"The German is like a willow. No matter which way you bend him, he will always take root again."
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The "Old Backhouse" in Großaltenstädten, built in 1578, was once a school and town hall; now it's a village shop and cafe.
   Our line of the Hause family—first called the Hauß family (a "ß" is the equivalent of "ss" in the German alphabet)—hails (not "heils") from the Rhine River area of what is now Germany, in the village of Großaltenstädten in the Herzogtum (also called a duchy) of Solms-Hohensolms.
   Sometime around 1666, JOHANN CHRISTIAN HAUß, our earliest known direct ancestor, was born. All we really know of his heritage is what he would tell the Reverend Joshua Kocherthal in 1710, recorded in the East Camp church book: He was "a carpenter, of Alten-Staeden, near Wetzler, duchy of Solm." The village of Großaltenstädten was known throughout Germany at that time for the quality of its half-timber houses—which would make it the logical hometown of a carpenter. He also could have lived a few miles away, in Kleinaltenstädten, or somewhere in between. Wherever he lived, we know that times were bad there.
   When Johann Christian was born, the ruler of Solms-Hohensolms was probably Johann Heinrich Christian, who reigned as Graf (Duke) zu Solms-Hohensolms from 1644 to 1668. (It was customary at the time to name a child after the local ruler, which might be why our ancestor was named "Johann Christian.")
   Information on the early life of Johann Christian Hauß is practically non-existent. Still, we can be sure it was a pretty rough childhood. The average number of children born to each marriage in this area was fairly large at the time—from 6 to 12, depending on the age at which the mother married—but the mortality rate was also very high. Childhood diseases and smallpox were rampant, a lack of basic sanitation control had created epidemics of cholera and typhus, and the spectre of the plague was always present. (During 1667 and 1678, the nearby town of Mannheim lost half its population to the disease.) As a result, a married couple would only raise three or four of those 12 children to any stage of healthy adulthood.
   Therefore, we can assume that Johann Christian Hauß had plenty of siblings, although few would have survived. One may have been Daniel Hauß, who was registered at Königsberg in 1694.¹ We can also assume from all of this that Johann Christian Hauß was a tough, resilient young bauer (peasant) who could do whatever it took to survive.

The village of Großaltenstädten today.

"Justice is the insurance which we have on our lives and property. Obedience is the premium which we pay for it."
—William Penn

The only known life drawing of William Penn, circa 1695.

   Graf Johann Heinrich Christian was Catholic in a very Protestant area, and was determined to cleanse the area of its "errors and heresies," which means our family was Catholic for at least a few years. But in 1668, Heinrich Christian was killed in a duel. He was succeeded by Johann Ludwig (1646 - 24 Aug 1707), who took power in 1668 as the sole Graf zu Solms-Hohensolms, and the Hauß family most likely became Protestantisch again.
   Then around 1677, when Johann Christian Hauß was ten or eleven, he may have heard about William Penn, who was then touring the Rhine to promote a new land across the ocean, where you could decide for yourself what to believe and which religion to follow. Penn found a receptive audience in the area—and it's probably when Johann Christian Hauß first heard of America.
   We know that the industrious Christian² became a carpenter, as mentioned earlier. It was a well-chosen career, because a carpenter could always find work in a town that was ransacked and destroyed on a continual basis. But living in that sort of squalor also meant there wasn't much chance for Bürgerrecht.
   Still, Christian prospered enough to marry a local beauty, probably named MARIA CATHARINA. According to family lore, they had six sons... or the term a peasant carpenter calls his male children: "cheap labor," and a daughter.³ Those children were:


