German Protestant Migration from
the Lower Palatinate and Switzerland

Internal Migration: Ethnic German Swiss to Alsace and the Palatinate of the Rhine

Eighteenth Century German migration to Colonial America was comprised primarily of Protestant family units. These families had a migration tradition which went back 200 years; as their existence had been shaped by continuous strife since the Reformation.

The historical period known as the Reformation can be dated from Marin Luther's Ninety-Five Thesis in 1517 to 1555 and the Peace of Augsburg. Reformation of the Church was a convenient excuse for Electors of the Holy Roman Empire (the precursor of modern Germany) to break the power of the Emperor Charles V. Characterized by armies sweeping back and forth with the ebb and flow of battle, whole communities of Central Europe were devastated.

In a concerted effort orchestrated by the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), many of the successive generation of now Protestant Germanic princes were drawn back to the Catholic Church. To put it simply, if the only persons available as tutors are Jesuits, then impressionable young pupils will necessarily come under Jesuit influence. Beginning with the reign of Pope Pius IV c. 1560 and ending with the close of the Thirty Years' War c. 1648, the Counter Reformation forced whole communities of Protestants to migrate out of reclaimed Catholic lands.

In 1598 the Edict of Nantes made Protestantism legal within France. And, scores of Swiss Anabaptists migrated down the Rhine into Alsace and the French Rhineland. Additionally at the end of the Thirty-Year's War, the Protestant Elector of the Palatinate of the Rhine offered lands at reasonable rents in order to entice settlers to repopulate his devastated territories.

Having institutionalized Calvinism as the state religion in the German Cantons of Switzerland, Swiss officials persecuted non-Calvinist Protestants. These Anabaptists looked for lands offering a modicum of religious freedom. In 1671 the first mass migration, called "the first expulsion," of Anabaptists from the Cantons of Bern and Solothurn into the Rhineland north of Switzerland took place. Swiss authorities enforced departure orders for Anabaptists moving to Alsace, Baden, and the Lower Palatinate. Authorities in these regions accepted these Anabaptists with certain restrictions, including a prohibition on conversions and the right to own property. Not only would these families repopulate the territories, they would generate needed tax revenue. As persecution increased in Switzerland, more and more Anabaptists either departed willingly or were expelled. And, they eventually found a new life along the French west and Germanic east banks of the Rhine. But their time along the Rhine would only be a sojourn.

External Migration: Open Warfare and Starvation as the One-Two Punch

Reasons for leaving the Palatinate revolve around basic human needs--food, shelter, safety. And by 1707, these were not to be had in the Lower Palatinate of the Rhine. Located between the Main and Upper Rhine rivers and extending south to Switzerland, the Rhenish Pfalz was devastated by wars between Catholic France and Protestant German states, overpopulation, heavy taxation, and exceptionally harsh winters between 1708 and 1719. Conditions were rife for ex-migration.

The first crisis came in 1685 when Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes. Thereafter, systematic persecution of French Protestants created a wave of refugees fleeing into the Lower Palatinate. Continuing the effort for French hegemony, the French Army devastated the Rhineland during the War of Spanish Succession (1704-1708), forcing tens of thousands of ethnic German Protestants to flee. These Palatinates survived a journey down the Rhine River to Rotterdam and a voyage across the English Channel to a temporary haven south of London. Adding natural disaster to manmade disaster, the winter of 1708-9 was the most severe since 1683/4. Cattle, sheep, and birds froze to death in the forest. Corn was scarce and fruit trees were killed. Frost followed, killing the corn. And, calamity and desolation prevailed.

Having survived the journey to Rotterdam, usually expending most or all of their monies, previously successful families were destitute. After a 3 to 4 week trip, an estimated 2/3 of immigrants from Switzerland and the Lower Palatinate, Germany, arrived absolutely destitute, necessitating indenture as a means of obtaining passage to America. By 1717 immigrant conditions in lower Netherlands were so bad that a royal decree banned entry to persons who were deemed likely to become a public charge [LPC].

At the Port of Rotterdam and later in England, British charities provided for minimal housing and food, creating what would now be described as displaced persons camps in and around southern London. Eventually, Palatinates were shipped off as settlers in British possessions--Ireland, the Caribbean and America.

