Pennsylvania German Pioneers

This set of manuscripts was compiled in the 1930s by Strassburger and Hinke in order to provide the descendants of Pennsylvania German pioneers a publication of the most accurate of original lists of arrivals. In order to do this they transcribed the hard-to-read German and American script of the passenger lists, oaths of allegiance to the Crown, and oaths of abjuration and fidelity to the proprietors. These three types of records form the basis for the Pennsylvania German Pioneers.

In order to make best use the three manuscripts first open volume 3 which contains the indexes for all three volumes, the index of Pennsylvania German pioneers starts on page 257 and goes to page 709. This index is organized by surname, then Christian name, and provides you with the volume and page number. It does not differentiate between two individuals with the same name. You will need to determine who each individual named is.

Volume I:

The lists of early immigrants to Pennsylvania, which are printed in this volume, are of such importance for the history of Pennsylvania Germans in this country, that it seems worth while to present at some length the history of their origin. This is all the more desirable, because the existence of these lists is a unique phenomenon, which merits explanation. In none of the other ports of the American colonies, through which German settlers entered, were such lists prepared or preserved. Thousands of Germans came to America through the ports of Boston, New York, Baltimore, Charleston and Savannah. Thus, for example, all the early German Reformed missionaries, sent to Pennsylvania by the Church of Holland, came by way of New York. The same is true of the Lutheran missionaries, who were sent from Halle, Germany. But whatever settlers came through these other ports, their names are lost, at least in the large majority of cases, because no record was kept of them at the time of their arrival. In Philadelphia alone did the authorities insist on the preparation of careful and detailed lists of arrivals. This makes these lists important immigration records from Germany to USA.

Volume II

This volume contains the facsimiles of all the signatures to the oath of allegiance (Lists B) as well as those to the oath of abjuration (Lists C). The captains’ lists (Lists A) were not reproduced, with two exceptions, namely lists 229 A and 233 A. In these two cases no other lists were available, and, as it seemed desirable to include at least one list of each ship, these two captains’ lists were inserted.

Volume III:

This volume contains the passenger lists from 1785-1808 and includes indexes for all three volumes. These indexes are as exhaustive as possible, so as to make the whole contents of this work readily accessible to the reader. It is hardly necessary to say that the greatest possible care has been used in the construction of the Indexes. To give only a single proof. After the index of the Pioneers had been printed, every one of its more than 50,000 references was checked up with the printed lists, a work which took nearly three months to complete.

Title:Pennsylvania German pioneers; a publication of the original lists of arrivals in the port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808
Author:Strassburger, Ralph Beaver and Hinke, William John
Publication date:1934
Publisher:Norristown, Penn. : Pennsylvania German Society
Digitizing Sponsor:FindMyPast
Contributor:Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center
Repository:Internet Archive
Pennsylvania German pioneers vol 1 title page
Pennsylvania German pioneers vol 1 title page

Background of Pennsylvania German Pioneers

Pennsylvania German immigration and its part in the settlement and development of America form an epic tale of faith and zeal, of sacrifice and achievement. The story has been told and the Pennsylvania German pioneers have come into their rightful place as builders of our nation. But the task of giving a complete list of the passengers, their signatures and the names of the ships that brought them to Philadelphia has remained unfinished. The purpose of this publication is to furnish these lists, which are the most exhaustive of their kind. They meet a need keenly felt for many years. Their historical value to posterity is further enhanced by the fact that of all the American colonies, in Pennsylvania alone were such lists made, although uncounted thousands came to this country from the old world through other ports in the East and South.

The land of what subsequently came to be known as Pennsylvania was granted, as is well known, by King Charles II of England to William Penn in 1681, in liquidation of a debt of 16,000 pounds which the British crown owed to Penn’s father. It was the largest tract ever granted in America to a single individual. Penn was made the proprietary of the province, invested with the privilege of creating a political government. He had fee simple title to more than 40,000 square miles of territory. Under his charter Penn was also governor of the province, which he and his sons held as proprietaries, with the exception of about two years under William III, until the revolution of 1776. Thus, in a strict sense, Pennsylvania was not the colony of any foreign power. But as a British subject Penn owed allegiance to the Crown, and while the government of Pennsylvania was proprietary in form, it was English in substance and non-British subjects were known as foreigners.

In order to procure settlers for his land, Penn visited the Rhine provinces, whose once peaceful valleys, thriving fields and vine-clad hills had become the hunting ground of political and religious fanatics. Personally and through agents Penn disseminated the news of his acquisition and invited the Rhine-landers, the suffering Palatines, to help him found a State in which religious and civil liberty would prevail. Beginning with the Germantown settlement in 1683, under the leadership of Pastorius, up to the revolution and the dawn of the nineteenth century a large-scale immigration followed, which spread not only through Pennsylvania but into the South and the new West, influencing every phase of American life. It is this immigration with which the present volumes deal.

When the pioneers arrived, the government of Pennsylvania was in the hands of British subjects. Penn’s agents were Englishmen; the English language was used; English common law was in force. It early became a matter of concern to these Englishmen that so large a body of continentals, speaking another language and accustomed to another form of government, should be admitted to the land, even though they came at the invitation of Penn himself. Therefore, in 1727, the Provincial Council, at the recommendation of Governor Patrick Gordon, passed a law, suggested ten years before by Governor William Keith, requiring all continentals who arrived at Philadelphia to take oaths of allegiance to the British crown. Two years later the continental immigrants were required also to take oaths of abjuration and fidelity to the proprietor and the laws of the province. The oaths were administered and subscribed to before public officials.

