Discussing German Immigration
April 22, 2014
In 2000, the United States Federal Census reported that almost 43 million Americans claimed German ancestry, making them the largest ancestry group in America. That is a lot of history to be shared, and we can help you find and make sense of your German ancestry with many of our resources. For instance, did you know that you can piece together more than just your ancestry? Understanding the history behind why your ancestors came here is just as important.
Newspapers and novelists actively pursued Germans to come to the Midwest as agriculturists. Writers like Gottfried Duden sold the U.S. to the Germans as a "Garden of Eden" in his book Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay of Several Years Along the Missouri (1829). After the publication of his book, more than 50,000 Germans immigrated to America. Many of them were skilled professionals like engineers and physicians who found frontier life to be too harsh. These immigrants found themselves moving into urban areas, abandoning their farms for city life. But once there, they flourished in influencing architecture, church, theater, and political ideas. Some of these political ideas were often radical for the 1840s and 1850s, like abolition of slavery and gender equality. This caused a surge in nativism, a social policy of protecting the ideals of native or established inhabitants. Before the U.S. entered WWI, German-Americans called for national neutrality, which led them to be largely mistrusted during the U.S. involvement in the war. Germans were reluctant to use their own language, causing roads to be renamed and the language to be pulled from school curriculum. In the 1920s and 1930s, some 500,000 German immigrants came to the U.S. to escape Germany’s political turmoil and the rise of the Nazi regime. And after WWII, U.S. helped settle over 400,000 German refugees from all over Eastern Europe. After this time, German immigration leveled off.
If you’re interested in learning more about German ancestry and history, come to our German Interest Group that meets quarterly here at the Midwest Genealogy Center. This is an open, interactive group with participants sharing their knowledge of German ancestry and history with the group. The next meeting is Saturday, April 26, at 2:00 p.m. Please register either on MCPL’s event website or give MGC a call at 816.252.7228.
Midwest Genealogy Center