Thursday, February 17, 2011

More on the German Palatines in America

Yesterday, I posted an entry about the German Palatine settlement in North Carolina in 1710. Although Tim McGraw's ancestor, Jost Hite, was an early settler in Virginia, he was not part of the North Carolina settlers mentioned yesterday. He like my ancestors were part of the 3,000 or so Palatines sent to New York in January, 1710.

In the fall of 1708, Rev. Joshua Kocherthal and 53 German Palatines sailed on the English ship Globe with newly appointed governor of the Province of New York, John Lovelace. The Lutheran minister had appealed to Queen Anne to send him and his followers to America and provide a grant of land to which she agreed.

The group arrived at the site of the land grant on January 1, 1709. It was located at the confluence of the Quassaick Creek and the Hudson River and was named Neuburg. The current name of the area is Newburgh in Orange County, New York. Later that year, Rev. Kocherthal returned to London to seek additional aid from Queen Anne.

To his surprise, he found thousands of Palatine refugees. Although, Rev. Kocherthal was successful in obtaining additional aid from the queen for the people he left in Newburgh, he was not nearly as successful in securing the same for the 3,000 refugees that were sent to New York on 1710.

There was the promise of land grants but the terms were not nearly so generous. Before any land grant was given, the refugee had to pay back the cost of his/her passage to New York. Thus, those who had survived the voyage became indentured servants. This included children.

Of the 3,000 who left England, 470 died at sea and 250 more died while quarantined on Nutters Island in New York City. Governor Lovelace had also died and his replacement was General Robert Hunter.

Governor Hunter was not as kind to this group of German Palatines as his predecessor was to the families that arrived with Rev. Kocherthal in 1708.

To be continued...

Lou D. MacWethy. The Book of Names Especially Relating to the Early Palatines and the First Settlers in the Mohawk Valley. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2007.

Sanford H. Cobb. The Story of the Palatines An Episode in Colonial History. New York & London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1897.

I. Daniel Rupp. A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania from 1727 to 1776. Philadelphia: Leary, Stuart & Co., 1898.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

German Palatines and Who Do You Think You Are?

Last Friday I watched the second episode of Who Do You Think You Are? This eposide followed country singer Tim McGraw's search for his family history. It turns out that Mr. McGraw has ancestors who were from an area of Germany that in the early 18th century was known as the Electoral Palatinate.

I too have ancestors that were German Palatines. Like Tim McGraw's ancestor, Jost Hite, my Palatine ancestors came from Germany via England to New York. However, unlike Jost Hite, my anestors remained in New York where most of the German Palatines were settled by the British around 1710.

The Electoral Palatinate was in southwestern Germany along the Rhine River. The Electoral Palatinate along with other regions in the area were plagued by wars between 1684 and 1714 that left the area impoverished. By 1709, families fled the region with almost 13,000 people arriving in England in a six-month period. The British government settled most in the British Isles but shipped nearly 3,000 Palatines to New York.

As mentioned in the Who Do You Think You Are episode last Friday, there were those in the British Colony of Carolina who were enticing people of this region of Germany with promise of free passage paid by the British Crown and free land in America. Although this may have prompted some families to leave Germany for England, I believe that the majority of families who fled were content to find a new life on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean.

According to Wikipedia, "agents working on behalf of the Colony of Carolina had promised the peasants around Frankfurt free passage to the plantations." I was somewhat suspicious of the story. What was the motive behind encouraging a large group of refugees to come to England with the expectation of support from the British government? Also, Frankfurt is not in the Electoral Palatinate region. It is in the region called Hesse.

The area from which most of the refugees came is also called the Palatinate of the Rhine, the Pfalz and the Lower Palatinate. It includes the cities of Heidelberg, Mainz, Speyer, Mannheim and Worms.

Spending the last few days doing some research, I found, as with many stories, there is a mixture of truth and fiction.
  • In 1709, the Whig party in England managed to pass an act that would allow Protestant immigrants to become naturalized by paying a small fee.
  • The winter of 1708-1709 was extremely harsh and resulted in crop failures in the German Palatine.
  • The Whig party established a charity to assist the "Poor Palatines."
  • The number of immigrants overhelmed the English.
  • Rev. Joshua Kocherthal published a pamphlet in 1706 in which he recommended the Carolina Colony as a possible site for German Palatine colonization.
The Swiss government at the same time was facing a similar issue with a large Protestant refugee population and was looking at British America as a possible solution. A Swiss adventurer, Lewis Mitchell, was appointed by the Canton of Berne to find land in America to which the Protestant refugees could be moved. Mitchell had explored potential sites in the Carolinas in America.

