The Württemberg emigration records are a unique collection of papers and documents on applicants who filed for permission to emigrate from Germany during the nineteenth century. These records are not alphabetized nor are the pages numbered, which makes a search through them complicated and time consuming. In many cases, as many as eight pages were written on one person, including a birth certificate or a family record, military release, and renunciation of citizenship rights. Often the handwriting in these documents is almost indecipherable for even an experienced German researcher. It is almost impossible for a layman to search through these records successfully.
Emigrants leaving without permission are, of course, not listed at the time of emigration. Yet many of these emigrants, later in life, after having arrived in the land of their destination, sent word back to the Württemberg state and town officials renouncing their citizenship rights. Such repudiation is also documented in the Württemberg emigration records.
There were as many as 800,000 people who emigrated to other parts of the world from Württemberg since the late seventeenth century, including the period after World War II. A great number of those who emigrated to the German colonies in the Russian Empire, came to the United States in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Indeed, a significant percentage of all German emigrants to North America have come from Württemberg.
The researcher should be aware of an anglicized spelling change in the United States and check out several spelling possibilities. All names listed are spelled in the most common German way. For instance, a man's name "John" in America can be shown as "Johann" or even "Hans." Place names are all spelled as they will be listed in a German gazetteer or located on a German map.
One important fact should be observed when using a modern map of Germany or a map of Württemberg: Within the last twenty years small villages have merged and often a new name was designated. For example, the village of Kaltenwesten in Oberamt Besigheim does not exist on any map or German gazetteer. It can only be located in conjunction with the village Neckarwestheim. Therefore, it is advisable to consult older maps in trying to locate a given area.
The original Württemberg emigration records were compiled according to the Oberamt to which the applicant belonged. An Oberamt is roughly equivalent to a district town (or county seat in America).
The country of destination for each emigrant is given and regions such as Maehren (Moravia), Siebenbuergen (Transylvania), Rumaenian (Romania), Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia, which were all part of the Austrian empire, are designated as Austria. The actual emigration record gives more details on each single applicant.
Some names may be difficult to locate because of peculiarities in the German language. German surnames that carry an "Umlaut," i.e. a modified vowel (ä, ö, ü), have been changed to their English equivalents; thus ä = ae, ö = oe, ü = ue are indexed as such. Surnames composed of two or more distinct words have been alphabetized under the final word. Thus, von Vogel is found as Vogel von.
When a family or husband and wife applied jointly, the entry would be as follows: Weidmann, Hans Peter & W or Becker, Alois & W, respectively. The wife would be listed separately by her maiden name in alphabetical order. In cases of a widow with children or a single woman with an illegitimate child, the listing will appear as follows: Widmann, Heinrike & C. A widow also may be listed as Widmann, Heinrike & F.
The date of application for emigration should not be assumed to be the date of emigration. In several cases, emigration was not granted until some time later, or the emigrant had already left secretly before that date.