  • JOHANNES HAUSS was born to Christian and his first wife between 1690-1692 in what is now Germany. After traveling across the ocean to America he married 20-year-old SARAH ALLEN in 1715. Johannes was Naturalized as a British subject (as "Johannus Hausz") in 1721.
  • JOHANN RHEINHARDT (RYNIER) HAUSS was born @ 1690 in what is now Germany. He sailed to America with his parents and was Naturalized as a British subject (as "Rynier Hous of Phillipsburg, a yeoman"), in New York on January 10, 1715/16. He married ANNA MARIE GUSSINGER (or ANNA ELLIS or ANNA ELIZABETH NEIDHÖFER), and they settled in Westchester County, raising their children Johann Heinrich (5 Nov 1715), Anna Juliana (5 Feb 1718), Susanna (9 Apr 1720), Jannet (married Thomas Meredic in 1737), Christian (2 Aug 1722), Johannes (baptized 29 May 1726), Maria (baptized 27 April 1728), Maria Elisabetha (21 Mar 1731), and Rheinhardt Jr. (baptized 21 Aug 1733).
  • CONRAD HAUS married CHRISTINA ELIZABETHA WALRRAAD (WALRATH) around 1730 in New York. She was the daughter of Palatine immigrant Gerhardt Walrath (1670 - 1719) and Anna Maria Reffi (1674 - 1730). Children unknown.
  • JURRIAN (GEORG) HAUS married CATHERINA EHRHARDT. They had the following children: Conrad (born @ 1730), Maria Elizabetha (30 Oct. 1734), Maria Dorothae (baptized 7 Jan 1736), Johann George (baptized 18 Nov 1737), and Jurgen (7 Oct 1749).
  • ELIAS HAUS (?) on the list of the Van Slyke Patent in 1715.
  • ANNA ELISABETH HAUS married CONRADT RICKERT, who was christened on 28 Feb 1703 in Nieder-Grundau, Hesse, Germany. They had MARIA ELISABETH RICKERT, who was christened on 18 Aug 1734 in Schoharie, Schoharie, NY.

  • The dominion of the Solms noble family in 1648 (marked with 'SO').
       But while Johann Christian's family grew, his fortune did not. With the political and religious instability in the area of Solms, his land, his money, even his religion, could be taken from him at any moment. And competition for work was getting worse, because while the land was dying, the population was growing again.
       In the latter 17th Century, the various Germanic states had struggled to recover from the Thirty Years' War. So local rulers eased immigration laws and offered religious tolerance, drawing new people from outside the Holy Roman Empire, including the Swiss, French, Dutch, and Scandinavians. Another cause of the growth was a high fertility rate which overcame the high level of infant mortality and epidemics. (Hey, when you're poor and unemployed, what else do you have to do?) By 1700, commerce had just about recovered and the population levels had returned to those of 1600. In a few areas, the growth had been so strong that the population had reached unsustainable levels.
       One way for the various Kings, Margraves, Dukes and Noble Lords to get rid of the excess men was to sell them off as soldiers to other countries. For instance, in 1677-1678, Hessian troops fought for Denmark, against Sweden. In 1688, Hessian troops in fought for Venice, against the Ottoman Empire. In 1702, nine thousand Hessians served under the maritime powers. In 1706, eleven thousand, five hundred men were fighting in Italy. But England was the best customer: Through a large part of the eighteenth century there were Hessians in her army (in fact, our ancestors in the New World would end up fighting mercenaries from Solms, then part of Hessen, in the American Revolution—some of them even named Hauß).

    Parts of the Lahn River still look remarkably the same today as they did in the 1500's (well, except for the Direct TV antenna).

       There was fighting to do at home, too: In the 1670's, a French move to expand into the Empire started another war. Then came the 'War of the Grand Alliance' in which Louis XIV, who was claiming part of the Palatinate for France, fought the League of Augsburg—a coalition of European princes who refused to hand over their land. The conflict lasted eight years, from 1689-1687. What land that Louis didn't want, he destroyed. In fact, he even destroyed a lot of the land that he did want!
       Finally, the Treaty of Ryswick restored the contested lands... But by that time the land had become so ravaged that many of the inhabitants fled the area entirely, some following William Penn and becoming the earliest German settlers of America—the Pennsylvania Dutch.
       Those who stayed behind were then faced with the War of Spanish Succession, from 1702-1713, which completed the destruction of the area. The farmland became barren and charred, villages were destroyed, and the inhabitants were imprisoned, burned at the stake, broken on wheels or drowned.

