LuxCitizenship

The Luxembourgish-American Ancestors

Written by: Daniel Atz with Lauren Lowell

From 1841-1890, approximately 45,000 Luxembourgers left the Grand Duchy for the United States. Now, over 4,500 of their descendants have applied to reclaim Luxembourg citizenship.

Who were these ancestors? How does their history affect these new dual citizens today? We explore.

The Luxembourgish-American Ancestors

Written by: Daniel Atz with Lauren Lowell

From 1841-1890, approximately 45,000 Luxembourgers left the Grand Duchy for the United States. Now, over 4,500 of their descendants have applied to reclaim Luxembourg citizenship.

Who were these ancestors? How does their history affect these new dual citizens today? We explore.

Background

The LuxCitizenship Dual Citizenship Study is based on 1,029 Americans including LuxCitizenship clients and non-clients who participated in our open survey of American- Luxembourgish dual citizens through ancestry.  This study is based on the details on their 223 ancestors. In this first section of our study, we dive into the story of Luxembourgish immigration to the USA to explain who our dual citizens’ ancestors and how their ancestors’ stories affect these people reconnecting with Luxembourg today.

Video: American-Luxembourg Dual Citizen Jeff eloquently explains about his ancestry from Luxembourg and the connections to his family in Luxembourg. This was part of a 2020 video campaign at the outbreak of Covid-19

Video: American-Luxembourg Dual Citizen Jeff eloquently explains about his ancestry from Luxembourg and the connections to his family in Luxembourg. This was part of a 2020 video campaign at the outbreak of Covid-19

The LuxCitizenship Dual Citizenship Study is based on 1,029 Americans including LuxCitizenship clients and non-clients who participated in our open survey of American- Luxembourgish dual citizens through ancestry.  This study is based on the details on their 223 ancestors. In this first section of our study, we dive into the story of Luxembourgish immigration to the USA to explain who our dual citizens’ ancestors and how their ancestors’ stories affect these people reconnecting with Luxembourg today.

Why Did So Many Luxembourgers Migrate?

Once upon a time, in 1815 specifically, Luxembourg regained its independence from France. The downside? It became a personal possession of the new Dutch king and was occupied by Prussian troops.

Ancestor Location of Birth

Before the Industrial Revolution, 80% of Luxembourgers worked in agriculture. There was little capital in Luxembourg and poverty ran rampant.
The Napoleonic Code, a leftover from France, didn’t help much because it forced landowners to divide their properties equally among all their children for inheritance purposes.
By the 1840s, advances in medicine drastically reduced infant mortality. Families grew larger and larger, while their farming plots grew so small that many couldn’t feed themselves, let alone make a living.
Due to suffering from poverty and famine, huge numbers would decide to leave the Grand Duchy for good.

Graph: The 1,029 participants in our study descended from 223 Luxembourg ancestors. These 223 ancestors were born in 147 different towns across all 12 of Luxembourg’s cantons.

Graph: The 1,029 participants in our study descended from 223 Luxembourg ancestors. These 223 ancestors were born in 147 different towns across all 12 of Luxembourg’s cantons.

Before the Industrial Revolution, 80% of Luxembourgers worked in agriculture. There was little capital in Luxembourg and poverty ran rampant.
The Napoleonic Code, a leftover from France, didn’t help much because it forced landowners to divide their properties equally among all their children for inheritance purposes.
By the 1840s, advances in medicine drastically reduced infant mortality. Families grew larger and larger, while their farming plots grew so small that many couldn’t feed themselves, let alone make a living.
Due to suffering from poverty and famine, huge numbers would decide to leave the Grand Duchy for good.

Humble Beginnings: The 1st 🇱🇺🇺🇸 Migratory Wave (1830-40s)

Following shortly after the first wave of Luxembourgish migrants to Brazil in 1828, different groups of Luxembourgers left for new opportunities in North America in the 1830s.

