Monday, October 11, 2004


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since last August, much water have runneth under the tunnel, and as most of you know, we have been obliged, due to Family reasons, to temporarily suspend publication of the VTE.

We are happy to announce that the VIRTUAL TOUR ON EMIGRATION will RESUME very soon. No actual date has yet been scheduled.

We thank you for your patience since the end of June.

Please feel free to write to with positive comments, and / or questions. We will try to answer you in a timely fashion.

Most Sincerely,

Jacques de Guise
Bordeaux, 6 November 2004.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Hello Everyone!

Below you will find the second chapter on our Virtual Tour on Emigration:
The difficulties in departing the native lands. Please read some of practical remarks below.

Two months have passed since I made the introductory comments. More than 145 individuals have requested to be included in receiving this Virtual Emigration Tour. The RootsWeb lists include: Switzerland-L, Alsace-Lorraine-L, Pfalz through the good graces of Valorie Zimmerman, BADEN-WURTTEMBERG-L and, and

Many people have not received some parts of the Virtual Tour on Emigration.
We shall endeavour to place the various chapters on our web site in one month or two. Should you be missing some material, please send us a valid personal address and we will do a group resend.

Please note that should you want to receive these chapters for whatever reasons, please do not burden the lists with your requests, rather, write and we will be happy to send you the chapter. Because of high demand, we prefer grouping the requests. Please also note that should you wish to use this material on your web site or in any published denomination, please ask for permission first from the undersigned.

Remarks, comments of a positive nature (!) are always appreciated and can be sent to the same address as above,

A note of caution is in order in this Virtual Tour: there may be generalizations which crop up here and there. We mean no harm to any nationality, religion or specific genders.

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. Adding more here means a more diluted subject matter.

Thank you for your understanding and happy reading.


Chapter 1: Reason to Emigrate. 31 March

Chapter 2: The difficulties in departing the native lands. 31 April

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


Families had been burdened for years with ongoing problems that were not solved. Many Families who saw the same problems that their grandparents had dealt with were obliged to accept the fact that one could not leave one's village to go anywhere. The notion of staying in one's village or town (as opposed to one's city where information was usually more available and where more people were able to read), probably started to change in this entire area with the social, economic and political problems that went unresolved.

One might think that the Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethic which in its basic form says that if one works hard and harder, he shall be better off economically is not something that should be considered here as the main reason to leave these countries. What was the final straw that made people actually go away?

People needed to eat. When people are unable to eat because they cannot find ways to obtain monies to pay for food, they will find any way to obtain that food. People may live in hunger, in settings where their stomachs always feel empty. If generation after generation, it makes "sense" that on some days people go hungry and on others they do not, what makes this conservative scenery change?

It is Hope. Espoir. Hoffnung. Where does this hope come from? From a few pioneers who had the courage to travel far from their old homes, and to report back to their Families in the old countries. A few people dared to cross the great waters.

It is my thought that anyone who has been obliged to leave his home, his native lands will probably see parts of himself in the following description. Regardless of what reasons our Families had to leave, the hardships of departure are almost always heartbreaking.

There is the love of Family of the home that we are obliged to leave. There is the love of Nature around us. We are certainly leaving people who cared for us who could be close Family, less close Family, and cousins. Those people could have been our neighbours for years. The people we are leaving may have been Families with whom our own Family grew up through the years, and or even hundreds of years. We leave our "enemies" as well as the little old man and lady who ran the corner store. We leave memories behind which we cannot even transport in our suitcases. We leave the burdens, the pains, the hurts, the joys, the moments of happiness. We leave the education that we were brought up with. We may be leaving the parish priest behind. We leave the houses we knew best. We leave all the things that we considered to be ugly, a waste of monies. We wonder if the village fountain on a street we passed will be finally be fixed. Finally upon leaving we leave our own house as old or as young it may be, our fields that we helped to harvest, the shops that we owned.

