In the first time out we discussed how to find a place of origin in Germany (or other German speaking locations) for your ancestor. This time we will mention some other sources that have proved to be helpful as well.
There often have been books published around the turn of the century (1900 or thereabouts) which have pictures and biographies of various immigrant people. If they were brewers, for example, you may find such a volume with a photo of the person, and a biography of them and their family in the paragraphs underneath. Or sometimes they were in the police or fire departments. Those too often have a photo or the person and a short biography. Ditto for hoteliers or other businessmen.
Social clubs are another place to look. When starting over in a new country people would naturally band together with others from their home country. This could be either in church groups or social organizations, like shooting clubs, singing clubs, theater groups, and so on. Many times there were written items about these groups and their activities, Especially if your ancestor was an officer of one of these, you might be able find more biographical information about them. These might be found in libraries, historical societies, church archives, colleges, etc.
Do not forget that people liked to read about themselves! There have been more and more discoveries of immigrant people in online sources, and with the digitization that has been going on, you may be able to find the name of some newspapers, when and where they were published and who holds copies of it. Even if it has not been digitized and put online, it could very well be in the locations just mentioned above for social clubs and other such sources. I mention this because one person walked into the place where I was working and donated bound German-language newspapers from the 1840s and 1850s which predate official governmental record keeping by scores of years in that location. Being Germans, of course the place of origin was mentioned for various people!
Other places to look are online. Many sites have lists of immigrants. I was just working with a Danish site that attempts get all the Danes who immigrated to the US, but as it happens the marry-ins were from Northern Germany. And there are sites like Adeloch, sponsored by the Departmental Archives of Bas-Rhin, France, which contain hundred of villages worth of birth, marriage, and death records in the church records that they have put online for free. You may have to dig around in them, but if you can find a location for an immigrant you may be able to take them back to the 1600s using those free online records. Sadly, they do not have a federated search (that means you type in on an overall search page, and get results). You have to search each one individually, and they are handwritten in either French, German or Latin.
FEEFHS is a remarkable collection of useful items such as maps, books about various locations, and much more. As an example I found a book mentioned on it which went into great detail about the families who had migrated to the area on which I was searching. Genealogy.net is available in German and English, and you can search a number of databases at one with a federated search as explained above). Many of these allow for alerts to be set up to inform you of successful searches after the time that you search. These include GEDBAS [a list of names that people who are reaching them have submitted to the site, something akin to RootsWeb’s WorldConnect or the Familysearch submissions); historical database address books; and FOKO, which translates to researcher contact. It is a project of DAGV, a German genealogical association for obtaining genealogy information from Germans living in Germany, for those with a German background who live elsewhere; research databases of clubs; online local heritage books (OFB’s); people number registers for Schleswig Holstein; grave stones; casualty lists for WW I and grave stones in Ostfriesland.
And there are also online booksellers – some of them have very useful collections of books of EMIGRANTS from their area- who would naturally be the immigrants to the USA. One of many is at: http://gendi.biz/shop/.
While no one site is the be-all and end-all, you should try these out to see what results you find. I have used them successfully to find some of my own hard to find ancestors. However, like with anything else, people sometimes do not reply to emails, they pass away or have another reason not to respond. But it never hurts to try!