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From Family History Knowledge Center
The German Palatines were natives of the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany, although a few had come to Germany from Switzerland, the Alsace, and probably other parts of Europe. Through much of the 17th century and into the 18th, the region was embroiled in constant warfare among various factions and invaded by French troops, which resulted in famine and widespread devastation. Refugees were common in European cities, where they were known as "the poor Palatines".
The Poor Palatines were some 13,000 Germans who fled to England between May and November 1709. Their arrival in England, and the inability of the British Government to integrate them, caused a highly politicized debate over the merits of immigration, and led to several unsuccessful attempts to settle them in England, Ireland, and the Colonies. The English transported nearly 3,000 in ten ships to New York in 1710. Many of them first were assigned to work camps along the Hudson River to work off their passage. Close to 850 families settled in the Hudson River Valley, primarily in what are now Germantown and Saugerties, New York. In 1723 another 100 heads of families were the first Europeans to acquire land west of Little Falls, New York, in present-day Herkimer County. More settled along the Mohawk River, founding towns such as German Flatts and Palatine Bridge, New York.
Because of the concentration of Palatine refugees in New York, the term "Palatine" became associated with German. "Until the American War of Independence 'Palatine' henceforth was used indiscriminately for all 'emigrants of German tongue.'" 
- ↑ Pfalzer in Amerika, by herausgegeben von Roland Paul und Karl Scherer, Institut for pfalzzische Geschichte unde Volkskunde Kaiserslautern, 1995, p. 48