Garlinger Family History

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Douglas W. Garlinger
Ultimate Family Tree, ver 2.7
GARLINGER  Project Version 2
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Introduction by: Douglas W. Garlinger

This Web Page outlines the history of the Garlinger Family of Bryant, Jay County, Indiana. It is intended to provide the reader with the historical background and setting for my direct line ancestors as well as the dates of  known personal events in their lives.

My research has established a direct connection to Christoph Gerlinger of the Alsace Line of the Gerlinger's. Christoph settled in the Alsace region of France in 1657 after serving as a soldier in the Thirty Years War. Christoph was born around 1620 in the Tauber River Valley region of Franconia in Southern Germany near the villages of Creglingen, Munster and Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

The main Franconian line of Garlinger/Gerlinger appears in documents written in 1411 kept by a Munster priest. The Garlinger/Gerlinger name appears in the 16th Century in the following villages of the present day district of Mergentheim in the province of Baden-Wuerrtemburg: Schirmbach (1553), Klingen (1538), Creglingen (1563) and Strechenthal (1572). The name does not seem to be derived from the village of Gerlingen which exists in Southern Germany as well as Westphalia. The name is most likely related to the old German stem ger (= spear) to which suffixes have been added. A Medieval  ancester may have worked for a Knight in Arms and cared for the Knight's equipment as a "spear-handler" or "spear-reacher" derived from the German Ger-Langer.  Another possibility is the derivation from erl, Anglo-Saxon for "free man." The German name Kerlinger is likely derived in the same fashion. The names Gerlinger and Kerlinger can both be found in Middle Franconia from the early 1400's.

One of the oldest known residences of the main Franconian line of the Gerlinger's is in the village of Creglingen. The "Schafof" or "Shephard's House" was the residence of Hans Gerlinger as far back as 1650.  I visited this very property in 1990 and found Georg Gerlinger and his family still living in the house after nearly 350 years. Creglingen sits on the Tauber River and is approximately 7 miles from the medieval city Rothernburg ob der Tauber. This entire area of the Tauber River valley represents the ancestral homeland of the Garlinger/Gerlinger family. A direct document linking Christoph Gerlinger to the main Franconian line has never been found. The destruction of Protestant churches and Church records by the Catholic League Armies during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) suggests that the birth records and family records of the Gerlinger's prior to this time will never be found. However, other city records clearly show that the Tauber River region was the original source for the suname Garlinger/Gerlinger. In the one hundred years from 1598 to 1698, a Gerlinger has held the postion of village mayor 14 times and many other offices such as quartermaster, village valuer and others.

In 1657, Christoph Gerlinger settled in Weitersweiler, Alsace, he became the patriarch of the Alsatian line of Gerlinger's. Descendants of Christoph and Catharina Gerlinger still live in nearby Grossbundenbach and Kleinbundenbach across the German border. The first known Gerlinger to come to America was Maria Caterina Gerlinger, the great-grand-daughter of Christoph Gerlinger. Maria Caterina (Gerlinger) GREINER arrived in Philadelphia on September 5, 1749 aboard the ship "Phoenix" She settlled in Whitemarsh Township near Philadelphia with her husband Andrea Greiner, of the Alsace. The first known male Gerlinger to arrive in America was the great-grandson of Christoph Gerlinger, Johannes Georgius Gerlinger. He likely sailed from Rotterdam, with a stop in Crowes, England and arrived in America around 1763. the trip took about 10 weeks. He likely came under the terms of slavery known by the polite term of "indentured servitude."  At the time of his arrival, the population of Philadelphia was around 20,000 people. Georgius Gerlinger soon had his name anglicized to George Garlinger by the English record keepers. He settled in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia a few blocks north of Independence Hall. George Garlinger served in the Revoltionary War in the Pennsylvania German Regiment and the Philadelphia Militia and attended St. Michael and Zion Church in Philadelpia where Lutheran Church records were kept on some of his family.

The German pronounciation of "GERLINGER" is to roll the "R" as in "GARE-ALL", rhyming with "Carol" and "INGER" rhyming with "singer". The Lutheran clergy in America generally recorded the name as Gerlinger, but when the family dealt with the English Colonial authorities the spelling was often listed as Garlinger. The term "Pennsylvania Dutch" comes from a similar misunderstanding. When early German immigrants were asked their nationality, they would reply "Deutsche" meaning German. The English thought they were saying "Dutch." Other Gerlinger's who came from the Palatinate and southern Germany before 1830 generally had their name anglicised to Garlinger. This is primarily because the immigrants could not read or write in German or English. After 1830, as Gerlinger's came to America they were educated and able to retain the orignal spelling of the German name Gerlinger.

If you wonder what kind of welcome these German immigrants received in the city of brotherly love then consider the following excerpts from comments by Benjamin Franklin:

"Few of their children in the country know English......the signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages, and some places only German. They make all of their bonds and legal instruments in their own language, which (though I think it ought not to be), are allowed in our courts...unless the stream of importation could be turned from this to other colonies......they will soon outnumber us....and will in my opinion, be not able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious."

The family history of George Garlinger's descendants is the history of America. They pushed westward from Pennsylvania, to Maryland, Ohio and to Indiana where I live today. Other descendants have settled as far as Honolulu in the US and Sidney in Australia. You can follow the descendant links from Christopher Gerlinger in the Alsace to my father, Leon Garlinger in Bryant, Indiana. If the Garlinger you are interested in is not in my direct line you can likely locate them by carefully searching the Garlinger Descendants List and Index of Names..


You are coming in on a conversation which began long before you were born
and will continue long after you are gone.
-Douglas W. Garlinger
 Indianapolis, Indiana
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