The first wave of Luxembourgish migration to the USA was by far the smallest, but was larger than the numbers that arrived in Brazil. This first wave of Luxembourgers came to the USA from 1830 to the early and mid-1840s.
The Luxembourgers would generally arrive through Louisiana, New York, and Maryland. Many settled in Western New York state and another large group settled in Ohio. As railroads developed, some of the Luxembourgers continued their migration.
By comparison to the other two waves, very few of the ancestors we studied belong to this early migratory wave to the US.
  • Port of Entry
  • States of Settlement
  • Cities of Settlement

Picking Up Steam: The 2nd 🇱🇺🇺🇸 Migratory Wave (1846-60)

Previously, it had taken as long to go from Luxembourg to Paris as from Luxembourg to America. As faster transport arrived, the news of free land in the US began to spread.

Video: American-Luxembourg Dual Citizen Tom explains about his ancestry from Luxembourg and the impact on his family’s story. This was part of a 2020 video campaign at the outbreak of Covid-19.

Large numbers of Luxembourgers set out for the US and very many of them would know the name Derulle-Wigreux. According to the Library of Congress, most of the Luxembourg migrants in the second wave came through this Luxembourg City-based travel agent.
Coming from land-starved Luxembourg, the promise of free ground in the Midwest drew the Luxembourgers in droves. Communities set up in Chicago and Aurora, Illinois, Wisconsin’s Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and LaCrosse Counties, Minnesota’s Winona and Wabasha Counties, and in Iowa’s Dubuque and Jackson Counties.

31% of our dual citizens’ ancestors settled in the counties above, with 17% of all their ancestors settling in the counties of Aurora and Cook, Illinois, alone!

Lux-Explosion: The 3rd 🇱🇺🇺🇸 Migratory Wave (1865-1900)

A little thing called the American Civil War (1861-1865) made immigration to the US slow down for a while. All the same, some Luxembourg ancestors would arrive and and enlist in the war shortly after.

Immigration never stopped during the American Civil War, and it really took off after. This is also due to the Homestead Act of 1862, which made land available to the average person instead of only rich landowners.
Many of these migrants also made their homes in the Midwest,  notably settling across the state of Minnesota, Dakota, Stearns and Houston Counties In Iowa, as well as Kossuth and Black Hawk Counties. Communities were also set up in Nebraska and South Dakota.
  • State of Settlement
  • Port of Entry
  • City of Settlement
9% of our dual citizens’ ancestors lived in these counties, but many more lived in other locations within these states. So, it seems our citizens’ ancestors tended to spread out; possibly due to more free land.
Immigration never stopped during the American Civil War, and it really took off after. This is also due to the Homestead Act of 1862, which made land available to the average person instead of only rich landowners.
Many of these migrants also made their homes in the Midwest,  notably settling across the state of Minnesota, Dakota, Stearns and Houston Counties In Iowa, as well as Kossuth and Black Hawk Counties. Communities were also set up in Nebraska and South Dakota.
9% of our dual citizens’ ancestors lived in these counties, but many more lived in other locations within these states. So, it seems our citizens’ ancestors tended to spread out; possibly due to more free land.

Die Luxemburger in der Neuen Welt

Starting in 1880, Luxembourgish social life flourished in the United States. More communities were established. The existing ones grew stronger and more connected.

Nicholas Muller
These thriving communities created a strong sense of identity for the immigrants. National Luxembourgish-American social organizations helped expand community networks and facilitate more immigration.
The Luxembourgish-Americans also started their own nationally distributed German language newspapers. It was important to them to have periodicals independent of  Prussian influence.
These Luxembourgish Americans achieved great things too! Some well-known names from this time include Hugo Gernsback, Red Faber, Paul O. Husting, Nicholas Muller, and Edward Steichen.

Image: Nicholas Muller was born in Differdange in 1836, migrated to the US, and became a congressman. LuxCitizenship is helping his descendants reclaim nationality.

Image: Nicholas Muller was born in Differdange in 1836, migrated to the US, and became a congressman. LuxCitizenship is helping his descendants reclaim nationality.

These thriving communities created a strong sense of identity for the immigrants. National Luxembourgish-American social organizations helped expand community networks and facilitate more immigration.
The Luxembourgish-Americans also started their own nationally distributed German language newspapers. It was important to them to have periodicals independent of  Prussian influence.
These Luxembourgish Americans achieved great things too! Some well-known names from this time include Hugo Gernsback, Red Faber, Paul O. Husting, Nicholas Muller, and Edward Steichen.

