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Under Oath
12/11/2009
Answers for the beginner, the befuddled and anyone hitting a brick wall.
Q. My German ancestor in Maryland signed an oath of abjuration in 1765. What is it and where can I find it?
 
A. An oath of abjuration is a sworn statement renouncing a former allegiance. In your ancestor’s case, he shifted his loyalty to the British crown.
 
You might find your ancestor in Colonial Maryland Naturalizations by Jeffrey A. and Florence L. Wayand (Genealogical Publishing Co., out of print), which has information on naturalizations in Maryland between 1742 and 1775. The book is also online at World Vital Records ($39.96 a year). Some of those naturalization records are also in the Archives of Maryland Online.
 
Most German immigrants in Maryland came through Philadelphia, says professional genealogist Kory Meyerink. The primary source for tracing immigrants—especially Germans—who took the oath of abjuration is Ralph Beaver Strassburger and William John Hinke’s three-volume Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808 (Picton Press, $199.50). Volume 1 abstracts lists from 1727 to 1784. Volume 2 reproduces the original lists from 1727 to 1775. Volume 3 abstracts 1785-to-1808 lists and indexes all three volumes.
 
If your local library doesn’t have the books, you can borrow them on microfiche through a FamilySearch Family History Center. (Find one near you).
 
ProGenealogists’ Palatine Project has many annotated passenger lists from Strassburger and Hinke. See an early Pennsylvania German research guide here.
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