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German and Irish Ancestors

Many of the original settlers of Clinton County (and much of Iowa) came from Germany or Ireland.  I have listed here some links that may interest you.  As time goes on, I hope to put more Clinton Co. specific info here also.

Also check out the Erfde and Gottschee info we have online for German ancestors

Many people came from Ireland to work in the coal mines.  My own family started out in Pennsylvania in Schukill County and surrounding areas as there were many coal mines there.  From what I have read, the Irish were not treated very well in PA and left for greener pastures.  There was also a group of men who called themselves the "Molly McGuires" who got into a lot of trouble.  (An interesting topic, should you choose to read up on it.)  There was also the Potato Famine which caused many to leave Ireland.

Search for arrivals pertaining to the ship your ancestors arrived on. If you are not sure what the name is, try to search by U.S. port and year. Database updated 11/27/1999 and now includes 1,563 listings:

Have you searched the Ellis Island Records?  If your ancestors came before 1890, they may not have come through Ellis Island.  Here is an excellent article on Castle Garden with some links to more info.

German Information

  • Erfde, Germany LDS Microfilm of Parish Register as transcribed by Mike Kearney.
  • From Paul Riedesel: "I have just completed work on a major paper that you may wish to link into the Clinton County site. In the last half of the 19th century, around 130 people from the same small village in Germany settled in and around Wheatland. This included my Riedesels of course, but there were many other families. I have documented them in a paper that is available in "hard" copy but also on my web site at

From Peter Woddow in Germany and Paul Riedesel we get the following information in answer to the question: Why would so many people from Schlewig/Holstein come to Clinton county?

Between 1800 and 1900, about 5 million Germans immigrated, mostly out of economic hardship. The population increased greatly after 1800, and that made it more difficult for people to get what they needed to live. In the 1860s there was a serious shortage of food that had the result of increased immigration. There was not enough work. Germany only became an industrial power around 1900 [Paul's note: Immigration dried up at the same time]. Most Germans had been peasant farmers and there simply wasn't enough land for everyone. [Paul's note: Some came to the mid-western states of Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakota territory to become farmers, but many other German immigrants ended up as industrial workers in cities such as Milwaukee, St. Louis or Cincinnati].

Holstein was once a Duchy but is now part of the federal state of
Schleswig-Holstein. It lies north of Hamburg.

Hallo Nettie,

I am searching for Wunderthausen in the net and find your page. The most people in Wheatland are coming from Wunderthausen in Germany. My homepage about Wunderthausen is only in german, but you can look at

I am so sorry about my bad english but i hope, you understand me.

With the best wishes from Wunderthausen

Gerhard Knoche

I don't know how true this is, but it is worth thinking about.  I got this from a mailing list:

At Baptism, (Christening) the child may be given two names in addition to his surname.  This custom was derived from the Roman Catholic and continued in the later Protestant sects. The First Name of the child was usually a spiritual name, taken from a favorite saint.  The Second name was the child's name to be used in everyday life.  
Often you will see a family of eight children, with all five of the male children being called John ______ Webster,  John ______ Webster, etc ,etc, etc.  Three girls in the same family would be called Maria ______ Webster, Maria _______ Webster, Maria _______ Webster.  The only discriminating feature besides the actual Date of Birth will be what we refer to as the middle name.  So, in studying this family group, look at the "middle name" ie: Fritz, Conrad, Wilhelm, Peter, or George -----  Anna, Kirsten, and Catharina.  This is often the name the used every day.
The reason this is significant, is that if you are looking at legal documents,  you may find a Baptism record with John Conrad Webster  and continue with your search looking for and FINDING John Webster.  He will be the wrong ancestor! You should have been looking for Conrad Webster all along, as that is how he is referred to in every legal document signed or written about him.  That "John Webster" who was so easy to find (because ,of course, he's NOT the one you need.) has a spiritual first name of Phillip as do the rest of his brothers.
     So when looking at deeds, tax records, census are looking for the second/given/call name.  Also, when reading a history written by a 20th century writer, be advised that unless they were well schooled, the author will be using the first/spiritual name.  Again, if you are using this history as a clue, you will be looking for the wrong ancestor--to reuse the example--John Webster instead of the Conrad you really needed for your search. 

From Paul Reidesel (email:

I just dropped in for a visit and found your section on German naming customs, and would like to add my two cents worth. At least in the area from which "my" people came, a child was named for its same-sex godparent. This was quite often an aunt or uncle, and almost always someone from the immediate area. Not all first names were saint names, but Johann (John), Maria and Anna were as common as any. Because these first names were often the same, people were frequently known by their middle names. Ludwig Heinrich Riedesel was "Henry" while his brother Johann Ludwig was "Ludwig" in this country; their brother Johannes was "John." 

I have not done much German research, although I need to, but here are some links that may be helpful:

Wanda ( has also sent this neat story and wonderful tip:

I live in Fort Worth, Tx, and am very close to both a splendid public library, an LDS church, and the National Archives. I looked for my husband's g-father for several years before I discovered one day that he had changed his name when he arrived on US soil to John Fred Kammerer.  It was a stunning revelation! While at the Ft. Worth Public Library, I happened to find the Wuerttemberg Immigration Index (which is now online at Ancestry.Com). After spending many hours looking through the multiple volumes of those books, I happened to find g-father! He had left from Breman, Germany, with a stop in Havre, France, and then on to New York City. It gave his birthdate, place of birth, name of the ship, date of arrival to N.Y.

Hope this helps!

Books to check out


Dr. James Ryan has been involved with Irish family records research for over 15 years. In "Irish Records", this world-famous researcher has compiled the most comprehensive and easy-to-use resource for Irish historical records. 

To conquer Irish research, one must first understand the nature of Irish historical records. In Ireland, during the late eighteenth and early to mid-nineteenth centuries, very few records were kept. Much of the populace lived as tenant farmers or laborers; activities that required few written records. Dr. Ryan explains this and more as you read about the history of Irish written records.

In this new edition, Dr. Ryan has added several new sources to his already extensive list. More importantly, "Irish Records" provides you with a comprehensive listing of all available sources for Irish written records. Organized by county, this list will help you in your search to find your ancestors' occupations, relatives and more! Dr. Ryan has also included specialized maps to help you zero in on the appropriate Irish town or parish. 

Normally "Irish Records" retails for $49.95, but you can probably get it via inter-library loan.

If you have research or information on groups of Irish or Germans who settled in Clinton County, I would love to add your stories here.