Palatinate (Pfalz), Rhineland, Prussia, Germany Genealogy

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Guide to The Palatine or The Pfalz ancestry, family history, and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, family history, and finding aids.

Definitions of the Palatinate or Pfalz[edit | edit source]

The Palatinate or The Pfalz, like most of Germany, was defined by different boundaries throughout history.area was more geographical than political in its boundaries and spread over more than one political jurisdiction.

Historical Background[edit | edit source]

  • From the Middle Ages until 1792, the Palatinate was divided into 45 secular and ecclesiastical territories, some of which were very small. The largest and most important of these was the Electorate of the Palatinate (Kurpfalz). Other larger regional entities included the Duchy of Zweibrücken and the Prince-Bishopric of Speyer.
  • The Rhine County (German: Rheinkreis) or Rhine County, sometimes called the Bavarian Rheinkreis (bayerischer Rheinkreis or baierischer Rheinkreis), was the name given to the territory on the west bank of the Rhine from 1816 to 1837 which was a district of the Kingdom of Bavaria.
  • A small area, which roughly corresponded to the present day county of Saarpfalz-Kreis, was detached in 1920, becoming Saarland.
  • In 1837, Rhine County was renamed the Palatinate (Pfalz). It was also referred to as the Rhenish Palatinate (Rheinpfalz). The territory remained Bavarian until 1946. It then became part of the newly formed federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

This map from 1600 gives an idea of the far-spreading, fragmented region defined as the Electorate of the Palatinate, and its location within Germany and the Hoy Roman Empire.

Locator Electoral Palatinate within the Holy Roman Empire (1618).png

This map, although added to Wikipedia without a key telling us what the numbers refer to, gives an idea of the 1789 definition. The territories have now been reduced.


At the end of World War II, a much further reduced Palatinate (Pfalz) becomes part of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz).

Screen Shot 2017-04-18 at 4.36.22 PM.png

A different Pfalz as part of modern Bavaria. This is not the Pfalz known for U.S. immigration.


German Palatine Emigration to America[edit | edit source]

  • The German Palatines were early 18th-century emigrants from the Middle Rhine region of the Holy Roman Empire, including a minority from the Palatinate which gave its name to the entire group. They were both Protestant and Catholic. Throughout the Nine Years War (1688–97) and the War of Spanish Succession (1701–14), the depredations of the French Army created economic hardship for the inhabitants of the region, exacerbated by a rash of harsh winters and poor harvests.
  • The "Poor Palatines" were some 13,000 Germans who migrated to England between May and November 1709. No more than half of the so-called German Palatines originated in the namesake Electoral Palatinate, with others coming from the surrounding imperial states of Palatinate-Zweibrücken and Nassau-Saarbrücken, the Margraviate of Baden, the Hessian Landgraviates of Hesse-Darmstadt, Hesse-Homburg, Hesse-Kassel, the Archbishoprics of Trier and Mainz, and various minor counties of Nassau, Sayn, Solms, Wied, and Isenburg.
  • Throughout the summer, ships unloaded thousands of refugees, and almost immediately their numbers overwhelmed the initial attempts to provide for them. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, resulted in major disruptions, overcrowding, famine, disease and the death of a thousand or more Palatines.
  • The English transported nearly 3,000 German Palatines in ten ships to New York in 1710. Close to 850 families settled in the Hudson River Valley, primarily in what are now Germantown and Saugerties, New York. About 350 Palatines had remained in New York City, and some settled in New Jersey. Others travelled down the Susquehanna, settling in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
  • Because of the concentration of Palatine refugees in New York, the term "Palatine" became associated with German. Until the American War of Independence "Palatine" henceforth was used indiscriminately for all emigrants of German tongue. Wikipedia (German Palatines)

Getting Started[edit | edit source]

Getting Started with Germany Research

Links to articles on getting started with German research:

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Germany Research Tools

Links to tools and websites that assist in German research:

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Finding Birth, Marriage, and Death Records for the Palatinate (Pfalz)[edit | edit source]

Most of the information you need to identify you ancestors and their families will be found in two major record groups: civil registration and church records. To locate these records, follow the instructions in these Wiki articles.

1. Find the name of your ancestor's town in family history records.[edit | edit source]

Records were kept on the local level. You must know the town where your ancestor lived. If your ancestor was a United States Immigrant, use the information in the Wiki article Germany Finding Town of Origin to find evidence of the name of the town where your ancestors lived in Germany.
Also, see:

2. Use gazetteers and/or parish register inventories to learn more important details.[edit | edit source]

Your ancestor's town might have been too small to have its own parish church or civil registration office. Find the location of the Catholic or Lutheran (Evangelical) parish that served your ancestor's locality. Find the name of the civil registration office (Standesamt) that serves your ancestor's locality. Use the Wiki article Finding Aids For German Records for step-by-step instructions.

Germany was first unified as a nation in 1871. An important gazetteer, Meyers Orts- und Verkehrs-lexikon des deutschen Reichs, "Meyer's Gazetter" for short, details the place names of villages, towns, counties (kreise), and higher jurisdictions used at that time. In the Research Wiki, FamilySearch Catalog, and FamilySearch Historical Records, the records of Germany are organized using those place names.

3. For baptism, marriage, and death records, use church records or parish registers.[edit | edit source]

Remember that immigrants in the first wave of Palatine immigrants were from several different areas, and not just the Palatinate. The link to church records is given for each region:

Bavaria (Bayern), German Empire Church Records

  • the original Electoral Palatinate
  • Palatinate-Zweibrücken
  • the Archbishopric of Mainz

Rhineland (Rheinland), German Empire Church Records

  • Nassau-Saarbrücken
  • the Archbishoprics of Trier
  • minor counties of Sayn, Wied, and Isenburg

Baden, German Empire Church Records

  • Margraviate of Baden

Hesse (Hessen), German Empire Church Records

  • Hesse-Darmstadt
  • Hesse-Homburg

Hesse-Nassau (Hessen-Nassau), German Empire Church Records

  • Hesse-Kassel
  • minor counties of Nassau and Solms

Remember that in the later part of the 1700's all German immigrants could be referred to as Palatines. You need to try to find evidence of a more specific town, then find out the German Empire state of that town using Meyer's Gazetteer. Then use the church records Wiki article for that state.

More Research Strategies and Tools[edit | edit source]

  • These printable handouts can be used for ready reference when reading German Handwriting.
Vocabulary found on Specific Records:
Dates, Numbers, Abbreviations:
Miscellaneous Vocabulary:
  • Fraktur Font -- Many forms and books are printed in this font.
German Given Names: