where there’s a will: unearthing my swiss mennonite heritage

52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, 2018; week 9 prompt:  Where There’s a Will.
Where There’s a Will:  Genealogy research piques my interest in history like nothing else:  it provides me the will to literally pore through the most otherwise “boring” material.

Bishop Hans HERR.  (Image, public domain.)

My present fascination?  The Swiss.  Specifically, the 16th-century period when Anabaptists were “rooted out” of Europe.

Where I previously thought I descended from just one Mennonite line — that of my 8th-Great-Gramp Bishop Hans HERR (either 16511, or, 1639,2 Switzerland–17253 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Colony, America; buried Willow Street Mennonite Church Cemetery, Willow Street, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States of America4) — closer study reveals that I have in my ancestry a good number of interconnected Mennonite families.

I’ve only just begun to untangle all the connections, but the following helped me along greatly:

In an article in the October, 19195, National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Professor Oscar Kuhns wrote:

“From time to time single families and individuals had…sought refuge in the Palatinate, where Anabaptist communities had existed since 1527. In 1671, the first considerable emigration took place, when a party of seven hundred persons left their native land, and settled on the banks of the Rhine.5

“The movement…resulted in the settlement of Lancaster County [Pennsylvania],… … Of all [the Anabaptists’] doctrines, that of refusing to bear arms was the most obnoxious to the state, which depended on its citizens in times of aggression. It must be confessed that the Swiss Anabaptists were the most intractable of people. Exiled again and again, they persisted in returning to their native land.

“In 1711, however, the Mennonites of Berne were offered free transportation down the Rhine, permission to sell their property and to take their families with them, on condition, however, that they pledge themselves never to return to Switzerland. Their friends in Holland urged them to do this[*], and especially through the efforts of the Dutch ambassador in Switzerland, the exportation was finally carried out. About this time began the settlement of Lancaster County by Swiss Anabaptists, and undoubtedly many of the above were among them. …”
* [“The relations between the Anabaptists of Holland and Switzerland had always been close. The former had subscribed large sums of money to alleviate the sufferings of the exiled Swiss in the Palatinate, and a society had been formed for the purpose of affording systematic assistance to all their suffering fellow-believers.”]

In the archives of Amsterdam, we find a letter of thanks to Holland written by Martin Kundig, Hans Herr, Christian Herr, Martin Oberholtzer, Martin Meili and Jacob Muller. This letter was dated June 27, 1710, and states that they were about to start for the New World. October 23 of the same year, we find a patent for ten thousand acres of land on the Pequa Creek, Conostogue [sic; Conestoga, Pennsylvania] (later a part of Lancaster County, which was not organized till 1729) made out in the names of Hans Herr and Martin Kundig, who acted as agents for their countrymen. … Kundig and Herr seem to have been the leaders of this emigration.”5

Note, top of Quarterly page: ” ‘Without genealogy the study of history is lifeless.’ — John Fiske.” I couldn’t agree more… 🙂

Researching intensely for a couple of weeks, doing my best to accurately connect dots as I made a quick genealogy sketch of people connected to “my” Hans Herr, I then read Kuhn’s piece in the Quarterly again, the names in the 1710 letter now going ping ping ping in my head as I recognized one after another.

Martin KÜNDIG: aka KENDIG, it turned out (born about 1648 Switzerland–died 1725 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Colony, America), is my 9th great-uncleson of my 9th great-grandfather John Jakob KENDIG, I (1620 Switzerland–1694 Switzerland) — and, husband of my 9th great-aunt Elizabeth (HERR) KENDIG (abt 1644 “of” Switzerland–abt 1674 Germany);

Hans HERR (1639 Switzerland–1725 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Colony, America), of course, my 8th great-grandfather;

Christian HERR (1680 Switzerland–1749 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Colony, America), my 7th great-granddaddy;

Martin OBERHOLTZER: I am still looking for direct connections there — I just haven’t found them yet;

Martin MEILI, I: aka MEYLIN (1665 Switzerland–1749 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Colony, America), is the father-in-law of my 7th great-aunt Anna (HERR) MEYLIN (1711 Lancaster, Pennsylvania Colony, America–1787 Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA), daughter of my aforementioned 7th great-grandpapa Christian HERR; and,…

Jacob MÜLLER: I am pReTtTtY sure although not yet pOsItIvE that, he is Jakob MÜLLER (1663 Switzerland–1739 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Colony, America) the father-in-law of my 1st cousin 8x removed Abraham HERR (1700 Switzerland–1785 Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Colonial America).

As I said, I’ve only just begun to unearth all my Swiss Mennonite ties, but I’m delighted with what I’ve thus far learned.  All these ancestors who stood up for religious freedom… Because this, boys & girls, is why we keep church & state separated in the U.S. of A.:  to thumb our nose at God, N-O — RATHER, to ENSURE that ALL citizens may WORSHIP AS they CHOOSE: no state-mandated churches.

Amen.  God bless.
1 “Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Mennonite Vital Records, 1750-2014,” “Hans Herr,” Ancestry.com, at both https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60592&h=862303&ssrc=pt&tid=79831532&pid=34405383251&usePUB=true , &, https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60592&h=862301&ssrc=pt&tid=79831532&pid=34405383251&usePUB=true , accessed Mar., 2018.
2 “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1708-1985,” “Rev Hans Herr,” Ancestry.com, at https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=2451&h=2021866676&ssrc=pt&tid=79831532&pid=34405383251&usePUB=true , accessed Mar., 2018.
3 “North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000,” Ancestry.com, specifically, Genealogical record of Reverend Hans Herr and his direct lineal descendants : From his Birth A.D. 1639 to the present time containing the names, etc. of 13223 persons, by Theodore W. Herr, published 1908, at https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/61157/46155_b289964-00016?pid=1494511&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D61157%26h%3D1494511%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D79831532%26pid%3D34405383251%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=79831532&personid=34405383251&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true , accessed Mar., 2018.
4 FindAGrave.com, “Rev Hans Herr Jr,” memorial number 6812531, at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6812531/hans-herr , accessed Mar., 2018.8.
5 “Switzerland Plays A Part In The Founding Of The American Nation,” Professor Oscar Kuhns, Middletown, Connecticut, in the October, 1919, “National Genealogical Society Quarterly,” Volume VIII, Number 3; pages 33-34.  Online at https://books.google.com/books?id=BgjTAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA35&lpg=RA1-PA35&dq=%22SWITZERLAND+PLAYS+A+PART+IN+THE+FOUNDING+OF+THE+AMERICAN+NATION%22+By+Prof.+Oscar+Kuhns,+Middletown&source=bl&ots=_mphAVAPFU&sig=KblpK34vjggL_KQbG7qgpkK0ZrA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjd_YOjr-_ZAhUV92MKHQIqDrQQ6AEILDAA#v=onepage&q=%22SWITZERLAND%20PLAYS%20A%20PART%20IN%20THE%20FOUNDING%20OF%20THE%20AMERICAN%20NATION%22%20By%20Prof.%20Oscar%20Kuhns%2C%20Middletown&f=false , accessed Mar., 2018.


This entry was posted in 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2018 Edition, Ancestry, Bishops . Ministers . Pastors . Preachers . Reverends, Family HIstory, Genealogy and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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