Early German Immigration
An estimated 8 million people have migrated from Germany to settle in the United States.  This migration began early in January of 1709, a German settlement was founded in New Bern, North Carolina.   By April of 1709, German settlements were established along the Hudson River in New York.
Many of these initial immigrants were economic refugees.   They were fleeing the economic collapse of their homeland.   The effects of the Thirty-Years' War, in combination with harsh winters, made life there unbearable.   They first fled to England and settled in and around the London area.   Becoming a burden on the English, they were shipped to the colonies.
By 1715, the Port of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth Colony of Pennsylvania became the destination of tens-of-thousands of German immigrants.   By 1800, 70,000 immigrants had settled in America with the vast majority calling Pennsylvania their new home.
During the time of the American Revolution, the British had employed the services of Hessian soldiers to fight against the colonists.   Some of these Hessian soldiers defected and took refuge in the German speaking settlements.   Many others fled into Canada and would never again return to their homeland.
These early immigrants tended to be from the Palatine region.   This area of Germany was part of the Prussian Empire and was located along the central Rhine Valley occupied today by the states of Rheinland-Pfalz, Hessen, and Baden-Wurtemberg.
The Pennsylvania-Deutsch have had a profound influence in the eventual settling of Western Maryland, Western Virginia, and the Piedmont Region of the Carolinas.   The Great Wagon Road led several thousands of Pennsylvania-Germans through the Shennandoah Valley to "Mt. Ararat" (now Pilot Mountain) in Surry County, NC during the mid-late 1700's.   The North Carolina counties of Surry, Forsyth, Davidson, Rowan, Iredell, Rockingham, Guilford and Mecklenberg have strong German roots.
The colonial Port of Savannah, Georgia also experienced the influx of German immigrants.   These immigrants eventually settled in the states of Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama and blended with the German speaking populations that traveled south by way of the Great Wagon Road.
Hundreds-of-thousands of Germans migrated to the United States during the 1800's.  Many of these entered the United States through the Ports of New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans.   Many of those who entered in New York continued on to the Great Lakes and ultimately on to the Midwest and upper Midwest regions.   Those who entered at New Orleans helped to settle the lower Mississippi Valley area.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania-Germans were also pushing west by way of the Ohio River.  Once on the Ohio, and later the upper Mississippi River, the American West was opened.  The Conestoga wagon craftsmen from the Pennsylvania-Deutsch County of Lancaster, Pennsylvania had a marked influence on this westward movement.
Many Americans are unfamiliar with their German "roots".   While some have, over the years,  maintained distinctly sounding German surnames, many others have changed their names to sound more English.

Do you have German ancestors from the Rheinland (Palatine) area that first settled in colonial Pennsylvania?

Would you like to communicate with individuals doing historical/genealogical research on your families surname?


For a translation to German (auf Deutsch)

See: Great Wagon Road

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