Paletine Migration to Ireland

Paletine Migration to Ireland

Palatine MigrationIn 1709 circumstances in Europe lead to a mass migration of  many thousands of Germans, to seek a better life elsewhere. The root cause of this desire to move on is based on a number of factors, including religious persecution, political and climatic.  The migration  was called the Palatine Migration, after the region in Germany from whence most came. Many left for the Americas, or other regions in Europe. A number that reached England were settled by Queen Mary in Ireland as tenant farmers, one to help the Protestant cause, but also to make use of their reputed skills in farming and industry.

Causes of the Migration
The winter of 1708-1709 was very long and cold in the Rhineland. It was a very bleak period. People huddled around their fires as they considered quitting their homes and farms forever. By early April, the land was still frozen and most of the Palatines' vines had been killed by the bitter weather. Since 1702 their country had been enduring war and there was little hope for the future. The Thirty Years War lay heavy on their minds, a period in which one out of every three Germans had perished.

The Palatines were heavily taxed and endured religious persecution. As the people considered their future, the older ones remembered that, in 1677, William Penn had visited the area, encouraging the people to go to Pennsylvania in America, a place where a man and his family could be free of the problems they were now encountering.

To go to America meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and a future in an unknown land, away from their past and family. Everyone knew that the German Elector would stop any migration as soon as it was noticed. Only a mass exodus from the Palatinate could be successful. Many wondered how they could ever finance such a journey even if they wanted to attempt it. Small boats, known as scows, would have to be acquired for the long ride down the Rhine River and then there was the price for the ocean voyage. While some of the people had relatives that could assist them financially, many were very poor. Soon enough, their minds were made up for them as France's King Louis XIV invaded their land, ravaging especially the towns in the Lower Palatinate.

Germany to Rotterdam
Scarcely had the harsh winter season of 1709-9 begun to relax its hold in February, when various inhabitants of the Rhine Valley hopefully began their preparations to go to England. These consisted mainly of gathering up their few possessions and securing a recommendation from the local authorities.

Palatine GermanyIn masses, the Palatines boarded their small boats and headed down the Rhine for Rotterdam, many with only their most basic goods and their faith in God as their only possessions. The river voyage took an average of 4-6 weeks through extremely cold, bitter weather.  This journey was beset with many delays and inconveniences. Fees and tolls were frequently demanded. Ever present too must have been the fear that the authorities would halt them temporarily for some trifling matter, as often occurred, or turn them back definitely, as frequently threatened.

On the other hand philanthropic assistance was not lacking. Along the river the Palatines were presented with money and food by pious countrymen, many of whom regarded the pilgrims with envious eyes, wishing they too might be seeking their fortune in the New World. Bread, meat, butter and cheese and even an occasional gift of clothing brightened the journey.

By June, 1709, the people streamed into Rotterdam at a rate of one thousand per week. The Elector, as expected, issued an edict forbidding the migration, but almost everyone ignored it. By October, 1709, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine River journey.

Rotterdam to England
The Duke of Marlborough was assigned by Queen Anne to transport the immigrants to England. British troop ships were also used. The Queen assumed these Protestants would help fuel the anti-Roman feelings developing in England. The ships from Rotterdam landed, in part, at Deptford and the refugees were sent to one of three camps at Deptford, Camberwell, and Blackheath outside the city wall of London. Many Londoner's welcomed the Palatines, but the poor were not, as they felt their English food was being taken from them to feed the Germans. British newspapers published mixed accounts of the Palatines, some praising them while others cursed them.

The Palatines were almost entirely dependent upon the government to keep them from starvation. The first 852 were allowed a total of 20 pounds per day, which amounted to less than six pence each for men, women and children. But the expense was a great burden on the government, particularly in war-time.  In fact, on June 14th, the subsistence of the Palatines was costing the government 80 pounds a day.  

Contemporary Woodcut, showing the Palatines encamped on Blackheath outside London. Courtesy of the Widener Library, Harvard University
Shortly after June 1st, the Ministry hit upon the expedient of raising money by public subscription. Letters were sent to the leading financial organizations, requesting voluntary contributions, for example to the Bank of England and the East India Company." On June 7, 1709, the justices of the Peace for the County of Middlesex sent a petition to the Queen asking for authority to take up a collection in their county for their Palatines. The Queen not only granted the desired authority, but also extended it to the public generally throughout the kingdom.

