Please read some of practical remarks below.
One month has passed since the introductory comments. During the month, more than 72 individuals not belonging to the lists have requested to be included in receiving this Virtual Emigration Tour. The lists include: Switzerland-L, Alsace-Lorraine-L and Pfalz through the good graces of Valorie Zimmerman.
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We are considering adding some material that will serve as reference points such as emigration from Spain and Italy. We shall see as we go along. These are broad subjects and we already have much material to cover.
Thank you for your understanding and happy reading.
THE OUTLINE OF THE VIRTUAL EMMIGARTION TOUR.
Chapter 1. REASONS TO EMMIGRATE 31 March 2004.
Chapter 2: The difficulties in departing the native lands.
Chapter 3. The trip to the European port of departure.
Chapter 4. The boat trip.
Chapter 5. Arrivals
Chapter 6. Conclusions and notes on emigration concerning:
Alsace and Lorraine
Chapter 1. REASONS TO EMMIGRATE
We must keep in mind that the subject of emigration, the departure of one's own lands to another, depends on many factors. Probably the most important issue to keep in mind is the time period (17th century, 18th 19th, or 20th century for example) in which emigration took place. Each period of time represents many events, some very different, some inter-connected and others not at all.
It is not necessary to know all the heavy facts concerning mostly European history, however it is necessary for you to have some reference points within the time-frame you are working in when doing genealogical research.
Numerous were the reasons to emigrate. Various elements are at our disposal to understand this process, however, each Family who left Alsace, Switzerland or the Pfalz, Baden and Wurtemberg did so for their personal reasons. It is evident that the major reasons are political and economic, war and hunger, and the inability to strive forward and ameliorate one's own living conditions.
Alsace, Baden, Wurtemberg, the Palatinate and Switzerland are marked by the different wars. Many wars laid waste to Alsace and the areas around it. While Switzerland may not have been affected directly by certain events in Alsace, let us consider some of them:
the Spanish War of Succession, 1701-1714; the Polish War of Succession, 1733-1738; the French Revolution of 1789; the Austrian War against the French Revolution; the creation of the Consulate, 1799-1804; the occupation of Alsace from 1815 to 1818 after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte; the 1848 French Revolution and similar movements in Austria, Germany, Hungary and Poland all had their impacts on this Rhine area.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, a marker in modern history, was a decisive moment for many Europeans to get their sandals, pay their debts and to leave for a better life in the United States, South America, and Australia.
The France-Prussian War 1870-71was a decisive moment for Belfort: the Germans occupied Alsace and Lorraine and the French kept Belfort. From this time onwards, everything is done to assimilate Belfort into the realm of France, and eradication of any German influences became the order of the day.
Two more conflicts would come and alter the geographical and political scene of Alsace and the bordering states: World War I when Alsace and Lorraine was returned to France, but where hundreds of thousands of German speaking citizens were forcibly returned to Germany. (These citizens in large part had been recruited by the German government to Germanize Alsace and Lorraine after the defeat of the French in 1871.) World War II saw the forced incorporation of Alsatians into the German armies; those who refused were deported to concentration camps. Many Alsatians were sent to the Russian front during WW II.
Consider the fact that you are the head of a household. The Family is composed of your wife, and of many children ( perhaps as many as ten children). The birth of many children and sanitary conditions being extremely precarious, you may experience the death of one or more children. You may experience the death of your wife, which may be replaced quite quickly by someone else if and when you have the privilege of living in a house which you own. The house that you own (if you have been lucky to be the eldest male child to inherit it) has come down through generations: it is the Family home.
Failure to maintain the house, and forfeiting it is equal to the loss of your status in the community. The Family home is the central focal point of roots and while you are alive, will provide shelter for you and your Family.
Should you not have the privilege of owning your own home, you either worked for someone who let you have a house over your head, or, you paid a rent.
Whether you knew it or not, you had very little room to move in. You were not mobile. You were obliged to work. You were obliged to find food wherever it could be found. Often your wife and sometimes the children were obliged to be sent into forests to find food. Hence hunting was extremely important. People in these parts of Europe struggled with no mobility. They could not just get up and go. It was unheard of and one's responsibility was to one's Family. As it was in the past and in the past before then.
