Popular destinations per religion

People who emigrated, usually did so in groups of like-minded people. One thing that bound them was religion. If your ancestor was Roman Catholic, he probably went where other Roman Catholics lived and where you find one Christian Reformed emigrant, you will probably find several. Here are some destinations I found in my own research of 19th century emigrants, plus destinations that readers supplied in the comments:

Destinations of Dutch Reformed emigrants

  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Clymer, New York
  • Sheboygan county, Wisconsin
  • Muscatine, Iowa
  • Lincoln, Nebraska

Destinations of Christian Reformed (“Afgescheiden”) emigrants

  • Holland, Michigan
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Pella, Iowa
  • Alto, Wisconsin

Destinations of Roman Catholic emigrants

  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Little Chute, Wisconsin
  • Carver county, Minnesota

Destinations of Jewish emigrants

  • New York City, New York

These patterns aren’t absolute: there were many Christian Reformed emigrants who settled in Sheboygan county, and many Dutch Reformed emigrants who settled in Holland, Michigan for example.

Bird's eye view of Pella, Iowa

Bird’s eye view of Pella, Iowa. Credits: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division


Do you know of any other emigration destinations that were specific to a certain religion? Please leave a comment and I’ll update the list.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Most Catholics from South – Limburg settled in Minnesota, in and around Carver County, and from North – Limburg most settled in Wisconsin.

    • Thank you Irma, I’ve updated the list. Where in Wisconsin did the North-Limburgers go to? Would that be Little Chute (already on the list) or elsewhere?

      • Hi Yvette, indeed in Little Chute but also in other places like Racine, Kenosha en De Pere. Haven’t researched them all yet but willed you know.

  2. My Christian Reformed ancestors from Friesland and Groningen Province settled in the city of Grand Rapids, MI. Calvin College there is an educational institution of the Christian Reformed Church.

  3. Judd Zandstra says

    Certainly Grand Rapids, the headquarters of the CRC and location of Calvin College and Seminary. My maternal grandfather’s family immigrated to Islip/Saybrook area of Long Island (Suffolk County, New York). I’d be interested to know if this destination was dictated by religious preference or just by occupation. They were fishermen and sailors in Bruinisse, Zeeland.

  4. My Dutch Reformed relatives all ended up in northern New Jersey. Most of Bergen County is Dutch! There is even an area known as “Dutch Hill”. One Dutch aunt married a catholic and was pretty much shunned by her family. They went to Albany, NY (also very Dutch) and my grandmother secretly visited when she could.

    Some of the cousins, who also immigrated, stopped in New Jersey, then went on to Holland, MI to farm. My Frisian grandfather (De Vries) used to hang with the German youths, who liked to party, but gave it ALL up to marry my very conservative Dutch Reformed grandmother (Soeteman now Sweetman). So interesting.

  5. Marion Zaborney says

    Like the last comment by Holly, my great grandparents (both sets) came from Dirksland, ZH. I do not
    know how to define which Reform they were, but I guess most likely Christian. My grandfather was a
    founding father and first pastor (lay) of a Reform Church in Clifton NJ. When his and his wife’s parents
    came they settled in Paterson NJ. It seemed their brothers,sisters and families all moved at the same time. They moved eventually into Clifton and the section they moved into was called Dutch
    Hill (and still is today). Midland Park, Haledon, North Haledon in Passaic County were mainly Dutch immigrants. Then they moved to Bergen County. My daughter attended Eastern Christian High School in North Haledon, which is run by the Reform Church. Two of my father’s brothers were ministers who moved to Michigan for their churches, but I do not think neither had a Reform Church. I believe both were Baptist.

  6. While not exactly on point with your post, in that it’s not specific to religion, you might find this article from the Canadian Encyclopedia provides a helpful but brief sketch of Dutch settlement in Canada.


    After WWII, the largest port of entry into Canada (including the Dutch) was through Pier 21 in Halifax. It’s kind of like Canada’s version of Ellis Island. There’s an excellent immigration museum in the pier. On its website, the museum is trying to start what it calls “Culture Trunks”, highlighting the stories of specific ethnic groups. So far there are only three, but one of them is about the Dutch: http://www.pier21.ca/culture-trunks/netherlands/andy-faas

  7. Barbara Andersen says

    Yvette, Here’s a new location for you, Montana. Near Bozeman, MT there is an area settled by Dutch immigrants. Even a town called Amsterdam, MT. These folks were all Dutch/Christian Reformed. (I am not sure of the difference.) My grandfather came from Oud-Beijerland in 1887 and eventually settled in another area of MT. North of Big Timber, MT was a Dutch settlement started by a minister named Wormser. This settlement was not as successful as the one at Amsterdam, MT. The land North of Big Timber was not suitable for farming, unlike the rich land near Bozeman. I have a book titled, The Persistence of Ethnicity, Dutch Calvinist Pioneers in Amsterdam, Montana. It is written by Rob Kroes, professor of the American studies department, at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I really enjoy your postings each week. Thank you.

