Ich bin [insert clever genealogy item here]

German Beer

The largest group that has affected my ancestry, and also the state as a whole, is the German culture. Every part of my family tree is somehow touched by this ethnicity. My maternal grandfather is almost 100% German and my maternal grandmother (who lives and breathes Irish culture) is closer to German than Irish even though her maiden name is Corrigan.

The are in which I live has examples of German culture everywhere. Cities with names such as Grafton, Hamburg, Germantown, Cedarburg, Fredonia all have German-sounding names and history. Walk into any cemetery in this area and they’ll be overrun with German surnames. Some of the surnames in my family tree with deep German heritage include Last, Thielke, Braatz, Rathke, Luedtke, and Firmenich.

Milwaukee itself was a German melting pot. Germans made up the largest percentage of immigrants in the city itself.

A great number of German immigrants had helped increase the city’s population during the 1840s and continued to migrate to the area during the following decades. Milwaukee has even been called “Deutsches Athen” (German Athens), and into the twentieth century, there were more German speakers and German-language newspapers than there were English speakers and English-language newspapers in the city. (To this day, the Milwaukee phonebook includes more than forty pages of Schmitts or Schmidts, far more than the pages of Smiths.) – Wikipedia

I always consider myself Polish and since I was a child I’ve always sided with the Polish heritage. Though, as it turns out I’m probably much more German than I am anything else. Polish only comes in on my paternal side due to my surname, Zalewski (and who knows if that’s German-Polish.)

While not a big fan of German cuisine, I plan on making it down to Milwaukee’s famous annual Germanfest celebration. As with most of Milwaukee’s ethnic festivals, I assume there will be a large genealogy-related area. Are there any ethnic fesitvals/celebrations in your area?

Photo © fensterbme

About Brian Zalewski

I started genealogy research about mid-1999. My grandfather had passed away in April of that year. Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only for myself, but for friends and other relatives. In 2006, I married the love of my life, Darcy, and welcomed the birth of our daughter, Aerissa Jean, in 2010 and our son, Xander Lee, in 2012. I can’t wait to tell them stories about all of their ancestors.

Additional Resources

A Featured Post

The 1940 Census Hunt Begins

How can I go through this week without a post about the 1940 Census? The digital images were released on Monday, April 2nd free for everyone, though I personally never got to see them until late on Monday night. I don’t think they expected as much traffic as they got on day one. I heard […]