Friday, December 14, 2012

A Necessary Detour

I began this day with the intention of writing a very different blog. However, events today have made me decide that I should address a very different topic.  Today is Dec 14th, a day on which someone decided that murdering a classroom full of innocent kindergarten child in an elementary school in Newtown, CT would somehow make his life and death more noticeable.  There were adults killed as well, but the death of all those young children remains the focus.

At this time, no motive has been put forward.  And even if the police found an apparent motive, what would justify the murder of all those innocent children?  Of course in the New Testament, we hear of King Herod who gave orders to slay all the young boys of Bethlehem to try to make sure that the newborn King of the Jews was not alive to challenge him for his throne. 

But that was then, and this is too much in our present. I know this has nothing to do with our German heritage.  I will return to that in my next blog.  But for now, I would ask that you all join me in prayer for those children, their families and classmates who will need our prayers to recover from the horrors of this day. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

North Carolina Germans

We have all heard the stories of the Palatines who came to New York in the Eighteenth Century and the  Pennsylvania Dutch (German) who settled in the that state.  But, there are many other stories that have not been as well known.

The most recent chapter of Palatines to America is our North Carolina Chapter.  Some may wonder about why a North Carolina Chapter would make sense.  It is certainly not one of the better known stories of German immigration, except perhaps to those whose ancestors were among the groups that settled in that southern state or to those who live in that southern state.

I was reminded of the history of German settlers in North Carolina by my sister and her husband who made a trip to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and reported with enthusiasm the discoveries they made in Old Salem, the historic site where German Moravians who moved from Bethlehem, PA founded the city of Salem, NC in 1766.  It is now an historic district within Winston-Salem.

The history of Germans in North Carolina is much
richer than the story of those German Moravians,
and I would be happy to add more details if
 someone would like to write a more extensive
history of the Germans of North Carolina and
send it to me. Perhaps someone in the
North Carolina Chapter could submit something
 to be published in this blog.

The stories of our German ancestors are many and
varied, and I don’t pretend to be familiar with all
of them.  If you know some of those stories and
would like to make them known, send them along
 to me at You can take
credit for the story;  I will make it available for
others to read.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Palatines to America Logo

The issue of name recognition is important for any company that wants customers to turn to them when they are in need of whatever it is they are offering.  But sometimes, words are not enough.  People need to recognize the company even when all that can be seen is a logo designed to remind people of the company.  Companies like Coke and Pepsi invest money making sure that their logos are instantly recognizable.

Organizations need to strive for the same level of public recognition if they expect to attract new members.  Name recognition is sometimes not enough.  The literature produced by the organization needs to carry a familiar logo that makes it recognizable.  Over time the logo might need to change, but it should always reflect the nature and character of the organization.

With this in mind, the National Board of Palatines to America has been discussing a change in our logo for the last few meetings.  Our logo has always been a ship to reflect the fact that we are all about our German speaking ancestors who came to this country on ships.  We didn't want to abandon that idea, but wanted to incorporate into our logo a concise statement of our purpose. 

At our September 2012 Board meeting, several possible logos were presented and after discussion and some modification of one of the original designs, it was decided to utilize the following logo in our 2013 Conference literature.  In the meantime, your comments and reactions are being sought before we make it the official logo of Palatines to America.

If you would like to join in the discussion, leave a comment, on this blog, or send an email to

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center

As President of National Palatines to America, I was invited to attend the fall board meeting of the Pennsylvania Chapter of PalAm.  Doris Glick, the current President of that Chapter issued the invitation, and fortunately I was free on that Saturday, 8 September.  The Pennsylvania Chapter had recently undergone a change in officers, and they thought I might be able to help answer some of their questions.  I was happy to be able to join them.

The meeting took place on the campus of Kutztown University, at the library of the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, which is a non-profit organization.   As part of the Kutztown University community, it serves to enhance the Pennsylvania German Studies Program at the University.    
The library in which we met is housed in a small modern building in a cluster of other buildings that include the Sharadin Farmhouse, a Pennsylvania German Bank Barn and the Freyberger One Room Schoolhouse.  Lucy Kern, the Secretary for the Pennsylvania Chapter, is also the librarian at the library, and Doris Glick is a volunteer staff member.

My initial reaction when I walked into the building was that it was small.  However when I walked into the room where the books where housed, I was impressed by the amount of material that filled the wall to wall shelving.  On the shelves were transcripts of church records for a large enough number of churches that it took several shelving units to hold them.  It also included the Germans to America from 1840 to 1897, and many other books. If you are researching German ancestors who settled in Pennsylvania, this would  be a good place to visit. Perhaps a picture would say more than all my words.

The University had given the Pennsylvania Chapter access to the library for its board meeting, but has also generously allowed them to hold their Fall 2012 Conference in the University’s Academic Forum.  The conference will be held on Saturday, October 6, beginning with registration beginning at 8:30 a.m.  You can find more information on the conference by going to the Palatines to America web-site,, and navigating to the Pennsylvania Chapter’s page.  You will find the registration form to print out and mail in.  I plan to be at the conference, and I encourage others to attend what promises to be a fine one-day conference.

