I wonder: Being German, it always was for me of up most interest, how this proud and glorious Nation, innocently born out of the waves of the Atlantic, dividing the world in a western and an eastern part, was formed? There was a ship, convicted offenders, poor, Immigrants to England and thanks to the grace of the Queen transported, English Catholics and hired mercenaries – they all proclaimed the land of the free in God’s own country
Furthermore this astonishing blend was seasoned with with extremely poor Germans, fleeing their Fatherland from continuously wars and religious persecution. Most of them were transported on ships, not much different as those which transported the slaves from Africa to the new world. And it was not the promised paradise, most of them have been bound with contracts, written in a language they did not understand, as indentured servants or redemptioners. Serfs or Slaves, whatever you like; families divided, sold to different masters. And, when freed, run in trouble with immigrants from the Island. Numerous books of German Americans, the Colonial records – all full of disputes of citizen of either English or German descent.
But, without any doubt, the 18th century was the formative century of the American Nation. And somebody wanted to know how big was the German part of this success story? And what could be closer than the ethnic distribution of this new nation in 1790?
“The total population of the United States in Census 1790, exclusive of slaves, as derived from the schedules, was 3,231,533. The only names appearing upon the schedules, however, were those of heads of families, and as at that period the families averaged 6 persons, the total number was approximately 540,000, or slightly more than half a million. The number 0% names which is now lacking because of the destruction of the schedules is approximately 140,000, thus leaving schedules containing about 400,000 names.”1.
To determine how much persons of German ethnicity are included in the total free population, the following work was required:
- To classify a 2000 US Census data base, which contains 151.671 American Family Names appearing more than 100 times in this Census, according to ethnicity.
- Download the Census of 1790 and convert it in a manageable data base. Out of the above mentioned 400 000 names only 98% could be identified. The rest was illegible ( especially Connecticut)
- to develop a program, which identifies a given name in the two files and considers the name spelling variations.
The result shows, that out of 3.231.533 free person 832.692 persons or 25.76% were of German descent. Therefore Americans of German descent played besides the Irish and English, a decisive roll in the Nation building of the United States of America. A fact totally neglected in present days..
1the US Census of 1790, Introduction