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Migration Voyage, The Danube & The
Ulmer Schachteln

by Hans Kopp

     When the first colonists left the homes of their ancestors in quest of a new and better life, they had to buy themselves free or be declared free before they were allowed to leave. Primarily able individuals with financial means of 200 gulden were sought after; this was a lot of money. To give you a comparison of the value of the money at that time, we found that the price of a horse was 18 gulden and one could purchase a house for 160 gulden. Some people simply deserted without permission or legal papers.

      The pioneers reached Ulm, as well as other ports along the Danube, on foot or by horse drawn wagons. There they would layover till the required documentations were completed.

     To historians the migration of the Germans to Hungary during the three time periods 1723-1726, 1763-1773 and 1782-1787, became known as the Great Swabian Migration. Ulm was the port where our forefathers boarded the barges called Schwabenplätten, to take them to their new homeland.

The barges used for transportation were "Ulmer Schachteln" and "Kehlheimer Plätten."

     Since single men were not allowed to become colonists, so they had to find a bride among the many young maidens and be married before they could board the barges at Vienna to continue their voyage down the Danube to their destination.  If your ancestors were Catholic and married there, their marital records will be found at the Wengen Kirche in Ulm.  

In order to balance the population between men and women, active recruiting was done among single women.

The famous transports of single women traveling down the Danube became known as “Frauenzüge” (Women’s Migration Transports). 

See Note: "Wengen Church in Ulm"

     Expenses for the trip to Vienna had to be born by the colonists themselves. At Vienna, their first major stop on their journey down the Danube, registrations took place and new passports were issued. Each family received 2 gulden per member and free food supplies for the rest of their journey. At their arrival in Budapest an additional gulden was paid to the colonists, and the destination of their settlement entered into the passport. At their arrival in the settlement center, another registration took place coupled with an examination. Then a document was issued with their rights and obligations, as well as, the amount of their monthly allowable provisions to be issued to them at their destination. Every person over ten years of age received one Kreutzer, a prescribed portion of flour, firewood, straw and other goods until the time they could provide for themselves.

     The voyage of our forefathers was by no means a joy ride on the Danube. Several detailed letters of experiences from travelers immigrating to Russia exist. Reference “Ostwanderung der Württemberger 1816-1822” by Karl Stumpp) Deducting from these letters one can assume that our forefathers did not fare any better. In a letter from Johann Christian Bidlingmeier we learn that there were several stops along the river. They left Ulm on the 2nd of June and reached Vienna on the 9th of June. On the 17th they left Vienna and arrived in Budapest on the 19th of June and on the 26th of June they reached Neusatz (Novi-Sad) and on the 1st of July Palanka. In Vienna documentations were checked and then they were transferred on different barges. One of the bigger problems was simply piloting and handling the barges through the rapids and sandbanks. Piloting became especially difficult on the waters past Budapest, since that portion of the Danube was mostly unknown to the pilots the river in particular at Peterwardein near Neusatz.

     Vienna was not the only stop where the passes were checked; they were checked all along the river in Linz, in Budapest and other ports as well as at their destination. Friedrich Schwarz writes in his letter, he left his home on June 26th 1817 with his wife and nine children and arrived in Ulm on the 29th. On July the 3rd they left Ulm and were held up on the 4th by rain in Ingolstadt. On the 7th they reached Passau and had to stop because of rain. They reached Linz on the 11th and the passes were checked for the third time. The bad weather continued but they were finally greeted by clear skies as they reached Vienna on the 10th of July. On July 15 they were loaded on a larger barge with 309 people. On the 18th of July they were hit by a big storm and had great difficulty on the barge. On the 27th of July they reached Neusatz. These letters report not only on storms, pass checks, but also of the scenery, the abundance of food they purchased along the way, and illnesses as well as death and burial stops. The journey down the Danube was a one-way trip and barges were dismantled upon arrival and used to build their first homes.

     With thousands of people leaving east and west to Americas, Russia, Poland, Hungary and other eastern frontiers, the landlords of the German states did not necessarily approve of. They closed off the Rhine River only to see the emigrants leaving across France and board the ships at the ports there. On February 9th 1770 the Hessian government released a warning to the police to take a close look at the items that could be silver-plated. In their statement they say that the emigrants in doing so take the fortune out of the country. In a statement from December 11th 1784 it was pointed out that the emissaries, who promise greener pastures in foreign countries to the citizens of Hessia, should be retained.


"The Wengen Kirche (Church)" - was destroyed during WWII.  There is a new church erected in its place. I found the above painting on the wall in the office when I visited the parish and asked them if I could take this picture. 

"Captain/pilot of the barges" - They mule and/or horse teams pulling smaller type boats up the river or they traveled along the river by wagons as they already did 1,000 year or longer before.  Remember the Crusaders on their way home.  There were roads to travel on at that time too and once in Budapest they could use one of the many better roads on which coaches traveled.

"Frauenzüge" (Women's Migration Transports) - It was very difficult to find spouses whence in the settlement regions.  Therefore, one had to marry before getting permissions to travel down the Danube from Vienna.  Normally, families were settled, but there must have been also singles who wanted to settle.  But not only male, also female.  Some documentation is actually very good from certain HOG books. Also Stefan Stader has 6 volumes of documentations in German.

[Published at DVHH.org 15 Nov 2006 by Jody McKim Pharr]

 Last Updated: 19 Sep 2017

Last Updated: 04 Feb 2020

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