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“German Heritage in Letters” Brings Immigrant Experiences to Life

April 12, 2019

The United States is a nation of immigrants and each and every one of those immigrants has a unique story to tell. Between 1850 and 1920, more than five million German speakers immigrated to the United States. Today, more than 45 million Americans claim German heritage, making them the largest ancestry group in the United States.

Thousands of miles from home and without the benefit of Internet, these immigrants depended on the mail to keep them connected to friends and family back home. During the peak of immigration, over 400 million letters were exchanged between the United States and Germany detailing daily life in both countries. Today, these letters provide an invaluable insight into the experiences of immigrants to the United States and the friends and family they left behind.

German Heritage in Letters is a project by the German Historical Institute in Washington DC and sponsored by Wunderbar Together.

The project works with libraries, archives, and members of the public to digitize letters found tucked away in basements, attics, and storage units and make them available to a wider audience interested in history and immigration.

Have you found letters between German-speaking relatives and their loved ones back home in your own collection? Visit the German Heritage in Letters website to find out how you can add them to the digital archive. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Don’t have any letters to contribute but still want to learn more? Get involved by transcribing submitted letters or organizing your own event to give others the opportunity to digitize their letters in person. Browse the letters yourself here!

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