Luxembourgish-Americans in the 20th Century

Since their first arrival in the US, many to most Luxembourgers were confused with Germans, Belgians, and Frenchmen. This became a problem in the early 20th century.

At the outbreak of World War I, there was immense social and government pressure to not speak German in the US.  As a result, many Luxembourgers were forbidden to speak their mother tongue. This sentiment would last well after the war, leaving an eternal scar on the Luxembourgish-American communities.
Despite this, the the Luxembourgish-Americans remained attached to their culture. They would also play an important part in supporting and liberating Luxembourg during World War II.
Influential Luxembourgish-Americans helped Grand Duchess Charlotte on her goodwill tours of the US. Many contributed funds to support and rebuild Luxembourg after the war. Even some Luxembourgish American soldiers were also present at Luxembourg’s liberation.

Image: The Society of the American Friends of Luxembourg was a national war relief fund formed in 1943. Its mission was to raise funds to support Luxembourg during and after the war.

Friends of Luxembourg World War II Poster

Image: The Society of the American Friends of Luxembourg was a national war relief fund formed in 1943. Its mission was to raise funds to support Luxembourg during and after the war.

At the outbreak of World War I, there was immense social and government pressure to not speak German in the US.  As a result, many Luxembourgers were forbidden to speak their mother tongue. This sentiment would last well after the war, leaving an eternal scar on the Luxembourgish-American communities.
Despite this, the the Luxembourgish-Americans remained attached to their culture. They would also play an important part in supporting and liberating Luxembourg during World War II.
Influential Luxembourgish-Americans helped Grand Duchess Charlotte on her goodwill tours of the US. Many contributed funds to support and rebuild Luxembourg after the war. Even some Luxembourgish American soldiers were also present at Luxembourg’s liberation.

So, we’ve learned about Luxembourgish immigration to the US, but who were our American-Luxembourger dual citizens’ ancestors?

About Our Dual Citizens’ Ancestors

We see that the largest group our dual citizens’ ancestors were born from 1840-1870. This means that most likely many came to the US during the third migratory wave. Also, the trends we see for the US ancestors are about 20 years later than for the Luxembourgish-Brazilians.

Ancestor Gender*

Chart by Visualizer

*These numbers are distorted in favor of men due to the Article 7 citizenship procedure, which almost exclusively necessitates a male ancestor.

Ancestor Year of Birth

1810-1819 0
1820-1829 0
1830-1839 0
1840-1849 0
1850-1859 0
1860-1869 0
1870-1879 0
1880-1889 0
1890-1899 0
1900+ 0

Long Live the Luxembourgers

We have never systematically recorded in what year the Luxembourgish immigrants arrived. We have data on those married in the US, but many married in Luxembourg. So, the information we is for when when they passed away.

One thing we’ve noticed time and time again is that the Luxembourgish immigrants lived quite long lives, several reaching over 100.
Of the ancestors included in our study, the average age at time of passing was 71.5 years old. The national average was  59 years old in 1927 (the average year of death across the group).

Ancestor Age at End of Life

30-39 0
40-49 0
50-59 0
60-69 0
70-79 0
80-89 0
90-99 0
100+ 0

Where Did Our Ancestors Live in the US?

By the 1940s, over 100,000 self-identified as Luxembourgish Americans on the US Census. Some stayed close to the original Luxembourg colonies but many left for new opportunities. And so did our ancestors.

Ancestor Location of Emigration

While our dual citizens’ ancestors emigrated from all over Luxembourg, 70.3% ended up settling in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa alone.
The other 29.3% of immigrants settled throughout the country, with other groupings in Kansas, Michigan, New York, and California.
The highest concentration of our ancestors by city could be found in the Chicago and Aurora area, which accounted for 72.1% of the Luxembourgers who settled in Illinois.

Are you ready to learn more about the American Luxembourgers?

Continue on to our American Dual Citizens study to learn more about the applicants themselves!

Interested in learning more about Luxembourg dual citizens?

Our team has put together six interactive studies on Luxembourg dual citizens. Check out our case study portal to continue reading!

Navigate our Case Studies

Interested in learning more about Luxembourg dual citizens?

Our team has put together six interactive studies on Luxembourg dual citizens. Check out our case study portal to continue reading!

Navigate our Case Studies

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