Rensselaer County descendants of the
Great Palatine Migration of 1710

In the years running up to 1709, the British government sough to recruit large numbers of Germans to go to Britain's American colonies, settle there, prosper and generate revenue for the British Crown, during the reign of Queen Anne (1665-1714, reigned 1702-1714). This highly successful campaign involved circulating in Germany the Golden Book, which painted a very rosy picture of "the island of Pennsylvania" and "the island of Carolina", as the colonies were then known. This recruitment effort eventually became the Great Palatine Migration of 1710. The word "Palatinate" (Pfalz in German) today applies to specific states of Germany (which did not become a country until 1871), but the target area for this recruitment drive extended well beyond the boundaries of what today is the Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinpfalz in German) and seems to have been applied to all the German-speaking peoples of the Rhine River valley and beyond.

Those recruited sailed northward down the Rhine to camps near the Dutch port of Rotterdam, where they waited for passage to England. From there they crossed the North Sea to England, where by 1709 no fewer than 13,000 migrants were held for months in camps in London, especially on Blackheath Common in south London. (This area is probably best known today as the starting point for the annual London marathon each spring.) Of these 13,000, only about one in four ever made it to the New World. They endured hardships and disease as they waited for the organizers to arrange their trans-Atlantic passage; many died while waiting. Of the 2,500 who embarked on ships in 1710, 470 died either during the voyage or within one month of their arrival in New York City. Again, they were held in camps, this time on Nutten Island (later Governor's Island).

Eventually, they were settled in the Hudson River valley, obtained the land grants they had been promised, and were naturalized, mostly in 1715. After the initial hardships, many of these settlers thrived.

In 1985, Californian Henry Z Jones, Jr. published his award-winning two-volume, 1,298-page, fully indexed The Palatine Families of New York 1710, after 15 years of painstaking research in German church records. This work traces over 500 of the 847 Palatine families of the New York colony to the German villages they came from (and in some cases to their Swiss, Austrian and other origins).

Large numbers of Palatines' descendants settled in Rensselaer County, NY. Hank himself is a great-grandson of Isaac HILLMAN of Troy, Rensselaer County, NY, who left the Collar City for the California Gold Rush of 1849. Hillman descended from a Palatine ancestor, and this sparked Hank's interest in the subject. Hank followed up The Palatine Families of New York 1710 with other books - More Palatine Families and Even More Palatine Families, for example - details of which are available at his website below. These resources are not searchable online, but they are available in most good genealogy libraries, and they can be purchased directly from the author. They contain a wealth of information about your Palatine ancestors, complete with citations of primary sources.

Palatine German Immigration & Genealogy
Hank Jones's Website
Germany section of the World GenWeb
Jennifer Nordyke's thesis on the Palatines

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Debby Masterson

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