Emigration from Oberfranken in the 19th Century
- Emigrants from Dormitz
- History of Dormitz

Special thanks to John J. Knetzger/ Wisconsin for reviewing and correcting this page.

Emigration in the 19th century /4/
In the Middle Ages people were considered a kind of accessory to the land they lived and worked on. As a result of that, they were not allowed to leave their village or district. They completely depended on the arbitrariness of the sovereign, whether an exception was made or not.

Since 1818 Bavarian citizens had the right to emigrate to other German states, if those states were willing to receive them. They did not have the right to emigrate to non-German states, but usually the permission was granted.


Emigrants had to prove that they were relieved from all obligations:

- no liability to military service.
- all public duties (such as taxes) paid in full.
- all private debts settled.

- no pending cases in court and no sentences to serve.
- enough money.

Number of official emigrants from the district of Oberfanken vs. year /4.92,93/
(The graph was slightly smoothed by a "moving average" in order to see the main
trends more clearly, see original curve)

Between 1836 and 1871, the majority (83%) of Bavarian emigrants went to USA and 14% to other German states. In the years 1872-1878 & 1887-1890, 27% went to USA and 69% to other German states and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire /4.82/.
So the left half of the curve is dominated by emigration to North America (83%), the right half is not (only 27%).
Some authors define five "waves" of emigration: 1847-48; 1851-53; 1872; 1880-83; 1890 /6.113,114/. Considering the diagram, this appears rather arbitrary to me. If one wants to define waves, I would propose two main waves, separated by the American Civil War (1861-1865). These two main waves show several peaks. The first one, the "American wave", clearly shows three maxima, which are correlated to three clear maxima in the development of the price for rye.


A few factors should be mentioned, which seem to have influenced the trends (move mouse over diagram):

- the price for rye (in arbitrary units) as an indication how hard
it was especially for poor people to make a living /4.90/.
- the civil war in USA
- new laws in 1868 in Bavaria made it easier to marry, and the freedom of trade was granted /4.78/.


What did they know about America, and from where?

There were reports about journeys to North America published in books, magazines and newspapers. Some guidebooks for emigrants tried to give information on how to make the emigration the most successful.
The author of one guidebook complains about reports that were written or ordered by speculators who bought lots of land and tried to attract settlers by describing their state or county as being the "heaven on earth".

But the letters from earlier emigrants certainly had the biggest influence /8.28,29/. Below you can see one example.


Steel engraving, Germany, about 1840, showing settlers and their block house in North America

This represents the "romantic view" ("Blockhaus-Romantik")
On December 24, 1842. Johann Knetzger writes a letter from Milwaukee to his brother-in-law Jacob Regenfuss in Dormitz. (excerpt) /5./ Download a complete transcription and translation
  "... I can assure you, that we are in a beautiful heaven-like region, where the day is not so short as in Germany, on Christmas, when it is the shortest day, 10 hours, where it is not too cold and in summer not too warm, snow we already had 8 days after Martini (Nov 11th), but which the sun now melted pretty much because the sun shines now as warm as in spring time."
"... ich kann euch versichern das wir auf eine schöne Himelsgegend sind wo der tag nicht so kurtz wie in Deuschland an Weihnachten wo er am kirtzesten ist 10 stund wo nicht zu kalt und im Somer auch nicht zu warm ist Schnöh bekamen wir 8 Tage nach Mathini schond wo ihn aber die Sonne jetz zimlich wegleckte den die Sonne scheind jetz so warm wie in Frühjahr."

Summary of the letter:
- they know what is going on in Germany from letters and newspapers
- prices for different goods are compared
- what emigrants should bring with them from Germany (e.g. seals and whetstones)
- after half a year he owns nearly everything a farmer needs
- timber of very good quality is easily available
- all kinds of trees grow in abundance
- the days are longer and the climate is better than in Frankonia
- land was already bought for Jacob Regenfuss
- some hints regarding the journey and where to buy land and where not to


"Bericht über eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerika' s und einen mehrjährigen Aufenthalt am Missouri"
Elberfeld: Samuel Lucas, 1829
Zweite Auflage: Bonn, 1834

The author Gottfried Duden reports about his journeys to North America in the years 1824,1825, 1826,1827 and about his stay at the Missouri.
The first edition of this book was printed in 1500 copies.

The pre-requisites for a successful migration according to Gottfried Duden are:

- sufficient money
- good guidance/organization
- medical protection
- other German families nearby
(page 359)


"The big fertility of the soil, its enormous extension, the mild climate, the magnificent waterways, the free traffic in an area of several thousand miles, the perfect safety for persons and property, at very low duties and taxes, this is what has to be considered the actual pillar of the lucky situation of the Americans.
In which other country on earth does one find this all together?"
page 258
The English translation:
"Report on a Journey to the Western States of North America and a Stay of Several Years along the Missouri"; Ed.: James W. Goodrich; Columbia/ Missouri; Universtity of Missouri Press, 1980


I. Länder für die Auswanderung

A Die Richtung im Allgemeinen
B Amerika, Land, Volk, Einrichtungen und Zustände im Allgemeinen
C Einzelne amerikanische Länder
D nichtamerikanische Punkte
II. Die Auswanderung
III: Die Einschiffung
IV. Das Auswandererschiff
V Die Ankunft und Ausschiffung
VI Die Niederlassung und das Leben auf dem Lande


I. Countries for emigration
A General considerations
B America, country, people, institutions and the situation in general
C Individual American countries
D Non-American points
II. The Emigration
III. The Embarkation
IV. The Emigrant Ship
V. The Arrival and Disembarkment
VI. The Settlement and Life in the Countryside

A Catechism for Emigration

Guide for Emigrants,
especially for those,
who want
to emigrate to North America
with regard to knowledge about
the country, departure, crossing,
arrival, settlement, way of life, etc.
and a
instructive book for those staying here

by K.F.W. Wander
Glogau, 1852

In 660 questions and answers in 6 chapters many important informations are compiled for migrants: e.g.