    • Judd Zandstra says

      In 1917 my grandfather sent his 21 year old son Nick to a Dutch colony in Rapelje, Stillwater County, Montana to establish a new farm with the intent of moving the whole family (14 kids) there. Unfortunately, Nick contracted influenza and died there the next year. That was the end of that venture. Not sure how far that is from Bozeman.

      • The 1918 Flu! Poor Nick.

      • Judd, Rapelje, MT is about 150 miles east of Amsterdam, MT. I have a friend who’s great grandfather was part of a Dutch settlement near there. I believe it was a very hard life and not many Dutch stayed.

        • Audrey Witvoet says

          I have the Dutch Church Rooster. Must of the Reformed Church people who Moved to Rapelje,Montana in the early 1900’s. My Grandfather was one who moved his family to Rapelje.

      • Karin (Rozema) Kuiper says

        Yes, I heard about the flu epidemic. I’d like to find a list of people from Stillwater County who died that year from the flu.
        My mother’s dad moved the family out there around 1920. He was an immigrant from Groningen who first settled in Grand Rapids. He’d worked as a carpenter and even built a home in Grand Rapids, but there was something about owning and working their own farms that drew the Dutch to Montana. My uncle on my dad’s side had a ranch in Columbus, and all his brothers followed him in hopes of making it. Also Groningen immigrants, they lasted a few years in Montana and returned to Chicago where they did much better in the cement business.

      • L Mosdal says

        There’s a big all school reunion coming to the tiny town of Rapelje next year (July 2020). http://www.facebook.com/events/474218439782361/

  8. Yvette,

    I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2015/06/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-june-12-2015.html

    Have a great weekend!

  9. Phyllis Maathuis Hall says

    My father’s parents emigrated to Salt Lake City and Ogden, Utah after joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in the 1890s. His mother was a van der Does from Zuid-Holland and his father was a Maathuis from Groningen. They met in Salt Lake City and married in 1909.

  10. In Muscatine, Iowa, the Dutch immigrants founded the “Holland Baptist Church” which later became the First Baptist Church. I don’t know why the Baptists were appealing to the immigrants.

  11. Bennie Schilderink says

    Many of the catholic emigrants of Lichtenvoorde, Groenlo and Eibergen moved to Cincinnati, OH.

  12. Matt Newbold says

    My dutch great grandparents joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) church around 1900 and settled in Tooele, Utah around 1913. My great grandmother, also joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and settled in Salt Lake City.

  13. Susan Washington says

    My grandfather and his family (Verkuijlen) lived in the Uden, Noord-Brabant area and were Catholic. They emigrated to Little Chute, Wisconsin. My grandfather emigrated in 1913.

    My grandmother and her family (Wiegman) called Gelderland home and were Catholic. They emigrated in 1910 to Hollandville, Montana but eventually moved to the Little Chute area.

  14. Carol Van der Jagt (VanderJack) Graska says

    Hello, my relatives came from Lutjebroek, Holland in the early 1890’s and settled on the south side of Chicago, IL. The family was Roman Catholic.

  15. Jeanne Brusky says

    My grandparents immigrated from Groningen Province to the Rock Valley, Iowa area in the 1890’s. There are many Dutch communities in northwest Iowa. Orange City, Iowa looks like a Dutch village lifted out of Holland, and has all of that wonderful cheese, too!

  16. Karin Kuiper says

    All of my grandparents came from Achtkarspelen, Friesland and Grootegast, Groningen right where the two municipalities meet. My mother’s parents immigrated around 1900 and settled in Grand Rapids. My dad’s parents settled in Chicago around the same time. Oddly enough, both sides homesteaded in Stillwater County in Montana, in Columbus and in Rapelje. I think they were still longing for land of their own. After five to ten years, they came back to the Midwest and worked in carpentry and cement construction. I would love to hear stories from people who had ancestors in Rapelje, especially, since my mother lived there in the early 1920s. I have some pictures, but would love to see others.

  17. Christine says

    My mother’s ancestors are all Roman Catholic from North Brabant. Her mother’s father came with his siblings and parents in 1866 and they settled in Little Chute. When he got old enough her grandfather settled in Browns Valley, Minnesota where there were homestead lands available.
    My mother’s father emigrated in 1891 with his family. He joined the cavalry and went to the Philippines. When he came home, his brother was working for my great-grandfather in Browns Valley. He and my grandmother met there, got married and fell under the spell of the glowing advertisements which lured them to Hollandville, Montana, My mother was born in Hollandville in 1916.

  18. Audrey Witvoet says

    The Dutch Reformed Church is Reformed not Reform..

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