Palatine Roots:    INTRODUCTION

     Genealogy? Humbug!

     In the years just before his death in 1976, my father, Major General Thomas R. Rampy, tried to interest me in the investigation he was making into the origins of the Rampy family. Since he was then living in Falls Church, Virginia, it was convenient for him to take advantage of his proximity to the enormous body of records in the Library of Congress and the National Archives. He was able to trace the ancestry back to Peter Rampy in colonial South Carolina, but no farther. I was less than excited by the information and even less anxious to spend my time searching dusty files.
     Ten years after my father's death, and still not the least interested in pursuing genealogical research, I happened to visit the LDS Library in Salt Lake City, the location of the largest and most complete collection of genealogical data to be found anywhere in the world. While my wife searched for some information relating to her family at the request of her aunt, I tried to kill time by hunting for Rampys. That's when the bug bit!
     Since that day, we have made several trips to Salt Lake City, spent hours in the local LDS branch libraries, visited the British Library and Public Records Offices in London, and searched through ancient records in various cities in Germany, including the ancestral village of Meisenheim.  It has been a fascinating and rewarding pursuit, and one that will not soon end. My only regret is that it came too late to share with the one who would have enjoyed it so much.
     In the 1950s my father was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, as Comptroller of the United States Air Forces in Europe. It is ironic that he, who was so anxious to learn as much as possible about his roots during his later years, at that time had no idea that just an hour's drive to the southwest his forefathers had flourished three centuries earlier.

The Rampy name.
     One of the greatest challenges faced by the genealogist is the diversity he encounters in the spelling of a surname. Every possible variation must be considered, and often there is reason to question whether a particular version truly represents the family line which is being investigated or some spurious red herring.  We who search the records for Rampy family information are among the more fortunate investigators because our surname rather quickly stabilized with respect to spelling, and also because that spelling appears to be traceable to one, and only one, ancestor in America, namely Johan Nicholas Rempi, who arrived in Charles Town (Charleston), South Carolina, in 1764.
     Although the very first relevant colonial records use "Rumpe" and "Rimben", the surname almost immediately settled on a spelling which began "Ram-". This could have resulted from the English interpretation of the German pronunciation or an association with the very common Scots-Irish surname "Ramsay", or a combination of both factors.
     The surname ending must have sounded like "-bee" or, more often, "-pee", because the spellings in the eighteenth century German churchbooks usually show "-by", "-py", "-pi", or "-pie", indicating a long "e" vowel sound.
     In any case, during the early 1800s we see the spelling "Rampey" preferred in South Carolina, but "Rampy" adopted by those who moved to Alabama in the 1830s. Those two spellings (and sometimes "Rampee") appear to be unique to the line which originated with Johan Nicholas. No other family appears to have adopted them, even though their original German surnames were identical or very similar. Instead, we find American families whose names are spelled "Rempy", "Rimby," "Rampe" and "Rempe", all originating in Germany and probably related in some way to each other and to the Rampys, but only those of us who descended from the Charles Town immigrant of 1764 are known as "Ramp(e)ys".
    Many of the original German surnames underwent rather drastic revision as they were anglicized during the years before and immediately after the Revolution.  For example, the "Loyalist Claims" of 1783 list John Swillan (Zwilling), Christian Sing (Zang), Nicholas Crane (Gream), George Weaver (Webber) and others whose names had changed beyond recognition.  The Zimmermans  became  Timmermans  and Schieldknechts became Shelnuts, so the transformation from Rempi to Rampy seems relatively inconsequential.
     In this narrative the surname is generally shown as it appears in the records, while the spelling "Rampy" has been chosen to refer to the entire body of Johan Nicholas' descendants.
 

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