Another Swiss gentleman, a native of Berne, was residing in the Carolina Colony. Christopher DeGraffenried, while on a visit to London, met Lewis Mitchell. Together they devised a proposal and presented it to the Lord Proprietors of Carolina. On October 10, 1709, the Lord Proprietors entered into an agreement with Mitchell and DeGraffenreid that gave them access to 10,000 acres of land in what is now North Carolina.

When Queen Anne learned of DeGraffenreid's plan to settle Palatine families in the Carolina Colony, she saw this an opportunity to relocate some of the refugees in England to America. The number of Palantines that went to North Carolina from England differs in the various accounts. However, it seems that the condition of these 600-650 people was so weakened that almost half of them died before reaching the Carolina Colony.

From the accounts that I have read, some of the 600+ people who left England for the Carolinas included persecuted Protestants living in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland. The current name of the city near which the refugees settled is New Bern, North Carolina.

North Carolina Highway Historical Marker C-10


Sanford H. Cobb. The Story of the Palatines An Episode in Colonial History. New York & London: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1897.

Lawrence N. Morgan. "Land Tenure in Proprietary North Carolina." The James Sprunt Historical Prublications 12.1 (1913): 41-64.

William Gilmore Simms. The History of South Carolina from Its First European Discovery to Its Erection into A Republic. New York: Richardson & Co., 1866.

L. L. Hendren. "DeGraffenreid and the Swiss and Palatinate Settlement of New Bern, N. C." An Annual Publication of Historical Papers Series IV. Durham, NC: Historical Society of Trinity College, 1900, 64-71.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

This morning when I needed to search for something on the Internet, I went to Google. I was not surprised to see a Google Doodle that recognized today as Valentine's Day. It was such an unpleasing doodle that I felt compelled to alter it. So on a lark I replaced the blue areas with white and the green areas with pink. I left the red areas as they appeared.

As I was altering the Google Doodle, I began to wonder about the history of Valentine's Day. Growing up, I heard it described as a Hallmark card holiday. That description did seem to make sense since during my adult years, Hallmark introduced cards to celebrate Secretary's Day, Grandparent's Day, Boss' Day, etc.

The Hallmark Card Company made the sending of commercially made Valentines card popular in the early twentieth century, but Hallmark was not the first to produce Valentine's Day cards for sale.

Esther Allen Howland was the daughter of a man who owned a stationary store in Massachusetts. Her father sold handmade valentine cards made in England. Esther decided that she could make cards of her own. She was surprised at the number of people who were interested in buying her cards and could not keep up with the demand on her own.

Around 1847, she established a workroom and employed women to produce handmade Valentines. Her cards sold for between $5 and $30. Obviously, the everyday guy could not pay for such an expensive card. Fifty years later Hallmark made affordable cards for the masses.

Sunday, February 13, 2011 Indexing Project Volunteer Challenges

I have been researching my family history for many years. I am serious enough about my research that I subscribe to paid-for-view websites like,, etc. I am a member of biographical and genealogical societies within the United States as well. But, I also take advantage of the various website that are a part of the WorldGenWeb project.

The WorldGenWeb project is an informal collaboration of volunteers who transcribe records for a particular region and make the transcriptions available to anyone who visits that region's website. The Mormon Church also established a website,, that includes free information that has been somewhat useful to me.

One day, I read an article in an online newsletter I receive about a project that had created. They were looking for volunteers to transcribe information on images of birth registers, census records, death certificates, etc. in order to create links to these images.

Instead of having to go to a Family History Center to view these images on microfilm, the searchable indices would link to an online image. I thought, "What a way to give back!" I registered as an indexer.

I had only been an indexer for a few months when I was sent a message asking me to be an arbitrator. I had not indexed that many images but I was very methodical about the images that I did index. And then, I am probably not the most prolific arbitrator because I spend a lot of time looking at each of the two indexers results before I make a decision about which one is right.

Each project is rated as easy, intermediate and hard. Those projects that are considered hard usually involve a foreign language. So I tend to download a batch to arbitrate that is considered intermediate. Several days ago, I downloaded a batch from Michigan marriage registers. The handwriting of the person who recorded the marriages for Emmet County in 1909 had terrible handwriting!