Later, correspondences from immigrants were sent throughout Europe, describing freedoms in the English Colonies of America. These "American Letters" were not just successful at attracting settlers to the Colonies; they were overly successful, sparking a series of migration waves of French Protestants and residents of the many principalities of the Rhine Valley--the Palatinate of the Rhine, the Duchy of Baden, the Duchy of Hesse, the Duchy of Wurttemburg. As with the French Huguenots and the German Palatines, Swiss Protestants took advantage of British programs to populate Ireland and their American Colonies with Protestants.

Chain Migration: The Pennsylvania Dutch Experience

The Pennsylvania Dutch provide an example of successful, large-scale immigration. Members of groups and families immigrated in multiple stages which resemble links in a chain. Therefore, ethnic German migration to Colonial Pennsylvania can be described as chain migration.

Our families, the Pennsylvania Dutch, are in truth German, Swiss, and Dutch. And the amalgamation of their character has created a culture unique to south-central Pennsylvania. Founded by the Quaker William Penn, the Pennsylvania Colony offered large tracts of land at very reasonable prices and most of all, religious freedom.

Early Germanic immigrants settled in what would become Germantown in Philadelphia County. There they found freedoms not experienced in Europe. With their industrious nature and native crafts, these early colonists were destined to be prosperous. By 1700 ethnic German churches and businesses dominated local society.

The first question was, "Why did ethnic German Anabaptists leave the Palatinate of the Rhine?" The answer is that they were pushed out by open warfare and starvation as previously cited. The second question is, "Why did they choose Pennsylvania?" 

William Penn was an exceptional promoter. Despite the fact that Penn's corporate colony went bankrupt, William Penn's plan for recruiting settlers continued far beyond his lifetime. Characterized as a "holy experiment," Penn envisioned his colony as a place where beleaguered Welsh Quakers could live and worship in peace. The promise of inexpensive land and religious tolerance pulled Anabaptists of the Palatinate to Pennsylvania.

Self-sufficiency as opposed to indigence marked the Palatinate immigrants to Pennsylvania. Unlike their destitute relatives who were planted by the British Government in New York and the West Indies, the Pennsylvania Dutch made their own arrangements to finance their passage to America. In the initial stage, where the group decided on Pennsylvania as their destination, finances and logistics were arranged. Typically, the group would secure loans to pay for an initial immigrant who made the perilous voyage and established a foothold in the Pennsylvania Colony. 

[A] letter [was] written in 1707 by one David Rutgers to the deacons of the Waterland and Flemish and Old Frisian churches of Amsterdam, asking the churches for a refund of a sum of money he had advanced to a certain Wynand Bowman and his wife and three children for their voyage to Pennsylvania in that year.

    C. Henry Smith, The Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania in the Eighteenth Century (Norristown, PA: Pennsylvania-German Society, 1929), pp. 95-96. Copied at General Bowman Family History, Pioneers and Patriarchs, 2003 <> 28 December 2003.

Philadelphia, the primary port of entry, provided a haven for ethnic German immigrants; as neighboring Germantown was established in 1683 by thirteen Mennonite families. After leaving ship at Philadelphia, the initial immigrant would be welcomed into the local community, establishing connections for furthering the group's immigration goals.

In the second stage, multiple generations of immigrant families made the voyage to the home of the initial immigrant. One particular letter dated 1710 was written from London to the many Mennonite parishes of Rotterdam, thanking them for advancing the monies for the passage and for the purchase of land.

Worthy and Beloved Friends
In addition to wishing you every temporal and spiritual blessing we wish to inform you that we have received the help which the dear friends have sent us so kindly for the continuation of our journey. This gracious contribution came very opportunely for us; for the journey cost us more than we had anticipated. May God bless the dear friends; and whatever may be wholesome to body and soul may the merciful God grant them, and be their eternal rewarder. As to our journey we wish to report that we were delayed here almost ten weeks before we entered the ship. But we finally went on board the 24th, and since then have been lodged and cared for. We are informed that we will set sail from here next Saturday or Sunday for Gravesend, where we will await the Russian convoy. May God be with us and may he bring us safely to America as he has brought us to England. Herewith we committ you to His tender mercies; and if we may never see one another again in this life may the good God permit us to meet one another in eternity. Herewith we command you all to Him, together with cordial greetings from all of us, and remain your true friends.
London, June 24, 1710.'
Martin Kindig; Martin Oberholtzer; Jacob Miller;  Martin Maili; Christian Herr; Hans Herr.

