A client recently asked me to clarify the meaning of “Palatine German” in researching their family origins. In simple terms, a “palatine” is someone from the “palatinate”, an area near the Rhine River near present-day Southwestern Germany. The term has been used to refer to German immigrants who originated from that particular region of Europe.
In this particular research project, the “German Palatines” were early 18th century emigrants from the Middle Rhine region who immigrated to North America by way of Rotterdam as part of a larger wave of Palatine immigration. Like many of their brethren, they settled near present-day Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and remained for several generations.
Some genealogical resources use the terms “Pennsylvania Dutch” and “German Palatines” interchangeably. It’s important to note that many but not all Pennsylvania Dutch are descendants of refugees from the Palatinate of the German Rhine.
Here are a few additional and excellent resources for better understanding this terminology and it’s application in family history research:
- German Palatines (Wikipedia)
- Palatine History by Lorine McGinnis Schulze (1996)
- Palatine Immigration to America by Daniel Rupp (1876)
- What is a Palatine? Historical Background by Ernest Thode for Antique Week.
- The Great Migration 1717-1754: The Ocean Crossing and Arrival in Philadelphia (An excerpt from Pennsylvania Germans, A Persistent Minority by William T. Parsons)
- Palatines to America – National German Genealogy Society (PalAm)
- The Story of the Palatines: An Episode in Colonial History (1897) by Sanford Hoadley Cobb