Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Workday Wednesday: the Great Northern Railroad

   Many Luxembourger settlers eventually moved from the Iowa border to the Midwest. Land grants were a major draw, but so to was an expanding American industry - the railroads. Between the end of the Civil War and the mid-1880s, American railroads built new tracks across the Midwest and West. Immigrants could find work building tracks, see land, and eventually find a new place to settle their families.
   The Great Northern Railroad was among these employers. The Great Northern Railroad bought and built railroads across Minnesota and the Dakotas. They then expanded further west, building as they went. Along the way, they provided a variety of immigrants with jobs.
   So how do you find out if your ancestor worked for the Great Northern or another record? Your best bet is probably a census record. There's the 1880 census. In the Dakotas, there were also territorial census enumerations in 1885 and 1895.  If you're willing, you can also explore the archives of Great Northern history organizations. The Great Northern Historical Society and the Great Northern Archive both have websites, though they seem focused on the railroad instead of its employees.  Do some additional searches, and you will find websites, message boards, and much more.  Good luck!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Indexing

   If you're looking for a way to give back to the genealogical community - and help yourself in the process, consider becoming an indexing volunteer for We all love the free records on FamilySearch and especially love when they're searchable. Did you ever wonder how they become searchable? FamilySearch uses volunteers.
    It's pretty simple to volunteer. You can get an overview on the FamilySearch website. Once you've registered, you can download the indexing software. The main page of the indexing software is the "My Work" page. Click on "Download Batch." You'll be able to choose what you want to work on and how many batches to download. Once you've downloaded a batch, you'll be able to open the records. You'll have the record at the top and the form at the bottom. Once you've filled in the form, you can submit it back to the Family Search server.
   Thus far, I've done a lot of records not related to my research... but I'll get there. On the upside, I'm learning how to read a variety of handwriting!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mappy Monday: New York Times Interactive Immigration Explorer Map

  Searching for a map of Luxembourg settlement patterns (a long story), I stumbled across this interactive map of immigrant settlements created in 2009 by The New York Times. The map allows you to see where immigrants were living at different times by selecting for time periods and countries.  The information is based on historic census dated.
   Unfortunately, there's no option for Luxembourgers.  You can use Germany as a second - Luxembourgers are often mislabeled as German on the census - but beware. You'll be getting data from other German speaking countries mixed in. And our ancestors didn't have a huge amount in common with settlements in Pennsylvania. It's interesting but not a great research tool. Has anyone found a better option?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Holy Trinity, Rollingstone, Minnesota

    Luxembourgers first arrived in Winona County, Minnesota in the 1850s. While most initially settled in the village of Elba, they expanded into Rollingstone shortly after. The village of Rollingstone was traditionally agricultural and still maintains some of the Luxembourger village style. See pictures here:
    In 1869, settlers founded Holy Trinity Catholic Church. Although it was constructed of local materials, it is very much a Luxembourger church. Compare my photo of a village church in Luxembourg with photos of Holy Trinity taken by an architectural firm during a recent renovation. The architecture is very similar.

    That Luxembourger identity is still very much present at Holy Trinity. The town holds regular heritage celebrations and includes the parish community. Although it has been joined with two other parishes, the church is still regularly used. Records should be accessible at the parish office. Visit the parish website for contact information. Their cemetery is the final resting place of many immigrants. A gravestone transcript is available through U.S. Genweb.

"Holy Trinity Catholic Church Pa," Holy Trinity Catholic Church  ( accessed 24 February 2012).   