Citation lost.

Upon arrival, land grants or purchases were secured, and the families settled on their homesteads.

By the commissioners of property-Whereas we have agreed with John Rudolph Bundely, Martin Kendig, Jacob Miller, Hans Herr, Martin Oberholtz, Hans Funk, Michael Oberholtz and one Wendel Bowman, Swissers, lately arrived in the Province for ten thousand acres of land, situate on the northwesterly side of a hill, about twenty miles easterly from Connystogoe, near the head of Pecquin creek, for which said land, they are to pay the sum of five hundred pounds, sterling money of Great Britain, in manner following. . . .
These are, therefore, to authorize and require thee to survey or cause to be surveyed, unto the said purchasers, the full quantity of ten thousand acres of land (with reasonable allowance for roads and highways) in one entire tract, at or near the place aforesaid and subdivide the same (if they request it) into so many small tracts or parts as they shall agree or appoint to each of them his respective share to be holden by the purchasers, their heirs and assigns, under the rents, payments and agreements aforesaid, subject to distress for the said rent in case of non-payment; and of thy transactions and doings in the premises, by virtue of these presents thou art to make such returns into the Secretary's office, with all reasonable expedition.
Given under our hands and seals of the province, the tenth day of the eighth month at Philadelphia, A.D. 1710.
Edward Shippen
Griffeth Owen
Thos. Story

    Lancaster County Early Settlers, GenWeb Page, No date <> 28 December 2003.

In the third stage, relatives and their neighbors were recruited for the new settlements. After 1700, William Penn began a campaign to attract settlers to his colony, even traveling to Europe in person. Part of the campaign involved sending letters to family and friends back in Europe. More pamphlets than letters, these correspondences were circulated in the Palatinate and are credited with sparking a second wave of migration in 1717.

Subsequent immigrants yearned for lands to purchase, a right which had been denied them in the Lower Palatinate. Groups of families banded together to purchase huge tracts along the frontier. One group under the leadership of Mennonite Bishop Hans Herr purchased ten thousand acres in what would become Lancaster County in 1709. The descendants of these pioneer families continue to live on the lands of the original homesteads to this day.

To Jacob Baylor, Surveyor General.
"Warrant Book, 1700-1714, p 229.
On the 23d of October, the land was surveyed and divided among the Meylins, Herrs, Kendigs and others of the company.
By warrant, dated July 5, 1712, there were surveyed, November 1, 1712, Pequea, now Strasburg township, for Amos Strettle, 3380 acres, who afterwards sold it in smaller tracts; the principal persons to whom he sold prior to 1734, were. . .Henry Shank, Ulrich Brackbill . . Martin Miller. . .John Bowman, Valentine Miller, Jacob Hain, John Herr. . . .
The Mennonite settlers having determined to send for their friends in Europe, a council of the whole society was called, at which their venerable minister and pastor, Hans Herr, presided. . .to decide who should return to Europe for the families left behind and others.  The lot fell upon Hans Herr. . .Their sorrows were alleviated by a proposal made on the part of Martin Kendig, that, if approved, he would take Hans Herr's place-this was cordially assented to by all.  Without unnecessary delay, Martin, the devoted friend of the colony, made ready, went to Philadelphia, and there embarked for Europe; after a prosperous voyage of five or six weeks, he reached the home of his friends, where he was received with apostolic greetings and salutations of joy.  Having  spent some time in preliminary arrangements, he and a company of Swiss and some Germans, bade a lasting adieu to their old homes, and dissolved the tender ties of friendship with those whom they left.  With his company, consisting of the residue of some of those in America, and of Peter Yordea, Jacob Miller, Hans Tschantz, Henry Funk, John Houser, John Bachman, Jacob Weber, Schlegel, Venerick, Guldin, and others, he returned to the new home, where they were all cordially embraced by their fathers and friends.
The Swiss settlement received an augmentation in 1715-16 and 17; besides those already named, were. . .Michael Shank. . .Jacob Landis. . .Michael Miller. . .Jacob Boehm. . . .
During the year 1727, more than a thousand Palatines arrived in Pennsylvania; among these were the names of Diffenderfer, Ekman, Meyer, Bowman, Eberlee, Zug, Shultze, Funk, Frantz, and others.

