German Heritage in Letters: From Family Research to Digital History

Thu. Oct. 15, 2020 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Presented by Dr. Atiba Pertilla, German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.

Between 1850 and 1920, more than five million individuals emigrated from the German-speaking lands to the United States, and over the same period over 300 million letters were exchanged between Germany and the United States. This presentation will introduce “German Heritage in Letters,” (, an initiative to find, collect, and share online correspondence that sheds light on the effects of emigration from the German-speaking lands to the United States on families and communities on both sides of the Atlantic. The project, supported in part by the “Wunderbar Together USA 2020” initiative (, is an innovative effort to create an online collection of primary sources that combines correspondence from institutional libraries and archives with letters contributed by members of the public. The talk will focus on the relationship between family researchers and the project, discussing how project contributors have gathered information about their family letters using strategies like transcription and translation to in-person research and travel, and will describe how the German Heritage in Letters project enhances this work by taking advantage of the revolution in digital historical content both to gather more granular information about the individuals who wrote and sent these letters as well as to embed the letters in current scholarly research about the events and eras they describe.
To register for the event: Please email the German Society of Pennsylvania office at with your name, OR reserve a free ticket using the ticket selector below. You will be added to a list to receive the URL link to the Zoom webinar meeting shortly before the program. You must register no later than 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 13 in order to receive the web link.
Atiba Pertilla is Research Fellow and Digital Editor at the German Historical Institute of Washington, D.C., where he is project manager of the research initiative “German Heritage in Letters.” He received his Ph.D. in history from New York University and has published articles in the Yearbook of German-American Studies and Current Research in Digital History. His research interests include the history of immigration, financial history, and the digital humanities.
Image: Dorothea Schuhmacher to Gottfried Handel, January 15, 1870, letter, Dorothea Handel (Schuhmacher) Family Letters, Linda Stauf collection, accessed from German Heritage in Letters,