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March 6, 2009

The 300th Anniversary of the Palatine Emigration



In my recent series of article on various anniversaries- Mattawa, flight, teacher education- I have not gone back 3 centuries Ė a tricentennial -but there is one I have an interest in.  The Palatine German influx into the 13 colonies in 1709 eventually  had an important impact on Canadaís history in general and on my family. Maternal grandparents on both sides of my family were Palatine descendants. 

The Palatines were people who fled from an area in the Palatine Region of Germany on the Rhine River in 1709 for a variety of reasons that were making survival a problem. War, religious conflicts, crop failure and poverty led them to respond to Britainís need for people in the 13 colonies to strengthen their position there in relation to events to the north in what was to become Canada and simply to populate the colonies. 

Doug (L) and Richard Mackey on their genealogical search.

In 1709 13,500 people of Dutch, Swiss, French and German background left for England. It was 1710 before most of them got to New York and New Jersey. A group located in Ireland before travelling to the colonies. Many relatives followed the original groups across the Atlantic. It is estimated that about a third didnít make it due to disease and bad weather. 

The New York Palatines  went to areas on the Hudson River primarily in what was known as  West Camp and East Camp.  Work was promised but it did not materialize and they dispersed along the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys  and elsewhere in New York State creating a powerful influence. 

Family History 

Two of these families with German roots are descendants of my family Ė the Benners on my motherís side and the Fralicks on my fatherís side.  Both families were naturalized in 1715 in Kingston, N.Y. Over the next generations the families grew in size and influence. Their connection to my dadís Mackey side and my motherís Winn side would not have happened if many of the residents of the colonies had not revolted against Britain in the American Revolution in 1776 and fled to Canada. Some families split with some choosing to stay and in some cases the ones that fled went to different locations 

United Empire Loyalists 

Many think these people were conservative loyal Britishers that later formed the elite Family Compact but others like John Rolston Saul in his 2008 book A Fair Country disagree.  Saul says most of the so called Loyalists were German (40%),other nationalities , Native (6 Nations) and many blacks. Saul contends that many of the British stayed to found America and suggests a look at the names on the U.S. Constitution  

My descendants, the Benners and Fralicks, joined one of the many military Corps Ė the Butlerís Rangers Ė that fought the Colonies and settled in Canada after the war.  The Butlerís Rangers were based on the north end of the Niagara River on Lake Ontario and made many trips into New York State to fight the Patriots. Many consider them as the best of the Corps. 

Benjamin Fralick, a fourth generation Palatine Fralick and our descendant was a Sergeant in Butlerís Rangers.  After the war he received 800 acres in Louth Township on 15 Mile Creek near where Thorold eventually grew and where the Welland Canal was established.  The Benner family located to the Cayuga area.  Another Fralick line went to the Kingston area. 

The Benjamin Fralick family eventually moved to Cayuga where several generations later a Fralick descendant married my grandfather Henry Mackey. My grandmother Benner married Tom Winn and my mother Eva was one of their children.  The 2 Palatine families who arrived in N.Y. State in 1710 grew  with the births of me and my two brothers in the 1930s. The people who fled north are called United Empire Loyalists. 


My brother Richard began to work on our family history 20 years ago and  has put thousands of hour into a massive documentation. We travelled to N.Y. State on one occasion and he has gone with his wife Pat as secretary a couple of times researching details.  There is a large Palatine Association in the U.S. with many branches including a group of Irish Palatines that have a major  300th anniversary event this summer.  The big event will be next summer when the major Palatine arrival took place 300 years ago 

There is a large United Empire Loyalist Association in Canada with many chapters that preserve the history of the Loyalists. My brother was President and is active in the B.C. chapter.  In 1789 legislation was passed recognizing the role of the Loyalists and allowing those with proof to use the letters U.E. (Unity of Empire) after their name. My brother was able to trace the several generations back and received the designation 15 years ago. I was also able to receive the designation. Many genealogists with the connection use the letters as a form of recognition. My brother uses it in his work. I have seldom had a chance to use it. It was fun digging out and reviewing this history because the speaker at the active Nipissing Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society last Tuesday, talking, among other things, about the Palatines, was A. Douglas Mackey, U.E.

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