Of the 152 entries in this batch, indexer A's entries differed in some way from indexer B's entries in all but five instances. After spending eight hours trying to arbitrate this batch, I developed a headache. At this point, I decided to save the work and continue the next day. Needing a diversion, I thought that I should download something from the easy category.

I accidentally downloaded baptismal records from Argentina. Since I can read Spanish, I decided to continue. It turned out to be easy to arbitrate and a great break from the worst handwriting I've seen since I started indexing and arbitrating.

Over the last few days, I spend a little time on the batch from hell and then download an easy project to arbitrate as a break.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Americanization of Foreign Names

 When I first began to research my family history, I started with a branch on my mother's side of the tree. Her father's side of the family had been in the United States since the 1600s. They were Dutch. As I found records of births, marriages, deaths, etc. I found the name of an individual recorded using different spellings.

This was largely due to the fact that the people recording the name wrote the name phonetically. For example, I have relatives who were named Anneke. I often found the name written as Annetje, Annetie, Anneken, Annatje, Antje and Anna. The last spelling was the beginning of Anglicizing the Dutch names in America.

It was easy for me to guess at the various ways the Dutch names were Anglicized because I could witness the changes as they occurred in the written records in a given relative's lifetime. However, when I started to research my family history on my father's side, I did not have the luxury of watching names evolve as result of viewing the records because the records were not in the United States.

My great, great grandfather Americanized his Norwegian patronym after he arrived in the United States. That name became his surname in America. When I finally had access to Norwegian records, I looked for records of a Martin, son of Simon. I was wondering why no records would some up when I searched for Simon.

One day I was reading an article in a genealogical magazine about Scandinavian migration to America. The article discussed the letters in the various Scandinavian alphabets that do not exist in the American English alphabet and how the Scandinavian immigrants adapted the spelling of their names. From that aha moment, I was able to learn that Simon was the Americanization of Seming/Semming.

Just as I think that I've unlocked the secret of how one would Americanize one's name, I began to research my husband's family history. The branches of his family came to the United States from Poland and Russia. Since they were Jewish, they often arrived with Yiddish or Hebrew names. Trying to guess what the original names were for his relatives at the time they arrived in America has been a real challenge.

The challenge results from my not knowing how letters in the various alphabets of the Eastern European countries sound. It is difficult to try to guess how Frank might be the Amercian version of Ephraim or Froim. So I am trying to learn the sounds of letters of the Yiddish, Polish and Russian alphabets.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crystal Cathedral

On my Facebook page I posted a message related to my blog entry of Wednesday. The message illicited some questions regarding my relative who was a clergyman at the Sailors' Snug Harbor on Staten Island, New York.

This relative was a Reformed Dutch minister. As I was writing my responses, I remembered hearing about the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California filing for bankruptcy last fall. Rev. Robert Schuller, the founder of the Crystal Cathedral, is an ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America. The predecessor of the RCA was the Reformed Dutch Church.

A child, I was living in Garden Grove when Rev. Schuller built his church like a drive-in theater. People could park in the church's parking lot, roll down a window in the car, place a speaker and hear Rev. Schuller conduct a Sunday service. At that time, I really did not know that he was a minister of any "mainline" religion and I was not aware of the Reformed Church in America.

I do remember thinking that this was really weird. Over the years there were many people who joined his congregation and obviously did not see anything odd about a drive-in church.

A chicken vs. the egg question: I do not recall if Rev. Schuller's church had moved away from speakers in the parking lot before drive-in theaters became a thing of the past or if the demise of the drive-in theater influenced the changes at his church. Whichever it was, at some point the drive-in speakers in the parking lot disappeared and the Crystal Cathedral was built.

Philip Johnson was the architect who designed the Crystal Cathedral. I was studying environmental and interior design at UCLA during this time. Philip Johnson was a very well-known architect who had constructed some really beautiful and innovative buildings.

Although the building was gorgeous, I had a hard time understanding why a church would spend so much money on a building. My church like so many others in Orange County California was simple. Simplicity was the view of the Reformed Dutch Church in America and the Puritan churches in the 17th and 18th centuries. So I was really surprised when I learned that Rev. Schuller was an ordained minister of the Reformed Church in America.

