Stones Of Faith - Pennsylvania Germans and their Gravestones

A look at a brief history of the PA Germans.

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THE PEOPLE

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Pennsylvania and American German Gravestone Guide

Pennsylvania Germans - A Brief Historical Overview

To understand the Pennsylvanian German of this time period you need to keep in mind the following:

German immigrants began arriving in the American Colonies in the late 1660s when William Penn encouraged large numbers of German Protestants to immigrate to his colony of Pennsylvania. Here they found religious freedom and plentiful farmland, conditions that led them to quickly settle much of southeastern Pennsylvania. By 1789 one third of all Pennsylvanians were of German descent.

They were predominately farmers and tended to settle in groups which eventually grew large enough to support towns. They were hard working and tended to be successful in both farming and in any of the town professions (inn keeper, doctor, carpenter, joiner, etc.) they chose to follow.

The majority were Protestants belonging to the Lutheran, Reformed or Mennonite faiths, although a number of other sects also flourished such as the Moravians, Schwenkfelders, Dunkers and others. Some groups such as the Mennonites and Dunkers were part of the Anabaptist movement.

Religious milestones such as confirmation, baptism, communion, marriage, christening and burial rites were an important part of their lives. These religous acts affirmed their belief in Christianity and it's messages of forgiveness of sins and eternal life after death. Most, whether strongly religious or not, followed these rites whose participants were recorded in the church records of their various congregations.

The churches they built and attended provided not only a place to perform, and a pastor to provide, religious rites, but in many cases also provided the schoolmaster for the education of their children. The ability to read the Bible was one of the basic tenets of their beliefs.

Their primary reading materials were the bible, hymnals and the almanac.20

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Copyright 1985-2003 Sandra J. Hardy. All rights reserved.

More information about PA German or Dutch history can be found at the link above.