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Clemens Family

Clemens' Family Migrations

1709

Gerhardt Clemens Emigrates to Montgomery County, Pennsylvania

Susan's 7G Grandfather

Abt. 1760

George Clemens Migrates to Chester County, Pennsylvania

Susan's 5G Grandfather

1801

George Clemens Emigrates to Waterloo Township

Brother of Susan's 4G GrandfatherAbraham C. Clemens

1809

Abraham C. Clemens Emigrates to Waterloo Township

Susan's 4G Grandfather

"Clemens is a Mennonite family name which appears in the early Palatine Mennonite census list. The list indicates that as early as 1664 a person named Jan Clamens was living at Niederflörsheim. In 1672 Johann Clemeintz as deacon, signed a letter of appeal sent to the Amsterdam Mennonites. In 1685 he is listed as still living as an old man at the same place.

The first member of the family to come to North America was Gerhardt Clemens, who was probably born in 1680. He left the Palatinate and arrived in Pennsylvania in 1709, settling in Skippack, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Some of his descendants moved to adjacent Chester County.

In 1809 another of his descendants, Abraham Clemens, migrated to Waterloo Township, Ontario, where a number of descendants continued to live.

Several of these Canadian Clemenses moved to the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. Although some Clemens families continued to be found in Michigan and Missouri as well as a few other states, by far the largest number has been concentrated in Montgomery County."
From a Mennonite Encyclopedia

Origins of the Clemens' Family

The Clemens family has roots in the Low Countries; they became Mennonites probably sometime in the 1500's or early 1600's and had to flee their ancestral home (probably lived in what is now modern Netherlands or the Flemish or Brabant areas), fleeing sometime during the 90 year Spanish-Netherlands War that finally concluded in 1645. They fled up the Rhine River to an area known as the Siebengebirge, where the family is found in an anabaptist census dated 1652. Because they were Mennonites, they were never allowed to become citizens of any country.

Their names are clearly Rhenish or Dutch (Gerrit, Jan, Pieter, etc.) and not English. In fact the "patronymic" form is used - e.g. Clemensz. (an abbreviation for Clemenszoon, meaning the son of Clemens.) English folks quit using patronymics 200 years earlier than the Low German countries, another good indication that they were not English.

Since the 1652 census was for the purpose of anabaptists for expulsion, the family then fled to the area near Alzey in the Pfalz, which was at that time ruled by a tolerant protestant who wished to repopulate his lands. However, this ruler died in the 1660's, and the new ruler was Roman Catholic, and he again ordered an anabaptist census; again the Clemens family is listed with the same type of names as in the 1652 Siebengebirge census.

Gerhardt, our immigrant, was born in Niederfloersheim in the Pfalz, in about 1680; and in fact he lived there as a youth, eventually deciding to avail himself and his young family of the invitations put forth by William Penn, and endorsed enthusiastically by Queen Anne of England and the Duke of Marlborough... And so Gerhardt sailed out of Rotterdam to London, and appears on the "London lists" of Palatines ("Baptist" (i.e., Mennonite)) for May 6, 1709. He sailed from there to the New World, and a great deal is known of him and his family primarily because he kept meticulous journals.

Lewis Waldemar Clemens, purporting to be a member of several Royal Societies, presented a genealogy to a family reunion held in southern Ontario. This genealogy claimed that the immigrant, Gerhardt Clemens, was descended from the English Clement family, naming the original "Clement of Toft" plus William Clement of Wissingsett, and an entire line, even making mention of Gregory Clement, who was one of those who signed the death warrant for King Charles in 1649.

It is true that Gregory Clement was one of the "regicides" but it is not true that he was in any way connected with the Mennonite Clemens family descended from Gerhardt Clemens, immigrant. There is no actual documentation for such a connection, only repeated publication of what may have originally been a deliberate fraud or a naive misunderstanding.