A proclamation was issued June 28, 1709, for the collection of alms and a board of commissioners was appointed to handle the funds and "to perform every matter and thing . . . necessary and convenient for the better Employment and Settlement of the said poor Palatines." The commissioners named were nearly a hundred in number and included the great dignitaries of the kingdom."'  The large sum of 19,838 pounds, II shillings was collected.

Every Sunday crowds would gather and the Palatines became the focus of curiosity-seekers. They capitalized this by making toys of small value and selling them to the multitudes who came to see them. One account of the Palatines states, "They are contented with very ordinary food, their bread being brown and their meat of the coarsest and cheapest sort, which, with a few herbs, they eat with much cheerfulness and thankfulness. On the whole, they appear to be an innocent, laborious, peaceable, healthy and ingenuous people, and may be rather reckoned a blessing than a burden to any nation where they shall be settled."

The conditions among the Palatines were certainly very bad. Bread was never known to have been so dear, and the government allowance was insufficient to sustain them properly. They were obliged to beg on the streets of London and this begging was done principally by the married women.  Philanthropists of the day distributed both money and supplies among the needy Palatines.

But the novelty of the presence of the Palatines soon wore off for the London populace and an uglier attitude, due to the tight economic conditions, set in. The poorer classes of the English people said the Palatines came to eat the bread of Englishmen, and reduce the scale of wages. The latter, it was alleged, had already fallen from 18 pence to 15 pence per day, where the Palatines were encamped. The shopkeepers were also opposed to the newcomers for fear that their trade might be harmed by the competition of unenfranchised foreigners.

The Palatine encampments were occasionally attacked by London mobs. Upon one occasion about 2,000 infuriated Englishmen, armed with axes, scythes, and smith hammers, were said to have made an attack upon the Palatine camp and struck down all who did not flee. When settlements of Palatines were attempted, riots occurred in some localities.  Many times were the Palatines threatened and mobbed, much to the Queen's chagrin.

This feeling against the Palatines was exhibited even among the "better" people of England. It seems to have been rooted in a fear of contamination by prevalent contagious diseases.

Meanwhile the Palatines had little employment, and the pressing problem was what to do with them. The efforts to settle the Palatines began with the first official letter after their arrival. In this letter, the Earl of Sunderland, writing to the Board of Trade, on May 3, 1709, indicated the government's desire according to the prevailing mercantilist views to encourage immigration. The Queen had been informed of the arrival of some hundreds of German Protestants and expected more from the Palatinate with the intention of settling in the English plantations in America. "Her Majesty was convinced however, that it would be much more advantageous to Her Kingdom, if these people could be settled comfortably here instead of sending them to the West Indies." Such a result would be a great encouragement to others to follow their example. The addition to the number of her subjects would in all probability produce a proportionable increase of their trade and manufactures. The Board of Trade was ordered to take the matter under consideration and report as soon as possible the proper method and the part of England most feasible for it.".

Two days later, Sunderland had ordered the Board of Trade to inquire into their numbers and condition, and to report what was needed for their support, until they were either settled in England or sent to the plantations. Pursuant to this request the Board of Trade asked two German ministers resident in London to carry on the inquiry. These men were John Tribbeko, chaplain of his late R. H. Prince George of Denmark, and George Andrew Ruperti, minister of the German Lutheran Church in the Savoy. They reported to the Board on May 9th, that the Palatines were in dire straits. A number of them were ill for want of necessary sustenance. Many were almost naked. They were "pakt up in such great numbers, we have found very often 20 to 30 men and women together with their children in one room." Tribbeko and Ruperti drew up from time to time the four Palatine lists, which are a valuable source of information today.

Most of the Palatines were farmers and vine-dressers, that is, over half of the first four groups to arrive in London as noted by Messrs. Tribbeko and Ruperti. The rest were distributed in some 35 other trades, the next highest number of occupations being about go carpenters and about 75 textile workers. The lists included about 12 schoolmasters and three surgeons. Some of the Palatine vine-dressers, "encourag'd by their friends abroad in Pensilvania," brought vine plants with them for a new start in the plantations. The last group to leave Rotterdam for England was described as "for the most part tradesmen."