    Lancaster County Early Settlers, GenWeb Page, No date <> 28 December 2003.

And, Mennonite immigration was so successful that it is estimated that by 1732, nearly one-fifth of Mennonites living in the German Palatinate had emigrated to America.

Little mention is made about New Amsterdam Dutch settlers who migrated to Pennsylvania, intermingling with the new German speaking immigrants. Descendants of Barent Cornelissen Slecht, an original settler of New Amsterdam, migrated south and west out of English controlled New York, eventually intermarrying with the newly arrived ethnic German immigrants in Bucks Co PA.

Coerced Migration: The New York Palatinate Experience

Expelled from the Palatinate by wars and famine, the 1710 settlement of ethnic German refugees in New York provides a striking example of coerced migration:

The winter of 1708-9 was the most severe since 1683/34 and cattle, sheep, and birds froze to death in the forest. Corn was scarce and fruit trees were killed. Frost followed, killing the corn and calamity and desolation prevailed. In addition, the people had suffered the devastation of wars, heavy taxation, and religious quarrels. The French Army had invaded the area that year and had driven many of the inhabitants out, most of whom wound up in England.

Thus, after the death of Heinrich [
Emerich], his widow Anna Margretha used a portion of the estate to immigrate to the New World, in the year 1709. She traveled with three families from Delkenheim and Massenheim, and brought along her five children, including Johann Michael.

Traveling from the Rhineland to America was accomplished in three phases. The first phase was the journey down the Rhine to Rotterdam. This journey down the Rhine lasts from the beginning of May to the end of October, fully half a year, amid such hardships as no one is able to describe adequately with their misery. The cause is the Rhine boats from Heilbronn to Holland have to pass by 26 custom houses, at all of which places the ships are examined, which is done when it suits the convenience of the custom house officials. In the meantime the ships with the people are detained long, so that the passengers have to spend much money. The trip down the Rhine lasts therefore four weeks. When the ships come to Holland, they are detained there likewise five weeks. Because things are very dear there, the poor people have to spend nearly all they have during that time.

In England there was another delay of two weeks, with the ship waiting for favorable winds. When the ship had for the last time weighed its anchor at Cowes in England, the real misery began with the long voyage. For the ship must sail eight weeks before she reaches Philadelphia.

The third phase of the journey, the ocean voyage proper, was marked by much suffering and hardship. The condition of the passengers was that of being packed densely, like herrings, without proper food and water. The passengers were soon subject to all sorts of disease, such as dysentery, scurvy, typhoid, and smallpox. The children were the first to be attacked by these illnesses and several died en route.

When at last the Palatines [German emigrants from the Rhineland] reached the harbor of Philadelphia another delay occurred. A health officer visited the ship and discovered infectious disease on the ship, the ship was then ordered to be removed one mile from the city for one more month before they were finally landed in America.

The journey was a long and perilous one. Surviving it, [Anna Margretha] became the first Emerich to arrive in the new land. She first settled near Schoharie, New York . She only lived for two more years and died in 1711.

    "The Furey and Bretz Family Histories," Personal Web Page, 24 February 2002 <> 28 December 2003.

Concurrent to the flood of Palatinate immigrants, an exorbitant increase in the cost of Swedish Pine Tar--the substance the British Navy used to waterproof their ships--necessitated a scheme to produce the commodity. The Board of Trade proposed establishing a Palatinate settlement on the Hudson River of New York specifically for that purpose. Relying on the British Crown granting tracts of land on which the Palatinates were to be settled, newly created New York land barons would be reimbursed for tools and foodstuffs issued to the immigrants. Between 1710 and September 1712, names of the recipients were recorded in a journal of "Palatine debtors to the British government for subsistence."

