Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pennsylvania Palatine Research

Genealogical Clues

Are you a descendant of refugees from the Palatinate of German Rhine? If you are pursuing family Palatinate research - Der Pfalz - which includes the land west of the middle part of the Rhine river (Rheinland-Pfalz), it is beneficial to grasp historical references pertaining to the region, the affects of Wm. Penn, timelines, and the resource tools available.

Historical Reference of Region
Religious persecution, political oppression, and harsh winters drove thousands to Pennsylvania. They came from Germany, France, Holland, and Switzerland.  The Germans began to abandon their homeland as early as 1606.  Persecutions and murders spurred from the Reformation and Thirty Years War (1619-1648) between Catholicism and Protestantism, paralyzing the Palatines. 

As the Palatinate was ravaged by wars, their boundaries were also unsettling. Wars, like the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697), and the war between Holland and France during (1674-1675) also negatively affected the Palatines.

As the devastation mounted so did the emigrations, resulting in approximately 100,000 Palatines to settle in Pennsylvania alone by 1750. 

Why Pennsylvania?
William Penn traveled to Holland and Germany, in 1677, four years before obtaining a charter for Pennsylvania in 1681. A good reference to understand his philosophy and to understand why the Palatinates chose to follow him is explained in  William Penn's Journal of His Travels in Holland and Germany, in 1677, first printed in 1694.  

Genealogical Clues
From 1682 to 1776, Pennsylvania was the central point of emigration from Germany, France and Switzerland. Most of the 18th century German emigrants were from the Palatinate.

It was probably due to Penn’s tolerance for religious and political freedom that your ancestor emigrated to Pennsylvania.  So, to connect this philosophy and the timing of your ancestor’s immigration, you may be able to pinpoint your ancestor’s homeland even closer. 

Clues from My Favorite Palatine - Peter Von Sieg
Peter came to America in the 1700’s for political reasons.  He was born in the late 1600’s and lived in Siegen, Westfallen Germany along the Sieg River in the Rhineland-Palatinate region.  This river, a tributary of the Rhine, runs south westwards to the city of Siegen and the hills of Siergerland. The region of Westfallen was in constant turmoil. Louis XIV led his French troops to invade the area and forced many to leave for other parts of Europe, especially England.  Eventually many of the refugees migrated to the colonies. 

Perhaps Peter was of a “contributing” class.  At the time, the preposition von ("of") was used to distinguish those who were land owners, leaders or possibly soldiers.  However, Peter von Sieg lost favor with the government or lost his standing in the community. According to family legend, Peter voiced his disagreement with the Emperor or Government and even perhaps wrote an article stating his grievances.

Peter von Sieg joined the other Palatine refugees and migrated with his family - wife, and sons Peter, Paul, Henry, and John - to America as early as 1720. 

With basic research and clues from social history and timeline of migration, Peter Von Sieg I was able to begin sketching Peter’s history.[1] 

Research Tools
For passenger lists 1727 to 1808 and later, go to Palatine German Ship Passenger Lists to PA 

 [1] Excerpt from the Tinberg Tales, a3Genealogy, Kathleen Brandt. Dec. 2010

Kathleen Brandt


  1. I think a few of us were delighted to hear you speak of the Palatines the other day, and I'm glad you wrote this article. However, my Palatines settled in the Albany and Mohawk Valley in New York, so I didn't even know abt. Pennsylvania. Thanks for sharing that.

  2. Of course the Palatines went to NY, but were not treated well. That was the catalyst for Wm Penn to offer his land. Thanks for the reminder. I'll write another blog on that soon. It was quite a moment in the history.

  3. Very interesting! Peter von Sieg is apparently my 4th Greatgrandfather, if I'm correct. His son Paul and wife Susannah Fauber were my 3rd greats. I wish we knew Peter's wife's name. I know very little about the Palatine's though and thanks to you I'll learn more. =Paul Sieg from Ohio