"The Luxembourgers in Rollingstone," Winona's Cultural History: Changing Demographics of the Winona Area ( : accessed 24 February 2012).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Society Saturday: State Historical Society of North Dakota

   North Dakota was often the second stop for a Luxembourger immigrant. It was typical to immigrate to a town that already had an established Luxembourger population and get settled. When you needed room to grow, you would then move on to a developing town. A land grant was often a big draw.
  That doesn't mean North Dakota Luxembourgers were without records. Once settled, they married, had children, and built new lives. That's where the records of the State Historical Society of North Dakota come in. Among their genealogical collections are the pre-1925 marriage indexes, naturalization indexes and records, and land records. While some of these materials can only be accessed onsite with a hired researcher, many are partially available online or can be researched by staff.
   Happy research!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Follow Friday: GeneLux

   I thought Follow Friday might be a good time to introduce you to a site I often use when looking for new resources for Luxembourg-American genealogy. Run by a librarian, GeneLux is a compilation of websites about genealogy, famous Luxembourg-Americans, and the history of Luxembourg. The links are a bit dated, so be patient. I have yet to find a better resource for research.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

WeRelate Variant Names Project

    This morning's article on the National Genealogical Society blog introduced me to a tool that I think has great potential for Luxembourg-American researchers. WeRelate is in the process of building a database of variant first and surnames. The idea is pretty simple - you plug in a name and are given a list of other names to search as well. When linked to search function, it can pull up additional records. Right now, the database is still in development and is admittedly clunky. You'll get the list of related names and an option for adding your own variants. I played with my Luxembourger ancestor's surname since I've learned the common "errors." Thus far there's only one variant that I know shows up on the records. The other suggestions would lead me to different  families. But with patience, this might work...

Thrifty Thursday: Google Books

   Google Books is fast becoming part of my research repertoire. If you've done research in the field, you've already discovered that there aren't many books on Luxembourger history or genealogy. Unfortunately, those that exist are often inaccessible or expensive. That's where Google Books comes in handy. Search Luxembourg genealogy to find an extensive list of sources.  Previews allow you to see a few pages of the book. It often shows enough to tell if the book will be useful. I go from that to ordering the book from the library or a bookstore.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Luxembourgs and their greenhouses in Rogers Park, Chicago

   Looking for more information on Luxembourgers and their occupations, I discovered the fascinating history of Luxembourgers in Rogers Park, Illinois. Immigrating to the Chicago area beginning in the 1850s, these Luxembourgers managed to hold into their agricultural traditions in an increasingly industrial area. They first produced celery for the farm markets on open plots. By 1880, they transitioned to greenhouses to grow vegetables and flowers. Immigrants eventually constructed around a hundred such structures.
   Although the practice started to die off after 1920, a few businesses are still in Luxembourger hands. Kinsch Village Florist and Garden Center  in Palatine started in Rogers Park in 1923.  Leider Greenhouses 
can trace its roots even further back. These businesses and others like them would not exist without the adaptability of their ancestors. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: do some reading before you assume what language your ancestor used...

   Luxembourg can be very confusing for foreigners. It has three official languages: French, German, and Luxembourgish. There's also a fourth semi-official language: English. While many speak all of these languages, it can be a challenge to figure out which language is used when. I stumbled across this article, which may be useful in straightening out some of the confusion.
  Of course, the article describes the situation in modern Luxembourg.  Many Americans date their connection to the Luxembourg to the 19th century. From what I've read, French was less common and German far more popular than it is today. So how do you figure out what your ancestor spoke? Very carefully. Look at all the available information.
  For example, my ancestor is remembered as speaking French. His home village is the only one in the area that has regular services in French. But was French his primary language? Probably not. Luxembourgish has words that could easily be mistaken for French. My ancestor married  a German woman who wouldn't have spoken a word of French. Based on the best evidence available, he probably spoke German, Luxembourgish and English - but I can't rule out the French.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Maritime Monday: Why did my ancestor leave from Le Havre, France?

