German Immigration to America – A Basic Outline

Below is a basic outline of German immigration to America that can be used as a handout for CAGNNI’s 9 AM GeneaBar session on German immigration.

We need to find the answers to the following questions to unlock some elements of our family history:

  1. Why did our German ancestors immigrate?
  2. When did they leave?
  3. How did they get here?
  4. Where did they settle?

1608 – German craftsmen were among the workers recruited for Jamestown. Glass-making was one of their tasks.

 1670 – Germans arrive in Pennsylvania fleeing the effects of the Thirty-years War and religious persecution – included Lutheran, German Reformed, Quakers, German Baptists, along with small denominations such as Moravians, Amish, and Mennonites.

1709 – Refugees from Palatinate flee to England, where the Queen exports some to Ireland and New York. They were fleeing extreme poverty and starvation in Germany

 1720 to 1770 – Redemptioners (indentured workers) recruited by agents to fill the labor needs of Colonial America – Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. Small groups also came to New England, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and both Carolinas

 1800s – German immigration to America was banned by the German princes from about 1700 but resumed in the early 1800s. It grew slowly at first until it became a flood after the 1848 Revolution fails:

  1. Peasants gained more freedom to leave
  2. Over-population fueled the economic problems and crop failures which grew more severe
  3. They fled from political oppression
  4. The magnetic pull from America for farmers seeking cheap land
  5. The need for workers to fuel the Industrial Revolution
  6. Cheap steerage rates for the voyage across Atlantic

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