  • The average life expectancy was about 30-35 years.
  • The population in Colonial America reached 357,500.
  • Elias Neau, a Frenchman, opened a school for blacks in New York City.
  • In the Colonies, adultery was punished by whipping, branding, fining, imprisonment, and wearing a letter "A" sewed upon the sleeves of the outer garment.
  • Many words now considered obscene were freely used. Even the f-word commonly appeared in court documents!
  • April 24, 1704: The "Boston News-Letter," the first successful newspaper in the American Colonies, was published in Boston by John Campbell.
  • May 1, 1704: the "Boston Newsletter" published the first newspaper ad, which is why we have all those great, glossy, color lingerie ads in the Sunday "New York Times" today.
  • July 24, 1704: The War of Spanish Succession, with English & Dutch troops occupying Gibraltar.
  • August 13, 1704: French & Bavarian forces were routed by the Duke of Marlborough with a combined British, German & Dutch army at Blenheim, Germany.
  • August 25: Battle at Malaga: French vs English & Dutch fleet
  • September 28: Maryland allowed divorce if a wife "mispleased" the clergyman/preacher
  •    During this time, there was a young Lutheran Minister from the Kocherthal area in the Palatinate, named Joshua Harrsch (later known as Joshua Kocherthal). He wrote and distributed a pamphlet throughout the Rhine Valley in 1706 that urged emigration to better lands, entitled Aussfuhrlich und umstandlicher Bericht von der beruhmten Landschafft Carolina ("A Complete and Detailed Report of the Renowned District of Carolina Located in English America"). In truth, Kocherthal had never visited Carolina, but that didn't stop him from praising its fertile soil, low taxes and religious freedoms. This pamphlet and others like it painted a glorious picture of life in the British Colony: A "LAND OF MILK AND HONEY," where life could be as rich and rewarding as any man wanted. It also promised that the English government would provide Palatines with monetary assistance to travel to the New World, and even featured an etching of Queen Anne on the back. This and other handbooks were handed out by British land agents, who traveled through the Rhineland in brightly colored wagons. Drawing a crowd with trumpets and drums, they drew crowds like snake oil salesmen, glowingly describing the life that awaited in America, offering land and prosperity. They made wild promises: "Wild pigeons fly so low here that one can knock them out of the sky with sticks. Wild turkeys are big and fat, some as much as 46 pounds. The Indians often bring gifts of six or seven deer at a time..." Kocherthal's handbook didn't cause much of a stir upon its initial release, but then in 1708, he went to England to plead their cause with the London Board of Trade and with Queen Anne, asking for refuge from French Catholic oppression.

    "They have endured one hundred years of war—King Gustavus Adolphus burned the city of Spiers in 1633. Invaded by Imperialists in 1644, by Germany in 1676 and by the Dauphin in 1688. Restored to the German Empire by the Treaty of Reswish, then destroyed by the French in 1693 who made a desert of 2,000 cities, towns and villages; destroying their vines with design to make so fatal a waste that the country might never be peopled or inhabited again. Vast numbers of Palatines perished in the woods and caves, among the wild beasts, through hunger, cold and nakedness."
    —From a House of Commons investigation of the "Poor Palatines now living in London," as recorded in the "Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York," Vol. 111

    Queen Anne of England, of the Stuart dynasty.
       Queen Anne was already sympathetic to the plight of the "Poor Palatines," because she was still grieving over the death of her consort, Prince George of Denmark, who had died in late 1708. Prince George was of Germanic Stock, a Lutheran, and had brought many of his countrymen to London. In fact, a Lutheran church called the Royal Chapel in St. James Palace had been established there in 1700, and owed its existence to Prince George. His funeral sermon, delivered by Reverend John Tribbeko in the Royal Chapel on November 21st, emphasized the Prince's interest in the Protestant cause, and it inspired the Queen to help the oppressed "co-religionists" of Prince George.
       Queen Anne then agreed to send Kocherthal and a group of forty colonists to Carolina, not only funding their travels but also by supporting the colonists until they could get established. Kocherthal's report of this in an appendix to the third and fourth editions of his book caused a sensation in the region. The New World became more than an escape for these impoverished people—it became the Promised Land. Soon the rumor circulated that Queen Anne might be willing to support another group from along the Rhine. While Kocherthal had made no promises in his book, the possibility was there. And possibility was the best that someone living in poverty in Solms like Johann Christian Hauß could hope for.
       During 1709, approximately 13,500 German and Swiss emigrants would apply for passage to the English colonies... and after seeing all of the death and destruction in his country, it sure must have sounded good to Johann Christian Hauß.⁴

    LEFT TO RIGHT: Louis XIX invades the Rhine, 1693; Ships leave for New York with Palatines in 1709; Großaltenstädten today; A recent map of Christian Hauß's homeland, now in the state of Hessen.

