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Palatine Emigrants

by Kraig Ruckel

(Taken from http://www.geocities.com/heartland/3955/palatine.htm)

The winter of 1708-1709 was very long and cold in the Rhineland. It was a very bleak period. People huddled around their fires as they considered quitting their homes and farms forever. By early April, the land was still frozen and most of the Palatines' vines had been killed by the bitter weather. Since 1702 their country had been enduring war and there was little hope for the future. The Thirty Years War lay heavy on their minds, a period in which one out of every three Germans had perished.

The Palatines were heavily taxed and endured religious persecution. As the people considered their future, the older ones remembered that, in 1677, William Penn had visited the area, encouraging the people to go to Pennsylvania in America, a place where a man and his family could be free of the problems they were now encountering.

To go to America meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and a future in an unknown land, away from their past and family. Everyone knew that the German Elector would stop any migration as soon as it was noticed. Only a mass exodus from the Palatinate could be successful. Many wondered how they could ever finance such a journey even if they wanted to attempt it. Small boats, known as scows, would have to be acquired for the long ride down the Rhine River and then there was the price for the ocean voyage. While some of the people had relatives that could assist them financially, many were very poor. Soon enough, their minds were made up for them as France's King Louis XIV invaded their land, ravaging especially the towns in the Lower Palatinate.

In masses, the Palatines boarded their small boats and headed down the Rhine for Rotterdam. It was April 1709 and the first parties were afloat on the Rhine, many with only their most basic goods and their faith in God as their only possessions. The river voyage took an average of 4-6 weeks through extremely cold, bitter weather. By June, 1709, the people streamed into Rotterdam at a rate of one thousand per week. The Elector, as expected, issued an edict forbidding the migration, but almost everyone ignored it. By October, 1709, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine River journey.

The Duke of Marlborough was assigned by Queen Anne to transport the immigrants to England. British troop ships were also used. The Queen assumed these Protestants would help fuel the anti-Roman feelings developing in England. The ships from Rotterdam landed, in part, at Deptford and the refugees were sent to one of three camps at Deptford, Camberwell, and Blackheath outside the city wall of London. Many Londoner's welcomed the Palatines, but the poor were not, as they felt their English food was being taken from them to feed the Germans. British newspapers published mixed accounts of the Palatines, some praising them while others cursed them.

Over 3,000 of these Palatines were sent to Ireland, again to reinforce the Protestant faith in that land. The trip from England to Ireland was short, taking only about 24 hours. Included among these immigrants were a line of my possible ancestors, Sebastian ROCKEL (later called RUCKEL, RUCKLE, and RUTTLE)and his wife and children. They settled on Lord Southwell's estate near Ballingrane in County Limerick, Ireland. Several branches remained in Ireland, becoming known as the RUTTLE's. Other branches came to New York in the mid-1700's.

Meanwhile, streams of Palatines went to America, with most going to Pennsylvania. The ocean voyage was harsh, with over-crowded, under-supplied, and unsanitary ships. What provisions were supplied were generally the least expensive available to the ship's master. Water frequently ran out, as did food. Dreadful mortality occurred on many voyages. In addition to those woes, the Palatines faced robbery, deception, and worse from those transporting them.

Estimates on the number of Germans in Pennsylvania during this period varies from author to author, but a common estimate is 10,000-15,000 by 1727 and 70,000-80,000 by 1750. A good source for reviewing German arrivals to Pennsylvania is Rupp's "Thirty Thousand Immigrants in Pennsylvania" which contains numerous ship passenger lists and has an excellent surname index. Another good resource is Walter Knittle's "Early Eighteenth-Century Palatine Emigration".

Immigrants not only came from Germany, but also Bohemia and Switzerland. Most were either Lutheran, Reformed, or Mennonite in religious belief.

Copyright 1996 by Kraig W. Ruckel. All rights reserved.




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