German Emigration Records
Many German emigrants exited through the ports of Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. Bremerhaven was the port of Bremen because the Bremen port was full of silt and needed dredging. Ships could not get into Bremen. Cuxhaven was the port for Hamburg. Other German ports were primarily located along the eastern sea board and included Stettin, Gdansk (Danzig), Libau, Memel, and Riga. Germans also used Scandinavian ports (especially Copenhagen). The ports in Antwerp, Belgium and le Havre, France were also used.
Some causes for German emigration:
Compulsory military conscription was unpopular. Many young men emigrated without permission in order to avoid military service. It has been estimated that more than fifty percent of young men of military age emigrated illegally.
In the early 1800s, an economic depression and over-population caused restrictions on marriages and attempts to limit growth in poor areas of the south and central Germany. Young couples in these areas often emigrated separately or together, often with illegitimate children.
Only three religions were allowed in German lands: Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed. Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III united the Reformed (Calvinist) and Lutheran churches in 1817 on the 300th anniversary of the Reformation. These religious restrictions caused some to emigrate for religious convictions.
Industrialization in the mid 1800s created many new jobs, but also caused the decline of the cottage industries which had kept many families from starving. The hardest hit were the linen weavers who worked on looms in their homes. Mechanical looms and the competition from foreign markets drove many to pack up and leave.
Rising grain prices in the early 1830s, mid 1840s, and 1850s created a hardship on sustaining a family.
Some communities tried to get rid of the chronically underprivileged members of the society, with some towns paying the passage cots in exchange for the individual giving up all citizenship rights and promising not to return.
Improved transportation with the removal of tolls on the Rhine, Main and Neckar rivers in the 1830s, made it cheaper to travel to a port city. The railroad miles also doubled by 1846-47.
Industrialization wiped out home industries such as spinning, weaving, etc.
Land prices were increasing, but the income produced from the land did not have the corresponding increase. Selling the land rights often provided enough money to allow a family to emigrate.
Some farm sizes had become so small that they no longer could support a family.
From 1830-1845, growing grapes for the wine industry was unstable, and a series of bad crops caused many to emigrate.
The largest share of taxes and military personnel came from tradesmen, farmers, artisans, and laborers. Many did not want their children to feel the brunt of upcoming wars, unemployment, indebtedness, and impoverishment.
Relatives or friends who had already emigrated sent positive reports back to their hometown. Their reports encouraged others to follow.
Some political refugees, especially after the failed 1848 revolution, decided to leave.
Some destination sites for the emigrants:
Many from the crowded south of the German areas in the 1700s moved to new Prussian lands opening in Pomerania, West and East Prussia, Silesia, and Posen.
Hungary, Spain, Russia, and France were other destinations which developed German-speaking pockets.
Following the Thirty Years' War in 1648, the Swiss moved in to rebuild destroyed regions, but this did not always work out as planned.
In the 1700s, it is estimated that 830,000 Germans emigrated to Russia, while only 125,000 went to America. Catherine the Great invited German farmers to emigrate to her unsettled frontier in the southern Ukraine along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azor. About 37,000 accepted the 1763 invitation.
From 1717-1775, most of the Germans going to America landed in Philadelphia and gave Pennsylvania the largest German population.
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