We leave the debts that we owed if we did owe monies to someone. Some of us will leave a wife and children behind with the promise that we shall return to fetch them. When we leave our Families in place where we were born, we have no idea when we will be returning to fetch them, or when we will have to send for them. Some of us will be less glorious in promising our wives and children that we would come and fetch them, and, history may tell us that we never made good on our promise. We preferred to leave all those bad souvenirs behind and start a new life in the new country, with a new wife and new children with new opportunities in a new land.

We want to forget the way we departed. We want to forget the pain that was imposed upon us by the people around us, the enemies whomever they were.
They might have been the armies that we were obliged to submit to, such as German or French armies in Alsace and or in Lorraine, or the Protestant cantonal armies in mainly Catholic Cantons in Switzerland in the Sunderbund War which pitted the small catholic cantons against the larger protestant cantons.

We may want to forget that our neighbours and our friends turned against us when we became Anabaptists or Mennonites. We may want to forget that the night watchman's son was our jailer in Bern or Zurich prison. We may want to forget that the call of the Cantonal militia turned us to fight the village across the river. We may want to forget that we had two sons who died fighting hopelessly overwhelming odds. We may want to forget that a brother of ours was chained and taken to prison because he could not pay his debts.
We remember that he died there and that we had to support his wife and his young children besides taking care of our own.

We have personal reasons to worry about the current state of affairs whatever they are at the moment. We may not be employed or be able to be paid for the work that we do. Our father taught us a wonderful trade, and at the moment people around us cannot pay for our work. We have to work to be able to buy things to eat. In order to buy things to eat, we need monies.
Perhaps the fields have not produced as much as we had hoped. We may have had to send some of our sons to the city and faraway from home because we were unable to feed them and because they could not be used at home. We do not want to become beggars. The thought of sending our sons to beg in the street is simply not an option that we can consider seriously.

We may have personal reasons to worry about what we have heard in the village, town or the posters we have seen in the city showing that boats are leaving for new countries from here, that all expenses are paid. The current personal situation we are facing gives us good reasons to want to something better. Do the posters that we have seen really tell us the truth about the new lands of America, Australia or South America?

What have we heard from the cousins who went to America? What did they tell us about the trip there? Ah yes, they were able to travel with Badeners and Swiss to Cincinnati or to Saint Louis on a river that is called the Missouri or is it the Mississippi River? They say that in America the rivers are so big that one cannot swim across them. They say that in New Alsace there are have been attacks of locusts! In Wisconsin, it has been heard that the snows during the winters are 6 feet high with freezing temperatures. Not very much different than what we have here. The land in that country is good; apparently there is so much land that one cannot not only eat from the land, but also sell what he has planted at prices that are better than what we have here. Our cousin Frederich says that the black dirt that we lack so much here in Alsace, Switzerland, in Baden or in Wurtemberg is prevalent in Highland, Illinois; he mentions that there this black dirt is more than 10 meters deep, that all one needs is there is to plant. Corn grows so fast that they hardly have time to harvest it!

Johann-Pieter, our brother tells us that his wife is much better from her illness, but that he had to drive the horse and the cart (imagine they have a horse and a cart while here we have to get one of our neighbours to lend us one!), and that the closest doctor was 20 miles away!

Sutter! Gold! They have found gold in California! People are walking down the streets with costumes made of gold. There is so much gold there, those houses are built with it.
I place myself in the shoes of the head of household in Alsace, Lorraine, Switzerland, even Baden and Wurtemberg of the time. With many of the people who lived the same life that I did, I counted on selling my produce in Basel or up in Mayence, Koblenz, or elsewhere where I could get a good price. The Swiss usually gave better prices for my goods. This year however, the prices are all the same. The cost of going to Basel to sell my produce does not even cost the relatively better prices that we usually get.

Could it be possible that there is a place in this World where things are better than all the problems that we have here? Could it be that what Johann-Pieter really has a better life out in Castroville, Texas? Where is this Texas? I am still daydreaming! Oh, no, here comes the Taxman. What does he want?

