Germanna: Part One

Last summer, my sister and I made the four-hour trip to Washington D.C. to become official card holders at the National Archives.  It was another one of our fun girl getaways all based on researching our family history.  The only difference between this trip and the Wilmington, NC trip was the amount of drinking to be done.  I, at this time, was already a few months pregnant with my son.  So, no great bar recommendations in this posting!

National Archives, Washington D.C.

Let me just start out by saying that the National Archives building was very intimidating.  It is a massive structure with giant stone columns that act as a gateway into the past.  We walked in, signed our names on the register and set forth to become actual members of the elite club of researchers!  Nah, I am sure there are thousands of members who have walked the halls of the National Archives, but that is the way it felt entering the building and into the library.

The process to actually be able to start to look for anything took a lot of time.  We had to watch a video, have our pictures taken and get our cards printed.  By the time that was all said and done we only had a little over an hour to actually do any type of research before the place closed.  My sister and I don’t always have the best timing on our adventures, but we do have a good time.

We decided to just dive in on the computers and try to get as much research as possible done on an international scale.  We looked at Scotland first and found a few great leads.  All things that will be shared in due time rest assured.  But, this post isn’t really about what we found, it is about the journey and this journey takes us to a much better place.   This place sits about an hour and a half from Washington DC near Culpeper, Va.  It is Germanna.

Germanna was a German settlement in the Colony of Virginia, settled in two waves, first in 1714 and then in 1717.  The name Germanna was selected by the Lieutenant Governor, Alexander Spotswood, and was meant to reflect on both the Germans who sailed to Virginia from Europe and the British Queen Anne, who was in power at the time.

Governor Spotswood was granted 86,000 acres of land in what was to become Spotsylvania County in 1720, of which the Germanna tract was the first portion.   He served in that capacity between 1710 and 1722.  He was eventually replaced by Hugh Drysdale as a result of disharmony between himself and the Privy Council.

Spotswood established the colony of German immigrants on the tract of land in 1714 to be partly used as a defense but mainly to help operate a newly developed iron works.

The Germanna colonies primarily consisted of the First Colony which was forty-two people from the Siegerland area in Germany.  They were brought over in the first wave in 1714 to work for Governor Spotswood.  The Second Colony of twenty families from the Palatinate, Baden and Wurttemberg areas were brought over in 1717.  Many German families from these two settlements eventually migrated south and westward from the Piedmont area.

Germanna sign from highway.

The site of the settlement is located in what is now known as Orange County along the banks of the Rapidan River.  Many of these Germanna families played roles in important events in early American history such as the American Revolution.

What is important about this event?  Well, according to our research our relative, Michael Holt, was in the second wave of German settlers.  That to me is an awesome discovery in a family tree.  My ancestor was a part of the second settlement in Virginia.  No matter how far my family tree may take me, I always end up close to home.

Basically in 1717, about eighty Germans from the Wuerttemberg, Baden and Palatinate area agree with some guy named Captain Tarbett to take them to Pennsylvania on a ship from London.  Captain Tarbett then hijacks the German settlers and takes them to Virginia where they become indentured servants to Lt. Governor Spotswood.   And that is how my ancestor ended up in Virginia.  Michael Holt is my sixth time great-grandfather.   He is a direct ancestor on my mother’s side.  So, we had to make a trip to the Germanna site to visit.

Pavers with ancestors names.

Now, the site of the settlement are large open fields and thickets of timber.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and traces of Governor Spotswood’s palatial mansion are still noticeable.   We pulled of the highway and parked up a small incline in front of a chained off driveway.  The visitor center was currently closed on the Sunday afternoon we were making our trek home.  We walked a few yards and saw the small center sitting there.

Photos from Germanna visitor center.

Behind the center was a small garden, a monument dedicated to the families of the first and second colony of settlers and a large bell.  Names carved into the large stone monument of the original families stood high above the circular path laid with the descendant’s names in stone pavers.   It was a sight to see.  I felt a sense of pride standing there, knowing my relative was among these brave me and women who left everything behind with the promise of a new life and land in the colonies.  Little did they know that the new life they signed up for would have to be worked for over several years.

I wish that the visitor’s center would have been open at the time of our visit.  It would have been amazing to see more and to speak to someone about further research that would have been available to us there.  I hope to return one day and walk more of the grounds that my ancestor walked and where he worked for his freedom.   There is nothing but a few miles of highway between me and those answers.

Join me in the future as I research more of the Germanna Holts and their decendants in North Carolina.

Thanks for reading!


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