   The first time I saw the passenger manifest for my ancestor's family, I was completely confused. Why would my ancestor be leaving from Le Havre France? How long did they stay there? Did they live in France? It wasn't until I started researching Luxembourg immigration that I got my answer.
   Le Havre was one of two major ports of departure for Luxembourg immigrants (the other was Antwerp). Immigrants arrived by either stage coach (before mid-1859) or train (after), spent a day or two in Le Havre while their ship was loaded, and then left for the United States. The Institut grand-ducal offers a nice overview of the history.
   Based on when my ancestor departed, I would guess that he - and his large family - took a crowded train through France. Their stay in Le Havre would have been as short as possible. There were too many mouths to feed. Then it was off to New York!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Wendelin, Luxembourg, MN

   I was surprised to discover a Luxembourg population in central Minnesota. It's far more common to see communities in the southern part of the state - near Iowa - or on the North Dakota border, where land grants were common. However, Luxembourg Minnesota bucked the trend. Founded in the 1850s as a German settlement, it shortly became home to Luxembourger families as well.
   Begun in 1859, St. Wendelin is the parish church for the Luxembourg community. The parish and the adjacent school are still going strong. While the parish does not have a website, they are part of Diocese of St. Cloud. The parish itself or the Diocese should hold the vital records for the community.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Society Saturday: Minnesota Historical Society Family History Resources

   If you're researching a Minnesota family, the Minnesota Historical Society should be on your to-visit list. Their collection is incredible, both online and in person. While I haven't yet been able to visit the MHS in person, I've found it helpful my family research. Online catalogs of their museum collections have helped me identify family artifacts. I've also used their naturalization indexes to determine that a family member had in fact been naturalized, despite his behavior to the contrary.
  This morning, I discovered another resource that I look forward to using. The MHS offers a Family History Resource website. That site contains lists of local genealogy societies and suggestions for how to research different kinds of records. The level of detail is fantastic, especially if you're not used to doing research in Minnesota. Unfortunately, the Luxembourg links do not appear to be live, but I'm sure you can find more resources under "German."

Friday, February 17, 2012

Follow Friday: Found Family Heirlooms Message Board

   I stumbled across a new internet treasure that I thought I'd share. Among the message boards at Rootsweb is one entitled Found Family Heirlooms. The message board offers a place to post about family heirlooms you've found and to search for your own family's treasurers. I've been doing a daily search. Nothing of my lineage has turned up yet, but you never know!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Message Board Posts

   I spend a lot of time haunting message boards for the area where my Luxembourger ancestors lived. While I know that Rootsweb, and aren't considered "reliable" sources of genealogical information, they've provided me with some fantastic pointers. I look for two things: possible relatives and new sources of historical information.

   In the case of  my Luxembourger ancestors, nine times out of ten, the person regularly researching an ancestor turns out to be a relative. Most are surprising willing to share their results. In one case, this even included the copy of an ancestor's birth record from their Luxembourg parish church, photos of the family homestead, and more. I always try to reach out. Sometimes the email bounces back or gets ignored - but most of the time I have good results.

  Second, I look for references to people and places I haven't heard of. I've found sources of new family history and new relatives just by looking at what other people are studying. I always try to answer a few posts, too. Might as well share what I can!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Luxembourger Occupations

      Mid-19th century Luxembourgers were by and large farmers. The first immigrants to the United States followed  this tradition: most new arrivals went to agricultural villages. They would buy land first in an area that already had a Luxembourger population. The younger population eventually started homesteading - how most of our families ended up further north.[1]
   However, a small percentage of immigrants immediately moved to Chicago and other cities. These men and women had a wider variety of occupations. Factory workers were the most common. The Camp family, previously mentioned in the blog, worked in one of the local silver factories. [2]
    And there were also those, like my ancestor, who dabbled in whatever interested them! What did your ancestor do to make a living?