As a reminder, I am still looking for a speaker for the 2013 PalAm National in Albany, who can address the topic of the Germans of Pennsylvania.  If anyone knows of such a speaker, send me the name and contact information.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Pennsylvania Germans

For those of German heritage, having German ancestry is sometimes not the most important point.  In New York, for example, being of German Palatine ancestry is for some, their source of loyalty and pride.  Similar loyalties exist in other states where people identify with the German populations that migrated to their state, be it Colorado, Wisconsin, Ohio etc.  That is perfectly understandable. My father’s German parents came to New Hampshire in 1900 to find employment in the Amoskeag Mills in Manchester, NH.  As a result, I have an interest in those foreign workers, many of them German,  who were recruited from all over Europe and elsewhere to work in that mill.
As a member of the New York Chapter of Palatines to America, it should be no surprise that I was impressed by the contributions of those German immigrants who settled in New York State.  The early 18th century Palatines played an important role in the history of the state.  But so did those Germans who came in the 19th century and formed the population of that substantial New York City sub community known as Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany.  My g-g-grandfather, Jeremiah Staker, was part of that population.
However, when studying those Germans who came to this country, and seeing where they settled, we have to admit that Pennsylvania holds a place of prominence for German immigration.  On the 1790 census, 26.1 per cent of the Pennsylvania population was of German ancestry.  No other state comes close to it on that census.  New York, by comparison, had less than one per cent of its population of German ancestry.
While there were certainly some Germans who came to New Netherlands and to Jamestown in Virginia in the early 17th century, these were a relatively small number.  The first permanent German settlers in the colonies were the group of Germans who settled Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1683. And of course, we are all familiar with the so called “Pennsylvania Dutch”, who are not Dutch at all, but German speaking immigrants from Germany, Switzerland and the eastern part of France.
I suppose it should be not be a surprise that the Pennsylvania Chapter is the largest in Palatines to America, followed by the Ohio Chapter.   But in recognition of that fact, I feel it is important that we try to provide more coverage of those Pennsylvania Germans at our 2013 PalAm Conference.  Our theme is “Our German Ancestors: When they came and where they went.”  Anyone have a recommendation for a speaker to talk about those Germans of Pennsylvania?  I am open to suggestions.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

John Humphrey

By now everyone has surely heard of the death of John T.  Humphrey.  He was well known as an excellent teacher and speaker, specializing in German and Pennsylvanian genealogy.  He died suddenly on 12 August in Washington D.C.
I had spoken to John at the NGS conference in Cincinnati in May and asked him if he would be available to speak at  the Palatines to American Annual Conference in June 2013.  Although he was scheduled to teach at the Samford Institute just prior to our event, he agreed that he would speak at our conference also.

A few weeks ago, he sent me an email with a list of topics that he thought might be appropriate for the Palatine to America event.  It looked as though my list of speakers was just about complete when I received word that he had died.  What a shock.  What a loss.
So now, it is back to the drawing board as  I search for a speaker who can fill the slots that I had already penciled in for John.

Anyone out there who would like to volunteer to fill a large pair of shoes?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

One View of the German Forty-Eighters

I have been reading Refugees of Revolution: The German Forty-Eighters in America, by Carl Wittke.  I was interested in the topic because my ggg–grandfather, Stephan Bösch arrived in New York harbor in 1853.  He and his family arrived at a time when many Germans left Europe in the aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848.  Many of those who had opposed the established European rulers fled their homeland to find safety in the United States.  In Germany much of the unrest centered in Baden and Wuerttemberg, where my ancestor and his family had lived.  However, I don’t know whether the family left Baden because of their involvement on the losing side of the Revolution or for more mundane considerations.
As I read Wittke’s book, which was published in 1952, I began to wonder how strongly his view of Forty-eighters was influenced by the times in which he wrote.  The fact that he was writing his book only a few years after WWII had ended may have caused him to assess those German immigrants with a less than positive eye.  I found myself questioning some of his assessments of those nineteenth century German immigrants and their influence on their adopted homeland.  Did the new immigrants really find themselves struggling  and frequently failing to adjust to a new language and culture, when they landed in New York?  Consider that in the 1850s, Manhattan was home to Kleindeutschland (Little Germany), which was the third largest German speaking city in the world, after Berlin and Vienna. It had German language theaters, German language newspapers, and a host of German speaking businesses to make the newcomers feel at home.
I also wondered whether the picture Wittke drew of the Forty-eighters as dominated by radicals of a communist or socialist bent was a balanced assessment.  Perhaps the beginnings of the cold war and the concerns at the time he wrote about communist sympathizers in our midst caused him to place a greater emphasis on the radical element among those Germans who came here after the Revolution of 1848-9. 
Wittke’s book is one I would recommend to those interested in that particular influx of Germans.   It has a lot to say about those nineteenth century German immigrants. Just consider when the book was written.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Conferences and Vendors

While I was tabulating the evaluation sheets from the June 2012 Palatines to America conference in Indianapolis, I came across one that made a comment about the need for more vendors.  I happen to agree that an important part of any conference is the vendors.  I have always enjoyed roaming around the vendors area whenever I attend a conference such as the NGS Conference in Cincinnati this past May.  From the number of people spending time in the vendors area at NGS and at our 2012 conference in Indianapolis, I suspect that many people feel the same way.
While I was in Cincinnati, I took time to speak to a number of the vendors about what makes them more likely to attend a conference as a vendor.  I spoke primarily to vendors that I thought might be good additions to Palams 2013 conference in Albany. The vendors mentioned several factors.