The continued arrival of many Palatines and their inability to support themselves began to worry the Ministry deeply.

An attempt was then made to settle the Palatines throughout England by offering three pounds per head to the parishes which would be willing to receive them, the government to pay the expense of sending them to the respective places. (140) The bounty was taken in some instances and the immigrants, finding themselves uncared for, returned to London again. Some of their experiences are interesting. One Palatine, who had been a hunter, was, to his great disgust, required to take care of swine. Sixteen families were sent to the town of Sunderland, near Newcastle in Yorkshire. They expected grants of land, but were made day laborers. Another group was given a half pound of bread a day per person, a pound of salt a week, but no meat or vegetables.  Many of the Palatines, too poor to return or for other reasons, probably stayed. The plan to locate the Palatines in England was earnestly attempted.

The English Navy came forward with a proposal that 600 of the Palatines, about 150 families, should be settled in the Scilly Islands, a small group off the southwest coast of England. Sunderland thought well of the project, and on September 21st and October 2, 1709, two transports were sent down the Thames with 450 Palatines on board, well provisioned and supplied. The inhabitants of the Island of Scilly, learning of the venture, protested that they could not earn a living themselves on that meager haven, and so these people were never sent to their destination, but after remaining on shipboard three entire months, were again set on shore on December 30th of the same year. They eventually found their way back to Blackheath. The cost of this miserable failure was some 1,500 pounds.

Tt was evident that the British government did not plan for this large Palatine immigration in 1709. It prayed for immigration as a general blessing, but this avalanche of people was like a flood instead of rain. The government's strenuous efforts to stop the movement and the generous attitude it maintained stood in sharp contrast to the conduct of the proprietors of English colonies, who were largely responsible for the emigration. The proposals to settle the Palatines discussed so far were for the most part discarded in favor of more promising ventures. Proposals to send Palatines to Ireland, Carolina and New York were in the latter category, and the large bands of emigrants transported there justify special attention to their adventures.

On to Ireland

On July 7, 1709, the Council of Ireland, with Joseph Addison among them, proposed to the Queen that a number of Palatines be sent to Ireland to strengthen the Protestant cause there, and late in August, 794 families were sent there. They were taken in wagons to Chester, where they embarked for Ireland. The first groups landed between the 4th and the 7th of September, others came during October. In January, 1710, the total number of Palatines in Ireland was 3,073, of whom 1,898 were adults, and 1,175 were under fourteen years of age.

A committee of ten Irish gentlemen, supporters of the Protestant cause, were organized as the Commissioners for Settling the Poor Distressed Palatines in Ireland., On their arrival, the Palatines were temporarily lodged in Dublin and received for subsistence 18 pence a week for each person above fourteen years of age and 12 pence for each under that age.

As in London, this group of foreigners did not receive a welcome from the local citizens.  The Palatines too were dissatisfied with their living conditions, & felt the promise of rent free land had been broken and many soon began to make their way back to England.

To finance the arrangements, the Crown appropriated 15,000 pounds of its revenues in Ireland to be paid in three years at 5,000 pounds a year. Early in 1710, an additional 9,000 pounds were set aside under similar arrangements. Charitable collections secured 409 pounds, shillings and 6 1/4 pence more for the fund.  The appropriation of such sums of money by the government aroused the speculative interest of the Irish landlords. Their Irish tenants did not possess a capital of 24 pounds per family of four,  neither did the Irish tenants have the financial backing of the Crown. As a result, the Palatines were distributed in lots varying in size from one family to 56 families. The 43 gentlemen, who became their landlords by a draw, were to settle the Palatines on their lands.

The Commissioners wrote to them shortly thereafter to learn how they proposed to settle the families assigned to them and at what rates. As to the financial arrangements, the landlords were expected to give "a cheaper Bargain" than they gave others. The Commissioners suggested that the landlords might agree to receive the customary proportion of corn towards the plowing and seed, which they were to furnish. For the other necessaries such as horse, cart and cows, the landlords were expected to be satisfied with one-third of the subsistence allowance, until the allowances could be secured in larger advances.  The Irish landlords were urged to consider the satisfaction in doing a generous Christian act, the security for themselves in settling so many Protestant families on their estates, and the contribution they would be making towards strengthening the Protestant interest and safety of the country.  In concluding their letter to the Irish gentlemen, the Commissioners promised that should any Palatines refuse the contracts offered, they would be stricken off the list of those receiving Her Majesty's bounty. A declaration in "High Dutch" was to be distributed to this effect among the Palatines.

