Sunday, October 03, 2004

Two Weeks and Counting

The Pinnacled Dim website has been up and running now for a little over two weeks. So far I haven't been inundated with offers to buy adspace. My aim is not to attract traffic. I simply want the information I've gathered to be on the record and accessible to the few dozen or so people directly descended from a few of my ancestors. But I would also like to think that the site tells a story, one that is meaningful to a large number of Americans with German ancestry. Chippewa Falls is just one of many hundreds of small towns in the upper midwest where significant numbers of German immigrants settled in the last half of the 19th century. Sheboygan, on the other hand, was the busiest single destination on the Great Lakes for German immigrants between 1830 and 1880, busier than Milwaukee or Chicago, or Montreal or Toronto, or Detroit or Cleveland. The Germans arrived in ports like New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia. They spent a few months and sometimes several years recovering from their trans-Atlantic voyage and gathering their wherewithal through a network of Germans in order to "shuffle off to Buffalo" for the boatride to Sheboygan. Vast numbers of Germans, hundreds of thousands of them, passed through Sheboygan on the way to new lives in Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa and Nebraska. Some were only there for a few days or weeks. Others stayed in Sheboygan for several months or several years. Some stayed for several decades. A few are still there. My ancestors came to America from a part of Germany that is now part of Poland, a part of what once was Germany that through forty years of Cold War and two World Wars has been held incommunicado from America since 1915. But thanks to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany and the advent of the information superhighway, it's now possible to reconstruct, at least to a certain extent, some of the news from home denied for nearly a century to three generations of German Americans. It's a possibility that I find exciting and too enticing to resist. I have a mother-in-law who lives in Milwaukee, so I've had two opportunities in the past five years to see and visit Sheboygan County. My wife goes to Europe to her employer's headquarters in Geneva once a year or more. Two years ago I went along and used that opportunity to visit Munich and Berlin. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to Germany and I hope that my website and this blog will serve as a means to share some of that experience.

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