One way of tracing your ancestors while also hedging your bets against potential errors is to look for patterns among your ancestor’s friends and neighbors. When large numbers of people emigrate from the same locality or region over a prolonged period of time, historians refer to this as a serial emigration. Although this may sound sophisticated, clues for identifying one can be in plain sight. For instance, when you look at your ancestor on the 1880 Federal Census, do you notice several other family heads with the same Germanic nationality like Bavaria [Bayern] or Baden? This is potentially an important clue as to where your ancestors came from, as well as an insight into the sort of community in which they took part in America.
Ask any veteran genealogist: in terms of broad access to historical resources, we live in a great time for genealogical research. It seems a newer, more specialized database arrives each year, whether to do with military documents, emigration records, or even U. S. State archives. It’s as if we’re discovering our histories anew with each technological advancement. But how do we weather these changes in our databases, and what in our thinking and practices must evolve when to research means going to a digital archive first?
If your family comes from the Rhine River Valley, it’s likely that locating the right area of origin will be complicated. However, with the right tools and know-how, and a basic knowledge of German territorial history, you can easily learn to read between the lines anytime you come across potential places of origin in records.
The Rheinland American is a space in which those interested in the genealogical and cultural history of Rhineland emigrants can find the information and historical context they seek, or in the least, find a new lens through which they might examine their family history. On a regular basis, I will publish posts and short essays to do with the particular section of German America that Rhinelanders occupy: from helpful tips for navigating German-language records to essays on German-American cultural topics, this site is meant to expand what German-American genealogy might mean in the Digital Age.