To illustrate some of the problems that came to exist before there actually became reasons to emigrate, I have selected in the "Journal of Burgundy," (Journal de Bourgogne), Larousse edition, the following article which is translated herein under:
Everything started on 2 January 1709: four days of rain followed by six weeks of a polar north wind that has made the temperatures come down to –15 C ( sic 5° F). The wheat that was planted in the fall has now perished. The cold devastates the vines and the orchards, break the oak trees in the forests, kill the cattle all into the stables. The Saône River is solid ice. In April, the ground is still deeply frozen. The little cereals that we sow hastily are laid to waste due to the return of the cold. Famine has begun because the 1708 harvest was mediocre and almost all the stock went into purchasing grains. On the human side of things, organisms that are totally exhausted, typhoid has appeared and wreaks havoc. People die at the corners of streets and in the middle of the fields. In the cities, the poor people move in spite of the help from the clergy. The prices have soared and the rumours about everything just keep increasing. In Clamecy (58) ( sic, French Department of Nièvre ), in February, it was necessary to call out the Army to take over the city from the unemployed workers. The war between cities against the countryside adds to this misery: the bursar and the municipalities organize requisitioning of wheat that often turns into riots. . . the entire Kingdom is affected while the enemies are menacing the kingdom's northern borders : the shadow of the decline extends to the France of the Sun King ( sic Louis XIV).
We will find those terrible pangs of appetite which hit Alsace and many Rhine countries in 1817. Once again the cause-effect of poor harvest the year before are felt in that awful year of 1817. Rains, thunderstorms, hail and floods all combine to destroy the left crops. Even potatoes become scarce not due to consumption but because of them rotting. When the winter of 1816-1817 arrives food stocks are depleted. Worse still, the Allies still occupy Alsace (which is not the case of Switzerland), and the rules are that the population must feed the soldiers. Hungry people who have nothing to eat and still must feed an occupying force will ultimately resort to violence, and in Colmar, that is just what happened.
In Strasbourg bakers make bread from wheat brought into the city from "abroad". Troops are called out to protect the carts, but these soldiers are themselves, hungry. Money has become a rarity and bartering is the order of the day. People become poorer and instead of it being in just a section of society, it is all over in the countryside, the cities, in all employment. Life almost stops.
Whether it is these events of 1817 or others like it, throughout the areas of the Rhine and those adjacent, populations becomes poorer, artisans are not able to practice their trades because people are UNABLE to pay for the work.
Imagine that you are still at the Family home table with your 8 children and your wife. You have been looking for work that can be paid. You exercise an everyday, common trade, however no one can pay you for your work. What do you do? What solutions do you have?
You will need employment of some kind to maintain the house and the lands that have not been sold around it. Perhaps your life will center around farming: milking cows, ploughing the lands, and living a countryside existence. If you were in such a situation, you may have been luckier than most because with one cow, hens, chickens, perhaps a pig here and there, one could actually survive. The average farmer had a plot of land equal to that of 2 to 10 hectares (approximately 5 to 25 acres).
As you sit at the head of the table, you may be looking at 4 or 5 children who have been lucky not to have died in childbirth, who were able to survive children illnesses, or worse, various epidemics of plague. One of your children may be paralysed because of polio. There were no vaccines for this terrible affliction. What does one do with a child who is paralysed? Can he work at all? It is a terrible dilemma. What will he do when you are no longer alive?
If you are luckier than most, your father or someone in the Family will have taught you a trade such as blacksmith, tanner, cheese-maker, weaver, hat maker, dress designer, braider, tailor, dyer, hosier or whatever, and you may continue the Family business. Another possibility is the apprenticeship that you may have encountered when you were younger. For the girls if they were lucky, they were entrusted into a convent, or taken into a Family to be a chambermaid or a house servant. That would at least make that there would be one mouth less to feed.
Chances are that you are a daily worker (in German, a "Tagesarbeiter,") and (in French, "journalier"). There are no real statistics of the number of people being in this type of work during the 16 to the 19th century, but we have found that the job still existed in some parts of Europe during the early 20th century. This employment depended a lot on the hands needed to do a job. It depended on a quantity of labour with no particular skills. It is extremely difficult to say what the work entailed because one could well work in the fields and also work in manufacturing companies within the same week.
The idea behind the daily worker was that he was expendable and was paid on a daily basis. You work for me today in the fields, and tomorrow, we will need you at the factory. On the third day we have no idea whether we will need you to do anything.
The very notion of change, of being able to change one's social status from the poverty level to a better one, should perhaps be examined a little more closely here.
Why did a Family who had always lived within the same conditions want to change? Your great grandparents who had been farmers and perhaps journeymen had always lived in poverty, in unimaginable conditions. So many women had died in childbirth. So many children had been born and died; the parish registers of full of cases that tell us that the original eldest son whose name was identical to the father had often died. In the chagrin of this death, another son was named after the Father.
I suspect that in addition to the unchanging conditions (stagnation) of employment for most people (excluding the bourgeoisie and upper echelons of society), the lack of mobility may be attributed directly to the difficulty of being able to change things.
We must remember that when we use the term, "changing things", it means literally the wish to change one's life. One must be able to do that. One must be capable of wishing change and know how to go about doing that. Who has usually always had the capacity "to change things" in history? It is the bourgeois, the people with the means and the money, and rarely the poor people who keep on toiling trying to live a decent life.
Things begin to change with the idea of a new and better life elsewhere….
Alsace became French in 1648. Because France was a Catholic country, and thinking back to the Wars of Religion which started in 1521 also in France, many Protestants and descendants of Huguenots decided to leave Alsace for such places like Mulhouse (belonged to Swiss Confederation until the French Revolution), to Esslingen, Heilbronn, Stuttgart, Cologne, Mannheim in Baden-Wurtemberg, and to Soluthurn and Basel in Switzerland.
Religious intolerance and persecutions seems to be something that continues to this day were the order of the day. Catholics were pitted against the Reformers who in some cases were Huguenots. Not all Reformers were Huguenots however as we know and we saw the emergence of Lutheranism. What is interesting to note is that the people who had been the very target of purges and of intolerance by the mainly Catholic countries of Spain and France became themselves intolerant as we shall see below.
The Reformed Church of Bern and that of Zurich are well known to have become intolerant with the Mennonites and / or Anabaptists. During the 17th century, these two Swiss cantons so afraid of losing population in their respective cantons did what many people do when economic conditions become bad: they blamed a growing number of people who were different from them, and who refused to bear arms. Even though the discussion concerning the Mennonites and the Anabaptists is a long one in itself, it is sufficient to say that these hard working peoples with their different beliefs, were pushed to leave areas of Switzerland.
Mennonites would leave Switzerland, go to Alsace and then from there to Holland and to England. We will note in passing that another group of people will have travelled a similar route, the Huguenots. The Dutch were extremely helpful for both groups. They helped both groups although no real relation to one another go to England and then to America. Other Mennonites would eventually find their way to Russia, the Caucasus and the Odessa region of the Black Sea.
In Switzerland, the Catholic and the Protestants were pitted against one another. Church and State were not clearly defined, and neither were the languages. In Switzerland there were Protestant, German speaking cantons like Bern and Zurich, Catholic German cantons such as Uri, Schwyz, Lucerne, St. Gallen. In Switzerland there were Catholic, French speaking cantons such as Valais and Fribourg, and Protestant ones such as Geneva, Vaud and mainly Neuchâtel. Italian-speaking Ticino was mainly Catholic.
In Alsace, there were other difficulties between the German and the French speaking peoples: some were Protestants and others Catholics. People spoke Alsatian, a dialect of German and families often pitted themselves once against another due allegiances towards "the Duchies of Germany," or Germany" or the French. While this may seem unimportant to most of us today, particularly after the War of 1870, these differences became more noticeable. There are no golden rules which can be applied to the willingness to emigrate, however the tensions between the Churches in Alsace, the Governments, the pro-Germans, the pro-French and the Alsatians who wished all along to remain independent from both super powers and rivalry, as we will see in this Tour, Alsatians tended to emigrate with their linguistic cousins.
From approximately 1800 to 1900, most people came from the country at the approximate rate of 85 to 90% whether this was in Switzerland or in Alsace. A similar percentage of the population from Baden and Wurtemberg is likely.
Parents had difficulty placing their children in school simply as a result of the need to use them as hands in the fields. Children then brought home the results of their labours and at a very tender age. Children would often toil the fields of their parents if the parents were so lucky to have fields that they owned.
As you sit at the head of the table, you realise that Thomas there on your right, is not really well suited to working in the fields. He is different from your other boys. It may be that you will have to seriously think of sending him to the Church. After all, would it not be a great thing to give a son as a priest or minister?
We have already discussed the Mennonites of the Swiss cantons who refused to bear arms. For the Cantons of Bern and Zurich, this meant fewer number of men in their respective militias. The discontent provoked by the majority of the population in their feelings that the Mennonite men were not doing their duty to the community provoked considerable trouble.