4) Wohin richtet sich der Hauptstrom der Auswanderer?
24) Welcher von den Staaten der Union ist am entwicklungsfähigsten und verbürgt dem Einwanderer die schönste Zukunft?
32) Man sagt, dass das männliche Geschlecht in Amerika dem weiblichen untergeordnet sei; ist dies so?
36) Ist es wahr, dass man in Amerika keine Abgaben zu zahlen hat?
70) Wie steht es in den Vereinigten Staaten in religiöser Beziehung?
79) Wie sind die Arbeitslöhne in den Vereinigten Staaten?
409) Vor welchen Münzen und Schienen hat man sich beim Einwechseln amerikanischen Geldes zu hüten?
417) Kann man Bäder nehmen auf dem Schiff
433) Welche Nahrungsmittel sind zur Mitnahme zu empfehlen?
452) Was versteht man unter Seekrankheit?
495) Wie schüzt man sich einigermaßen vor Ungeziefer?
514) Wie geht es aufeinem Auswandererschiffe zu, wenn es sich dem Hafen nähert oder darin ankommß
522) Wie werden die Betrügereien gegen die Einwanderer geübt?
543) Wie sieht es in dem Hospital in Staten Island aus?
560) Wie viel Wege giebt es von New-York nach dem westlichen Innern?
580) Inwiefern können Bäume dem Einwanderer bei der Wahl seinen Ansiedlingspunktes rathgebend sein?
582) Ist es dem D eutschen zurathen, sich in einem Sklavenstaate niederzulassen?
595) Was versteht man unter Kongressland?
613) Was sind Landspekulanten?
631) Welcher Werkzeuge bedient man sich bei der Urbarmachung des Waldbodens?

4) Where do most emigrants go to?
24) Which of the states of the Union is most capable of development and guarantees the immigrant the most beautiful future?
32) One says that in America the male gender is subordinated to the female gender, is this true?
36) Is it true that there are no duties to be paid in America?
70) What about religious affaires in the United States?
79) How are the wages in the United States?
409) Which coins and bills should one not accept when changing American money?
417) Can one take a bath on the ship?
433) What food is recommended to take along?
452) What is meant by sea sickness?
495) How does one protect oneself against pests?
514) What's going on on an emigrant ship, when it approaches the harbor or arrives?
522) How are swindlings at the disadvantage of the immigrants committed?
543) How does it look like in the hospital in Staten Island?
560) How many ways are there from New York to the western states?
580) How can trees be advisory for the immigrant when choosing his place of settlement?
582) Can it be recommended for a German to settle in a slave state?
595) What is meant by Congress land?
613) What are land speculators?
631) Which tools does one use for the clearing of the forests?

New German edition with comments and a very valuable bibliography:
ISBN 3-261-03799-7;
"Wander, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm";
Herausgeber Wolfgang Mieder; Bern; 1988

Reasons for emigration

The population in Oberfranken increased steadily /4.85/ (see graph)
Until 1868 artisans suffered severely from the regulations of the ancient craft guilds; flexibility and creativity were suppressed.
Very many people didn't earn enough money to make their living.
Most goods were hardly affordable. For example firewood was so expensive that the district court Lichtenfels asked the government to lower the price because the discontent of the people was increasing /8.17/.
Many properties were mortgaged. When the harvest was good, the farmers could pay the mortgage interests. But when the harvest was bad or the handcrafters had not enough jobs, the mortgages caused big problems /8.20/.


The law of succession in Franconia said that the properties had to be divided among the heirs. As a consequence the land was fragmented, many farms were too small to maintain a family. /8.21/
In 1834 new laws made it more difficult to become resident and to marry. In order to become resident in a community, the person had to own a property with a minimum tax yield of 1 fl and 30 Kreuzer and he had to prove that he is able to earn his living. These two requirements made it virtually impossible for e.g. servants, day-laborer and craftsmen to marry and have a family. It' s not surprising that the statistics of those days show many illegitimate children./8.22/
No indications for politically motivated emigration can be found in Oberfranken. In 1848 there were some riots in some parts of Oberfranken, but the reason was discontent with the miserable economic situation rather than discontent with the political situation./8.27/




see also:

- Emigrants from Dormitz
- History of Dormitz

Bedroom in 1846


/4/ Auswanderungswesen in Bayern, G. Krieg, Sonderabdruck des Vereins für Socialpolitik, 52. Band, Leipzig 1898

/5/ Staatsarchiv Bamberg, Auswandererkartei

/6/ Wanderungsbewegungen in und aus Franken im 19. Jahrhundert. Klaus Guth. Jahrbuch für fränkische Landesforschung 49 (1989)

/7/ Fremdheitserwartung und Fremdheitserfahrung bei den deutschen Amerikaauswanderern im 19. Jahrhundert. Peter Assion. in Kulturkontakt, Kulturkonflikt/ herausgegeben von Ina-Maria Grevius. Frankfurt/ Main (1988)

/8/ Hintergründe der Auswanderung aus Oberfranken nach Nordamerika. Hans Schaub. Heimatbeilage zum Amtlichen Schulanzeiger des Regierungsbezirks Oberfranken. Bayreuth, Januar 1994, Nr. 206.