Some Hints for Researching German Palatines

Written and contributed by Kathryn Parker


(1) The Palatine Families of New York: A study of the German Immigrants Who Arrived in Colonial New York in 1710, by Henry Z. Jones, Jr. Universal City, California 1985.

(2)Retyped from "The Old Times Corner"

 Rarely did Palatines come alone, they emigrated with several neighbors from Germany and continued association with the same people in the new world. This is apparent in second generation Palatines whose children often married only into those families they were familiar with from the same geographic regions in Germany. Clues to the roots of those who emigrated between 1720-1760 may be found in seeing which families they settled near, sponsored or married into when they came to America.

We who have German or Dutch lines in our ancestry are lucky to have the ‘sponsor’ trail to follow. Being a godparent in a German family was a revered status. Sponsors were often close relatives and the child was usually named for the sponsor. If a baby’s name is different, it usually meant the child was named for a deceased family member. Related sponsors are especially crucial in determining families with common surnames. If the sponsor wasn’t a relative, then they were usually an old family friend from Europe.

Sound alike consonants contribute to various spellings of the names. D and T are often interchanged, i.e.. Diel can also mean the same as Thiel. C, G & K often have a similar sound. e.g. Henrich Glock was known as Henrich Clock and Klock. The letters B and P often transpose, e.g. Ludwig Batz was known as Ludwig Potts. The letters V and F do the same, Falck will show as Valk. There are other variations as well. Women named Margaretha were often called Gretchen, Magdalena would be Lena, Adolf was often known by Adam, Anthonius might be Teunis/Tonges/Donges or vice versa, Friederich as Fritz, Georg/George as Yury/Jury, Theobald as David. Junior did not necessarily mean that Junior was the son of a Senior of the same name. Jr. was often used to denote that someone was younger in age than another person of the same name who resided in the same community. There were two 1709ers named Nicholaus Rau. One was called Jr. the other Sr., but they were not father and son. In fact, Nicholaus Jr. was an orphan. Many times a name was chosen for a child and the child died, the next child of the same sex would be named the same name. Sometimes this even occurred in a family with two same sex children that survived and carried the same name. Beginning in 1780 and continuing ca. 1860, the middle initial in a three part name usually meant the first letter of the Christian name of that individual’s father. (prevalent in only NY German and Dutch families). (1) In Europe when the German/French border shifted position according to who the victor was of a particular battle, French families on the border often were pushed into Germany becoming German citizens of French origin. This may explain a French spelling of Germany surnames.

Double o is long o, as in Van Loon, which we now often write as Van Loan to represent the proper sound. Our double o sound, as in moon, is spelled oe in the Dutch; for example Van Hoesen, pronounced van hoozen or the various hoeks. Double a is our au as Kaaterskill (Cauterskill) and Plaatje and Taatje (tauchie), the last name being Sarah. Je at the end of a word is a diminutive; plaatje is a little plaat or flat. Grietje or Margrietje is Little Margaret; and the sound of the j is a softened one, almost a y so that an I is sometimes written in its place as Gertje or Gertie (Gertrude). IE is Thus our long E, for example Pieter and Saugerties. Uy or ui seems to be a variable sound; we have long I or it in Schuyler and Spuyten Duyvil, oo in Schuylkill and ow in Kykuit and Uyt den Bogaert and Ulyen Spiegel (owl’s looking glass). Plain e is almost an a, and plain u a short oo; and we must remember to distinguish between er (air) and ur (oor) that are so much alike in English, for example berg (berrick or barrach, a hill or mountain) and burg (boorick, a city or borough) also written burgh. Thus we should not sound alike Berger and Burger; note also that the g is hard, never a j sound as it becomes in English before e, i and y. To indicate the pronunciation , Marte Gerritse signed his name van Bargan instead of Bergen, when he dealt with the English. (2)

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