Palatinate Ship List (1710)

Names List # Ship


First Lyon of Keith
13 Jun 1710
Second Lowestoffe
14 Jun 1710
Third Fame
14 Jun 1710
Fourth Baltimore
14 Jun 1710
Fifth Hartwell
16 Jun 1710
Sixth James & Elizabeth
16 Jun 1710
Seventh Tower Frigate
14 Jun 1710
Eighth Herbert (wrecked off of Block Island)
 7 Jul 1710
Ninth Mary
16 Jun 1710
Tenth Sarah
24 Jun 1710
Eleventh Berkeley Castle
 4 Oct 1710

The first ship laden with Palatinate immigrants to New York sailed in late 1708. Conspicuous among the passengers was Rev. Joshua Kocherthal, a Lutheran minister and organizer of the party. During the next two years, an estimated 4,000 ethnic Germans departed for New York of whom an astounding 1,700 or 42.5% died en route or immediately after arriving in New York.

The Germans were scheduled to be boarded upon the ships between the 25th and 29th of December, 1709. The boarding took place as scheduled, but the convoy got no farther than Nore, fifty miles from London, when seven of the ten ships refused sailing orders. The actual date on which the ships set sail across the Atlantic is confused because of the differing accounts that have come down to us. Johann Conrad Weiser, one of the emigrants, noted in his diary that the convoy of ships left England "about Christmas Day". Other accounts gave the end of January and March as the dates for embarkation. The London Gazette reported on 07 April, 1710, that the ten ships carrying the Palatines were "ready" to sail from Portsmouth. James DuPre, commissary for Colonel Hunter, stated in his report that the Palatines were embarked in December, 1709, but did not actually set sail until 10 April, 1710.

Whether lying in port on the Thames, or on the Atlantic Ocean, the Palatines were on board the ships, in conditions suited to the low rate which had been paid the ships owners, for nearly six months. The conditions were harsh and uncomfortable. Following the voyage a surgeon requested reimbursement for medicines he had dispensed en route, noting that on the ship he sailed, there were 330 persons sick.

Landfall was made at New York on 13 June, 1710. The first ship to arrive was the Lyon. The rest arrived between that date and 02 August. One ship, the Herbert, was wrecked off the coast of Long Island on 07 July. The death toll on the journey amounted to 446 by the end of July; and during the first month in the New World, that number rose to 470. To augment the numbers, women gave birth to thirty babies during the journey. The ships docked at, and the Palatines and Swiss emigrants disembarked on Nutten Island. Due to the reports of disease among the emigrants, the people of New York City showed no hospitality toward them.

    Larry D. Smith, "Mother Bedford's German Heritage," Mother Bedford, 2000 <> 5 September 2005.

From the point of view of the Board of Trade, the Pine Tar Industry of the Hudson Valley was a failure; as perhaps as many as 50% of the settlers moved on to find their way in the New World. However from a historical perspective, Palatinate immigration was phenomenally successful. These new settlers brought with them a vim and vigor which they applied to building America. 

The following describes the industriousness of the Palatinate settlers of the Schoharie Valley in their first two years:

Petition of the New York Palatines to the Lords of Trade.

The Case of the Palatines, and others Germans, in the Province of New York in America sheweth.

That, In the year 1709. The Palatines, & other Germans, being invited to come into England about Four Thousand of them were sent into New York in America, of whom about 1700. Died on Board, or at their landing in that Province, by unavoidable sickness That before they went on Board, they were promised, those remaining alive should have forty acres of Land, & Five pounds sterling p(r) Head, besides Cloths, Tools, Utensils & other necessaries, to Husbandry to be given at their arrival in America

That on their landing their they were quartered in Tents, & divided into six companies, promise but having each a Captain of their own Nation, with a promise of an allowance of allowance fifteen Pounds per annum to each commander.

That afterwards they were removed on Lands belonging to M(r) Livingstone [now Livingston Manor, Sullivan Co NY], where they erected small Houses for shelter during the winter season.

That in the Spring following they were ordered into the woods, to make Pitch & Tar, where they lived about two years; But the country not being fit to raise any considerable quantity of Naval Stores, They were commanded to Build, to clear, & improve the ground, belonging to a private person.

