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Emigration to Germany

Dreissigjähriger Krieg
Dreissigjähriger Krieg 4
Dreissigjähriger Krieg 2

Emigration to Germany after the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648)


In the mid-1630s, a catastrophe of almost unimaginable proportions transformed the Upper Danube region into a partially devastated and largely depopulated landscape. Of decisive importance were the direct and indirect effects of the Thirty Years' War (1618 to 1648), in which southern Germany in particular became a battlefield and deployment area for all the major continental European powers. The marches and quartering of the troops, regardless of whether they were their own or enemy troops, placed an enormous burden on the region: the requisitioning of food, thefts and the massive disruption of field and harvest work increased the hardship in the region. But that was not all: with the soldiers came the plague and claimed countless victims.


From 1634 onwards, many inhabitants fled abroad, mainly to Switzerland and Austria. But already in the last decade of the war the circumstances changed. Some of those who had fled returned, but above all, since the mid-1650s, immigrants from Switzerland, Austria and Bavaria, often in "tow" of the returnees, streamed into the depopulated towns and villages on the Upper Danube and the Palatinate on the left and right banks. The Alpine lands had been little affected by the war; on the contrary, they suffered from overpopulation in the mid-17th century. A large part of the immigrants were unmarried and apparently mostly low-paid younger people. They often entered the service of larger farmers and eventually married local people.


Immigration was mostly separated according to denominations. In the Catholic area of the Upper Danube, mainly immigrants from Catholic Swiss places, the also Catholic Habsburg Alpine countries and from Bavaria settled. The few Protestants, probably including those who immigrated from Glarus, almost always changed their denomination, often under massive pressure from the neighborhood, the church and the authorities. For the Protestants, the reformed areas of the Electoral Palatinate came into question first and foremost. The Kraichgau, the Margraviate of Baden-Durlach and the Duchy of Württemberg accepted neither Catholics nor Reformed without conversion to the Lutheran religion. 


Due to the depopulation caused by the war, immigration was also encouraged by the rulers. Thus, on May 7, 1650, Elector Karl Ludwig von der Pfalz invited foreigners to settle: he assured them various reliefs. For example, anyone repairing a house was to be exempt from all burdens for two years, and anyone building a new house for three years. 


However, the most important criterion for accepting an immigrant as a citizen was the wealth he brought with him and his usefulness to the village and the lordship. In the beginning, the depopulated areas were mainly taken in by people with low economic means. Only in a few cases did they succeed in advancing to the peasant middle or upper classes. Most of them remained in the village poverty, as day laborers or mercenaries. As the population grew, the reluctance of the villages to accept more poor people increased.


Living together with the new fellow citizens was not always easy. Everyday friction could quickly degenerate into fundamental attacks on the origins of the opponents. For many long-established residents, the "strangers" triggered massive fears and even malicious suspicions and insinuations. Not least, the immigrants' unfamiliar idiosyncrasies and foreign customs led to irritation and conflict.


However, the influx at the end of the Thirty Years' War was not entirely unproblematic for the dominion either. Many emigrants from the Confederate and Austrian Alpine countries came from areas with well-developed communal autonomy. Not infrequently, therefore, the immigrants refused to surrender to serfdom. Gritting their teeth, the authorities were prepared to renounce serfdom in the initial phase, but not since the increase in population numbers.


By the end of the 17th century, the immigration movement ebbed away as population growth returned to pre-war levels and resistance to the admission of the poor grew.


Due to the equality of languages and confessions as well as the unifying peasant artisan origins, the integration of the immigrants does not seem to have posed any problems in the long term. By the middle of the 18th century at the latest, the immigrants had become convinced Swabians and Palatines, for whom the memory of their ancestors' origins had largely faded.


Warlike French invasions in the early 18th century drove many of the Swiss settled there or their descendants later on to Holland, England, Prussia, Russia, and especially North America.



To date I have been able to identify the following families who emigrated from Glarus to faraway Australia. Descendants of both tribes still live in Australia today.

Glarner Pioneer Settlers in Germany

Joachim Jacober (1639-1669) from Matt emigrated about 1660 to Sontheim in Baden-Württemberg. He married there Anna Braun from Nellingen and and founded a large descendant family, which remained resident mainly in the Danube district. Descendants were farmers, carters, shoemakers, butchers, innkeepers but also coopers. Children of Jakob Jakober (1856-1902) emigrated to North America, so Johannes (John) Jacober (1885-1980), Wilhelm (Willy) Jacober (1888-1969), Margarete Jacober (1891-1984) and Katharina Jacober (1893-1948).


Literature about Emigration to Germany after the Thirty Years' War

Weber Edwin Ernst, Tirol in Schwaben, Zuwanderung nach dem Dreissigjährigen Krieg am Fallbeispiel der Pfarreien Verengen und Bingen, in ZHG 33 (1997), p. 7-20

Zbinden Karl, Zur schweizerischen Einwanderung in den Kraigau (Pfalz) nach dem Dreissigjährigen Krieg: zu einem Manuskript von Fritz Zumbach (Umringen bei Lörrach 1947), in Jahrbuch Schweizerische Gesellschaft für Familienforschung, Band 1976, p. 48-74

Joachim Jacober
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