I’m betting that a lot of you don’t know who the 1709ers were. I didn’t until I discovered I was descended from 1709ers, and then became immediately and compulsively interested in these people, their travels, travails and fate.
As luck and irony would have it, synchronicity smiled on me one day. I like to think that some favor I paid forward just got paid back. This was a big one.
A woman, Doris, was my “room angel” at a conference where I was speaking about DNA years ago – ironically, the Palatinate of America conference. Doris contacted me after reading an article I wrote about X chromosome mapping and said that she had identified the parents of my Barbara Kobel who I had mentioned in the article as an “end of line” person – in other words – a brick wall. Indeed, Doris was correct, and she pointed me towards Jacob Kobel and his wife, Anna Maria. I have since added another 5 generations to this previous brick wall based on information that began with her kind note and information that she included. I can’t thank Doris enough! She’s an angel alright!
Doris told me that Jacob Kobel was part of the 1709 Palatine Immigration. The next question I had for her was “what was that?” The answer came in the form of a Wiki article and a couple of books, the best of which was “Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York” by Philip Otterness, a history professor at Warren Wilson College.
Who Were the German Palatines?
The German Palatines were natives of the Electorate of the Palatinate region of Germany, although a few had come to Germany from Switzerland, the Alsace, and probably other parts of Europe. Towards the end of the 17th century and into the 18th, the Palatine region was repeatedly invaded by French troops, which resulted in continuous military requisitions, widespread devastation and famine.
The “Poor Palatines” as they came to be called were some 13,000 Germans who arrived in England between May and November 1709 in response to a false rumor that the Queen was giving free land in America. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, caused a highly politicized debate over the merits of immigration. The English tried to settle them in England, Ireland, and the Colonies. The English transported nearly 3,000 in ten ships to New York in 1710. Many were first were assigned to work camps along the Hudson River to work off the cost of their passage.
The Palatinates had left Germany believing that the English Queen was giving land in America in return for settling there. It wasn’t true, but the Germans didn’t discover that until after arriving in either Rotterdam or London, and then many refused to believe it. In fact, decades later, many were still trying to obtain their free land to which they were just sure they were entitled.
The 1709ers received their nickname because that’s the year they arrived, en masse, in London, descending on a city that was not prepared for them.
The first boats packed with refugees began arriving in early May 1709. The first 900 people were given housing, food and supplies by a number of wealthy Englishmen. The immigrants were called “Poor Palatines”: “poor” in reference to their pitiful and impoverished state upon arrival in England, and “Palatines” since many of them came from lands controlled by the Elector Palatine. The majority came from regions outside the Palatinate and often against the wishes of their respective rulers, they fled by the thousands down the Rhine River to the Dutch city of Rotterdam, where the majority eventually embarked for London.
Within a few days another 800+ Germans had crowded together in miserable rooms in St. Catherine’s parish in London. This was just the beginning of the tidal wave.
In 1598, St. Katherine’s was described as “inclosed about or pestered with small tenements and homely cottages” and it remained so a hundred years later when its inhabitants consisted “of weavers and other manufacturers and of seamen and such who relate to shipping and are generally very factious and poor.” The parish, on the City’s east side just beyond the Tower had long been a community of poor English families and foreigners. You can see the neighborhood to the right of the tower, both above and below. The 1709ers would have fit right in were it not for the fact there were so many of them.
Throughout the summer of 1709, ships unloaded thousands of refugees, and almost immediately their numbers overwhelmed the initial attempts to provide for them.
They were initially crowded into St. Katherine’s, also written as St. Catherine’s, today known as St. Katherine’s by the Tower.
At that time, these accommodations were tenements by the docks in an unsavory area. Having entirely overrun all buildings available, they lived in tents in squalid conditions and the local London people came to view them as entertainment.
By summer, some were moved to the fields and barns of Blackheath and Camberwell, now part of metropolitan London. A Committee dedicated to coordinating their settlement and dispersal sought ideas for their employment. This proved difficult, as the Poor Palatines were unlike previous migrant groups — skilled, middle-class, religious exiles such as the Huguenots or the Dutch in the 16th century. The 1709ers, by contrast, were rather unskilled rural laborers, neither sufficiently educated nor healthy enough for most types of employment. Their health wasn’t improving by living in those squalid conditions, either.
The Germans already in London now realized that the queen had never planned to settle them in America and had been completely unprepared for their arrival. Now all they could do was to wait for the queen to determine their fate. They tried to make life as normal as possible. A woodcut of one the German camps at St. Katherine’s published in 1709 shows the women cooking and hauling wood while the children sleep next to the tents. This woodcut is part of an article describing the state of the Palatines.
Some worked on surrounding farms. Some men joined the British army. The rest lived off of English generosity and the Queen.
