Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The German Connection

Virginia Vonderheide Ryan was the first-born child of August Henry Vonderheide and Anna Catherine Moser. August (great-grandfather to me) emigrated to the United States from Holdorf, Germany in 1881. He was only eight years old. August had two older twin brothers, Joseph and Henry, who were born in Holdorf in 1870. One sister, Elizabeth, was born about 1872 and died in infancy. I've not been able to find a record of her baptism.

The von der Heides, as the name was written in Germany, were part of a large migration of Germans from northwest Germany to the United States. Germans from this area started leaving around 1830 and continued to leave in great numbers through 1880. In a lecture delivered by Franz-Josef Tegenkamp before the Oldenburg Genealogical Society in 1997, one reads that ". . . if one is to take the three parishes of Damme, Neuenkirchen, and Holdorf, which together made up about 10,000 people, about 8000 left." Of this number, 95% of the emigrants went to the United States. You can read the entire lecture by clicking on

What would prompt people to leave the land of their birth, parents and siblings for a new country with a different language and customs? Actually, there wasn't much of a choice. All of the villages in the southern part of Oldenburg were overpopulated. There was "scanty soil and no fertilizer, little farms on which every farmer had four to six hireling-families. Forty or fifty people lived on one farm, and the farm had to feed them all. People needed to have a second job for having a little income."
The main reasons for emigration were:
  1. The pressure from the farmer
  • the hireling had to help any time the farmer wanted him to
  • the hire-rent was too high
  • the hireling had no chance to have fertile soil
2. Bad harvests because of strong, cold winters
3. Six years of military service required, especially for the hireling-sons
4. The wish of independence and the hope for a better future
Our von der Heides, typical of the time, came to Cincinnati because of "chain migration". Other von der Heides and friends had already emigrated to Cincinnati. They came by way of Baltimore, landing in Maryland on June 30, 1881. From here they made their way to Cincinnati (probably by train) and settled in the Cincinnati area, living on both sides of the river.

Unfortunately, within 8 years of their arrival in Cincinnati, Herman Heinrich VDH, known as "Henry" in the United States, was dead. His funeral was held at St. Paul Church in Cincinnati. For whatever reason, his widow relocated to Covington, Kentucky. There our family history really took shape as my g-grandfather August met and married Anna Catherine Moser. The next several posts will tell the story of Anna and her family.

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