Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Freedom They Long For

I’ve written previously about my ancestors. The old family stories were accurate only going back a few generations. Beyond that it was stories that sounded good, but were mostly untrue.

Several years ago I took a very basic DNA test and was surprised to find that one of those stories that had been told as fact turned out to be fiction. The Clicks came to Texas from Eastern Tennessee and always claimed Cherokee blood. Many of them had dark complexions and the high cheek bones one might associate with Indian heritage. That was not the case.

I had traced my Click (Gluck) ancestry back to the Rhineland region of Germany. But that basic DNA test reported that I was only 10% Western European. The bulk of my DNA was linked to Great Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia. I had more Iberian (Spanish) than Western European (German or French).

Recently, I decided to spend the money for a more in depth DNA analysis and the results were startlingly different. I still had all that was reported in the basic test, but to lesser degrees. The report showed portions of Toscani Italian (11%) and Asian Indian (6%) DNA. Moreover, German ancestry was specifically identified at over 50%. And, the report said I was also 15% French. The Anglo-Scots-Irish was still there but not nearly as much. And the Iberian was about the same (10%). The report noted that German DNA is the most widespread in Western Europe, even into the British Isles. So perhaps some of my English and Scots-Irish ancestors had some German blood or just married Germans when they got to America. Who knows? (I will find out though).

At any rate, the larger percentage of German ancestry made sense. So I went back again for a closer look at the Glucks. The earliest known relative had been living in Southern France before returning to Germany in the 1600’s. Most likely fleeing religious persecution from Catholic France. However, the persecution continued for those German Protestants living in the Rhine Valley of Southwestern Germany, also referred to as the Palatine region. So in the 1700’s there began a mass migration of Palatine Germans to the British Colonies in the Americas.

With the support of Queen Anne and the leadership of William Penn, thousands of Palatine Germans migrated to America. It was a brutal trip. By boat up the Rhine River to Rotterdam. A ship to England and then on to Philadelphia. They settled in Pennsylvania in such numbers that at one point over half of the population was German. The promise of religious freedom and the opportunity to own land compelled them to leave everything behind and face the risks of death, disease, poverty and failure. The potential rewards were simply too great to ignore.

My ancestors arrived in Philadelphia on the migrant ship Lydia in October 1749. Until recently, I thought it was just Ludwig Heinrich Gluck. But further research revealed that he came with his parents. He was still a boy. Johann Conrad and Susanna Gluck, his parents along with his older sister Maria and younger brother Johannes Marx had made (and survived) the journey. Ludwig changed his name later to Lewis Henry Click and moved to East Tennessee to become one of Tennessee’s Founding Families. His parents, Johann and Susanna are buried back in Pennsylvania in the Gluck Farm Cemetery.

In researching the Palatine German migration, I found a pamphlet that had been written by a German immigrant as both a guide and a warning to those still in Germany considering immigrating to America. Mostly it was a discouraging report outlining all of the terrible things one faced on the journey and the hardships that awaited those who survived. But the author of the pamphlet, identified only as “L.M.”, also had these words for those who might come to America:

“Whoever does not come here at all, but remains at home he is the wisest, yet this land is, when one studies it earnestly, a door opened of old to those who suffer for their conscience' sake, to find the freedom they long for. Whoever comes here with this motive will still find what he is seeking. But all other purposes will fail or be difficult to attain, for our motto here, too, is "Labor is Prayer" or "In the sweat of thy forehead shalt thou eat thy bread".

Our current immigration system is a mess. We certainly need people who come for the right reasons and are willing to work. I think most of them do. Those of us who are here need to find better ways to help them find "the freedom they long for" while still protecting our nation. It's been done before and can be done again.

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