The Grabenhorst Surname in America

The German Homeland

The Grabenhorsts immigrated to America from northwestern Germany  including the areas of Braunschweig (Brunswick), Hanover, and Westfalen (Prussia) during the middle 1800's.  In that time period Germans comprised the largest group of immigrants arriving in the United States. Why did so many German families like the Grabenhorsts choose to come to America?

People chose America as their destination for various reasons. By far the largest number of German immigrants came to America in search of an improved standard of living. Both "push factors" such as unhappiness with the living conditions in Germany and "pull factors" such as faith in more favorable opportunities in America contributed to their decision to immigrate.

America was a strong magnet to immigrants, with offers of jobs and land for farms. Glowing reports from earlier arrivals who made good reinforced the notion that in America, the streets were, "paved with gold," and offered religious and political freedom.

Pull factors contributing to the decision to immigrate included:

Land was plentiful, and fairly cheap.

Jobs were abundant, and labor was scarce and relatively dear. A decline in the birthrate as well as an increase in industry and urbanization reinforced this situation.

Many immigrants were persuaded to come by friends and relatives, emigration officials, and solicitors. Personal letters sent to the family and friends of immigrants praising America and urging them to also immigrate are called "America letters." Immigrants from Germany often wrote such letters to their loved ones back home, praising the areas of the country to where they had settled. Many people were persuaded to move to America as a result of such letters.

Another factor that brought people from the German states to America was solicitation. Particular states and territories had departments of emigration whose job it was to advertise the area and persuade new settlers to come there. Other groups advertised for immigrants to come to the United States, or to particular areas of the country. The Northern Pacific Railway, for example, attracted settlers to such areas as Minnesota in the 1870s. Settlement societies, such as the Turner Colonization Society, also advertised the purposes of their society and the benefits of settling in certain parts of the United States to people of German extraction.

The Grabenhorsts probably chose to come to America for many of these reasons. But, like so many other German immigrants in the middle 1800"s, they were farmers from rural areas and the chance to own productive farms of their own was probably the greatest lure.

Additional Reading on German Immigration:

The German Americans An Ethnic Experience
Electronic version of an  excellent book on German Immigration written by Willi Paul Adams. The book was originally published in German in 1990 and is now presented online in an English version by by the Max Kade German American Center.


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For questions or comments contact:

Stephany Smith