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Status: Emigration from Southwest-Germany > History of the Project > Wolfgang Müller about the Project's History

Wolfgang Müller about the Project's History

After finishing a commercial apprenticeship I attended a further training for becoming an industrial business management assistant. I graduated with a diploma in commercial trade. I have been working at the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe (GLAK) since 1987. In 1989 I started answering genealogical inquiries which meant primarily doing researches on emigrants from Baden.

Generations of staff and archivists in the GLAK have been occupied with the registration and indexing of the emigration files from Baden. The emigration files of the district authorities (Bezirksämter) are passed down nearly completely from the middle till the end of the 19th century, in some cases they start before 1850 or end after 1930.

The biggest part of the files contains documents dating after 1850. Starting from the middle of the 19th century, more than 500 000 Badenians left the country and tried to start a new life in Northern America. As being done in the finding aids of the district authorities (Bezirksämter) the emigration files were put on card files and left within the files of the local authorities (Ämter). Additionally card files of alphabetically sorted family names were created.

In the beginning of my job as genealogical researcher the search for emigrants was very tedious and time-consuming. In order to find out an emigrant's heritage, seven existing name card files had to be consulted, in addition to vast collections of emigrant's names including the lists of the Statistical Office of the Land (Statistisches Landesamt) (1866-1911) and of the south-Badenian distict-authorities which had to be consulted. Thousands of emigrants whose names were filed according to their local affiliation and hometowns were thus excluded from the search.

Personal papers are excellent sources for finding the names of emigrants, too (e.g. the personal papers of "Ade", "Baier", "Wild" and "Badenians world-wide"). The personal papers "Badenians world-wide" contain 36 archives boxes with thousands of card files which are only incompletely sorted by locations. Most cards are organised by destination countries and for that reason they can't be consulted searching the orginal place.

The idea of the database based upon a suggestion of a colleague to summarise all those card files to one big emigration card file. A manual compilation of the card files was not possible due to the different formats and contents of the cards. The only solution was the electronic processing of all mainly handwritten index cards enabling a comfortable research for surnames, original places, year of emigration or destination country.

The data entry was done manually. Technical support by scanning the files was not possible as the software recognising different handwriting was insufficiently developed at that time. Up to 1999 I spend thousands of hours of countless evenings entering the data of the index file (about 100 data sets an hour). The active and mental support of my partner, the historian Barbara Vogler M.A., was useful for solving several problems with the PC and the different quality of the index files contents. My sons Daniel and Christian also helped entering data. The result was that in 1998 when the württembergische "Glatzle-Datei" was published, the amount of 200.000 data sets had been passed.

The positive feedback on the internet-posting of the Glatzle-Datei also increased the interest in the Badenian emigration database. With the valuable support of Prof. Wegmann and his co-workers, especially Mrs. Jonk, our database structure was matched with the one of Glatzle. The newly created database was named "Baden-Württemberg emigrations database Glatzle-Müller" and is available in the world wide web.

I would like to add to our Badenian database by entering new data in the remaining time I work for the GLAK. I'm afraid the systematic search for emigration data in the files of the district authorities (Bezirksamtsakten) will remain an unrealised and nearly unrealisable dream.

Karlsruhe, 3rd December 2001

sgd. Wolfgang Müller