germany and immigrated through Philadelphia, but also through Baltimore and New York. Most of these immigrants were Protestant, but some Catholics did immigrat too.  Beidler states that these German immigrants, “were not apt to wander… Most German Immigrants either bought farms in the countryside or took up trades in market towns established by the British to serve the surrounding farmers. Overwhelmingly, the “first boaters” were motivated to come to America in search of the economic opportunity made possible by reasonably priced land. With the German states stuck in a feudal economy until the early 1800s, the best description of the typical eighteenth century immigrant is that of ‘the more prosperous peasant farmer’”(p. 32).


2. The Second Wave of German immigration to the United States

The second group spans from 1800-1920 and brought about 5 million German-speaking peoples to America. Many of these Germans were from Eastern and Northern regions, according to Beidler. These immigrants were both Catholic and Protestant in equal numbers. By the mid-1800s they would often take railroads to the port cities of Bremerhaven, and Hamburg where they would get a ship to America. The most common port of arrival during this time was New York City, but Baltimore  and even New Oreans was common too. The second wave immigrants found they had little in common with the Americanized descendents of the first wave immigrants and tended to settle in the upper Midwest and Texas. 

Carolin Kauten