Emigrants from Grafschaft Bentheim

What is the Emigrants from Grafschaft Bentheim List?

The Emigrants List has around 4,000 names of “Grafschafters” who left Grafschaft Bentheim for the U.S. and Canada. This migration generally began in 1847, although a handful of Grafschafters had settled in North America before then.

In 1847, Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte led a group of people from the Netherlands and Grafschaft Bentheim to America because of religious and economic reasons. They established the “Holland Kolonie” in what would become the city of Holland, Michigan. (You can read about their experiences in our Pioneer Stories library.)

Map showing Grafschaft Bentheim between Netherlands and Germany

Grafschaft Bentheim lies in northwestern Germany on the border between the Netherlands and Germany.

What Information Can I Find Here?

The information has been collected from many sources (church records, federal censuses, passenger lists, etc.) Sometimes, it won’t quite match with what you have in your records because people answering census takers’ questions weren’t always accurate about family members’ birth dates, etc. Most entries have the following information about each emigrant:

  1. Name—Last and first name. Women are usually listed under their maiden names.
  2. Year—When the emigrant was born.
  3. Spouse(s)—If you don’t know a married woman’s maiden name, you might find it under her husband’s entry.
  4. Last Place of Residence—This reflects what the emigrant told immigration officials. It might not be where they actually lived but where they stayed before leaving home.
  5. Destination—Their might not be their final destination (where they settled) but where they were living when they first arrived, answered a census, etc.
  6. Emigration Date—The year of arrival in a port of destination. 

Some names are underlined, which means that a biography is linked to that entry. Clicking on their name opens their biography in a new tab. If their spouse’s name appears in bold, they, too, have a biography.

Emigrant biographies are short, giving information about the emigrants’ past (their parents), present (during their lifespan), and future (their children). Their purpose is to help genealogists to decide if they have the right ancestor.

In the example below, the entry for “Keddink/Keddeman, Berendina” is underlined—she has a biography. Her husband Albert Dyk appears in bold, showing that he has one also.

Example of a biography linked to an entry in the Emigrants from Grafschaft Bentheim List

I've Found My Ancestor. What Do I Do Next?

Two online databases can help you to find more information about your ancestor: WieWasWie and the Ortsfamilienbücher (OFB). WieWasWie (“Who Was Who”) is a central database with records from many archives in the Netherlands. You can search it in Dutch or English (click “EN” in the top right corner).

The Ortsfamilienbücher is another database, but in German (and Dutch). Records for Grafschaft Bentheim can be found in the following church parish record books:

How Did the Emigrants Decide Where to Go in North America?

As Swenna Harger and Loren Lemmen explain in the Introduction to their book, Beloved Family and Friends, Grafschafter emigration in the nineteenth century tended to follow two general patterns, depending upon whether emigrants came from the Upper or Lower County and were Roman Catholic or Protestant. When they decided to leave Germany for North America, they often followed their neighbors and relatives. It must have been comforting to know that there were people awaiting them who shared their language, values, and religion.

  • Grafschafters from the Upper County tended to emigrate to Ohio (especially Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio) and then westward. Many of these emigrants were Roman Catholic. The Upper County (Obergrafschaft) is the southern part of the county.
  • Grafschafters from the Lower County tended to emigrate to West Michigan. They often first settled in the Holland, Michigan area and then bought land in other areas in West Michigan, such as Allendale or Fremont. Many of these emigrants were Reformed (Protestant). The Lower County (Niedergrafschaft) is the northwestern part of the county.

Once settled in North America, immigrants wrote letters to their family back home. These letters were passed around the neighborhood, building excitement and curiosity about the opportunities and adventures to be found in North America. Many Grafschafters were encouraged by these letters to emigrate.

The Emigrants List

Last Place of Residence: A map of Grafschaft Bentheim, Germany, and surrounding areas

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