I will have to pay taxes to you on monies that I have not made yet, and on my house? Where will I get the money? I cannot pay you because no one pays me. Oh, it is not of your concern? Well, I can't pay you because I don't have any money? There is no way. Ask someone in the Family? I do not know about that. You tell me that I should go and ask for a loan from the Jews who lend monies? You know that they are loan sharks. I do not wish to have to pay you with their monies and then to have the farm taken away from me! Would you be so kind as to give me some time to obtain the monies? You give me 10 days to pay? Okay, thank you.

At this point no decisions have made by the head of the household, the wife or the sons.

Much more information will be needed in order to make that important decision which is to leave the native lands. There is the notion of responsibility that is important, that which is to oneself, certainly but also to the community. There is the fact that as we are the head of the household, we are the providers for our Families. The realisation that ends cannot be met , that there may be a better life elsewhere, without prejudice, due to religion, to the trade that we exercise, is long in coming.

Certainly in Alsace, Lorraine and in Switzerland, young people were often sent from villages to the cities to be apprentices to learn a trade.
How many stories have we all heard of these regions providing arm power to cities like Paris, Zurich, Lyon and Hamburg and Munich, London?

The Swiss, as we all know had been at the service of many people including kings and queens, and foreign armies. The Swiss had sent their men to combat outside of Switzerland in order to be paid salaries until 1848 when Swiss citizens were prohibited to serve in foreign armies. What happened? Did the former combatants become headwaiters? No, but those people who could not find jobs in Switzerland were obliged to look for other solutions in order to survive. Sometimes that meant that they would leave to work for someone abroad as " a person of confidence" for example. Other times, it was to leave the Mother Country to never return and still engage oneself in a foreign army.

The women of Switzerland were highly prized as "ladies in waiting," in the various monarchies. When one could not find employment with such high-ranking people, Swiss and some Alsatians found themselves working in services industries such as in hotels, restaurants, upper class shops, etc.
There were, of course, very highly skilled Swiss and Alsatians whose skills were needed still within Europe.

We return to the letters and post cards that were sent from the Americas or Australia. We have been able to find very interesting details on how people lived in the new countries. We also have many details on the ways that people saw the old country. Many references are made to former family members. Because these letters are full of details and often refer to a history that was, we not only find the names of family members, but also the names of village members that existed long before the emigrant's departure. (These letters when found in a Family are sometimes priceless in genealogy research.)

When a letter arrived in the old country, it was a Family affair, and people would often sit around a table listening to the recital of events over a bottle of wine or beer and cookies. The scene was repeated several times not only with Family members, and with people who were close. Village units were smaller than they are today. Often several Families had been living with one another for hundreds of years in the same village. Often these Families had wed one another as a consequence of having lived side by side for so many years.

What did these letters contain of such importance? These letters contained an added and personal push towards helping undecided people to leave the conditions they had always known. These letters gave hope to people who were not even sure that the word existed. Hope may have been a word that was uttered by a priest or a minister until these letters arrived:
they were the proof that somewhere in the World things could be at least be a little better.
Espoir. Hoffnung.

The letters and the new information about the conditions in the New Worlds reassured people who were considering moving. It should be thought of as pure utopia that people would be able to compare their own conditions in the Old World with that of a New World where they had never been before.
Family members also left many questions unanswered. We should point out that many immigrants wrote their future travelers stories that were highly exaggerated about living conditions in the New Worlds. The reasons are
simple: the new immigrants did not know well their surroundings, and they probably wanted to impress their Families that they had made the correct choice to come to the New Worlds.

The notions of geography were not much better than they are today.
People had atlases although depending upon one's social condition; a book was a rare and expensive item to have. People would look up where cards and letters would come from. Often the names on atlases and of the post being completely different, the vague idea of where the rest of the Family lived was enough to satisfy people in the Old Country.