That the Indians have yielded to Her late Maj(ty) of pious memory a small Tract of Land called Schorie for the use of the Palatines, they in fifteen days cleared a way of fifteen miles through the woods & settled fifty families therein.

That in the following Spring the remainder of the said Palatines joined the said fifty families so settled therein Shorie. But that country being too small for their encreasing families, they were constrained to purchase some Neighbouring Land of the Indians for which they were to give Three hund(d) pieces of Eight.

And having built small Houses, & Hutts there about one year after the said purchase some gentlemen of Albany, declared to the Palatines, that themselves having purchas(d) the said country of Schorie of the Gov(r) of New York they would not permit them to live there, unless an agreement were also made with those of Albany; But that the Palatines having refused to enter into such an agreement, A Sheriff & some officers were sent from Albany to seize one of their Captains, who being upon his Guard; The Indians were animated against the Palatines; but these found means to appease the Savages by giving them what they would of their own substance.

That in the year 1717 the Governour of New York having summoned the Palatines to appear at Albany, some of them being deputed went thither accordingly, where they were told, that unless they did agree with the Gentlemen of Albany, the Governor expected an order from England to transport them to another place, And that he would send twelve men to view their works & improvements to appraise the same & then to give them the value thereof in money But this not being done the Palatines to the number of about three Thousand, have continued to manure & to sew the Land that they might not be starved for want of Corn & food.

For which manuring the Gentlemen of Albany have put in prison one man and one woman, & will not release them, unless they have suffic(t) security of One Hundred Crowns for the former.

Now in order that the Palatines may be preserved in the said Land of Schorie, which they have purchased of the Indians, or that they may be so settled in an adjoining Tract of Land, as to raise a necessary subsistance for themselves & their families, they have sent into England Three Persons one of whom is since dead humbly to lay their Case before His Maj(ty) not doubting but that in consideration of the Hardships they have suffered for want of a secure settlement, His Majestys Ministers and Council will compassionate those His faithful Subjects;

Who, in the first year after their arrival willingly and cheerfully sent Three Hundred men to the expedition against Canada, & afterwards to the Asistcince of Albany which was threatened by the French and Indians, for which service they have never received One Penny tho' they were upon the Establishment of New York or New Jersey nor had they received one Penny of the five pounds per head promised at, their going on board from England Neither have their commanders received anything of the allowance of fifteen pounds per Annum, and tho' the arms they had given them at the Canada expedition which were by special order from Her late Majesty, to be left in their possession, have been taken from them, yet they are still ready to fight against all the enemies of His Maj(ty) & those countrys whenever there shall be occasion to shew their hearty endeav(rs) for the prosperity of their generous Benefactors in England as well as in America.

Therefore they hope from the Justice of the Right Honble the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, to whom their Petition to their Excellencies the Lords Justices has Been referred That they shall be so supported by their Lordships Report, as to be represented fit objects to be secured in the Land they now do inhabit or in some near adjoining lands remaining in the right of the Crown in the said Province of New York.

And they shall ever pray as in duty bound &c

2 Aug: 1720.

    "Petition of the New York Palatines to the Lords of Trade," New York Papers, Cc., 11. Copied at "Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York," Three Rivers, 2005 <> 5 September 2005.

Commercial Migration: The Redemptioners

Later, many Palatinate immigrants to America became known as "Redemptioners." Most families spent weeks making their way down the Rhine River to the Port of Rotterdam, arriving nearly destitute. Their solution was to sign a letter of indenture to pay for passage to America. However, the Palatine situation was different from other indentured immigrants.

This system was beneficial to the ship owners, the corporate interests in the American Colonies, and even the immigrant families. The Palatine System provided for a second negotiation upon arrival in America where many indentures were purchased by previous Palatine immigrants. 

Martin Tshudy and family are believed to have served a four-year indenture in Charles Town SC, emerging from servitude with a Royal land grant in Orangeburg and a new life in America. Once free from indenture, the Tshudy family and other Palatinate immigrants prospered and propagated, adding their German influence to our American character.


This site is provided for reference only. Except where specifically cited, information contained is conjecture and should not be considered as fact.
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