Thursday, December 30, 2010

Book Review: Becoming German, by Philip Otterness

I thought I would kick things off with a short book review, one that I recently finished. I spotted it first at one of the national genealogy conferences, possibly 2007 FGS in Richmond. I knew I wanted it, so I put it on my list of books to have eventually, and received it for Christmas last year. This was a great read, and I even took with me on my trip to Germany recently.

Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York
Philip Otterness (Cornell University Press, 2007).

Well researched, based on the details given in the conclusion and appendix, with ample endnotes in the back of the book. This book is able to get behind the motivations of the people who left the German Southwest [and who are mistakenly lumped together as 'Palatines']. It describes how they eventually made it to New York, although discussing motivations runs the risk of becoming speculation. I thought this book was well-written, and a great addition to my library.

Palatines - these guys are something I spent several years researching for clients. This was the first wave of migration from southwestern Germany to the U.S., later to be called Palatines. There are not many sources which elaborate the origins of Palatines, and it can often take an expert to sort out the origins. Even thinking that they were all from southwestern Germany can be an overstatement, and there are images in the book that reflect that.

I have studied the Hunter Lists myself, and spent a good deal of time in the three volume set known as Strassburger and Hinke's Pennsylvania German Pioneers. This was a good, dimensional addition to my research in primary sources of the German immigration of this period. I also appreciated the migrations it described about the settlements near Schoharie, and then down into the Pennsylvania/Virginia valleys.

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