Will the children be able to receive an education? In what language?
What religion? Will we have to accept authority of German or French armies there? Will be able to speak our language there? What will the children speak? They will have to learn English or can they go to German or French speaking schools? Many people hesitated to make the final decision to leave the native country because of the unknown. One factor is the language. We note that women were particularly afraid to leave because of this problem.

Will we be safe? One would think that the question of security would have arisen particularly from women in a family's decision to emigrate.
Perhaps the fact that we do not often see this as a reluctance may be due to the fact that women at the time considered that their men would give them that security should something happen. People were aware of the dangers of the Indians in North America as in South America. People were also well aware of the sicknesses that colonists had to attempt to live through.

Where will we go if we leave our village? How will we go there? What awaits us in those new lands? How will we survive? They say that it takes 3 months or 20 days of a boat trip. We have never been on a boat. We have never seen an ocean. What colour is the water?
Can you eat on a boat? How long will it take us to go from our village to wherever we are going? Three days? Will a sack of potatoes, some ham and bread be sufficient for us to take this long trip? Will we ever see our village again? Will we see the families that we are leaving behind? What will the trip cost and where will we be going? How much can we obtain for the house. How much will we have to pay in taxes to the village? Will the Mayor sign the papers that need signing so that we may be able to leave?

Those are some hundreds of the questions that emigrants must have certainly asked themselves once they had decided that they could or would leave their homes. Another facilitator would come in handy here for all of this region: they are commonly called "recruitment companies." This is one of the dark sides of the emigration process, and one that is still not well known due to the nature of the work that the companies engaged in.

The recruitment companies were companies who were technically employed to recruit "arms" to do the work in the New Worlds. Labour was in short supply in the Americas as it was in Australia and in the African colonies.
The companies took care of "everything": the tickets would be paid from departure to arrival, and if everything went according to the contract that was signed, the newly arrived EMIGRANT in the new country would work for a certain number of years to pay back the investment that had been placed in him.

On the other hand, certain people did pass themselves off as recruitment agents. Emigrants would pay their tickets all the way to exotic places like Argentina or the United States and find themselves in ports of departure without any tickets or even a ship to embark on. The agents had left with the monies.

One can just imagine the stress that emigrants had in leaving Europe during all those years. The uncertainty. The fright. The fear. The unknowns.
The foreign languages. The climate changes. The opening of completely new worlds awaited these emigrants which would pit nationals of one country against another, would bind old world enemies into friends, and would often mix Swiss with Germans, Germans with Alsatians, Alsatians and people from Lorraine, surprisingly in North America, Swiss and Norwegians.

In conclusion, it is my belief that it took many years for many people to make the decision to leave. We have seen the reasons why people left.
What we do not know in many cases is what was the final straw that made people actually leave. Said another way, what was "the drop that made the glass spill over?"

Jacques de Guise
Cabinet d'Etudes Généalogiques
Center for Genealogical Research
Estudio de Investigaciónes Genealógicas
Bordeaux, France
30 April 2004.

Monday, July 12, 2004

VTE: The Outline of the Virtual Tour on Emmigration


Chapter 1: Reason to Emigrate. 31 March 2004.

Chapter 2: The difficulties in departing the native lands. 31 April 2004.

Chapter 3. The trip to the European port of departure. 30/31 July 2004

Chapter 4. The boat trip. 30/31 August 2004

Chapter 5. Arrivals 30 September 2004

Chapter 6. Notes on emigration concerning:
Alsace and Lorraine

There could conceivably be some more chapters on emigration, for example:

Alsatian and Lorrainers, Swiss, in North Africa
Alsatian and Lorrainers, Swiss, in Central and South Americas
including Mexico?
Spanish emigration to Europe and to the New Worlds
The link between Jews and Huguenots in their emigrations
outside of Spain?
What was the role of Bordeaux in the emigration process?
What was the role of Geneva / Lausanne / Bern, in the
emigration process?

