The group known as ‘Pennsylvania Dutch’ – actually not Dutch at all but rather German-speaking inhabitants who settled in Pennsylvania and later neighboring Maryland, descendants of 17th- and 18th-century Protestant immigrants from the Rhineland area of Germany. The term ‘Dutch’ comes from Deutsch which means German. They were well-known for producing between 1740 and 1860 and saving over the decades ‘Frakturs’ which are very folk art illustrated and special lettering documents. These were the family birth, baptism, marriage and death records.
There is a collection with the National Archives of some 113 frakturs dated to the American Revolution time period (1770s). They are available online to view. Place your computer mouse over each one and the full name which appears on that fraktur will be shown. Remember spellings of names varied back in the 1770s then what they have been spelled like in the mid-1800s. Not all the places will be in Pennsylvania, many of these German families moved to other areas like new Hampshire also. Plus some are from other time frames, such as 1830s or 1840s.
There are still countless examples of frakturs hidden away in family Bibles, trunks, attics, etc. Many located are also placed on auction sites such as eBay, selling for around $100. Besides this site from the National Archives, check some auction sites for any frakturs available that might have your family ancestors.
If you had ancestors in Pennsylvania in the 1770s and beyond, even if you are not sure if they were Pennsylvania Dutch, you do want to check out what names are on the frakturs.
Photos: 1850 Joseph Smead family; Jacob Shaffer (original spelling Schefer) of PA; and David Rogers family of New Jersey.
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