Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines Palatine (among other things) as: "a native or inhabitant of the Palatinate" or "a feudal lord having sovereign power within his domains". It defines "Palatinate" as: the territory of a Palatine". So much for dictionaries... its no wonder the term is not understood.
Generally speaking, a "Palatine" is someone who came from the region of Germany called "The Palatinate". Germany as a country has not existed very long. Prior to 1871, what is now Germany was a number of separate states, such as Württemberg, Prussia, Bavaria, etc., whose boundaries changed frequently as a result of war and other causes. The Palatinate was one of these states, and was located along the Rhine River, roughly where the modern German state of Rhineland-Pfalz is located.
In the 18th and early 19th century, the term "Palatine" was used in America to describe immigrants from "The Palatinate" and other adjoining German-speaking areas. Finding an American reference to someone being from the "Palatinate" may not point to a specific place of origin, but rather an approximate location in or near western or southern Germany.
Palatines to America is an organization for people researching the origins of their German-speaking ancestors, no matter where they originated. Many of the German-speaking people that came to North America did not come directly from what is now Germany. Many of them came here after spending time (from a few months to a few generations) in other countries, such as Switzerland, England, Russia, Ireland, France and other countries. Our members are researching immigrants from many of these