The other side of me, a marketing executive, saw his brilliance as a salesman.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Socialized Medicine and the Founding Fathers

My blog is generally about history and how past events affected the decisions my ancestors and relatives made about what to do and where to go. However, as I study the events of the past, I often experience a deja vu moment as it relates to current events. The health insurance debate of the last two years is such an example.

This is not a blog about whether I agree or disagree with President Obama's health reform plan. As I listen to arguments of those who oppose Obama's health reform program, I am upset when I hear elected officials attribute things to the founding fathers that are not true. My reaction is one of two things:
  1. They know the truth and are lying.
  2. They are ignorant.
In either case, it is bad. This is true for this debate as it is true for any debate.

A friend, knowing my interest in history, sent me a link to an article in Forbes Magazine by Rick Ungar concerning the founding fathers mandating health insurance in 1798. It was an Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen. One per cent of a seaman's wages was withheld and turned over to the US government. The federal government built a series of hospitals under the Marine Hospital Service.

As I read the article, it brought back a memory of when I was researching a relative whose husband was a clergyman at Sailor's Snug Harbor in New York. I wondered if Sailor's Snug Harbor was a part of the Marine Hospital Service.

As it turns out, Sailor's Snug Harbor was privately built in 1801 from a bequest of Capt. Robert Richard Randall. I found it interesting that within a few years of the enactment of the law that Capt. Randall, a wealthy seaman, would make such a bequest.

Nonetheless, it seems that the founding fathers were not against requiring private citizens, i.e., seamen, from having to pay into a mandated health insurance program.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Dick Eastman in an e-newsletter posted an article about lutefisk about December 2010. He paints a very unkind picture of this food. I think that one needs to have been exposed to lutefisk as a child in order to appreciate it. We had lutefisk every Christmas Eve when I was a child. Unlike my mother who married a man of Scandinavian descent, her brother and sister married outsiders.

My mother's sister married an Irish Catholic from New York and her brother married a woman of English, Irish or Scottish descent from Chicago. When my aunt who had been living in New York with her husband and my uncle who had been living in Chicago with his wife moved back to Minnesota, our family Christmas traditions began to change.

At first, we had roast beef in addition to lutefisk on Christmas Eve. But as my siblings and I grew older and had boyfriends/girlfriends that we invited to Christmas Eve dinner, the number of people who would eat lutefisk dwindled to the point that my mom gave up serving it on Christmas Eve. Instead, she had a lutefisk dinner after the holidays. Since my husband was not a fan of lutefisk and I lived 50 miles away from my mom and dad, I was not a part of her lutefisk dinner.

As the years passed, my mother had to special order the lutefisk for her dinner. When my husband and I moved to northern California, I discovered that lutefisk was available at some of our local markets around Christmas. I really wanted to get some to prepare but my husband remembered his one time tasting it and said, 'not in my house!"

Lutefisk, like Limburger cheese and Vietnamese fish sauce, is a food that you must have as you grow up in order to like.

So what makes lutefisk so distasteful for those who did not grow up with it? Conversely, what makes lutefish so appealing to those who did grow up with it?

Based on how fish was prepared to become lutefisk, the process seems to have been a preservation technique that provided Norwegians and Swedes a source of protein during the winter months. I recall my mother telling me that lutefisk was made from dried cod that was soaked in lye.

We all grew up with warnings about drinking lye because lye would eat away ones esophagus. So why would anyone voluntarily eat something that was soaked in lye?

Remember that the Vikings were Scandinavians! -- those tough, mean guys that pillaged and plundered all over Europe and Russia. Well this has nothing to do with eating lutefisk.

The Scandinavians in the 19th century when my dad's family and part of my mom's family came to America knew about lye and the caustic nature of it. The final step before cooking lutefisk is to soak the lye out of the fish.

Lye changes the appearance of the fish. The fish is rather translucent and thus may not be terribly appealing visually. It also seems that Americans in the US Midwest and Canadians are currently the largest consumers of lutefisk and not the people residing in the Scandinavian countries.

Why might that be so?

Refrigeration and preservation techniques changed over the century between now and when many people from Norway and Sweden came to America. The people in the Nordic countries have moved on. But, lutefisk is a nostalgia food for American and Canadian people of Scandinavian descent. It was a food that our immigrant ancestors were able to get that reminded them of home. But shipping this fish to the midwest and interior parts of Canada had a cost. I believe the cost of shipping here was why we only had lutefisk at Christmas. It became a special dish at a special holiday.