The Palatine Project

Reconstructed Passenger Lists, 1683-1819

The Palatine Project is an ongoing effort, using sources from German speaking countries as well as early colonial American sources, to annotate and/or reconstruct the passenger lists of Germans who came to America in the first large wave of emigration in the 18th century. These annotated lists will provide a "bridging the gap" tool for identifying the original emigrants to America while identifying sources that indicate where they came from in their ancestral country. This is an ambitious project and will require many years. Its success will depend on contributions of information, finances, and other assistance from the public and genealogical communities.

18th Century German Emigration

In the first national US census of 1790 there were about 280,000 (7% of the population) people of German decent in the country. From 1683, when the first large group of Germans came to Philadelphia until the Napoleonic period (1806) 200,000 German speaking emigrants settled in North America. It is this group that we are working towards identifying. Prior to the New York and North Carolina emigrations of 1710 an estimated 2,000 - 3,000 German-speaking emigrants had come to the colonies. These include about a hundred Germans who were part of the Dutch and Swedish colonies of New York and Delaware, as well as diverse other Germans who came to South Carolina and elsewhere in the 17th century. Perhaps with time these smaller groups of German speaking emigrants who came prior to 1683 will be included in this project. The focus of the project is to identify those who came prior to 1820 when most U.S. ports began keeping federally mandated passenger lists.

High years of emigration included the years 1709, 1727, 1732, 1738, 1742-1744, 1749-1754, 1764, 1770-1773, 1785-1802 (especially 1792-1796). During the year 1717 there appears to have been at least four ships to Pennsylvania, one to New York, and one to Virginia carrying Germans. The yearly number of emigrants was heavily influenced by European politics. It is possible that the small numbers of emigrants in the years 1717-1726 was due to competition in recruitment by the eastern territories (the Russian and Austrian Empires), which were given attractive incentives and privileges. During times of wars emigration also dwindled considerably including during the years 1744-1748 (War of the Austrian Succession), 1755-1763 (Sea battles during the 7-years War), 1776-1783 (American Revolution War), and 1806-1815 (Napoleonic War).

In 1744 some of the emigrant ships were captured by French and Spanish privateers and the emigrants were not able to continue to North America. The highest number of emigrants were in the years 1749-1755 during which time approximately 30,000 German emigrants arrived in Philadelphia; 2700 in Halifax, Nova Scotia; 1300 in Charleston, South Carolina; about 1,600 Germans to Baltimore (6 ships 1752-1755); and about 720 Germans to New England (3 ships 1751-1753); making at least 36,300 German emigrants in these years.

During the years 1776-1783 over 30,000 German soldiers were sent as mercenaries to the colonies. They are often called the Hessian Soldiers but were from more areas than just the Hessian provinces. Lists of many such German troops can be found in a collection called HETRINA. After the war, up to one third of these soldiers remained in the new United States. Hopefully this site can eventually include these soldiers’ names as well. Those who returned to Germany brought news of conditions in the new world which encouraged emigration from those areas.

In the years following the Revolutionary War, there was at least one ship of emigrants each year arriving in Philadelphia. Only in 1804 were there more than 1000 emigrants. Bremen and Hamburg began to be used in addition to Rotterdam as ports of departure. Also the British ships no longer had a monopoly on emigration. From 1785 - 1808 there were 9236 men listed on the arrival ship lists in Philadelphia, only a little more than came over in the period 1683-1708. With time the ports of Baltimore and New York began to compete more with Philadelphia, so that by the mid-19th century New York had become the most common port for German emigration.

Starting with the year of starvation in 1816/1817 and the emigration of 10,000 Germans to North America, a new period of German emigration began. However, during the 18th century 80% of the German emigrants came through the port of Pennsylvania, many of them moving on from there to Maryland and Virginia.
[Some of above comes from "Die Auswanderung aus dem heutigen Baden-Württemberg nach Preußen, in den habsburgischen Südosten, nach Rußland und Nordamerika zwischen 1683 und 1811" (The emigration from modern Baden-Württemberg to Prussia, in the Hapsburg Southeast, to Russia, and North America between 1683 and 1811) by Arnold Scheuerbrandt in the Historischer Atlas von Baden-Württemberg (Historical Atlas of Baden-Württemberg), XII, 5].

The Palatine Project

Although the primary project initially will be to annotate the passenger lists of the Pennsylvania German Pioneers identified in Strassburger and Hinki's 1727-1808 lists, we plan to eventually annotate and reconstruct (where necessary) lists for New EnglandNova ScotiaNew YorkVirginiaGeorgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina German settlements as well.

This site is meant to be a place where the origins of German immigrants that have been established can be referenced to help other researchers. It is an ongoing project so that additional lists will be added until all of the ships carrying early German settlers are included. Then as others submit the origins of families they have identified and additional sources are included in the annotations, each of these lists will become more complete.

The purpose here is not to attempt a reconstruction of the Philadelphia lists which identifies every person who was on the ship. That is an impractical task, fraught with too many pitfalls and miscommunications. Rather, the project seeks to annotate the existing Philadelphia arrival lists with references (sources) indicating where additional information on an immigrant and his family can be found in published immigration and emigration literature.

Settlements in North America

The below linked map shows where the settlements of Germans in Colonial North America took place.

Origins in Europe

Most of the 18th century German emigrants were from the Palatinate (Kurpfalz, later Bayern-Pfalz), counties in the northern Kraichgau, Hessen, Baden-Durlach, County of Wertheim (later Baden, 1752/1754), and Württemberg (counties of Maulbronn, Sachsenheim, Tübingen, Urach, Rosenfeld, Marbach, and Neuenbürg; Free City Ulm [1751/52]).

The below linked map shows where the primary areas where German speaking emigrants left from in Europe. Many of those from some parts of Germany a few generations previously were from France (Huguenots/Walloons) or Switzerland.

Many techniques can be used in identifying the original hometown of 18th century German immigrants to North America, however the most valuable source is the passenger lists. Since recruiting for the colonies generally occurred in a fairly localized region from which a group would travel together to Rotterdam and then on to the colonies, by identifying the origin of others on the same ship it will often give many clues as to the origin of a particular family.

Notes on the Reconstructed Lists

  • During the colonial period, Germany looked much different than it does today. It was a patchwork of hundreds of duchies, counties, margraveshafts, and other jurisdictions, each ruled over by different sovereigns. Sometimes a few villages were under the control of a count and in other cases hundreds of towns might be under the control of a neighboring duke. After Napoleon conquered Germany these areas were consolidated into a much smaller number of states or provinces. These new jurisdictions lasted through most of the 19th and 20th centuries. Rather than using the jurisdictions of the colonial period or the modern jurisdictions, it was decided that references in these lists would go by the jurisdictions in the post-Napoleonic era. This was due mostly to the fact that those are the jurisdictions used in most of the historical gazetteers used in German genealogy and also is the standard used by the Family History Library catalog, widely used as a standard in the field of genealogy.
  • The passenger lists, debtors lists, naturalization records, subsistence lists, and other sources used in the identification of these passengers’ origins often include English spellings of German surnames. This is especially the case where the Germans were unable to sign their own names. Therefore, these lists standardize the spellings of names in obvious cases to the German spelling of that day, represented in a majority of the German church records from the mid-18th century. For example names such as Fileb, Fillep, etc. are listed as Philipp; John, Johan, etc., are listed as Johann; Johanis, Johns, Johanes, etc. are listed as Johannes. If a family was located in German sources, the form of the given and surnames listed in the German sources prior to emigration were listed in that form on the passenger list.


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