In this type of post, I try to stitch together the pieces of information we’ve found on one ancestor.
(Last updated: January 6, 2018: Added family stories section)
My great-great-grandfather Johannes “John” Pallien was born in a village called Hermeskeil in southwestern Germany. He was baptized at Hermeskeil’s St. Martin’s Catholic Church in February 1867. His parents were Hilari Pallien and Helena Eiden.1 (I’ve put some basic information about Hermeskeil at the bottom of this post.)
Arrival in the United States
John Pallien emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1887 or 1888, when he was about 21 years old.
He seems to have settled in Scranton straight away, and he married my great-great-grandmother Barbara Lang on July 07, 1888. They were married at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on River Street in Scranton’s Southside neighborhood.
The earliest address I can find for the couple is on the 1900 Federal Census. At that time, they were renting a home at 1320 South Irving Ave in Scranton, PA. John and Barbara had six children then: John, Mary, Annie, Bennie, Frank and Maggie. (Frank is my great grandfather.) G-G-Grandpa John was working in a steel mill, per the census, and was 33 years old.
This rented house on South Irving Ave was less than a five-minute walk to Barbara’s parents home at 715 Fig Street.
Home ownership and many more little ones!
By the time of the 1910 Federal Census, G-G-Grandpa John Pallien was 43 years old and owned a house at 1510 Stone Avenue in Scranton. He lived there with his wife Barbara, nine children and one grandchild. John and Barbara are listed as having 12 children, 10 still living. The children at home in 1910 are:
- Mary, age 19
- Anne, 18
- Benny, 17
- Frank, 14
- Maggie, 12
- Helen, 7
- Joseph, 5
- Lorretta, 3
- Stephanie, 4 months
- Leo Pallien, grandson, age 2.
John’s occupation is listed as: Engineer, Steam Engine.
Per the 1920 Federal Census, the family still lived in the same house, but the street name had been changed from Stone Avenue to South Webster Avenue. John, age 53, is working in a brewery. Ten children are living at home.
1930 Federal Census – At this time, he is listed as a fireman in a brewery, living at 1510 S. Webster. A fireman was a worker who fed coal to keep the fires going. The brewery’s name is E. Robinson’s, per death certificate. John, age 63, possibly worked at the E. Robinson’s Sons now-demolished plant at 7th and Linden Streets in Scranton.
His wife Barbara Lang Pallien passed away in 1932. John Pallien died at home in 1948 at age 81. At the time, a few of his adult children and grandchildren were living with him at the South Webster Avenue home.
I recently talked with my great aunt who shared some childhood memories she had of John Pallien, who was her grandfather. I’m writing this based on my memory and notes of our conversation, so hopefully I’ve gotten it right.
I asked her if Grandpa John Pallien spoke with a German accent, and she said she doesn’t remember him having accented English– he spoke very well. However, she remembers at the end of his life, seeing his daughters gathered around his bed and hearing them recite prayers in German.
To the best of her knowledge, he had been an only child, and his mother died at a young age. His father remarried.
She also remembers him as a strict parent and grandparent. One childhood memory involved a sewing machine that was in the living room that had all sorts of knobs and buttons. They were nearly irresistible playthings for a small child! But it was made very clear by Grandpa that you never touched that sewing machine without permission.
On that same theme, there was a pear tree in the yard, and you could not take a pear without asking, not even one that was on the ground [the injustice of it all! 😉 ]. It’s worth noting here that Grandpa Pallien raised six daughters, three sons, and at least one grandchild…I’m sure he had to be strict to stay sane! When I shared that thought with her, my Great Aunt recalled that dating and boyfriends were also considered “verboten” in Grandpa’s household. She remembered something about a young man being chased away with a broom.
For years the Pallien family here in America would send money back to family in Germany. Then one day a letter arrived with a photograph of the family in Germany all finely dressed, enjoying themselves at a cafe. It struck Grandpa John that the family “back home” was much better off than the family here in Scranton! And so the deliveries of money were halted. I can’t say I blame him!
As an aside, it’s amazing to me that Grandpa Pallien was supporting a family of 12 as a blue-collar worker, and yet he managed to send money to his family in Germany. He must have scrimped and sacrificed to be able to do that. It’s possible that his children who were in the workforce also contributed some money to “help out” the family back in the fatherland.
My aunt believes that when John Pallien’s parents passed away, they left a legacy, and a park was built in their name in Germany. That’s something that she’s heard.
One funny story she shared was that John Pallien frequented a movie theater where he had “his” seat: one seat in the theater where he always sat and that he pretty much considered his own. I get the impression it was a small-town atmosphere with many regular theater goers who understood that this seat “belonged” to John– she said that if he arrived and someone was sitting in his seat, they’d move!
The story goes that one time Grandpa arrived at the theater to find a young man occupying “his” seat. Grandpa, who at this time walked with a cane, asked him to move, but the kid insolently refused. Well, you didn’t get smart with Grandpa Pallien. He took his cane and whacked the young whippersnapper across the knees! The young man sprang up and rushed to another seat! Way to show him, Grandpa! 🙂
I’m so glad that my Aunt was kind enough to share these memories with me.
I’m still working on putting together more information about John and digging further back into the Pallien family tree in Germany. In the meantime, here’s some info about John Pallien’s birthplace, Hermeskeil, Germany:
Hermeskeil is a village located in the hilly Hunsrück plateau of southwestern Germany. Today, Hermeskeil has a population of about 5,700, and the people in this area speak a dialect of German known as Hunsrückisch. The climate in the Hunsrück region tends to be rainy with mist in the mornings, according to one source.
Trier Witch Trials
Hermeskeil is situated 15 miles southeast of the town of Trier, and it is part of the Trier district (districts are kind of like counties in the United States). In the 1500s, the villages in the Trier district and the town of Trier itself were the settings for what were possibly the largest witch trials in Europe.
The witch trials that took place at Trier in western Germany in the years from 1581 to 1593 was one of the largest in Europe. The persecutions started in the rural diocese of Trier in 1581 and reached the city itself in 1587, where it was to lead to the death of about 368 people. The number of deaths in the diocese as a whole is unknown.Source
Some sources say as many as 1,000 people may have been burned as witches in the Trier region. Compare that to the 20 who were executed in Salem, Mass. I haven’t been able to trace the birthplaces of John’s parents yet to find out whether or not our Pallien ancestors were in this region when the witch trials were taking place, but I think there’s a very good chance that they were.
A few more family pictures (all of these family photos were provided by my Aunt Kay and cousin Erin):
- John Pallien Sr (1867 – 1948)
- Frank F Pallien (1897 – 1941)
son of John Pallien Sr
- My grandfather
son of Frank F Pallien
- My mother
- John Pallien Sr (1867 – 1948)
Hermeskeil Tourism Brochure 2016 PDF (written in German)
(1) “Deutschland Geburten und Taufen, 1558-1898,” database, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NKJJ-18X : 28 November 2014), Joannes Pallien, 24 Feb 1867; citing ; FHL microfilm 596,109, accessed 17 Jan 2018.
(2) Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1964
(3) U.S., Naturalization Records, 1840-1957