This week while working with German records, I came across something very interesting, and as I thought more about this particular document, I realized that there is a deeper message here than is initially evident.
The document is a list of individuals who had obtained permission to emigrate from Wurttemberg, Germany between 1816 and 1822. At that time, one had to file for permission to emigrate, obtain permission, and the list of those departing was a legal document published to forewarn any debtors. This list happens to include, in some cases, the destination of the departing German citizen. It’s obvious that this information was not essential, because at least half of the entries don’t have any destination. They really didn’t care where you were going.
Some destinations are very specific, particularly if they were moving to another German town outside of Wurttemberg.
Several destinations gave locations like “to America or Russia” and sometimes “to America and Russia” and others “some to America and some to Russia.” Either the emigrants hadn’t yet made up their mind, or the German authorities really didn’t care which of the two destinations.
My ancestors were in the “America” group, but I never thought about Germans migrating to Russia. In general, my assumption has been that migration was generally westward, and Russia is significantly east of Germany.
Even more interesting are the entries that say Kaukasus which is dramatically distant. The Caucasus is just north of the Middle East, in the area considered Eurasia, the dividing line between Europe and Asia, between the Black and Caspain Seas. In 8 cases, they gave the name of the town, Odessa, which is in the Ukraine on the Black Sea. So, Russia may not mean the closest portion of Russia – although no part of Russia was close to Germany. Russia as a location may indeed mean traveling thousands of miles east and south. Not exactly the direction in which we think of relatively contemporary population migration.
There were 3605 records total, many without additional information. But those that do provide additional information are quite interesting:
- 327 America (including North America)
- 501 Russia (some say Georgian, one says Crimea)
- 112 Kaukasus (one says Russia – Kaukusas)
- 11 Asia (1 says Russian Asia)
- 16 Poland
- 17 Austria
- 8 say Odessa, which is in the Ukraine on the Black Sea.
Some name other German towns.
A couple of people are noted as Separatist, one is divorced, two are single females with illegitimate children. Several are noted as widows or widowers. One says “with wife without permission.”
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this list are locations not listed. No other countries are listed, other than what is shown above. South America is not listed. No place in southern or western or northern Europe is listed. Neither is Scandinavia.
I would never have thought about “backward migration.” In genetic genealogy, unless you are one of the Vikings who basically invaded pretty much anyplace in Europe and the Mediterranean that could be invaded, we think of settlement and migration as moving northward and eastward into Europe out of the Middle East, Asia and the Caucasus. I have never, not once, thought about people from central Europe migrating back into Eurasia, back into the Caucasus from southwestern Germany – over 2000 km or about 1300 miles. They did, however, and became known as the Black Sea Germans.
Georgia, on the other hand, is even further – about 3680 km or 2300 miles.
At 10 miles a day in a wagon, it would be 230 days to Georgia or 130 days to Odessa. You had to really, really want to go there.
On the other hand, the trip to America was “just” 600 km (370 miles) or so to Rotterdam where you boarded a ship, sailed and waited, probably seasick, for between 2 and 3 months to arrive. You then climbed aboard a wagon again to your final American destination which was probably relatively close to your port of arrival – at least compared to the Caucasus.
We’re not surprised to find “German” DNA in America of course, but finding “German” DNA in the Middle East or the Caucasus could well lead to interpreting the data incorrectly if we adhere to the model of only forward (nearing northward and westward) migration. In these records, we find documentation that significant backwards migration did occur, and relatively recently. We can’t assume that where DNA is found today is where it originated nor that the expansion area follows the generally accepted direction of population migration.
Of course, we’ve always know that about destination locations, like the British Isles for example, but we don’t often think of places in Russia and the Caucasus which was at that time under Russian rule as immigration locations for European emigrants. That small stream of Russian emigrants, over time added up to a significant population. The first Russian census was taken in 1897 and it showed 1.8 million Germans living in Russia.
If you’re interested in further information, there is a very interesting website that includes a history and map of German Russian settlements from the 1700s and 1800s.
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