Thursday, January 14, 2021

8 Tips - Researching Midwest German Ancestors

1870 German Population Map

Midwestern German Ancestors - Where To Begin?
Researching early German settlers who helped establish Jamestown, the Dutch colony of New York, the  New Amsterdam, and the northeastern Quakers supports why Pennsylvania German settlements are so prevalent that family historians may come to believe that German ancestors populated these northeastern states and leaving only a smattering of German ancestors to settle in other regions - like the Midwest.  Nothing could be further from the truth! Historical documents, newspapers, and local histories tell us otherwise. Surely researchers are familiar with German Amish and Minnonites. (As a 6 generation of western Kansans, boy, do I know their story). But what about the German settlements in the Midwest? 

 German Settlements in Kansas

In Kansas researchers will find Russian - German settlements that were either Mennonites or Volga Germans. Read more at the Kansas Historical Society. 

The state of Kansas, (where I was born and raised and my mother’s family attended the Mennonite based school of Buhler High), has plenty of German ancestral resources that need to be unearthed. Ellis County, known as the “German Capital” was established in the 1870’s. Just to name a few known communities: Catherine, Herzog, Pfeifer, Liebenthal, Munjor, and Schoenchen. 

The Mennonite college archives of Tabor College must be researched. The Center for Mennonite Brethern Studies at Tabor College has a wealth of information on congregational and family records.  These records include church records, church histories, local histories and genealogies. 

In addition to the Mennonites,  let’s not forget the Bukovina region (historically Austria) of Europe immigrants who settled in Kansas in around 1886.  The Bukovina Society in Ellis Kansas offers a quaint museum for tracing Bukovia ancestors.  We can’t under estimate the need of comprehensive research of German-Ancestors in USA before tracing place of origin. The Bukovina ancestral research will lead you to the Eastern bloc as Bukovina is now part of Romania and Ukraine. Be sure to review the Bukovina Society of the Americas. 

Another great repository to visit for this research is at the Fort Hays (Ks) University’s Forsyth Library.

German Settlements in Missouri
Figure 1 Ozark Watch website
In Missouri, the early settlers of the “Rhineland” region covers 11 counties.

These settlers put grave interest in preserving their culture - language, food customs. The Missouri State Historical Society in MO collections can keep the attention of researchers in this midwestern state busy for an indefinite period of time.  

German Settlements in Indiana

We must not forget German settlements in Indiana, like the New Harmony German Settlement[1]  German researchers for Indiana will benefit by starting their research at the Indiana State Library.  Although not exclusively Indiana resources, this listing of resources compiled by The Indiana Chapter of Palatines to America is held on the Indiana State Library website.

Early German settlers of Indiana migrated to the larger cities or to German speaking communities (usually Swiss) after about 1825. Due to this early melding with other ethnic groups, I suggest German researchers in Indiana begin their search with the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center

Researching Germans in Iowa

To begin German ancestors in Iowa it would behoove the researcher to start with the resources at the 

However, one of the a3Genealogy favorite online references is the Foundation for Eastern European Family History Studies. It is here that we located the Oldest Germans of Iowa List - 1895

Summary: 8 Great Resources
Clearly one blogpost cannot cover all of the midwestern states, but if you are looking for other midwestern state resources to move your German Ancestors here are 8 resource / repository tips: 

1. Historical Books

5. Society Journals

2. HathiTrust

6. Church Records

3. University Special Collections

7. Newspapers

4. History Museums

8. State Historical Societies

One last favorite share is  Don Yoder’s book entitled Rhineland emigrants: lists of German settlers in colonial America. This reference book can often be found local libraries in your community.

Happy German Ancestor Researching

Be Historically Correct  

Kathleen Brandt


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