In 1709, when the Palatinates were living at St. Katherine’s by the Tower, a beautiful church and hospital were located there as well, known as St. Katharine’s Church. The 1709ers would have worshipped in this church that was by that time already nearly 600 years old. Sadly, this church was destroyed in 1825 when the area was razed to build the St. Katharine Docks.
This map below shows the area to be destroyed to build the docks. You can see the church and cloisters and surrounding small streets and houses.
An intensely built-up 23 acre site was earmarked for redevelopment by an Act of Parliament in 1825, with construction commencing in May 1827. Some 1250 houses were demolished, together with the medieval hospital and church of St. Katharine. Around 11,300 inhabitants, mostly port workers crammed into insanitary slums, lost their homes. Of course, only property owners received compensation and that didn’t include the tenants.
I shudder to think about more than 11,000 people crammed into 23 acres, what it would have looked and smelled like, but this map gives us some idea what this area would have been like with 16,000 Palatinates in tents in this same region, in addition to the residents.
You can see, on the current Google map below that the entire neighborhood was replaced by docks. The water in the dock area looks dark, but you can see the boats moored today.
Life Gets Worse
Soon an alternate image of the “poor Palatine refugees” emerged. A physician wrote:
”I wish you the recovery of your health and a better neighborhood than the palatines, which I fear have infected your pure air. Our country has whole loads of them and call them gipsies, not knowing the language and seeing their poor clothes.”
Gypsies were often portrayed in Britain as parasitic intruders who invaded civilized societies while maintaining their own closed and mysterious communities. In 1711 gypsies were described as “this race of vermin.”
By the beginning of August, the people of London had visited their camps and the “poor Palatine refugees” had not lived up to their billing. Rather than being fit objects of charity, they had become, in the words of an anonymous pamphleteer, “a parcel of vagabonds, who might have lied comfortably enough in their native country, had not the laziness of their dispositions and the report of our well-known generosity drawn them out of it.”
Life was bad and getting worse for the German families. Many had been reduced to begging in the streets. Others were shipped back home. England became desperate to get rid of this group of people they hadn’t wanted nor invited and who couldn’t support themselves. When the opportunity to send the entire group to New York and Pennsylvania arose, they were all too happy to take advantage of the opportunity and send them on their way.
On To America
In mid-April, 1710, almost a year after the first migrants had arrived in London, a convoy bearing the 3000 Germans and New York’s Governor Hunter left England.
Jacob Cobel (Kobel), a miller, age 27, reported to be a Catholic, his wife and a son aged one half, were in the 4th group of arrivals in England in 1709 according to the London Lists. He had left Hoffensheim-Sinsheim. This is somewhat remarkable in that he was reported to be Catholic AND that he continued to immigrate to America. Most Catholics, in fact, all that the English knew about, were returned to Holland. I am not convinced that he was Catholic. If he was, how he and his family evaded deportation is both unknown and miraculous.
In 1710, Jacob along with his wife and child continued on to America, in fact, settling eventually in a location that would be named after him, Cobleskill, NY.
The postcard below shows Cobleskill Creek in Coblesill, NY. This is likely Jacob’s mill creek. He was documented as being a miller in the US as well.
Jacob Cobel’s wife was Anna Marie Egli and they had daughter Maria Barbara after their arrival in the US. Maria Barbara married Johann Jacob Schaeffer, a member of another 1709er Palatinate family. His parents were Johan Nicholas Schaeffer and Maria Katherine Suder from Relsburg, Germany.
However, the story doesn’t stop here. It does however, skip forward some 304 years, to September 2013.
St. Katherines Today
My husband, Jim, and I were visiting London. We only had 2 and a half days.
On the day of our arrival, after finally finding our hotel, walking from a train station pulling heavy bags, we discovered that the travel agent had not made the reservation for the correct days. We had to find a different hotel. With the help of the hotel, we were able to do so, but it took a couple of hours that we didn’t have to spend. We missed any possibility of the tour I had so been looking forward to. Our next two days were already spoken for. With all of the frustration and disappointment, I just wanted to cry. Things were not going as planned. What to do?
After getting settled, we regrouped, and realizing we only had part of the afternoon, we decided to visit a couple of quilt shops I had found online. The hotel was gracious and called us a taxi, and a few minutes later our driver arrived, ready to take us anyplace we wanted.
On the way to the first of three quilt shops, we told him about our travel snafu and the tour we had hoped to take. One of the places I was really looking forward to seeing was the Tower of London so I could, from there, hopefully, see St. Katherine’s by the Tower. My ancestors, the 1709ers, “camped” there and I wanted to visit that area – or at least see it from a distance.
Our driver, whose name was Said, was beyond wonderful, and he wove a tour into the quilt shop visits. We spent the most wonderful afternoon with this gentleman and he took me directly to places that were on no canned tour.
Of course, with his London driving experience, he knew exactly how to get to all the best places. That travel snafu turned out to be a lovely gift in disguise!