Are you interested in these questions? What are you interested in? Please write us at with your comments and questions.

Sincerely yours,

Jacques de Guise
Cabinet d'Ėtudes Généalogiques
Center for Genealogical Research
Estudio de Investigaciones Genealógicas
BP / PO Box / AP 80137
33706 Bordeaux - Mérignac CEDEX

Tel. +33 (0) 557.291 853

Fax: +33 (0) 556.122.183


Hello Everyone!

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.

A note of caution is in order in this Virtual Tour: there may be generalizations which crop up here and there. We mean no harm to any nationality, religion or specific genders. This is just a general tour.

Please note that should you want to receive these chapters for whatever reasons, please do not burden the lists with your requests, rather, write and we will be happy to send you the chapter. Because of high demand, we prefer grouping the requests.

Remarks, comments of a positive nature (!) are always appreciated and can be sent to the same address as above,

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.


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



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.


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.


Hello Everyone,

In accordance with my personal promise to do a virtual tour on emigration, please find the outline of subjects that will be covered in the next 6 months, one topic to be covered each month.

The lists of Alsace-Lorraine, France-Alsace, Germany-Pfalz, and Switzerland will all be receiving the same subject matter. The chapter will be sent to the lists at the last day of each month for the following 6 months.

Persons not appearing on the above lists may ask me for this material offline: please send your requests to to be placed on a list of names needing special touch and loving care.

I would like to remind you that people who are staff of Cabinet d’Études Généalogiques / Center for Genealogical Research / Estudio de Investigaciones Genealógicas do sometimes place their comments on an individual, personal basis. In no way is the CEG / CGR / EIG liable for inaccuracies occurring as a result of private contributions to the lists. Roots Web has been good enough to let us make our personal comments based on past experience on the various Lists. We have done this hoping to open eyes to people, and hoping to “help break down the brick wall” that sometimes exists in genealogical research.

Please be aware that the material presented here is my own work: I do this for pleasure. I am NOT remunerated for this work at all. I have not been asked to do this. Because of the overwhelming response particularly those of Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland lists, I decided to make this a personal project.

The information you will find in the following 6 chapters (in the following 6 months) are based on research and experience. I will quote authors who have contributed through their writings on the subject of emigration in a precise manner, so that anyone can check the material for accuracy.

I believe that all constructive criticism should be encouraged on the lists and on the subject of emigration.

Finally, but not least, please make your p-e-r-s-o-n-a-l c-o-m-m-e-n-t-s, should you find that you need to do so, to me personally on and NOT on the lists.


Why did I include the same text and bundle all these together under the most pompous name “Virtual Emigration Tour”?

My first main reason is the proximity of the people who live in Switzerland, Alsace and Lorraine, Baden and Wurtemberg, and the Pfalz. One common denominator for all these regions is the Rhine River. Who says river means water, who says a waterway says that one could use it as a means to emigrate from their native lands before any settlement of the New World could even be envisaged. The Rhine River was an extremely important waterway leading to many commercial and other exchanges. For hundreds of years Basel was one center for Swiss cantons to meet Alsatians, people from the lower Rhine, the Pfalz, people from Baden and Wurtemberg. Commercial exchanges were possible with places such as Konstanz, St. Gallen in eastern Switzerland to places like Besançon in Franche-Comté ( France), Strasbourg, Koln (Cologne) to Low Countries (regions encompassing today’s countries of Luxembourg, Belgium and The Netherlands). We also find products coming as far as Milan, Italy and Lyon, France through Geneva to Bern to Basel.

The second reason has to do with the Thirty Years War and its aftermath. The conflict could well be considered the continuation of the Wars of Religion in France. It pitted German protestant princes against the nations who still felt aligned with Catholicism and the power of Rome.

