Most Dutch Americans originally settled in NYC and the Hudson Valley prior to the English take over of the colony in 1664. Later, smaller groups of Dutchmen settled in the Hudson Valley and around the country in the 19th century. Where the Dutch settled in enclaves, they tended to establish a Dutch Reformed Church. Association with this church indicates that your ancestors are indeed Dutch. Association with a Lutheran or Catholic church indicates that your ancestors are most likely German.
Oh, and complicating all this German heritage stuff is the fact that the 18th century through WW I maps of Europe were different. Germany didn't exist formally until 1870, so Germans coming before then might be from Prussia, Bavaria, etc. Germans also came to the US from Switzerland, Czechoslvakia, and Austria
Also, around the time of WW I, because of the anti-German hysteria (akin to the anti-Japanese hysteria in WW II), many German families anglicized their names: Pfarners became Farners, Bauers became Bowers, Schmitzes became Smiths.
No German in me, but lots of time prowling historical records, geneology sites, census records, and local histories has led to a certain amount of knowledge on the topic of immigrant roots.
All four paternal grandparents had birth certificates that named them to be Austrian. I grew up to believe they were all polish, but when I would ask why they did not have polish last names I was told they were all polish. They lived in a Detroit polish ghetto, went to a polish church, and taught thier kids (my grandparents) to speak in polish. Did not find this out intil a few years ago when we were cleaning out grandma's house.
So am I polish or am I austrian? In the grand scheme of things I know it don't really matter much.
We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805
The Dutch were also all over parts of Pennsylvania before the Land Grant to William Penn. The town I grew up in, outside of Philly, had two old Dutch homes still around at a place called "Hinkson's Corner." They were the original Europeans along with some Swedes to displace the Lenape that previously occupied the area and then they left in advance of the English settlers who were given 100 acre farms. Their presence is still felt with some place names. I grew up near Crum Creek and not far from Crum Lynne. Crum is evidently Dutch for crooked.
That's a great point about Germany not being "Germany" until 1870.
I guess its safe to say that I have some "Germanic" ancestry but not necessarily "German" ancestry. I have no relatives from any Old Country that I know of who came after 1870.
My wife has a similar scenario. Her relatives were Jews who came in the latter part of the 19th century. At times they have called themselves Polish and at others Lithuanian or Russian. Indeed, these boundaries have at times shifted around and people living in one area may have been part of all of these counties in different periods. Complicating this is the issue of ethnicity, nationality and language all of which impact how people self-identify. Polish speaking Jews from Lithuania, German speaking Poles from Lithuania, Russian speaking Poles from Austria - its all so confusing. But also fascinating!
Last edited by Maister; 07 Oct 2010 at 3:45 PM. Reason: sequential posts
The purpose of life is a life of purpose
I'm bumping this because it sheds some light on things being discussed on the 'btrage's Haus o Kraut' thread.
People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor