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WLA 2007: Tracing Your Ancestors Through Genealogy Tips and Tricks

Posted by on Friday, October 19, 2007 in WLA Blog Archive
Tracing Your Ancestors Through Genealogy Tips and Tricks
a presentation by John Leonard Berg, Coordinator of Public Services, Karrmann Library, UW-Platteville

begin with some proof that you're in the right place, headed down the right family line
starting with an obituary to find clues

Why did people immigrate from Europe in the 1850's?
  • religious freedom
  • military service; "Sons of the Soil" were expected to serve in the military
  • industrialization
  • taxation
  • economic stagnation
  • population growth
  • unstable political situations
  • inheritance laws -- in some areas only the oldest son could inherit land, so siblings would need to marry into another family or live on as a kind of servant to the eldest; in some cases the land could not be "parceled out" to divide among the children
  • "American letters"; people who emigrated to America wrote to those still in Europe; if someone had already made the journey it provided some motivation
  • solicitation -- businesses needed manpower to work on railroads, in the factories & homestead land (the Homestead Act opened up prairies to become farmable land)
  • boys and men might leave for the new land, and the girls and women might have stayed behind to care for parents
Those leaving Germany might have traveled overland (perhaps by train) to the river-side city of Bremen/Bremerhaven where they would board ships headed out on the North Sea

The Gallery of the Seven Million is endeavoring to collect the seven million stories of those who left from the port of Bremerhaven
"Bremerhaven's New Emigration Museum: A Look at Germany's Ellis Island",1518,369776,00.html

New Orleans in the 1850's was a better port of entry than New York, because you could stay on the water to continue traveling up the Mississippi to the Midwest (where land was opening up to farming and homesteading)

if you're having trouble tracking your ancestors in the years following their arrival in America, check the ship's passenger list to see if you can track other people who traveled from Germany with them (perhaps they settled in the same area as your ancestors)
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