Excerpted, with permission, from an email received from (Margaret) Elaine Spunaugle (Voth) Jeter

The Palatines of Germany

In history the Palatinate or German Pfalz, was the land of Count Palatine, a title held by the secular Prince in the Holy Roman Empire, thus the name Palatines is associated with those who immigrated from this area. The Palatinate was divided between two small clusters; the Rhinish or Lower Palatinate, and the Upper Palatinate. The Rhinish Palatinate includes lands on both sides of the Middle Rhine River between its Main and Necklar tributaries. The upper Palatinate was located in Northern Bovaria, on both sides of the Naab River as it flows south toward the Danube and extended eastward to the Bohemian Forest. The historic Pfalz has had vague boundaries and once consisted of 44 different countries.

The reasons the Palatine peoples left involved many factors. With years upon years of turbulence in the area they were either forced or decided to leave their homes. There were Reformed, Lutheran, and Catholics included in the Palatine emigration. One of the reasons were the ongoing wars in the area, and along with it the pillaging, looting, and the destruction of their crops. Another major factor was the severe winters of 1708 and 1709, which were the worst in memory. The people , many of whom were farmers and vineyard operators saw their vines killed by the bitter winter weather. Church records mention the heavy snows, fruit trees and grain frozen, of people and cattle being freezing, and the rivers and mills frozen, so there was much hunger in the land. High taxes and even higher rents were another factor. They were also attracted to America by promises of William Penn who sought colonists for the newly established commonwealth of Pennsylvania , describing it in glowing terms and by freely distributing money and tickets to some from Holland.

Going to America meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and future in an unknown land, but it sparked adventure into some hearts and with all of the hardships they had been through a new beginning in what was described as the new Promised Land.

When France's King Louis XIV invaded their land seeking to increase his empire. The War of the Palatinate, as it was called saw King Louis pushing into the heart of the Palatinate. He sought to "render the Palatinate a cinder" and they were given three days to remove from their homes and their homes were torched. The inhabitants of these Rhineland valleys had once been rich in flocks and herds and the comforts of life now were wanderers. More than forty cities were destroyed, leveled to the ground, even their tombs torn open and their bodies thrown aside to secure what treasures their dead adorned. The exiled Palatines wandered over Europe many finding their way down the Rhine into the Netherlands. Many remained and during the succeeding years lived in poverty and wretchedness. With the death of King William and the rise of Queen Anne the defeat of France came. She offered asylum to refugees and they flocked to England by the thousands. It was April 1709 and the first of the parties were afloat on the Rhine, many only with their basic goods and their faith in God. The river voyage took the average of 4-6 weeks through extremely cold weather. By June the people were flowing into Rotterdam at a thousand a week. By October 1709, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine River journey. Queen Anne hearing of their plight assigned the Duke of Marlborough along with the use of troops to transport the immigrants to England. The ships from Rotterdam landed, in part, at Deptford and the immigrants were sent to three camps, at Deptford, Camberwell, and at Black Heath, outside the city walls of London. While in the camps awaiting transport to America the British newspapers published mixed accounts on the immigrants. Many Londoner's welcomed the Palatines, but the poor were not, as they felt they were taking food from their mouths. One observer described them though as "innocent laborious, peaceful, healthy, and ingenious people, who may be reckoned more a blessing than a burden to any nation where they settled".

The British government had no specific plans for the Palatines until that summer. The Royal Navy was having trouble acquiring adequate timber, tar , and pitch to maintain their wooden ships, since the Swedish government had cut off their main supplier. The Navy convinced the government to use the Palatines to set up camps in the Colonies to provide tar, therefore solving two problems at once. They set up contracts with the Palatines to repay some of the expenses for their transportation. After an encampment of several months, while the government finished making up their minds exactly what to do with the unexpectedly large number of Palatines, arrangements were made to ship them to New York with the Governor Robert Hunter, who was leaving to take up his new position in that province. From there, about three thousand were dispatched directly down the Thames River to America to establish tar making camps for the British Navy. The remaining about four thousand were shipped to Ireland, where a colony of German refugees remain today.

In 1710 three groups sailed from England. The first went to Ireland, the second to Carolina, and the third to New York. The 3,000 Palatines were boarded onto a fleet of ten ships in January of 1710, but it was April 10, 1710 before they left port. Many Palatines believed they were going to Pennsylvania, Carolina, or one of the tropical islands.

