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.