If I’ve followed the vague conversations about lineage correctly, my ancestors were German, Swedish and Dutch. The Dutch component has always intrigued me most, it felt unique in a state known for its Swedish and Norwegian heritage. (Lutefisk, anyone?) When I recently learned that the Van Heels came to Minnesota from Holland in the 1870s, I started wondering why. What would prompt someone to leave their home and travel 4,100 miles around the world?
It turned out that it wasn’t that interesting. There was no mass migration from Holland during any century like one sees from other European countries. The Dutch had a pretty good life in their homeland, the main reason they left was because a future in the United States looked more prosperous. They advocated the concepts of family, faith and farming and enjoyed the life that hard-earned money could bring. They wanted a chance for more.
When they originally arrived in 1609 it was because they were looking for an alternate route to Asia; they found good farmland and wildlife instead. The closest I could find to a great migration was in the mid-19th century when potato crop failure, high taxes and a religious revolt triggered approximately 250,000 to emigrate over a twenty year period (1830s into the 1840s).
Following the Civil War emigration was often prompted by letters from friends and family already settled in the United States. Could that be why The Van Heels boarded that ship all those years ago? There might be more research in my future.
Read more about Dutch emigration history.