Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Luxembourgers in North Collins, New York

   My searches into the history of North Collins were leaving me empty-handed, so I turned to my favorite back-up - the census. A search of the 1880 census on turns up a number of families that were Luxembourg born and living in North Collins: the Thrills, the Schroeders, and more. At least a portion of the families were farm laborers. Lana Bowen, born in Luxembourg and married to a German, kept house while he labored on a farm. 29 year old Barbara Battzer kept house for her 70 year old father, also a farm laborer. John Baltzer (Battzer?), 24, also labored on a farm. These Luxembourg born families seem to have kept to their traditional roles. While wealthy enough to own a house, by the 1880s, they still didn't own their own farms.


  1. A comment from Georgianne Bowman, the North Collins Town Historian:

    I know the handwriting leaves much to be desired, but the families you mention are Thill, Balzer or Butzer. The town of North Collins was all agricultural except for the usual necessary businesses. It is still largely agricultural and residential (large homes built on former farmland). The total population is just over 3000 including the village of North Collins (1 square mile but about 1/3 of the population). The town is about 30 square miles.

    There were also some Smith, Schmitz, Schmitt, Shmit, etc. families who the darling census taker entered all as Smith. Nothing like an added handicap on a common name! Think English-speaking only person taking census in a mostly German-speaking area. I'm not sure what year it was, but the census taker also listed Lithuanian as the native language for the Luxembourg immigrants. It very likely should have been Luxembourgish (probably not on his list of accepted languages).

    As for not owning their farms, yes there were some who only rented their farms when they were young, but not listing a property value does not mean they didn't own the farm. They are frequently listed on the tax and assessment rolls as owner paying taxes. The Germans were a suspicious group and probably either didn't understand the question or refused to answer on the grounds that the government didn't need to know the value. Sometimes the agriculture schedule of the census has more information.

  2. And a huge thanks to Ms. Bowman - I seem to have chosen the three families that were the exception rather than the rule. All were absent from the agricultural census. I'm glad she was able to clarify!