When my Hochstetler ancestors arrived in Philadelphia aboard the ship Charming Nancy on November 9, 1738, they were part of a great migration of Germans to the American colonies. During the 18th century, more than 100,000 Germans arrived in this country. Among them were Mennonites, Amish, Swiss Brethren, and Pietists, who were the largest group. The Amish, which included my ancestors, and the Mennonites made up only about 5,000 of the German immigrants. Most of them settled in Pennsylvania, while smaller numbers made their homes in New York, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Together they became the largest non-English-speaking community in colonial North America.
|German Peasants' War (1524-25), Lizenzstatus 1539|
Conditions in Europe were bad, but the decision to move to America was not an easy one and required staunch determination and deep personal faith. The ocean crossing was often harrowing and could take as long as 2 months. A diary attributed to Hans Jacob Kauffman lists the deaths of many children and adults during his voyage. Below is Gottlieb Mittelberger’s vivid description of the conditions passengers endured during his passage in 1750.
|The ocean crossing|
Once they arrived, the troubles of the hard-pressed immigrants were not necessarily over. Many were forced to bind themselves as indentured servants until they could pay off the cost of their passage. In most cases this was voluntary, but sometimes individuals were kidnapped, bundled aboard a ship, and sold to the highest bidder as soon as it reached port in America. Either way, they often found their masters difficult or even abusive.
Others, however, moved to the frontier, where they built homes, communities, and churches. My ancestors were among these, settling along Northkill Creek in Berks County, Pennsylvania, along with other members of their Amish church, where they lived peacefully for many years. But in time they faced another tide of destruction and loss as England went to war with France and her Native allies.
I have been fortunate that many records and oral stories exist about my ancestors who came to this country in 1738. Does your family have information about your own ancestors who came to this country, whether in colonial times or later? If so, share a little bit about their history.