The war started with an “incident” in Prague and quickly led to the revolt of Bohemia. Ferdinand II of Habsburg, very well known for his love of power and intransigence concerning the Catholic cause was obliged to flee to the Low Countries in 1620 Christian IV of Denmark entered the battle as a protestant monarch was forced to sign the Peace of Lübeck in 1629. The Emperor finding that he had won over the Danes decided to force his winnings. The Swedes entered the battle pushed diplomatically by countries like France. France declared war against Spain with several victories. One victory was in Fribourg, Switzerland.

The Treaties of Westphalia is well known to many and was concluded in 1648: it weakened Germany and it strengthened Sweden, France, the United Provinces (Holland), and Switzerland.

You might say what does that have to do with my Family? The Thirty Years War was an amazingly cruel war. Aren’t all wars cruel? Yes, indeed, however because the armies were composed of men who committed unbelievable savagery, as usual the local populations received the brunt of these bullies. Wherever you read about this war, you will find that no one was a choir boy in terms of how they dealt with the local population; in particular the Swedes were known to have been terribly devastating.

At the end of the Thirty Years’ War, we find an Alsace, a Baden, and a Wurtemberg that have been destroyed completely. Farms no longer exist as they have all been burned. Scenes from the area indicate that there were more mice and rats then living people. Complete villages in some places existed with no one living in them. No farmers were there to milk cows. The grass grew high as commerce came to a complete halt.

Wars will displace people. People will leave their regions because they have had to rebuild too many times, or because their personal safety is at risk. One can be run over by armies so many times before one gets the idea that perhaps next time, he/ she won’t be that lucky to still be alive. So one decides to leave if one can.

Wars will also destroy infrastructures that were in place. That is exactly what happened with the Thirty Years’ War. Alsace needed reconstruction, as did many other places. Under Cardinal Mazarin, and his successor, the Swiss were called to re-populate the entire Alsace areas which included those very southern areas of the Pfalz. As can be expected under a Catholic regime, the Swiss Catholic farmers were first called to repopulate. There were not many people who heeded that call. Then it became the turn of French-speaking Protestants like the cantons of Vaud, Geneva and Neuchâtel. Finally the German-speaking cantons were asked to come to Alsace to farm the land and repopulate the land in exchange for property rights.

That is why today, anyone doing these genealogical research in these areas cannot completely ignore the role of the Swiss, or even of the people of Wurtemberg or Baden who made the trip to make a better life for themselves.

Emigration and Immigration.

Emigration, comes from the Latin, “emigrare” which means to move away from a body. In our case, people were moving from one country within Europe to another within Europe, or were departing Europe for regions in the New World. People where leaving one region to settle in another.

Immigration, by contrast, its antonym, also comes from the Latin, “immigrare” which means “to go into an new region, new country.” Immigrants arrived in new regions of the New World.

European emigrants left Europe and became immigrants in the New World. Yu first have the “e” and then you have the “i” if you do not remember which one comes first.

A by note here, and this will be our first one, is that we do not usually talk of immigrants until a series of colonies were established. Before that we call them, “colonists” or “settlers” to the New World irregardless of the areas in the New World where people where going.

We should not forget that while we will be dealing with relatively Germanic areas of influence, other emigrations were taking place from Italy, from Spain, Portugal and other countries to the New World or even to other regions. We must remain open to the fact that people leaving our regions did decide to leave their native lands for better lives, that they did not necessarily go with the flow of natives like them, but remained very closely attached to their knowledge of their language. That is why we will find Alsace-Lorraine “expatriates” in countries like Mexico or Belize, Swiss also in Mexico, Argentina and of course, Brazil, Swiss mixed with Alsatians and Lorrains in Veracruz, Swiss mixed with Germans in Cincinnati, Ohio, not to mention the Swiss-Germans who populated along with the Germans such states as Wisconsin, USA.


Chapter 1: Reason to Emigrate.

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

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy this Virtual Tour of Emigration.

Sincerely yours,

Jacques de Guise
Cabinet d’Études Généalogiques
Center for Genealogical Research
Estudio de Investigaciones Genealogicas
Switzerland, France, Spain.