Which United States source is most likely to reveal the hometown of a German immigrant? Dr. Roger P. Minert has reached some interesting conclusions. They might surprise you.
Dr. Minert, who is in charge of the German family history courses at Brigham Young University, has spent many years studying German Americans and documenting their immigrant origins. From his vast experience, he has compiled the following statistics on which United States sources (before 1900) are most likely to tell an immigrant’s exact place of birth in German-speaking parts of Europe:
Success Rates of American Sources In Revealing German Hometowns
|Local church vital records||65-76%|
|Military muster and pension lists||20-30%|
|State death certificates||20-25%|
|Passenger arrival lists||15-25%|
|County marriage licenses||5%|
A striking observation is that “local church vital records” are most likely to tell the hometown. By that phrase, Dr. Minert means items such as burial entries in Lutheran parishes here in the United States. They reveal where the immigrant was born. Naturalization records, which most people think will tell the birthplace, is way down the list. Only 1 out of 10 times will a pre-1900 naturalization record identify an exact overseas origin.
Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Minert and a team of researchers at BYU are reading local church vital records seeking Americans’ German origins. They are publishing their finds in a series of books titled German Immigrants in American Church Records. To learn more, visit the project website. So far 13 volumes have been published, detailing 100,000 German immigrants who settled in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. These books are available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Here is a link to the online catalog reference. The state of Michigan is next on their list to publish.