Research Findings

The American Midwest has been a focal point of German(ic) immigration, settlement, and ancestry and therefore represents a prime area for the comprehensive discussion of German and German-related place names. My analysis focused on point patterns and county-level data, which represent common and adequate spatial entities for regional analysis.

Looking at the simple point pattern, Germanic place names can be found all over the American Midwest. They sometimes appear loosely scattered, such as in Iowa and Minnesota, but more concentrated in other areas, for instance around Chicago or in central Kansas. Considering naming as a means of power and authority, this indicates substantial socio-economic resources and the decisive cultural standing necessary to establish and name numerous settlements. This power to name, however, appears far from uniform across the region. The data has therefore fostered further empirical specification and critical analyses of associated politics and socio-demographic dynamics, outlined in the publications listed below.

German(ic) Place Name Concentrations in the American Midwest

Cartography: Stephan Fuchs

Publications

Fuchs, S. (2013): German(ic) Toponyms in the American Midwest. A Study of Place, Identity, and Heritage. Erlangen : Fränkische Geographische Gesellschaft. ISBN 978-3-941665-02-6

Based on the regional and local analysis of German(ic) place names in the American Midwest, this book discusses the empiric and qualitative potentials of toponyms for the analysis of sociocultural phenomena such as identity and heritage. It examines the quality and value of place names as indicators for ethnic settlement and cultural impact on a regional level. Accompanied by 29 illustrative maps, it provides an extensive discussion of German(ic) toponyms, nativity, and ancestry in the Midwest through time. The local analysis especially focuses on the symbolic and representational role of naming in the construction of ethnic and place-based identities as well as in the formation of heritage at two German-founded settlements: New Ulm, Minnesota, and Eudora Kansas.

Available at German and international libraries and for purchase through Palm&Enke publishers.

See also book review by Prof. William D. Keel (Yearbook of German-American Studies 48, 2013)

Fuchs, S. (2014): An Integrated Approach to Germanic Place Names in the American Midwest. The Professional Geographer 67(3), pp. 330-341. DOI:10.1080/00330124.2014.968834

This article explores the value of a novel approach integrating advanced spatio-statistical measures with critical interpretation to revitalize the field of toponomy on a concerted methodological and theoretical level. Processed in a geographic information system (GIS) environment, the regional toponymic pattern provides a broad and reliable framework that evokes interpretative discussion of underlying structures and processes. This characterizes Germanic toponyms as versatile sociodemographic, political, and ethnocultural indicators.

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