       Finally, after the bitterly cold winter of 1708-1709, in which the frozen Rhine was closed for five weeks, "wine and spirits froze into solid blocks of ice; birds on the wing fell dead; and it is said, saliva congealed in its fall from the mouth to the ground," Christian Hauß took up a British agent's offer to advance his emigration expenses to the New World. To repay the "advancement," he had to sell everything he owned—but what little money he got from selling the few possessions he did own were probably used up in paying the tax that the town and duchy assessed for his migration. So to make up the difference, Johann Christian Hauß sold himself—and his family—into indentured servitude. In the 1700s, the slave trade in the Colonies was going strong, but there were rumblings of religious protest, saying that practice was wrong, and against God. But a new colony was impossible to establish to the liking of the British without any forced labor to do the dirty work. So the British had an idea: Can slavery be wrong if the slaves agree to do it, first? The result was sort of a "rent-a-slave" economy called indentured servitude: Agree to work as Britain's slave, improve their land for no pay, eat only the scraps you are given, never leave the owner's property without permission, and then after a number of years you'll be set free (ie: they'll kick you out and tell you to shift for yourself). But as bad as that sounds, it was still preferable to the starvation, war and Armut ("poverty") surrounding his home. So in order to pay for the voyage, he also agreed to sign the rest of his family over to the Crown, as well, until their entire debt was paid.

    The Oldharbor of Rotterdam, from which Johann Christian Hauß and his family sailed in 1709.

       Kocherthal had persuaded Queen Anne that Palatine labor would be a valuable asset in establishing and fortifying her colonies, so the Board of Trade suggested that the new load of Poor Palatine refugees should be settled in Antigua. But upon the opinion that these cold weather Europeans would not be suited to working in the hot climate of the West Indies, it was then suggested that they be directed to the Hudson River Valley in the Province of New York, instead. (After all, Indian attacks and below-zero winter temperatures were much more enjoyable than drinking rum and coconut milk on a sunny beach, right?) The Germans would be used on the frontier, as a buffer against the French and the Indians. (In other words, the Palatines would be stationed on the land that would be attacked first, giving the British time to prepare. It was also hoped that through Palatine trade and intermarriage with the Native Americans that France would lose the support of the Indian Nations.)
       The British decided to send some 3,000 refugees to America, from the Palatinate, Franconia, the Archbishoprics of Mayence and Trèves, and the districts of Hessen-Darmstädt, Hanau, Nassau, Alsace, Baden, Würtemberg and Zweibrücken. Although the name "Palatine" would be used indiscriminately by the British to describe all of the travelers collectively, they were actually from hundreds of different provinces in the region, with numerous local governments, religions, and the various nationalities (many were migrants who had relocated in these regions unsuccessfully). Collectively they were called Teutschen (the equivalent of "Germans" today), although If you asked Johann Christian Hauß what he was, he was more likely just to have answered tischler ("carpenter") than anything else.
       Johann Christian Hauß made the cut to emigrate with the British, probably because carpenters were sorely needed to build new villages. So in the spring or early summer of 1709, his family was in a group that left for Rotterdam, the first stop on their journey. They traveled by riverboat on the Rhine River, and then made their way to Holland. The mood was hopeful, even jubilant, and they sang hymns all the way to Rotterdam, leaving their homelands behind. There would be new opportunities in the Colonies: towns to be built, houses to be razed—and carpenters would be needed... and most importantly, there would be land: Fresh, unspoiled land where Christian and his children—and their children—could finally prosper. He wanted that milk and honey. True Bürgerrecht.
       Christian was in his forties, and several of his sons were already men, so some people may have wondered why he took such a risk so late in life (about a quarter of the emigrants were over 40, in fact). Most probably, he was thinking about the future of his family, and giving his descendants a chance to find and attain the happiness that had eluded him—with the hope that one day in the distant future, his great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson would live in peace, and be free to write crappy movies and date bikini models. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!
       But it would be many months before the Hauß family would arrive at this land of opportunity with the "Wonder Fleet." Along the way he would face poverty, starvation, disease, and death—and would find that there wasn't any "milk and honey" waiting for him, either, in...

