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You are in: Migration Museum > Migration Movements> Germans in Pennsylvania

Germans in Pennsylvania1

in the 18th Century the United States attracted many religiously motivated, especially to Pennsylvania to live in the freedom of religion granted there without reprisals.

The farmers, the 3rd estate, bear the burden of the other two estates: He relies on his hoe, bag hanging from his paper with taxes, tithes, socage and military service, his seed is eaten by ravenous partridges and hares (noble hunting privileges). The Abbot, is characterized by ostentation, the sword of the Duke is red with blood
The Farmers, the 3rd Estate Bear the Burden
of the Other Two Estates.

However, division of real estate2, over-population, crop failure, excessive burdens of the state and religious oppression had at the end of the 17th Century led to emigration overseas. This included Protestants such as Mennonites3, Amish4 and Quakers5. Many of them came originally from the Palatine, where they had only a few years or decades of shelter. Little wonder that "Palatine", the English word for the Palatinate, was long considered a synonym for all immigrants from Germany.

English recruiters lured Protestant6 families overseas to America in the New World with promises of freedom, a better life, free passage, nine pence for livelihood per person per day for 12 months, 40 acres of land per head of the family and tax exemption for seven years.


The first major mass emigration of the 18th Century to North America from the Palatinate began in 1709.

Thousands of Palatinates moved downriver to continue to get from Rotterdam to England and embark there to North America. A large proportion of these emigrants in the autumn of 1709 had arrived in England, but had to wait there for further transportation for months in large miserable camps.

Around 4,000 Palatinates were settled in the Irish County of Limerick and in Old Ross, County Wexford.

Farmers Pay the Tithe
Farmers Pay the Tithe

Many of them were forced to return in their homeland which was not easy, because a migration carried out with the permission of the authorities was connected with the payment of various fees, i. e. the release from serfdom for which, in the 18th century in the Electoral Palatinate usually included payment of a tenth part of the assets. Added to this was the so-called 'after tax' which was basically raised by an assessment for each possession which left the country, as well as chancellery and writing fees. With the release from the serfdom or the retirement of civil rights, an emigrant gave up not only his obligations (duties), but lost also all rights, which one could not acquire very easily again.


Johann Wilhelm II, Elector Palatine
Johann Wilhelm II, Elector Palatine

Regarding the mass migration from the Electoral Palatinate, the Palatinate elector Johann Wilhelm feared a depopulation of his country with a reduction of his income. So, in April 1709, he adopted a regulation that prohibited emigration to the so-called "Insul Pensylvaniam". Nevertheless, the emigration didn't stop; now it took place in secret.


In 1741 there was a new emigration wave from the Electoral Palatinate. Lutheran and reformed (Calvinist) families followed the English enticements and promises to build Virginia, North Carolina, New York, and Pennsylvania.


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1 Thanks to S. Winkler for help with the English translation of this page

2 Division of real estate = The possessions of a family, in particular the land, which was divided 'real' among the beneficiaries. This division took place at each inheritance, so that over time there were an increased the number of ‘mini’ plots. In agriculture the continued division of real estate led to a fragmentation of arable land in a variety of small fields, often in the form of narrow strips. In 'Old Württemberg' this division of real estate resulted in fields that were soon too small to feed a family and resulted, in part-time farmers in Württemberg who operated as craftsmen. At the same time the inherited estate secured a minimum maintenance, because you inherited not only a piece of land, but also a part of the parental home. However, there was often only single room where entire families crowded together.

3 Mennonites = Followers of an evangelical Free Church which practiced adult baptism and refusal of military service and the swearing of an oath.

4 Amish = A group of Amish Mennonites who, because of their stricter view of church discipline, separated from the rest of the Mennonites in 1693 and have since formed their own religious community.

5 Quakers = A Christian religious community, which became widespread, especially in the English-speaking parts of the world and in Africa. The basic belief is the concept of enlightenment through God that can reach every person as a source of knowledge of God and a truly Christian life. Sacraments, baptism and communion as children were discarded; pleasures were considered offensive; and military service was refused.

6 The Protestants suffered from the then-current, “Counter-Reformation”. The French-Catholic occupation of the Rhine-Main area brought terror against all Protestant with them. The split between the Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) Protestants did not always resist this pressure. The existing ban on emigration and the potential penalties upon returning they could never stop them from taking up the long march to the north.