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Tanya and Brett's ... Great-Great-Great-Grand-Parents (Bierwirth)

Why they emigrated from the Harz Mountains

From March 1849 to January 1855, about one thousand-one hundred emigrants from the Harz Mountains in the Kingdom of Hanover arrived in South Australia.

The Germans from the Harz Mountains did not emigrate for religious reasons as the earlier settlers in South Australia did, but for economic reasons.
In 1848, the Ministry of Finance in Hanover and the local authorities in the Harz decided to improve the economic situation of the region by encouraging emigration.

The mines in the Harz were expected to close within the next decade or two, due to falling prices for metals and the increasing costs of mining in shafts that had reached great depths.
Free medical attention and unemployment benefits and pensions for retired miners, their widows and for orphans also made mining in the Harz costly.
In addition the population increased more than twenty percent from 1825 to 1846.

With the discovery of the Burra Mine and favourable letters from previous emigrants, South Australia seemed to be the ideal place to go.

The Government decided to grant financial aid, not as a gift but as an interest-free loan.

The reasons given by the emigrants for wanting to leave were for economic reasons and a better future for the children, but a large number also had personal reasons for emigrating - a missed promotion, trouble with the in-laws, or hopes for a physically less demanding job.

Fourteen groups left the Harz between 1848 and 1854.

The reasons why the Government stopped supporting emigrations were:
1 - by 1855 more than two-thousand inhabitants had left the Harz for overseas countries, several hundred from German towns. The local authorities feared a lack of workers, and by 1855 girls and women were offered employment in the mines.
2 - also very few of the migrants paid back the money they had received (altogether 72,000 Thaler) and it was considered too time consuming and expensive to try to get the loans repaid. The authorities decided that the money would be better spent in trying to improve the situation in the Harz.

A family might have received a total of about 481 Thaler and 12 Groschen for their passage (at that time 7 Thaler = $1A)

Reference - "Migrants from the Harz Mountains in the Kingdom of Hanover (Germany)" - by Renate Vollmer, University of Osnabruck - available from the South Australian Genealogy and Heraldy Soc. Inc