KU facility gives
countians a look at German roots. The center's director says the library
provides access to records that are not available anywhere else in the the
By Francine M.
Reading Eagle/Times, Sunday, January 3, 1999
People interested in tracing the roots of their family tree back to
Germany have a new resource at Kutztown University.
The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, located on the
university's north campus, recently opened the Pennsylvania German
The library offers the public access to
German records that cannot be
found anywhere else in the United States, according to Dr. David L.
Valuska, director of the center.
Valuska said the library has the only copy
of records from the Institute
for History and Folk life of the Pfalz. The state owned educational
organization is located in the Rheinland-Pfalz area of central western
Germany, near the French border, he said.
Valuska said he began working with the institute in 1991. The
relationship has included several educational exchanges, he said.
In 1995, the leaders of the institute decided to give the center copies
of historical records relating to German immigration to Pennsylvania, he
"We get calls from people in Europe and
Germany every week," said
Valuska, a history professor at Kutztown for 25 years. "And we get calls
from all over the United States, and even as far away as Japan. The
response has been amazing."
Valuska said the German records offer
information about several thousand
German immigrants who moved from Rheinland-Pfalz to Pennsylvania between
1683 and 1804.
Additionally, the library houses publications of the Pennsylvania German
Society and local resources including wills, county histories, church
and cemetery records, and documents relating to immigration,
naturalization and land ownership, he said.
Volunteers from the Pennsylvania Dutch Folk
Culture Society help staff
the library, according to Anna R. Stein, executive director of the
The Pennsylvania Dutch Folk Culture Society
- founded in 1965 - became a
part of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center about six years
ago, Stein said.
"Both organizations have the same goals in mind," Stein said. "We want
to preserve Pennsylvania Dutch culture, including the language, the
dialect and the folk art."
The library is open to the public Monday,
Wednesday and Friday from 10
a.m. to 4 p.m., she said. The fee is $5 per day, or $10 for unlimited
access for a year.
Valuska said more than 180,000 Germans came
to Pennsylvania between 1683
and 1804. More than 75 percent of all Germans who immigrated to the
United States during that period first arrived in Pennsylvania, he said.
During that time, there were few economic opportunities in Germany, he
said. "Pennsylvania was very friendly and receptive to Germans Valuska said.
"Land was available and there were economic opportunities for great
abundance. There was also religious freedom."
Additionally the rolling countryside of
Pennsylvania offered Germans a
familiar landscape on which to build their new lives, he said.
Pennsylvania German culture influenced this whole region, and it is
still here," Valuska said "People care about preserving it because they
see it rapidly disappearing."
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