Arrangements were made and 533 families, composed of 2,098 men, women and children, were dispersed over the countryside. The Commissioners for Settling the Palatines assured the Lords justices of Ireland early in 1710 that all care had been exercised in their settlement. Many of the landlords were said to have been at great charge to themselves in providing habitations, firing and other conveniences for the Palatines. The lands set apart for the Palatines were assigned to them at easy rates, often a third less in rent than similar lands were let to other tenants.

Notwithstanding the kind entertainment the Palatines met with, to the professed surprise of the Commissioners many of the Palatines left their settlements, returned to Dublin, and took ship for England. In fact, 232 families had returned from Ireland to England by November 25, 1710, and in the next two months, 52 more families sailed for England in spite of attempts to stop them.  On February 15, 1711, only 188 of the 533 families distributed over the countryside were still on the lands allotted them. Over 300 of the families were in Dublin, where a great many of the men had been employed in the building of a government arsenal nearby. When the arsenal was completed, they lived on the royal allowance without apparently troubling to find employment.

Of those Palatines who left their settlements, many stole away without giving their landlords any notice. The Commissioners reported, according to the best information they could get, the Palatines thought that the lands in Ireland were to be rent free. Many of them could not be persuaded to the contrary. The more turbulent Germans stirred up the others with stories of better treatment accorded to those Palatines still in England. A worthless fellow-countryman, who had lived in Ireland several years before, victimized the Palatines by pretending to act as an agent for them in London. Many of the Palatines, it appeared, intended to live on Her Majesty's allowance in Ireland till peace was made and then go back to Germany.

The Commissioners for Settling the Palatines in Ireland were not unprejudiced in their account of the Palatine ingratitude. Over half of them had become landlords of the Palatines. They were interested parties in informing the Lords justices that the Palatines had been well treated and generously provided for. Three of the returning Palatines examined in London said that they left because of the hard usage they received from Commissary Hinch, Mr. Sweet (one of the landlords), and others. They charged that they had not received their subsistence. They claimed that after application to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, they received subsistence, but for one week only. They had even paid their own passage to England, although Mr. Hinch had offered them ten shillings each to leave Ireland. They corresponded with each other and met at Dublin for the return voyage.

It seems probable that a number of the Irish landlords were not above taking advantage of their Palatine tenants, who spoke another tongue and were in a somewhat hostile country. The native Irish tenants, Catholic in faith, were not inclined to welcome Protestants, who might secure their lands on more favorable terms and they seized every opportunity to abuse the Palatines. As no other arrangement seems to have been made, it appears probable that the Palatine allowances were turned over to the Irish gentlemen to distribute to their tenants, and under such arrangements the Palatine tenants might receive very little of the allowance granted them. After all, it would be too much to expect a people such as these, with eyes on the New World and its golden promises, to be satisfied with even favorable terms among the meager opportunities of Ireland. It was none too prosperous for most Irishmen themselves.

However that may be, the return of increasing numbers of the Palatines to England soon caused apprehension there in 1710. On the 10th of May, the Commissioners for the Palatines in England sent a representative, one Mr. Crockett, to Ireland to persuade the Palatines to remain while they drew their comfortable maintenance, but notwithstanding Mr. Crockett's good intentions and excellent abilities, he had little success.  The attempts to hold them in Ireland failed, because as Chief justice Broderick said, neither the officials nor the landlords had power to stop the Palatines, who were a free people. (19) On one occasion, having boarded a ship to persuade a number of the Palatines not to return to England, Mr. Crockett was threatened and narrowly escaped being thrown into the sea. The Irish Commissioners even offered to transport to Hamburg those Palatines who desired to leave. They had no acceptances. The Germans seized their first opportunity to steal away to England, still with the hope of settling in the English colonies in America.

Consequently, the Irish Commissioners, having discussed the situation with Mr. Crockett, drew up a memorial on July 25th. This representation addressed to Thomas, Earl of Wharton, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, reviewed the futile attempts at settlement of the Palatines to that date, and recommended that the Crown allow 40 shillings a year to each Palatine family for twenty-one years. This was to be offered as an encouragement for them to stay in Ireland. The money remaining from the original appropriations would be necessary to provide cattle, household stuff, tools and subsistence until the Palatines should provide for themselves.

