This article may be reproduced as long as it is not changed in any way, all identifying URLs and copyright information remain
intact (including this permission), and a link is provided back to Olive Tree Genealogy http://olivetreegenealogy.com/
by Lorine McGinnis Schulze
Olive Tree Genealogy http://olivetreegenealogy.com/
Copyright © 1996
[This article has been published, with my permission as
Irish Palatine Story on the Internet
in Irish Palatine Association Journal, No. 7 December 1996]
The Palatinate or German PFALZ, was, in German history, the land of the Count Palatine, a title held by a leading secular
prince of the Holy Roman Empire. Geographically, the Palatinate was divided between two small territorial clusters: the Rhenish,
or Lower Palatinate, and the Upper Palatinate. The Rhenish Palatinate included lands on both sides of the Middle Rhine River
between its Main and Neckar tributaries. Its capital until the 18th century was Heidelberg. The Upper Palatinate was located
in northern Bavaria, on both sides of the Naab River as it flows south toward the Danube and extended eastward to the Bohemian
Forest. The boundaries of the Palatinate varied with the political and dynastic fortunes of the Counts Palatine.
The Palatinate has a border beginning in the north, on the Moselle River about 35 miles southwest of Coblenz to Bingen
and east to Mainz, down the Rhine River to Oppenheim, Guntersblum and Worms, then continuing eastward above the Nieckar River
about 25 miles east of Heidelberg then looping back westerly below Heidelberg to Speyer, south down the Rhine River to Alsace,
then north-westerly back up to its beginning on the Moselle River.
The first Count Palatine of the Rhine was Hermann I, who received the office in 945. Although not originally hereditary,
the title was held mainly by his descendants until his line expired in 1155, and the Bavarian Wittelsbachs took over in 1180.
In 1356, the Golden Bull ( a papal bull: an official document, usually commands from the Pope and sealed with the official
Papal seal called a Bulla) made the Count Palatine an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire. During the Reformation, the Palatinate
accepted Protestantism and became the foremost Calvinist region in Germany.
After Martin Luther published his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, many of
his followers came under considerable religious persecution for their beliefs. Perhaps for reasons of mutual comfort and support,
they gathered in what is known as the Palatine. These folk came from many places, Germany, Holland, Switzerland and beyond,
but all shared a common view on religion.
The protestant Elector Palatine Frederick V (1596-1632), called the "Winter King" of Bohemia, played a unique
role in the struggle between Roman Catholic and Protestant Europe. His election in 1619 as King of Bohemia precipitated the
Thirty Years War that lasted from 1619 until 1648. Frederick was driven from Bohemia and in 1623, deposed as Elector Palatine.
During the Thirty Years War, the Palatine country and other parts of Germany suffered from the horrors of fire and sword
as well as from pillage and plunder by the French armies. This war was based upon both politics and religious hatreds, as
the Roman Catholic armies sought to crush the religious freedom of a politically-divided Protestantism.
Many unpaid armies and bands of mercenaries, both of friends and foe, devoured the substance of the people and by 1633,
even the catholic French supported the Elector Palatine for a time for political reasons.
During the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-97), the troops of the French monarch Louis XIV ravaged the Rhenish Palatinate,
causing many Germans to emigrate. Many of the early German settlers of America (e.g. the Pennsylvania Dutch) were refugees
from the Palatinate. During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Palatinate's lands on the west bank of the Rhine
were incorporated into France, while its eastern lands were divided largely between neighbouring Baden and Hesse.
Nearly the entire 17th century in central Europe was a period of turmoil as Louis XIV of France sought to increase his
empire. The War of the Palatinate (as it was called in Germany), aka The War of The League of Augsburg, began in 1688 when
Louis claimed the Palatinate. Every large city on the Rhine above Cologne was sacked. The War ended in 1697 with the Treaty
of Ryswick. The Palatinate was badly battered but still outside French control. In 1702, the War of the Spanish Succession
began in Europe and lasted until 1713, causing a great deal of instability for the Palatines. The Palatinate lay on the western
edge of the Holy Roman Empire not far from France's eastern boundary. Louis wanted to push his eastern border to the Rhine,
the heart of the Palatinate.
While the land of the Palatinate was good for its inhabitants, many of whom were farmers, vineyard operators etc., its
location was unfortunately subject to invasion by the armies of Britain, France, and Germany. Mother Nature also played a
role in what happened, for the winter of 1708 was particularly severe and many of the vineyards perished. So, as well as the
devastating effects of war, the Palatines were subjected to the winter of 1708-09, the harshest in 100 years.
The scene was set for a mass migration. At the invitation of Queen Anne in the spring of 1709, about 7 000 harassed Palatines
sailed down the Rhine to Rotterdam. From there, about 3000 were dispatched to America, either directly or via England, under
the auspices of William Penn. The remaining 4 000 were sent via England to Ireland to strengthen the protestant interest.
Although the Palatines were scattered as agricultural settlers over much of Ireland, major accumulations were found in
Counties Limerick and Tipperary. As the years progressed and dissatisfactions increased, many of these folk seized opportunities
to join their compatriots in Pennsylvania, or to go to newly-opened settlements in Canada.
There were many reasons for the desire of the Palatines to emigrate to the New World: oppressive taxation, religious bickering,
hunger for more and better land, the advertising of the English colonies in America and the favourable attitude of the British
government toward settlement in the North American colonies. Many of the Palatines believed they were going to Pennsylvania,
Carolina or one of the tropical islands.
The passage down the Rhine took from 4 to 6 weeks. Tolls and fees were demanded by authorities of the territories through
which they passed. Early in June, the number of Palatines entering Rotterdam reached 1 000 per week. Later that year, the
British government issued a Royal proclamation in German that all arriving after October 1709 would be sent back to Germany.
The British could not effectively handle the number of Palatines in London and there may have been as many as 32 000 by November
1709. They wintered over in England since there were no adequate arrangements for the transfer of the Palatines to the English
In 1710, three large groups of Palatines sailed from London. The first went to Ireland, the second to Carolina and the
third to New York with the new Governor, Robert Hunter. There were 3 000 Palatines on 10 ships that sailed for NY and approximately
470 died on the voyage or shortly after their arrival.
In NY, the Palatines were expected to work for the British authorities, producing naval stores [tar and pitch] for the
navy in return for their passage to NY. They were also expected to act as a buffer between the French and Natives on the northern
frontier and the English colonies to the south and east.
After the defeat of Napoleon (1814-15), the Congress of Vienna gave the east-bank lands of the Rhine valley to Bavaria.
These lands, together with some surrounding territories, again took the name of Palatinate in 1838.
Permission to reprint is granted provided the following terms are followed:
This article may be reproduced as long as it is not changed in any way, all identifying URLs and copyright information
remain intact (including this permission), and a link is provided back to Olive Tree Genealogy http://olivetreegenealogy.com/
Copy article in full to this point if you are reproducing
Join the Palatine Mailing List on Rootsweb!
A mailing list for anyone with a genealogical interest in the German Palatinate and Palatine refugees to Ireland and North
To subscribe send "subscribe" to
email@example.com (mail mode)
firstname.lastname@example.org (digest mode).