Doing genealogical research can often times be confusing and difficult. There are a variety of reasons for this, such as scarcity of, or disparities between, archival materials. Please keep the following helpful bits of information in mind as you are delving into your family’s past.
- It is common for the spelling of Luxembourg surnames to be inconsistent from one source to the next. Church records, civil records, and census records often utilize variant spellings when referring to the same family. The surname “Schmit,” for example, might also be spelled “Schmitt,” “Schmidt,” “Schmid,” or “Smith” depending on the source. The surname “Calteux,” to emphasize a point, has over forty-three known variations, while the surname “Goniva” became “Gonwa” in the United States. Don’t let inconsistencies in spelling throw you off; this is typical in Luxembourg genealogy.
- Furthermore, dates recorded in civil records, church records, and even family registers do not always coincide. It is important to record all dates and document sources consulted in order to obtain the most complete and accurate picture.
- Luxembourgers tended to immigrate and settle with other Luxembourgers, often from the same town or region of Luxembourg. They also frequently intermarried. Finding information on other local Luxembourg families might help you to discover more information about your own family.
- Today’s Grand Duchy of Luxembourg was formed in 1839 and is only one third of its original size. Three major historic partitions took place over the years, and parts of the former Duchy are therefore located in France, Belgium, and Germany. Your ancestor’s community of origin, depending on when and where he or she was born, might actually be located today in a different country. Partition maps of Luxembourg are available at the LACS Research Center to assist you in your research.
- Due to the size of Luxembourg, its proximity to and interrelatedness with other countries, and its contested state throughout much of the early nineteenth century, Luxembourg immigrants are often mislabeled as other nationalities. This is particularly true when it comes to census records, passenger lists, obituaries, etc. Don’t be shocked if your ancestors are described in certain sources as German, French, Belgium, or Dutch.
- Luxembourgers often settled in or near German settlements in the US. This is because, for the most part, Luxembourgers used German to read and write. Their native language, Lëtzebuergesch (or Luxembourgish), was traditionally a spoken language; that is, it was not normally written. Because of their fluency in German, Luxembourgers were often perceived and generically labeled as Germans.
- There are some very definite migration patterns of Luxembourgers coming to the US. Emigration to New York State began in the 1830’s, then to Ohio, then to Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. Soon after, Luxembourgers arrived in Minnesota and later to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and parts further west. Gonner’s Luxembourgers in the New World, which the LACS Research Center has copies of, describes this pattern in great detail. Often, immigrants settled in one area for a period of time and either they or their first generation children moved further west, frequently to other Luxembourg enclaves.