Do you know the first Germans came to settle in America? And do you know what is National German American Day all about? Well sit back and relax while I answer those questions. And I will also show you how you can research your German ancestry.
German American Day – October 6th
German Heritage Month – October
The History of National German American Day
This national holiday has its roots that date back to the late 17th Century, 1683 to be exact. On October 6th of that year 13 German Mennonite families came to Pennsylvania. They would name their new home Germantown, which would be the first German-American settlement.
Krefeld, The Homeland of the 13 Families!
Krefeld is known as the “Velvet and Silk City“, as it is the center of Germany’s textile trade. The city is located northwest of Dusseldorf and a few kilometers to the west of the River Rhine.
It is actually three towns in one and today this German city is home to about 225,144 people!
Traveling to America!
These 13 families traveled more than 6,000 kilometers from Krefeld in Germany to start a new life in a foreign land. Can you imagine what it was like for them to travel so far by ship?
This journey by sea on a vessel named Concord would take them four long months from July to October 1683. And then when they got to America they would then sail up the Delaware River, settling about 14km north of the center of Philadelphia.
Why did they make this long journey?
Their main reason for leaving their homeland thousands of kilometers away was due to religious oppression and the principles of freedom.
A couple of years earlier before Germantown was founded a man by the name of William Penn had been granted land in America by the King of England. He was searching for people who wished to be free to worship.
When he encountered the citizens of Krefeld he invited them to this new land where they could escape both hostility and persecution.
Centuries after the first arrival of these German immigrants a further 7 million would follow and land on the east coast of the United States.
German Settlement Across America!
Compared to these German descendants homeland the population of Germantown is quite modest at about 25,000. There are also many people of German descent located within the states of Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
After World War II around 375,000 Germans would leave their war torn country and move to America. This number shot up incredibly to around 786,000 during the 1950s and 1960s.
Declaring October 6th to be German American Day!
This holiday was first celebrated in 1883 on the 200th anniversary of the new German settlement. There were also similar celebrations held in other parts of America after this event. But as a result of World War I there was a lot of anti-German sentiment and the appeal of this holiday was soon lost.
President Ronald Reagan and his World Tour of 1982!
Then in 1983 President Ronald Reagan would revive this holiday by declaring October 6th as German American Day. This year would also be significant as it was the 300th anniversary of the settlement of Germantown.
The President made his world tour a year prior in 1982 and visited West Germany. He addressed the people of Bonn and discussed the history of those 13 families who sacrificed everything.
During his speech he also talked about the contributions that Americans with German heritage had made to their new homeland.
A few years later in 1987 President Reagan officially declared and proclaimed October 6th German American Day. Since this date this holiday has been celebrated annually, whereby Americans are asked to observe this day with appropriate activities and ceremonies.
Trace Your German Roots!
As a family historian I have become respectful of not only my ancestry but that of other people. Through my genealogy research I can understand why our ancestors made the decisions that they did and decided that migrating was the best option for their family.
It could not have been an easy choice to leave so much behind. But these German families in particular must have felt that it was much better to take this journey rather than to stay and be persecuted for their religious beliefs.
They knew where they were going of course and knew where they would settle. But did they doubt to themselves whether they would be able to make the perilous sea journey, and what would life be like establishing a new settlement.
The thoughts that must have gone through their minds. For us today we have similar thoughts but the reality is is that it is not as hard for us as it was for them.
Discover your German ancestors!
If you have read this far and found it interesting then I would urge you to trace your family history. Find out what you can about them and discover where they originally came from.
Were they of German descent?
Not only is October 6th a significant date for anyone of German ancestry but also October is a special month as well. Did you know that October is German Heritage Month?
Well to be honest I didn’t know myself until I started to research German American Day. But I am glad that I did because I discovered such a rich history connected to this day. And you can also discover a rich history if you explore your German ancestors.
The German Genealogy Mega Collection!
If you are interested in your German roots then you maybe interested in the German Genealogy Mega Collection that I have previously reviewed. This is an impressive collection as it contains 11 resources.
This collection features a book, six video downloads, two ebooks and two PDF downloads. And the great thing about this collection is that you can get it for only $89.99, originally selling for $323.89.
Ancestry’s Immigration Collections!
If you have heard of Ancestry, (and who hasn’t), then you will know that it is home to billions of records. A couple of records that this website contains are passenger lists and naturalization records.
These are great resources for you to find your German heritage. Can you imagine finding your German ancestors on a ship landing Baltimore, Boston or New York?
FindMyPast – Germans to America, 1850-1897
Another genealogy search website that I highly recommend is FindMyPast. I have used this site extensively to find records about my ancestors and help me build my family tree.
This site is very similar to Ancestry in that it has pretty much the same kind of records, from birth, marriage and death records to passenger lists as well.
So why check out the German Immigration to United States at FindMyPast section of the site and see what you can discover.
Thank You and Please Leave A Comment
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