Immigrant Letter Research

For the history of migration, especially for the history of 19th century German emigration to "America", emigrant letters are a central source base. Emigrant letters store and transport lifeworldly knowledge and conveye everyday experiences of difference as well as information from the New World to those left behind. At the same time, they served as memory archives and contributed to the updating of past experiences against the background of new life and knowledge worlds. The seriality of emigrant letters is of particular historical value. Transatlantic correspondence often spanned decades. Letter series therefore provide information about migration-related behavioral patterns and their change, also in relation to spatial and social mobility after migration; they contain information about migrant knowledge and its significance for coping with disruptive life-world experiences in perspectives of "longue durée".  

Based on the importance of emigrant letters as a historical source and the attempts observed in the 2000s to establish a specific "migration epistology" (David Gerber, among others), Ursula Lehmkuhl's research contributions are directed at systematically developing emigrant letter research with the help of digital indexing and analysis. 

National and International Cooperation

Servicezentrum eSciences, Universität Trier

Deutsches Historisches Institut Washington, D.C.

Forschungsbibliothek Gotha

Thüringer Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek


Krebber, Jochen (2014): Württemberger in Nordamerika: Migration von der Schwäbischen Alb im 19. Jahrhundert (Transatlantische Historische Studien) (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag)

Lehmkuhl, Ursula (2014): Reading Immigrant Letters and Bridging the Micro-Macro Divide, in: Studia Migracyjne (40:1), 9-30.

Lehmkuhl, Ursula (2014): Johann Heinrich Carl – The Revolutionary: The History and Collective Memory of a German-American Family, 1852-2004, in: Studia Migracyjne (40:1), 31-56.

Lehmkuhl, Ursula (2014): Heirat und Migration in Auswandererbriefen – Die Bestände der Nordamerika-Briefsammlung, in: L’Homme – Europäische Zeitschrift für Feministische Geschichtswissenschaft 25:1, 123-128.

Lehmkuhl, Ursula (2011): Auswandererbriefe als kommunikative Brücken. Wege und Formen der (Selbst-)Verständigung in transatlantischen Netzwerken, in: Zeitschrift für Mitteldeutsche Familiengeschichte, 52. Jg., H. 2, April-Juni 2011, 65-84.