Tag Archives: Germany

The Palatines

If you saw Tim McGraw on the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? you heard about Tim’s German heritage and the Palatines who arrived in New York in 1710. Turns out part of my family arrived with the same group of immigrants.

Merckel is the name of my Palatine relatives.

Sansom Wink, born in 1819 in Fulton County, Pennsylvania, is the connection that got me there. He’s my 2nd great-grandfather on my dad’s side.

Sansom Wink

Sansom Wink, Whiteside County, Illinois

His mother, Sarah Markle, was born in 1799, also in Pennsylvania.

I followed Sarah’s family backwards through several spellings of the name (Markle, Mearkle, Mercley, Mericle, … you get the idea) and came to the family of Heinrich Felix Merckel born 1643, probably in Sachsen, Germany. Heinrich Merckel, and his son Johann Friedrich with his wife and kids arrived in New York in 1710.

When I put it like that, it seems rather routine, but like many crossings of the era, this was extremely difficult and deadly for about 20 percent of the immigrants. Over 3,000 individuals left England on ten ships (I think) and only 2,400 arrived alive. Many wives were widowed on the journey, and still more kids were orphans upon arrival.

There is much more to this story, but unfortunately my hard drive crashed in December, taking with it much of the research I’d collected. (arrrrghh!) I know the information is still online out in the wide world of web resources, but I’ve googled all over the place and haven’t come across it the past couple of days. I will track it down and tell the story with more of the tragic details as soon as I find it.

As to the area they ended up in, it was purchased from the Indians by the Governor of New York in 1677. A sawmill on a stream the Indians called The Little Sawyer marked the northern boundary of the purchase. The payment was a blanket, a piece of cloth, a shirt, a loaf of bread, and some coarse fiber.

Map - Palatine Settlements

Palatine Emigrant 1709ers

Early settlers were joined by the 300 Palatine families in 1710. The lands set aside for them became known as West Camp in the Town of Saugerties, and Germantown, on the east side of the river. In case you may have family from the same area, a list of the families appears on a commemorative plaque beside the church in West Camp, Ulster County, New York. You can find my Merckels in the list of families at the West Camp.

Prior to 1712, controlling traffic at river landings and the roads leading from the river provided the primary business opportunities for settlers. As the 1710 arrivals cleared land for new homes and businesses, sawmills became big business to process the freshly harvested timber.

Here’s one place you can go for more information about the Palatines. And here is another.

By the way, if anyone has the definitive family tree for the Merckel family from Germany until 1800 I would love to hear from you. Mine is a total wreck.

I found German children (at least in my family tree) were given repetitive names. For instance, the boys will have the first name of Johann, then a middle name that is his own, so you’ll see several Johann sons in the same family. As to the girls, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collection of Anna Marias in one place. It’s very confusing. And when you add the evolution of the spelling from the German—Friederich/Johann—to a more Americanized—Fredrick/John—it’s even more confusing.

Since this is before the first census in 1790, I don’t have that as a reference. However I have found what appears to be good information in some church records and some early histories.

I also found a collection of Merckels who were in the Revolution: John, Jacob, Phillip, Nicholas, Harnes, Henrich, Dewalt, and Peter Merckel. But I haven’t yet sorted out who might belong to my branch of the tree.

If anyone has something to add to this part of my family story, I’m all ears. I’d love to hear from you.

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Posted by on February 14, 2011 in McKay


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