The most obvious factor was attendance.  The larger the attendance, the more likely the vendor will be able to sell enough to make the trip profitable.  Vendors and attendees have a symbiotic relationship.  We want a wide variety of interesting books, supplies and services to be available when we visit the vendors area; they want potential customers for their wares. That should be no surprise. 
Vendors also explained to me that they wanted sufficient time provided in the schedule for attendees to visit the vendors.  At NGS, the meeting rooms were far away from the vendors area, and there was only a half hour block of time between talks.  As a result, people had little time to browse before they needed to head out to the next presentation.  Unless someone chose to skip a presentation in order to browse the exhibit hall, they had at best fifteen minutes to wander among the vendors.

Several software and internet service vendors told me that they liked the opportunity to demonstrate their products during the conference.  NGS provided an area at one side of the exhibit hall for vendor demonstrations.  I attended several, but probably missed several more that I would have enjoyed if I had known they were being given.  The vendors told me that they would have like the demonstrations to be on the schedule, rather than being posted in the hall just before they were to take place.
When planning for our 2013 Albany conference, I am hoping to make the conference attractive to vendors, so that more will be willing to come.  The presentations and the vendors area will be next to one another.  The presentations will be scheduled to allow ample time for visits to the vendors and a room for the vendors to provide demonstrations has been reserved close to the action.  We will put those demonstrations on the printed schedule so attendees can make plans to attend.

We need a healthy growth in our attendance at the 2013 to make it a success. Of course, people usually dont come just to visit the vendors, so we are working on scheduling speakers and topics that will be of interest.  I will address more about that in a later blog.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Do you descend from the original 1708 – 1710 Palatines?

 Beginning in 1708, a Lutheran minister, Joshua Kocherthal accompanied immigrants to this country from England to the Hudson Valley of New York.  The first group of about fifty four settlers arrived in New York with Kocherthal aboard the ship Globe, which also carried the new governor of New York, Francis Lovelace.  The ship docked in New York harbor on the Morning of 18 Dec 1708,  In the spring of 1709, the group of German Palatines were taken north on the Hudson and settled on land at Quaseck Kill, in Ulster County (now Newburgh in Orange County.)

Later that year, Kocherthal returned to England to seek support for the first group of Palatines.  He returned in 1710 with a second and larger group that were settled further north on the Hudson, near present-day Saugerties in West Camp, and across the Hudson River near Germantown, Columbia Co. in East Camp.

The group who was settled in Newburgh was given title in 1710 to 2000 or so acres along the Hudson River where they were initially settled.  Only some actually remained there.  Many had moved away by the time the land was granted to them.

The groups that were initially settled along the Hudson River in East and West Camps never did receive title to that land and later resettled further west, or in Pennsylvania.

Palatine to America has decided to establish a group called the “Kocherthal Circle” for those who can demonstrate that they were descended from those early Palatines.  On our website, you will find an application blank and instructions enabling you to apply for membership in this lineage group.  We encourage you to do so.  If you complete you application process in time, we would love to induct you into the Circle at our June 2013 National Conference in Albany, NY.

It is hoped that this is just the first of several lineage societies that will find a home in Palatines to America.  The ancestors of those early Germans who followed Francis Daniel Pastorius to settle in Germantown, PA in 1683 might well be our next Circle to be established.  Others may want to establish other circles. 

For information on how to apply for the Kocherthal Circle, go online to and look for the application form.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I attended a National Genealogical Society conference when I first became interested in genealogy.  Where, I don’t remember.  While wandering around the exhibitors’ hall, I found a booth sponsored by the Palatines to America.  My first reaction was that I had no Palatine ancestors, so the organization could not be for me.  However, when I explained that my father’s parents came from Mulhouse in Alsace, they assured me that the organization was for anyone who had German speaking ancestors.  With that information I joined Palatines to America, and its New York Chapter.

While that chapter has a number of members who are descended from the Palatines who came to New York with the Lutheran minister, Joshua Kocherthal in the first decade of the 18th century, there are many like myself who have no Palatines ancestors.  But, we do have German speaking ancestors, and that is our common bond. 

It has been several years now that I have been involved with the organization.  I was asked to edit the newsletter of the NY Chapter in 2005, and continue in that role today.  For the past two years, I served as president of the Chapter, until I was asked to become the national president of Palatines to America.  For the next two years, I will work to promote this organization as the place to be for those with German speaking ancestors.  I hope that those of you who are not yet members will make the step and join us.