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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 of Christ).

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 their culture.

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.

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