German immigrant families founded Germantown in the colony of Pennsylvania, marking the first major immigration of German people to America in 1683.

Published - October 07, 2017 03:18 pm IST

German entry: A whiff of the American Dream. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

German entry: A whiff of the American Dream. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

German-Americans are those who have full or partial German ancestry. According to a 2014 census, they were the largest ancestry group found in the U.S. Germany did not have colonies in America, but many Germans migrated after the Thrity Years War.


There were many reasons for their migration to America, but what really sparked it off was the devastation caused by the Thirty Years’ War between Germany and France. It lasted from 1618-1648. The worsening opportunities for farm ownership in central Europe, persecution of some religious groups, and military conscription were some factors that drove away a large number of people. The U.S. had better economic conditions, especially the opportunity to own land, and religious freedom.

In 1670, the first few groups of immigrants arrived in America. They chose to settle in the British colonies, in Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. Germantown Mennonites and Quakers.

On October 6, 1683, 13 Quaker families arrived from Krefeld (West Germany). The Mennonites were groups organised by Francis Daniel Pastorius, an agent for a land purchasing company based in Frankfurt. Other than him, no one from that company had ever came to Pennsylvania. They settled in the Northern outskirts of Philadelphia and this came to be known as Germantown. Soon, this became the centre for other immigrant families the numbers of which rose steadily every year. Members from this group founded the Borough of Germantown, in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, in 1683.

William Penn, a well placed English gentlemen and a Quaker, was instrumental in selling them this piece of land called Pennsylvania, (all the land between New Jersey and Maryland) and Germantown was formed here.

This community worked hard to maintain their language and cultivate their land.

They managed to do this through newspapers and classes in elementary and high schools. Germania was the common term for German-American neighbourhoods and their organisations. Immigration continued in large numbers during the 19th century, and their population doubled in the 2000’s.

Today, there is a German belt extending from Pennsylvania on the east coast to Oregon, in the west coast.

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