[1] “Luxembourg Settlements,” Institut Grand-Ducal, Section de linguistique, d'ethnologie et d'onomastique ( accessed 20 April 2011).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: South Dakota Gravestones

   Looking for new material on my Luxembourger family, I stumbled across a new gravestone images website. South Dakota Gravestones indexes cemetery photos just within South Dakota. You can search the entire website or just one county. A result page contains the image, the site of the tomb, and the name of the contributor. As with Find A Grave, you can share photos and contact the user. Happy research!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Military Monday: Spanish American War and your Luxembourg Ancestors

  Due to a genetic quirk - my Luxembourger ancestor had girls - my family wasn't of age to serve any of the 19th century conflicts. They immigrated too late for the Civil War, were too old for the Spanish-American War, and had female children during the Spanish-American War. It wasn't until I spotted my ancestor's cousin on the Spanish-American War pension that I realized this was true only of my family!
   Don't forget to time out your Luxembourger ancestors birth dates and look for military information. If they immigrated in the 1850s with small children, those ancestors' grandchildren might have been of age to serve in the Spanish-American war. If they were between 18-25, chances are high. If you have access to, check out their Civil War and later pension index. It will give you a hint as to whether to continue searching.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Adalbert, Wahpeton, North Dakota

   Although the church has ceased to exist, St. Adalbert's Roman Catholic Church was home to Wahpeton's Luxembourger and Bohemian German population. I know very little about the parish, except that it merged with St. John's Roman Catholic Church in 1968. The records are now held by St. John's. If anyone knows more, I'd love to hear!

Society Saturday: Port Washington Historical Society

  If you research the Luxembourger community at Belgium, Wisconsin, the Port Washington Historical Society should be among your research stops. A relatively new historical society, the Port Washington Historical Society was established in 1991. From the looks of their website, they have built quite an impressive collection in that time.
  Their research center includes many resources for Luxembourger families. They have archival files on the local churches, including St. Mary's, photographs and more. If you wish to access the collection yourself, you will have to visit the Luxembourg-American Cultural Center. However, the Historical Society does do research for a fee.
  If you're only interested in digital resources, check out their historic maps. Available online are images of the area from the late 1890s.

Luxembourg research resources

   Doing some research this morning, I stumbled across a fantastic resource created by a librarian at the University  of St. Thomas. The Luxembourg Genealogy Resources page is designed to interface with the library's collection. It links to catalog entries for Luxembourg and Luxembourg-American genealogy books and microfilm on the University's website. For added help, the site also contains links to other Luxembourg genealogy websites.
   While one cannot access the books directly from the library, record what titles seem useful to you. Take the list to your local library. Hopefully librarians can help you order a few.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Naturalization: Finding Wisconsin Naturalization Papers

  I spent a bit of time last night ordering a German ancestor's Wisconsin naturalization papers and discovered some useful information about the process. Thought it might be useful to those of you with Wisconsin Luxembourger ancestors!
    To order a Wisconsin record, you first need to known in which court your ancestor was naturalized. That information can be found on an naturalization index card. Such cards are available digitally from the database "U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995."  Federal court records are treated differently than those of a local court.
    Papers registered at a federal court can ordered from the National Archives branch at Chicago.  To learn more about ordering records from them, visit their website. It includes a method for ordering reproductions.
   Local court records are not held in one central location. To locate your records, visit the Wisconsin Historical Society's website.  This website lists where each county's papers are held. Click through to the organizations websites to learn how to order the papers. Some - including the repository I used - charge separately for each part of the papers. In that case, I tend to order only the Declaration of Intent, since it lists the ancestor's birthplace. If you're not sure what part you need, the Wisconsin Historical Society offers a nice overview of the papers.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thoses Places Thursday: The Local German-Catholic Church

   I couldn't have survived my first explorations into Luxembourger researcher if it hadn't been for the local German-Catholic church. My family's small community was initially home to two small Roman Catholic churches. One was only for German-speaking and the favorite parish for the German and Luxembourger immigrants. It was there that they baptized their children and were confirmed, buried and buried. In my ancestor's case, it was likely also where he met his wife.
   Due to a quirk in local privacy laws that mean my ancestors' records are still sealed (the most recent death was in 1936), the church records have helped fill in some major gaps. Listings of godparents have offered me proof of when families had moved into and out of the area. Death records have sometimes listed cause of death. In a few cases, they've also listed birth location. The information is priceless.
   Although that church merged with the main Catholic church in town almost a century ago, the records are still a rich resource. I don't know where my research would be without the local German Catholic church!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday's Tip:: Use Land Grant Records to Trace Ancestors

