What Denominations Existed?
The vast majority of non-British immigrants to North
America were the Dutch of the 17th century and the Germans of the 18th
century. Each brought its own culture, which included churches. Many
of the Germans were Lutherans, which we discussed in a previous
lesson. However, a significant number
belonged to the German Reformed Church (now part of the United Church
Although German immigration traditionally dates from
the 1680s, the first major German immigrant group was the 1709 refugees
who were permitted to settle upstate New York and work for the British
harvesting naval supplies. Here they established their churches, or
intermixed with the local Dutch in their churches.
The work did not go well with the British, so the next
wave of German immigration focused on Pennsylvania where they were granted
much more liberality in establishing their own communities and maintaining
Most of the Germans in Pennsylvania were either Lutheran
or Reformed, sometimes even sharing the same church building (often
termed a "union" church). Their record-keeping practices were
similar: they generally recorded the baptisms and marriages, but burials
only infrequently. It appears that most German church records have been
preserved in one form or another, however.