The Commissioners for Settling the Palatines in Ireland drew up on February 15, 1711, at the request of the Lords justices, a detailed report of the Palatine affairs. On that day, 2,051 Palatines remained in Ireland. Of the original appropriation Of 24,000 pounds for their support and settlement, 10,319 pounds was left but this sum, the Commissioners reckoned, would be exhausted by July 2, 1712. They then repeated their proposal for the annual allowance Of 40 shillings for twenty-one years, "which is intended towards the payment of the Rents they shall set under. . . . ".

By 1711, only 312 Palatine families remained in Ireland divided between Dublin City and the  countryside.   The  largest  settlement was  on  the  lands  of Sir Thomas Southwell,  of  Castle Matrix, County Limerick.   Southwell eventually  settled 115  families on various parts of his estate. These  lands were still under-tenanted from  the wars and disturbances of the previous century. Cromwell’s scorched earth policy from the time of his arrival in  1649  and  the  subsequent  decline  in  population  of  about  one  third  still  left  this  part  of  Ireland devastated 60 years  later.   Thus,  these Protestant settlers and Protestant  landlord  were  subsidised  by  an  English Government  eager  to  increase  Protestant  enclaves  in  a  largely Catholic  Irish countryside.    Initially  the colony settled  in well.   The death of Sir  Thomas  in 1720  [at  this  stage Baron Southwell]  signalled  a down  turn  in  fortune once  more  for  the  103  families who  still  remained. They  continued  to migrate, many  to  the  United  States  and  Canada,  but  some  just  went  a  few miles  from  Limerick  across  the  county boundary into the county of Kerry.   

In 1729, the Seignory of Castle Island in Kerry was leased to five gentlemen..  It was an area approximately 10 miles in length and 12 miles wide and was added to by these men.  The  five  were  John  Blennerhassett,  Sir  Maurice  Crosbie,  William  Crosbie,  Edward  Herbert and John Fitzgerald.   In 1738, a deed of partition was drawn up giving each his portion.   At  this  time, Castleisland  town was  ruinous,  the  countryside  around  a violent and  lawless  place.

It  was  not  surprising  that  John  Blennerhassett  wanted  industrious Protestants  with  advanced  techniques  in  farming  to  work  his  land  at  Ballymacelligott [which was his portion of  the Seignory and where he had his country house, Arabella].  Other Palatines went to The Sandes and Leslie estates around Tarbert.

For  their part,  the Palatine  families were probably happy  to move on  into Kerry  as  the death of  their first  landlord had brought harder  times with higher rents, not enough  land to raise a family and less favourable conditions of tenure.  

About fifteen to sixteen Palatine families moved to the estate of John Blennerhassett

The names of the first Palatine families who moved to Kerry around  the 1740’s are  recorded thus:  


The family who made  the earliest  impact on  their new County of Kerry  was The Benner Family who settled in Ballymacelligott, on the lands of  John Blennerhasset,  in Trughanackmy barony.

The  Kerry  Benners  were  the  descendants  of  one  Henry  Benner  who  sailed  from Rotterdam with his children  in 1709.    One of his children, Paul,  settled  in Ballingrane, Co Limerick on  the Southwell estate but  then moved  to  the Kerry estate of  the Blennerhassetts around 1750 where he died 10 years  later.   Paul had  two  sons, Henry and  John, and a daughter Agnes. Henry and  John  settled  around  the  townland  of  Kilquane.    They  went  back  to  Rathkeale  in  Limerick for wives and in 1759 married two sisters of the Delmege clan, fellow Palatine refugees.

Before the turn of the century, the Benners made two major changes to their life patterns that distinguished them from other Palatine settlers.  They moved off the land and away from farming.  
They also ceased looking to the Palatine colonies for matrimonial partners and began to marry into the local community.  


Wikipedia:  German Palatines
ProGenealogists:  The Palatine Project
Olive Tree Genealogy:  History of German Palatine Migration
Walter Allen Knittle: Causes of Early Palatine Emigrations - Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration
Lutheran Heritage Website:  The Palatines

:The Palatines