   I was poking around on the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office records site this afternoon. My Luxembourger ancestor came with a lot of siblings, and I was curious to find out how many of them claimed land grants. A quick check confirmed that my ancestor, his mother, and two brothers had all purchased land grants. Not ironically, the timing of their land grants corresponded reasonably well with their arrival in the area.
   Which got me to thinking: if I didn't know my ancestors had been in the area, the GLO records might help me not only figure out where they had lived, but when they arrived there. This system isn't perfect - my ancestor never lived on his claims, nor did his mother - but it is a starting point. Besides, the GLO records just make interesting reading ;)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: A Follow-up to Ignoring My "Ethnic" Traditions

     I play with my business webpage and blogs on a regular basis, so I often ask myself two question: why am I doing this and what do I hope to accomplish? For my Connecticut research, my goals mirror that of a lot of genealogists: I love research and want to make it a part of my life; I love putting puzzles together; and I truly believe I have skills I can share. My Luxembourger research is a little bit different: I'm not putting together any new research on my line (due to a generational quirk, my immigrant ancestor and I are relatively close), I only speak and read French and English, and frankly, I'm more dependent on other people for this research than I want to admit.
   So, why do I do this? I have a few reasons. Generationally, my closest "non-American" ties are to Luxembourg. That makes it big - and very unfamiliar - part of my heritage. I feel like I should at least understand how my family got to where it stood. Second, I want to learn... Third, maybe, just maybe, I can teach someone else in the process.
   In the meantime, thank you for your patience as I learn!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Society Saturday: Richland County Historical Society

   Richland County, North Dakota was home to a small but very active Luxembourger population for almost a century. Their past has been recorded and stored in the Richland County Historical Society. Based in Wahpeton, the Richland County Historical Society has few details of their collection posted online. A quick phone call will yield you a helpful volunteer who is familiar with the County's history and may be able to suggest further resources.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Follow Friday: In Search of Our Ancestors

   Some how my Explorations in Connecticut Genealogy post seems appropriate to my Luxembourg research as well... Of course, my Luxembourg wishes are little more specific. Some of my Luxembourger ancestors were homesteaders. I wish I could find those land grants!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Useful Resouce: National Archives of Luxembourg Genealogical Forums

   I mentioned a resource in yesterday's post that might prove useful after you've made the jump "across the pond." The Archives nationales de Luxembourg hosts a genealogical discussion board in French and German. To use the board, you need to join, which is a fairly simple process. Go to National Archives website and click on the new member login. I used the French language version, but you can change languages by clicking on the flag in the upper right hand corner. Once you're logged in, you can post questions about your family or respond to someone else's. I've seen some wonderful responses, including suggestions for National Archives resources that might mention the family.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: How do I find new Luxembourg genealogy resources?

  Since I write resource blogs, finding a new topic can sometimes prove difficult. I'll freely admit it... I don't know everything! I do have some tried and true methods to find some new resources to share and thought my techniques might help you find what you need.
   First and foremost, develop a few favorite sites. For me, the website of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society is a must-check because they keep an excellent and well-developed genealogy links list. Depending on where you research, you may also want to check the local historical society, the website of the newspaper, and more. In Connecticut, the local sites are my must-reads.
   Second, spend some time exploring these sites. Click through those links. I only discovered that the National Archives of Luxembourg hosts a genealogy message board by clicking through multiple sites (sadly, it appears to be only in French and German). Sometimes the new website won't be helpful but often you'll discover a great new resource.
   Finally, spend some time on Google. Search through the first few pages for a search term you enter. You may find a new site part way down the list. Good luck!