Why did my roots transplant themselves?
November 20, 2010 8:07 PM   Subscribe

What are some resources I can look at describing the conditions of northern Germany during the 19th century, and why people may have wanted to emigrate from there?

I've been doing a bit of genealogy and it's quite easy to follow several of my unique family names to northern Germany. Several branches of my family emigrated from northern Germany (specifically Ostfriesland) in the middle of the 19th century.

I'm looking for reasons why. I mean obviously there was a mass migration to the US from all points during that time, but I'm wondering about specific reasons why someone would choose to move their entire family from Ostfriesland to the US. It can't just be on a whim, or because there is free land. Or could it?

I guess that's why I'm asking. What were the legal, political or religious tensions in the area at the time. Were there food shortages? Disease? Persecution? Anyone have any good sources I can look at?
posted by sanka to Human Relations (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Push factors/pull factors. Potato rot/land transfer customs.

This site addresses German to Australia migration, but the reasons are the same.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:22 PM on November 20, 2010

There are two big flash points in German history in the 19th century: in 1848, there was a failed liberal, middle class revolution; and in 1871 the modern state of Germany was formed. Both of these events had some pretty wide-ranging consequences. The common wisdom in American history is that after the 1848 revolution failed, a lot of middle- and upper-class Germans immigrated to the U.S., partly out of disillusionment and partly out of political hardship.
posted by colfax at 9:38 PM on November 20, 2010

My great-grandparents took their kids and left Germany around 1885; and what's come down to us is that it was due to disagreement with the direction in which Bismarck was taking the nation.

(By which we assume that the 'increasing militarization/Prussianization' is what was meant.)
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:17 PM on November 20, 2010

Got a Masters in German History, focusing on this period. I'd generally look to economic factors first.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:04 PM on November 21, 2010

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