Not only is the month of October National Family History Month, but it is also German-American Heritage Month! To celebrate my German ancestry and honor my German immigrant ancestors, I thought I’d embrace my German heritage and ancestry by sharing a little about it, my ancestors, and ways you can celebrate your own German heritage and family history. 😊
What is German-American Day:
German-American Day is a holiday in the United States, that is observed annually on October 6th. It celebrates German-American heritage and commemorates the founding of Germantown, Pennsylvania. It started off as German Day in 1883, to commemorate the 200 year anniversary of the landing of the first German families on October 6, 1683 in Philadelphia, but it died out during WWI. It was then brought back through proclamation in 1983, as German-American Day, by President Reagan. It was put into law by 1987.
About German-American Heritage Month:
German-American Heritage Month is observed in October. Stemming from German-American Day on October 6th, the month is also related to Germantown’s history and October 1683.
It’s a month-long observance of German-American Heritage!
German-Americans have contributed greatly to our society, ever since their families began settling in Pennsylvania in 1683. Did you know that 15% percent of Americans are of German descent and that they’re the largest ancestral group in the U.S.?! That’s a lot!
German Influences on American Society and Culture:
Did you know that kindergarten, graduate school, the social security system, and labor unions are all based on models that sprang from Germany? Did you know that the Christmas Tree, “gift-giving” Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny also came from Germany? German-Americans also introduced P.E. and vocational education in public schools. Recreational facilities can also be attributed to the German-Americans that helped shaped our country, as well as the forming of social clubs and groups. Do you like the “Weekend”? You can thank German-Americans for that too! There are many, many, German contributions to our society, and this list is in no way exhaustive. 😉
My German Immigrant Ancestors:
My German immigrant ancestors were Johann Adam Steinman(n), Eva Elisabetha (Marquardt) Steinman(n), Peter Steinman, and Karl “Frank” Caesar “Smith”.
Johann Adam Steinman(n) and Eva Elisabetha (Marquardt) Steinman(n) were my 4th great grandparents, who left Erlenbach and emigrated to the U.S. on July 31, 1831 through the Port of Bremerhaven, arriving through the Port of Baltimore MD sometime between September 16-20, 1831. They emigrated together with their children, including my 3rd great grandfather, Peter Steinman, along with 2 of their nephews. They were part of the Oldenwald Emigration Group that included the Famous Dove shipwreck, which you can read about with the following links below. This group was a group of family, friends, and neighbors that got together to flee high taxes, military conscription of their sons, and expensive land, who were bound for Hancock County, Ohio. Most of them were farmers. My 3rd great grandfather lost his baby sibling during the journey, and he was “buried at sea”. They first settled in Pennsylvania, for the first 6 years or so, before reaching their original destination of Ohio. They had 2 more children here in the U.S. My 4th great grandparents were devout Lutherans and were members of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Hancock County, Ohio. Johann Adam was very well respected in his community and contributed greatly to it and the church.
Karl “Frank” Caesar “Smith” was my great grandfather who left Wiesbaden and emigrated to the U.S. through Rotterdam, arriving on April 7, 1893, through the Port of New York. The story told of why he immigrated was to flee his tyrant father and that his mother helped him to do so; although, the reason is still unknown. My great grandfather was said to not want to talk about Germany nor his family there. During my research, I'd come to learn that he had changed his name for some unknown reason, and that no one knew of his true name. We knew him as Frank Smith, and we were told that his name came from the German name Schmidt, which was untrue. He enrolled in the military right away, hearing that it would also help him to speed up his naturalization. It seemed that he left many of his German ties behind, and that the only thing left was his thick German accent, his love for Limburger Cheese, and his nostalgia of his homeland landscapes. He even built his home far back in the lot to have plenty of room to plant fruit trees and create a garden oasis in the remaining ¾ or so in the front of the house. Frank contributed to America by joining the military, by which he contracted T.B. and later died, leaving his wife and small children behind.
My 3rd and 4th great grandparents are farther down the tree, and I had never met my great grandfather, so I thought I would keep their memories alive in another way, by celebrating them during German-American Heritage month.
How you can observe German-American Heritage Month and Embrace Your German Ancestry:
1) Research your German ancestors!
1) Give voice to one of your German ancestors, through video, with MyHeritage’s DeepStory photo tool
2) Blog about one of your German Ancestors
3) Write a short biography on one of your German ancestors
4) Make a German heritage scrapbook
5) Join a parade, like a Steuben Parade
6) Visit a museum, like the German–American Heritage Museum
7) Visit a German town, such as Alpine Bavarian village in Vail CO, “Little Bavaria” in Frankenmuth MI, Helen GA, Fredericksburg TX, Hermann MO, Leavenworth WA, Castroville TX, Amana Colonies IA
8) Listen to German music (don’t like German music, then listen to some Broadway musicals, influenced from the Germans!)
9) Make some German Food (Don’t like German Food, then eat a hamburger or hot dog to commemorate; they originated from Germany!)
10) Go to a German restaurant
11) Go to a German bakery
12) Read up on the contributions Germans made to American society and culture
13) Join a German-American Heritage Festival
14) Join an Oktoberfest Celebration- Top 15 Oktoberfest Celebrations in the U.S.
15) Read German literature or a book form a German-American author
16) Research famous Americans with German heritage and learn about their accomplishments
17) Learn how to speak German or learn some German words
18) Use the hashtag, #GermanAmericanDay on social media to celebrate your German heritage
19) Trace the U.S. Presidents’, Theodore Roosevelt; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Herbert Hoover; Richard Nixon; George W. Bush; Barack Obama; and Donald Trump, German ancestry back to Germany
20) And this list could go on forever! 😉
Do you have German ancestors? If so, where did they come from and when did they immigrate? How did your German-American ancestors help shape America? What will you do to celebrate German-American Heritage Month and honor your German ancestry? Do you have something to add to this list?
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