In Alsace, many men refused to bear arms particularly starting in the early 1850s as a result of the Crimean War (1853-1856). Alsatian men had traditionally been utilised to complement the armies. Under the Military Law of 1818, each man was eligible to serve 7 years of military service under a system of lottery and drawing similar to the one that existed in the United States before the advent of the Professional Army. Men of wealth, to elude the conscription, would often find someone to replace them in the Army. They would pay the replacement.
Men of Protestant faiths were extremely reluctant to serve a Catholic king. Alsatians who were often bilingual, in addition to their Elssasser Deutsch were not looked well upon either in the French Army or in the later German armies, both countries looking down on Alsatians as replacements for the other soldiers.
Emigration of Alsatians in the 1850-1854 period was one of the highest.
In Switzerland, men were obliged to serve in cantonal militias and in the Federal Army. When employment was scarce in their own communities, Swiss men often joined foreign armies as mercenaries. Mercenaries are not limited to wars fought during the Middle Ages, but rather until 1848 when the new Swiss Constitution forbade Swiss from serving in foreign armies.
People were overall hungry throughout many of these years. The various armies raped the land of good soil where this existed. Alsace and mountainous Switzerland did not have lands that were particularly rich. Small farms were the order of the day. When the winters were longer than usual, farmers would have much trouble planting the seeds in time for the harvesting. Too much rain was a disaster for the farm's production as it was for the health of the Family. Extreme climactic conditions were a menace to the farm and its inhabitants as they knew that they would have to go more hungry than before.
The small farms were usually worked in such a manner that most of the produce would be sold to outsiders. It is estimated that most Families did not even keep 15% of their production. On the total production, whether in any of the regions discussed, taxes have not been deducted yet from the left over that emerged from the production.
THE FORESTRY CODE of 1827 in Alsace.
It is Forestry Code of 1827 which helps bring Alsatians to leave their native land. The Paris Government decided that in order to preserve the high degradation of forests, the ancient rights that Alsatians had had for centuries would be abolished. Rural areas particularly ones which were mountainous were badly hit as people used dead wood for heating. They could no longer use it. Mushrooms were no longer legally pick able. Cattle could no longer roam the mountainous areas where forests were allowed. The effect of this was that potatoes and the few cereals that until then were utilized no longer could grow because there was no longer any natural fertilizer. The picking of wild berries was suddenly prohibited. Dead leaves were not allowed to be picked up at all unless exemptions were requested. All the while certain people were allowed to continue to exploit these resources. This was one of the last straws for the people of Alsace particularly those living in the Lower Rhine areas and close to Bitche and Niederbronn in northern Alsace.
Please see how the Forestry Code of 1826 made one of many Alsatian families arrive in Algeria along with people from the Rhine areas.
Hands were needed in the New World, not only in the United States, but also in Canada and South America. American companies began to look for unskilled labour as well as skilled labour. In many places in the New World, this need was so pressing that recruitment companies came to exist. We will talk more about them in later chapters.
EMIGRATION OF SWISS AND GERMANS
Thousands of Germans and Swiss who had decided to emigrate to the Americas (mostly the United States) were obliged to travel through Alsace and Lorraine on the way to Paris and from there on to Le Havre. Points of entry were Strasbourg, Forbach in Lorraine Saint-Louis on the French-Swiss border, Wissembourg in northern Alsace.
Through the early descriptions of the convoys that passed through the Alsatian and Lorraine villages, we see that many observers would have been tempted to join them and to make the trip to the New World.
We find that while the above factors were important there were still other reasons to decide to emigrate. We find a more human side of things here. There was the wish for people to own large tracts of lands, to be able to farm at "one's discretion; there were people who were imprisoned as debtors, who wished to be able to rid themselves of that burden; there were Family relationship problems; there were people who decided to leave their mother land on a whim. There were also people with broken hearts who left their former sweet hearts in the old country. No statistics are available for these broken hearts who decided to make the journey across the Atlantic.
The wish of people to CHANGE for something that could be better were fueled by letters received from relatives who had already emigrated. Letters often mentioned the possibility of talked a strange language that of opportunities unheard of in Alsace, Switzerland or the German Rhine border states.
When the Rhine river states were in economic or political chaos, the specter of emigration loomed as a very enticing safety valve.
Emigration provided Europe with a way to let off steam. Often the image that we see in America of the poor emigrant wanting to swim across the waters is not so exaggerated. When you had nothing except debt, taxes, hunger, the fear that your sons would die for a government you did not believe in, when your Church was attacked and your spirits continually placed at bay, with much anguish, what could you do? Emigrate to start a better life.
NEXT CHAPTER: The difficulties in departing the native lands.