The original lists, with the pioneers’ signatures, are still in the possession of the State of Pennsylvania, and these lists form the basis of the genealogical antecedents of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have descended from the first arrivals. As will be seen in the se volumes, there were three lists: those kept by the captains of ships, the lists of the signers of the oath of allegiance and of the signers of the oath of abjuration.

In violation of the Provincial Council’s instructions, the captains’ lists were prepared carelessly and without regard to uniformity. Few gave complete lists of names, and the occupations of the passengers and the places of their origin were ignored. The lists were handled indifferently and many were lost. The oath of allegiance lists were incomplete, in that they contained only the signatures of the adult males who did not happen to be ill on the day they had to sign their names.

But the lists of the signers of the oath of abjuration were preserved in bound books and in their complete state these lists are printed in the present work for the first time. The allegiance lists were incorporated in the Provincial Council minutes from 1727 until 1736 and were published by the State of Pennsylvania in 1852 under the title of “Colonial Records.”

This publication may have inspired 1. Daniel Rupp to publish, four years later, a book entitled “A Collection of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French, Portuguese and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania — Chronologically Arranged from 1727 to 1776.” Rupp strove to arrange the names of the ships in chronological form, but the names of the passengers were not printed in the order in which they appeared on the official lists. The names were generally written in the German script, and many required translation. It should be stated, in justice to Rupp, that he worked in the face of great difficulties in publishing his book, together with other editions, including the names of children and of adults, covering a period of twenty years.

Forty years ago the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania printed the lists in the “Archives,” using Rupp’s work as the basis, and adding to it the captains’ lists made after the revolution and until 1808, when the listing was discontinued. It should be mentioned that during the revolution, when immigration temporarily ceased, a “test oath” of allegiance was required of Continental immigrants settling in Pennsylvania.

Many errors in translation and transcription occur in the lists as published in the “Archives.” It is also to be noted that there was no index of names in Rupp’s publication and that the index in the “Archives” is confusing. Nor do the “Archives” contain all the lists. Forty hitherto unpublished ship lists were discovered in the preparation of the present work and they are included in these pages.

Interest in the study of Pennsylvania German pioneers is most marked. About three hundred family associations, tracing their ancestry to these pioneers, meet annually in Pennsylvania. It will be a great satisfaction to their members to be able to fix precisely the spelling of the names of their ancestors, the ships carrying them across the sea and the date of their arrival in the port of Philadelphia. The opportunity is thus presented for the re-translation, re-transcription and re-indexing of the names in the original records, such as is given in this work. There may be, however, a difference of opinion as to the spelling of the signatures, and in order to afford immediate access to the form in which the original signatures appear, it has been thought expedient to prepare and print facsimiles of the original lists, which are presented in Volume II. Such a collection of facsimiles has never been published before.

These ancestors of ours were more than mere immigrants, in the everyday sense of the word. They were even more than refugees from a beloved and despoiled homeland. They were pioneers in that they came not to a ready-made republic of opportunity but to a virgin land inhabited by native Americans. They blazed the trail that helped to transform that land into the America of today, built our institutions and molded American character. Many were men of eminence in the fatherland; others came up from the penury and virtual slavery of the redemptioner system. Together they worked and won, together they fought America’s battles and led in public service, industry, science, education, invention and in that art of agriculture which is the very foundation of our national wealth and of human progress.

Indexes in Volume III

The most difficult index to prepare was the last, that of the pioneers, due to the many, and often contradictory, variants.

Not every variant of a surname, found in the lists was given, because many of them are mere scribal monstrosities, that have no value. In selecting the names to be recorded in the index, the editor was guided by the following principles: Whenever a passenger himself signed his name, his spelling was adopted, as every man ought to be the best judge as to how to spell his name. There is only this exception to be made, that some of the passengers were so near the line of illiteracy, that they actually did not know how to spell their names. Some could not write their name twice in the same way. In that case the correct form of the name was given first in the index, followed by an asterisk, e. g., Schiitzer * (Shitzer), which means that the form Shitzer is actually found in the text, but that it should be spelled Schiitzer. If the passenger was unable to write his name, that form of his surname was placed first which comes nearest to the original. Thus, e. g., when the captain’s list reads Hans Michael Verdus (I, 35), but the other two lists agree in reading Hans Michael Wiedner (pp. 36, 37), there can be no question that the latter is the correct form. Sometimes none of the various officials who wrote down the name understood it correctly, as e. g. when in list No. 10 all three clerks made an Irishman out of a German, by writing Johannes Mcinterfer. Fortunately his wife, or other relative, was on board, and in this case the clerk wrote Phronick Mick-inturfer. That sounds more like a German name and hence the two names were entered under that form. The original was probably something like Meckendorfer, but as this is doubtful, the editor preferred not to guess. In other cases a guess can be ventured that has every probability in its favor. Thus we find on p. 346 Martin Oadt, p. 347, Marti Tienod, and p. 348, Martin Oats. The correct form must have been Martin Ott, under which it has been recorded, with a cross reference from Oadt to Ott.


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1 thought on “Pennsylvania German Pioneers”

  1. Sarah Harriet Saenz

    I am interested on more info on the Pennsylvania Germans. I discovered that all of my Pennsylvania relations all came to America from Germany. Many of my Pennsylvania relations later started spreading through out the United States. I know there are at least two of them still living in Pennsylvania.
    I have several other German lines through out the United States and would also like more info on them if that is possible.

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