From this area on the Thames near St. Katherine’s, you can see Tower Bridge, located beside the Tower of London. St. Katherine’s is between the Hermitage Park, where I’m standing in this photo, and the Tower Bridge. St. Katherine’s begins on the other side of the brown building, to the far right in this photo, about half way between me and the bridge. This gives you an idea of how small the neighborhood of St. Katherine’s actually was. Google maps shows the area of St. Katherine’s to be roughly 1000 feet by about 700 feet.
In the most ironic twist of fate, today, this area has once again been redeveloped and is now comprised of very high-end, upscale condos, some directly on the Thames and some on the Marina. My ancestors wouldn’t recognize it.
Beautiful buildings on what is now a beautiful setting.
You don’t have to look too far though to see some of the warehouses that were adjacent to the docks. There are still warehouses a block off of the waterfront. You can see them behind Said’s car, waiting patiently for me to get my ancestor-fix.
The city walls, a remnant shown below behind the men at the bus stop, would have still been intact when the 1709ers were there, but not much remains today. I love these old brick streets too.
The old ship ties still exist at St. Katherine’s docks. These were at one time used to tie the large cargo ships to hold them secure while they were loaded and unloaded.
You can still read “St. Katherine by the Tower.”
I had to pinch myself to believe I was really standing here where my ancestors stood. Truthfully, between being sleep deprived after an all-night flight, followed by the hotel debacle, this unplanned experience felt entirely surreal.
This area has been made into a lovely waterfront park which includes the docks of course, and the historic Dickens Inn, shown with the red hanging baskets, above. What a transition from how cramped and miserable this area was in 1709 and how spacious and lovely it is today. The 1709ers would be shocked and probably mortified at all of that “wasted space” that they so desperately needed.
The redeveloped park where I’m standing, is located in the area between the green “St. Katharine Docks and The Dickens Inn on the current map above, in the lower right hand quadrant. You can click to enlarge. On the old map, this would have been just in front of the St. Catherine’s church – a place certainly familiar to the 1709ers who were assuredly praying daily for deliverance of some sort.
The photo above is difficult to see because I took it through glass, but it shows pictures of the inside of the condos or apartments that are for sale in the area, all for over half a million pounds – and those are the cheap ones.
It’s somehow a supreme irony that the former poorest area, the waterfront tenement slums, are now the posh area. This is the third life of St. Katherine’s. I guess that is the very meaning of redevelopment.
I was so very grateful to Said for taking me to where my ancestors camped. It brought history to life in a very memorable way.
I’d love to know more about these families before their arrival in England. In particular, I’d like to know more about their deep ancestry, before the advent of surnames. Where did they come from? Who were their people? Were they Celts or Saxons or maybe Huns before they were Germans seeking refuge? Y DNA testing can give us those answers, but we need a male from the surname lines in question to test.
DNA Projects and Participants
Given that I certainly can’t test my Y DNA (females don’t have Y DNA) for the 1709er lines, I need to find males who descend from these family lines to test. Y DNA is always passed from father to son, generally along with the surname. The best way to start that search is to check the projects at Family Tree DNA, along with YSearch.
I checked the Family Tree DNA Y database and discovered no Cobel, Kobel or derivative surname, so I started the Kobel/Coble Y DNA project. While this project was initially focused on Kobel/Coble males, anyone who descends from a Kobel/Cobel line is welcome to join. Fortunately, we do have a Coble male from Jacob Kobel’s line, and he matches other Coble males as well. I would invite and encourage any Kobel (or similar spelling) male to join. I’ll be writing about Jacob Kobel’s line soon.
Viewing the Shafer project, it does appear that the 1709er Schaeffer line has probably tested and is a subgroup of haplogroup U106. I say probably because it’s a line believed to connect to my line, from a group that went to NC. Still, I’d much prefer to test someone from my own proven line, just in case. You can view the grouping of men that match, in yellow, below.
There are no projects for either Egli, Suder or Sonsst. There are apparently 8 people with the Egli surname who have tested, but the only one I could find in any project was from France. One Suder has apparently tested, and no Sonssts. Sonsst could easily have been corrupted into something I wouldn’t recognize today. YSearch showed several people with either the Egli surname or Egli in their pedigree charts, but nothing that would suggest that they connect to the Egli family from Hoffensheim-Sinsheim.
Hopefully, someone, someplace is researching these family lines and will pass the word. I’m offering a Y DNA testing scholarship for a male carrying the surname and descending from these various 1709er family lines. If you qualify, please contact me.
- Johann Peter Schaeffer (born c1640) family from Relsburg, Germany
- Michael Suder (born c 1650 or earlier) family from Relsburg, Germany
- Marx Egli (born probably 1664 or earlier) family probably from the Hoffensheim-Sinsheim area of Germany
- Han Sonsst (born probably 1680 or earlier) family probably from the Hoffensheim-Sinsheim area of Germany