While waiting for the ships to leave, many died before they ever left England. One ship reporting that eighty children died before leaving Portsmouth, England. It was a bad trip. The ocean voyage was harsh, stormy weather in the Atlantic, with over-crowded , under supplied, and unsanitary ships. What provisions that were supplied were generally the least expensive available to the ships master. Water frequently ran out along with the food. Dreadful mortality occurred, where in six months some 480 passengers died and one vessel was wrecked on the American coast. In addition to those woes, the Palatines faced robbery, deception, and worse from those transporting them. On the passage 30 babies were born to replace some that were lost. The survivors eventually reached New York, the first ship arriving July 13, 1710 and the last one August 2, 1710, but owing to their sickly condition they were quarantined for five months on Nutten (now Governor's) Island. Here 250 more succumbed to ship's fever, (or typhus) and 84 orphaned children were apprenticed to respectable citizens.

In the fall of 1710 Governor Hunter settled the remaining colonists on a tract of 6,000 acres on the east bank of the Hudson River, which was land he had purchased from Robert Livingston. Later he acquired 800 acres of land from Thomas Fullerton, a Scotch neighbor of Livingston. He also bought land on the western shore. On both sides of the Hudson these Palatines were settled in small communities called " dorfs". They constructed huts of their own design of whatever they could find.

In New York the Palatines were expected to work for British authorities, producing the naval stores and to also act as a buffer between the French and the Natives on the Northern Frontier and the English colonies to the south and east. While in New York subsistence was provided by Queen Anne, under the direction of Governor Hunter. Here records were kept during this period of each family, its size, the number of days of subsistence, and the amount. These records survived and tracked the families , and are located in CO5/1230 Public Record Office, London, England. Livingston contracted to provide each person daily with one third a loaf of bread and a quart of low grade "ships beer".

The tar making scheme turned out to be a fiasco when it was discovered that the pine trees that they had wanted to use were the wrong kind for making tar pitch, and with a grafting contractor who using government funds that would have been inadequate under good management, added to it the misinterpretation of the contracts that the Palatines thought they had signed for, rebellion broke out. The British were under the impression that the Palatines had had contracted for seven years of servitude and that they would be employed at making tar until the profits paid for their expenses, transportation , and settlement. They were to receive 40 acres after seven years. The Germans had a different impression of their contract which was explained to them back in England. In May, 1711 there was a rebellion of some four hundred Palatines. They formed a secret organization that intended to leave Livingston Manor before their servitude was up. They met with the Governor and stubbornly demanded their property rights as promised by Queen Anne, believing that their contract was not the same as the one explained to them in England. The Governor delayed in making a decision until he was reinforced by a military detachment of the 70 from Albany, which disarmed the Palatines and ended the rebellion. In September, 1712 the funds for the tar making scheme ran out, and what with the wrong trees for the process, they were released from their obligations to the Crown and left to shift for themselves. Not only was this unfortunate for the individuals themselves but it also brought to an end that of the records being kept on the families.

Suddenly the Palatines were left to their own scanty resources. Many elected to stay in the camps. Two groups moved overland to the Schoharie Valley, then an unsettled wilderness, where they founded eight encampments. Some of this group moved to Pennsylvania where land was promised by William Penn. This group today is part of the Pennsylvania Dutch. In 1715 another fifty families moved south from Livingston Manor to find the town of Rhinebeck. Thus in fifteen years time the original Palatines of Germany were widely dispersed in the new land. Rhinebeck, was originally called Ryn Beek and Rein Beek, was founded in 1647 by a settler from the Rhine Valley named Beekman, but the town was not incorporated until 1834. The original settlers in the areas were called Dutchers or Hollanders and the county of Dutchess would acquire its name from this group of Palatines, as did other places in this part of New York. Germantown was originally known as "The Camp", the town did not officially become Germantown until 1788.

Many thanks to all who have contributed names, dates, photographs and stories. Corrections are always welcome.
Our research is ongoing and the validity of the information presented should be judged by the quality of our sources.

Our study includes our ancestors and their descendants (our cousins) and our cousins' spouses and their parents. The parents of our cousins' spouses will show as "A descendant is related to Susan or Barry" and their other children will not be included unless they are connected to our family.


Last Updated
Aug 19, 2022

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