27 July 2015

Was Your German Ancestor Recruited to Come to Michigan?

Did you know that Michigan was the first state to employ Immigration agents? In the early 1800's, the Michigan Territory was having difficulty growing its population. This difficulty was due to a combination of things:

  • difficulty reaching Michigan from the eastern states
  • false reports about character and quality of the land in Michigan
  • Michigan land was not surveyed at the time
  • War of 1812 devastated the area
  • no government land was for sale

The population of the Michigan Territory in 1805 was 4000; 1810 was 4762; 1820 was 8765.  The opening of the Erie Canal contributed to the population swelling to 31,630 people by 1830.  Michigan gained statehood in 1837 and the population boomed to 212, 267 with many migrating from New York and New England areas. The first Michigan constitutional convention was held and controlled by New Yorker's because so many people who were born in New York migrated to Michigan.

Although Michigan was growing as a state with Americans, it wasn't growing with many foreigners. State Senator Edwin M. Cust thought it was time to encourage foreign born people to immigrate to Michigan.  He asked for the establishment of a Foreign Emigration Agency in 1845.  Governor John S. Barry signed the resolution on 24 March 1845.

The resolution allowed the Governor to appoint an agent from the "1st day of April to the 20th day of November" for the purpose of encouraging immigration.  Money could be used from a contingent fund, not to exceed $700, for costs of setting such an agency up. This agency was in New York.

Michigan continued to fund an agency from 1845-1880.  One such agent, Maximilian Allardt, was appointed to open an office in Germany.  Allardt left in August of 1869 to recruit and bring back Germans to work and live in Michigan.

Allardt produced an eight page magazine, "Der Michigan Wegweiser", the Michigan Guide, to sell people on everything Michigan had to offer.  The first issue was published in 1870 and the last issue in 1875.  This magazine was distributed free of charge in Germany, Bohemia, and Hungary.

William L. Jenks wrote an article titled, Michigan Immigration, that was featured in a 1944 Michigan History Magazine.  This article provides an excellent history of the immigration offices and agents.

What does this mean for genealogists?  Records, oh those glorious records!  From 1869-1874 the agents created Governor's Reports, which are available at the Archives of Michigan, in Box 243, Records of the Executive Office.  This record group contains documentation of Allardt's marketing strategy, recruitment materials, and travel plans from his time in Germany.  Passenger lists may be included with some of the reports.

Other records available, by box number, at the Archives of Michigan include:
  • B55 – Emigration Commission
  • 65 –  Famine in Finland, 1903
  • 157 –  Immigration, 1843-1910
  • 179 –  Emigration Commission
  • 243 –  Emigration and Immigration Commission
  • 250 –  Emigration Agent
  • 193 –  Transportation – Steamship companies
  • Flyer re:  “Inducements for Actual Settlers in Michigan” in B55 – F15

John Reisig and John Hemmeter worked with Allardt, even traveling from Europe with the recruits. Tip: If you are having trouble finding your ancestor who immigrated to Michigan at this time, use one of these gentleman's names on the passenger list and then search the passenger list for your ancestor.

I have wondered for some time if my great grandfather, Johann August Fredrich, was recruited to come to Michigan and work in the timber industry in Manistee County.  I didn't know much about how recruitment worked until I attended Ceil Wendt Jensen's "Immigration Agents" presentation at the Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar, in Lansing Michigan.

One of Ceil's slides showed the area of the German Partition of Posen and the villages in the area my Fredrich ancestors came from was there: Bromberg. Ceil gave a wonderful talk, filled with resources for futher research.  Ceil planted the seed in my head and I spent time conducting background research on Immigration Agents.  Was my great grandfather recruited to come to Michigan?  Check back to find out!

Immigration Agents Resources (Courtesy of Ceil Wendt Jensen)
  • Agents of Change by Ceil Wendt Jensen, Ancestry Magazine, Jan-Feb 2010.  Found at Google Books.
  • American Settlers Guide-Found at Google Books.
  • Germans in the Middle West, archived article at JSTOR.
  • “Michigan Immigration” by William Jenks, Michigan History Magazine, vol. 28 (January-March, 1944), p. 67-100.
  • Michigan: seine Vorzuge und Hulfsquellen (Michigan Its Superior Attributes and Resources)(Allardt's Magazine) Ceil found it through World Cat and requested through interlibrary loan.
  • Settling the Great Lakes Frontier: Immigration to Michigan 1837-1924 by C. Warren Vander Hill, Michigan Historical Commission, 1970.
Other German Immigration Resources provided by the Archives of Michigan include:
  • Department of Conservation, Lands Division.  Applications for homestead from the German Christian Agricultural and Benevolent Society, 1867.  RG 60-8, Box 49.
  • Carlson, Harold.  “A distinguished 48’er:  Eduard Dorsch.”  Michigan History Magazine, vol. 19 (1935), p. 425-437; vol. 20 (1936), p. 411-412.
  • Committee of 1930.  The hundredth anniversary of the arrival in Detroit of the organized immigration from Germany, 1830-1930.  Detroit, 1933.
  • Edinger, Dora.  “Christian Esselen:  Citizen of Atlantis.”  Michigan History Magazine, vol. 34 (1950), p. 133-143.
  • Frank, Louis.  German-American pioneers in Wisconsin and Michigan.  Milwaukee, 1971.
  • Graff, George.  The People of Michigan.  Lansing, 1974.  p. 40-46.
  • Kennedy, J. B. “Herman Kiefer.”  Michigan Pioneer Collections, vol. 20 (1915), p. 397-403.
  • Kistler, Mark.  “The German language press in Michigan.”  Michigan History Magazine, vol. 44 (September 1960), p. 303-323.
  • Kistler, Mark.  “The German Theater in Detroit.”  Michigan History Magazine, vol. 47 (1963), p. 289-300.
  • Neidhard, Karl.  “Reise nach Michigan.”  Michigan History Magazine, vol. 35 (1951), p. 32-84.
  • Peano, Shirley.  “Pioneer Germans in Marquette County.”  Harlow’s Wooden Man, vol. 9 no. r (Fall, 1973).
  • Russell, John.  The Germanic Influence in the Making of Michigan.  Detroit, 1972.
  • Suelflow, Roy.  “Lutheran Missionaries in the Saginaw Valley.”  Michigan History Magazine, vol. 51 (Fall, 1967), p. 226-240.
  • Suelflow, Roy.  “The Planting of Lutheranism in Detroit.”  Concordia Historical Quarterly, vol. 39 (July, 1966).
  • Ten Brook, Andrew.  “Our German immigrations.”  Michigan Pioneer Collections, vol. 26 (1894-95), p. 241-255.
  • Zehnder, Herman.  Teach my people the truth.  Frankenmuth, 1970.


  1. Very interesting. Especially since my German 2nd-great-grandfather John (formerly Josephat) Henn moved to Michigan after the Civil War and worked in the logging business, turn trees into barrel staves and sending them back to Syracuse, NY where his cooper brothers stayed and worked in the salt industry. I'll be looking into this! Thank you so much for sharing it.

    Oh, and I wanted to let you know that this post is included in my NoteWorthy Reads #22: http://jahcmft.blogspot.com/2015/10/noteworthy-reads-22.html Enjoy your weekend!

  2. Dear Jo, Thank you for the information and for including my blog in your NoteWorthy Reads.