Something about German-Americans


In the February 7, 2015 issue of weekly magazine The Economist there is an article all about “the silent minority”. The silent minority is none other than German-Americans, still the largest ethnic group in the U.S., for the present time (according to magazine). The most interesting part about the article is that it mentions Wisconsin, talk about of an Austrian chalet built as a tribute to immigrant John Michael Kohler who is a well known plumbing business in these parts. The article relates that about 41% of the people in Wisconsin are of Teutonic stock, like Angela Merkel. Kindergartens were started by German immigrants in the good state of Wisconsin. As many people may know beer is a big deal and Milwaukee has had it former barons like, Jacob Best, Joseph Schlitz, Frederick Pabst and Frederick Miller, oh and baseball Milwaukee Brewers – go team in 2015!

Of course acknowledging your German heritage is something that became more complicated in the 20th Century with both wars. So it was a surprise to me to see this article. Check it out, an interesting read with a little fun about Germans in America.

Something about German-Americans

Evolution of Wisconsin Counties


Good afternoon. Recently I was in the Mineral Point, WI., “The Foundry Books”. A small bookstore, privately owned but for those who like to find small treasures, it is wonderful!

I found some small items to assist in my genealogical service for you.

Some 20 years ago, two women whose great-great-grandparents (paternal side) Zastrow came to settle in Wisconsin in mid-1800s, put together a wonderful resource of our 72 counties with township relationships, along with history of county formations and information on earliest registration of vital records: Birth, Marriage and Death. I thank the authors Wendy and Linda for taking the time to put together this valuable information.

In the beginning, prior to 1836 there was the Wisconsin Territory: present Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and parts of the Dakotas. {Of course I recognize that our Native American populations have been in these locations for centuries before these type of Western Divisions were put on paper.} By 1836 Wisconsin by itself had 4 counties: Crawford, Iowa, Brown and Milwaukee. Each of these were great areas of land that incorporated areas divided by the Mississippi to Wisconsin River, and the Wisconsin River to Lake Michigan. By the time we became a state in 1848, Wisconsin had about 31 counties and then 58 counties in 1860 to final 72 counties in 1961.

Evolution of Wisconsin Counties

Where do we come from?


In the year 1865 the United States was in the final year of the Civil war. On or about April 15, 1865 a family called Rethamel from northeastern Prussia (Germany) in an area called Gross Boschpol, Lauenburg in the region of Pomerania was about to embark from the Hamburg port on a ship called the Keppler to Quebec, Canada and eventually to a new location in Chicago, Illinois in the United States, on the shores of Lake Michigan. Abraham Lincoln 16th President of the U.S. was killed by an assassin’s bullet and the manhunt for his killer John Wilkes Booth was just beginning.

In the mid-to-late nineteenth (19th) century the confederation of German states played a significant role in the number of people who emigrated and become immigrants in the U.S. and the new state of Wisconsin. Why Wisconsin or even the mid-west area?

I suspect the topography, weather and opportunities in the area (the eastern U.S. had already been settled and claimed by earlier immigrants) at the time provided a source for starting new homes, new freedoms and especially land. In 1862 the Congress of US passed and Lincoln signed the Homestead Act that provided an applicant freehold title to up to 160 acres (1/4 section, 65 hectares) of undeveloped federal land outside the original 13 colonies (cit). The Native American population in Wisconsin had been pushed off or forcefully removed from prime farm land before and after the Black Hawk War of 1832. By 1900 34% of WI population (2 million total people) or 709, 909 were of German heritage. (cit).

A large part of the German migration in the 19th century was from various little independent states that were not part of large “Germany” but a confederation of 100 small administrative units controlled in a feudal manner by a hierarchy of princes, grand dukes, dukes, margraves, abbots, electors, barons and counts. By 1815 these units became 30 states either voluntarily or through aggression of Prussia (largest state). Prussia was the location where the “Rethamel” family lived.

August F. Rethamel (Rettammel) in the 1880 birth certificate record for his son Edward is listed as a brickman or mason trade for an occupation. This information would fit with previous stories the author heard as a child. In pre-Germany as a country this would have been an occupation that was in the artisan class. Artisans abided by ancient regulations of medieval craft guilds.

Where do we come from?