    1711 - 1725. Johann Christian Hauß arrives in the New World, with Johannes in tow—and that's when it really gets confusing.

    TOP PHOTO: A small village chapel in Großaltenstädten, first mentioned in the year 1310. Its steeple is actually a fortified tower and its walls are thick, in order to protect the community in times of war. In 1797, the whole village, with its thatched wood houses, was destroyed by fire, with exception of this ancient fortified tower. The village was then rebuilt down near to the water, and the church, formerly in the middle of the village, now towers over it on the hill. In the German language, "Alten" means "old one," and a "städt" was a place that had a large number of inhabitants with a dense grouping of buildings, and a clear division of labor (town guilds).


    ¹—Königsberg in Eastern Prussia was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in 1944 during World War II, and was subsequently conquered by the Red Army after the Battle of Königsberg in 1945. The city was annexed by the Soviet Union according to the Potsdam Agreement and largely repopulated with Russians. Briefly Russified as Kyonigsberg, it was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946 after Soviet leader Mikhail Kalinin. The city is now the capital of Russia's Kaliningrad Oblast.

    ²—According to the great genealogist Henry Z. Jones (this is a direct quote): "'Johann' was a prefix, sometimes used in old records, sometimes not—it's sort of like the 'Anna' in front of Palatine women's names. But 'Christian' was the name he was more likely known as. So, in a sense, your 'Sons of Johann' would more accurately probably be 'Sons of Christian.' But no big deal..."

    ³—Ken D. Johnson, Ft. Plank Historian and author of the book, The Bloodied Mohawk, says he has located a birth record for yet another son: Jost Haus, b. 1699 in Germany.

    ⁴—Later generations would claim that our family and the other refugees wanted to leave their homeland for religious reasons, but this doesn't seem to be the case. The emigrants who left for England seemed to be evenly distributed in terms of religion (four lists of the 6500 "Palatines" arriving in London during 1709—comprising 1770 families—reveal 550 Lutheran families, 693 Reformed, 512 Catholic, 12 Baptist, and three Mennonite), so discrimination against any particular denomination seems unlikely. For the most part, they didn't seem all that religious, anyway. Antone Wilhelm Böhme, pastor of the German Court Chapel of St. James, related that only a few of the arriving Germanic immigrants in England came with a prayer book or similar religious work. Fewer still had a New Testament or Bible, until Queen Anne had them supplied in England. Johann Christian Hauß had much more earthbound reasons to leave for the English Colonies. Solms at that time was too impoverished a place to make decisions based solely on theology. He was a poor peasant who worked day and night to provide for his family—after paying the numerous taxes, tithes, and special fees for whomever the lord of his region was that week. And he knew that his children could expect no better.


  • The Palatine Families of New York by Henry Jones, Jr., 1985.
  • Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Immigration, by Walter Allen Knittle, Ph.D. Philadelphia, 1937. Reprinted in 1965 by Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore, Md.
  • Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York, by Philip Otterness. Published by Cornell University Press, 2004.
  • The Book of Names Especially Relating to The Early Palatines and the First Settlers in the Mohawk Valley, compiled by Lou D. MacWethy, 1933.
  • "London Churchbooks and Immigration of 1709." (Courtesy of the Montgomery County Department of History and Archives.)
  • Das aelteste deutsch-amerikanische Kirchenbuch, by Otto Lohr. In Jahrbuch fuer auslanddeutsche Sippenkunde, jahrgang 1 (1936), pp. 54-60 (Johann Christian Hauss, Page 56)
  • Palatine Roots: The 1710 German Settlement in New York as Experienced by Johann Peter Wagner, by Nancy Wagoner Dixon. Picton Press, Camden ME, 1994.
  • Palatines, Liberty and Property: German Lutherans in Colonial British America, by A.G. Roeber. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1998.
  • White Cargo. the Forgotten History of Britain's White Slaves in America, by Jordan, Don And Walsh, Michael. Publisher: New York Univ. Press Date Published: 2007.
  • Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1601-1700, by Krause, Chester L, and Clifford Mishler; Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 1996.