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 is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She has been doing genealogy for almost 25 years. Her expertise is helping 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.

      • Barbara says:

        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.

  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!

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