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Are We English, German or Just Stubborn?

By David L. Mefford

There have been many stories regarding the origins of the Meffords, the most prominent story says that the Meffords are English and came from England. But genealogical research seems to show that the Meffords were German and came in mass from the Palatines, (do not confuse this with Palestine, we are not from Israel) a region in what is now present-day Germany, beginning in about 1705 and tapering off about 75 years later. How can we be both German and English? The following information sheds light on some of the historical aspects and explains the conflicting stories.

The Palatines are actually two different adjoining regions in what is today, west-central Germany. It covered the area from roughly Stuttgart in the south, north to Coblenz and west to France. The Roman Catholic Church gave support to the King or Palatinate in the 945 AD. But later, in 1517, when Martin Luther gave momentum to the Protestant Reformation in Worms, the Palatinate embraced Protestantism and the Palatines became a haven for Protestant believers. They came from all over Europe to band together for safety. The Catholic Church saw their influence deteriorating and began to wage wars and persecutions against the Palatines as well as Protestants all throughout Europe.

Louis the XIV, of France, also sought to take the region for his own and pillaged and burned the area from 1687 to 1697. After nearly 100 years of oppression and persecution, most of the inhabitants began to leave in mass for their own safety. Queen Anne of England took pity, or recognizing a political advantage, offered safe haven for the refuges and sought to transplant them to Ireland and America. This allowed the Protestants to established a stronger presence in Catholic Ireland and also sped up the colonization of America. Most of the immigrants to America were re-settled in either Carolina or Pennsylvania. Those who settled in Philadelphia became known as the Pennsylvania Deutsch (German).

But before they were allowed to stay in America, all of the males over 16 had to go straight from the boat to the Magistrate and swear their alliance to the King of England. There are immigration records that list the passengers who swore allegiance. The Mefford immigrants are on these lists. This attitude towards the English was reinforced when WWI and WWII began and anti-German sentiment swept the country. The Pennsylvania Deutsch began calling themselves Pennsylvania Dutch. So even though the Deutsch were from Germany, they changed their allegiance to England to establish a place to live in safety. It is ironic that by the time the last had arrived in the mid-1770's to America, these new immigrants joined in the revolution against England and bit the very hand that fed them.

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