Seidenstricker/Silknitter families

Arrival in Pennsylvania

The land which subsequently came to be known as "Pennsylvania" was granted by King Charles II of England to William Penn in 1681, in liquidation of a debt of 16,000 which the British crown owed Admiral Sir William Penn, Penn's deceased father. He had fee-simple title to more than 40,000 square miles of territory. It was the largest tract ever granted in America to a single individual. Penn was made the proprietary of the province, invested with the privilege of creating a political government.

In 1682, Penn, who was a Quaker preacher, sailed to America where he founded the City of Philadelphia and helped establish Pennsylvania in accordance with Quaker principles.

Under his charter, Penn was also governor of the province, which he and his sons held as proprietors, with the exception of about two years under William III, until the revolution of 1776. Thus, in a strict sense, Pennsylvania was not the colony of any foreign power. But as a British subject, Penn owed allegiance to the Crown, and while the government of Pennsylvania was proprietary in form, it was English in substance, and non-British subjects were considered foreigners.

At the time Pennsylvania was founded, Germany was in a state of religious turmoil, disunion, and depression from the results of the Reformation and the Thirty Year's War.   Her once-peaceful valleys, thriving fields, and vine-clad hills had become the hunting grounds of political and religious fanatics.

Penn and other Quaker missionaries toured the German states promising religious and political liberty in Pennsylvania. The response was immediate since a considerable number of small sects had sprung up and were being actively persecuted as heretics by the larger Protestant groups.

The first German immigration to Pennsylvania of which a specific record survives is that of a colony of Mennonites, often called "German Quakers," led by Francis Daniel Pastorius. They came in two sections. The America, Captain Joseph Wasey, master, landed at Philadelphia on 20 August 1683 with Pastorius, eight Germans, and an English maid. The main body followed shortly afterwards. They came with Captain Jeffries on the ship, "Concord", landing 6 October 1683.  Shortly afterwards, on 24 October of the same year, Pastorius founded "Germantown" for them, where 42 people settled in 12 homes. Most of them were weavers, the rest were farmers and tradesman. These were the German "Pilgrim Fathers," who sought and found freedom of worship in Pennsylvania.

From then until 1702, such groups as the Tunkers, Labadists, New Born, New Mooners, Separatists, Zion's Brueder, Ronsdorfer, Inspired Quietists, Gichtellians, Depellians, Mountain Men, River Brethren, Brinser Brethren, The Society of Women in the Wilderness, and the Amish migrated to the tolerant province.

The later German migrations (after 1702) consisted of more orthodox church people, mostly Lutherans and the German Reformed, or Calvinists.

By 1727 there were perhaps as many as 15,000 Germans and their
descendants in the province of Pennsylvania, settled mainly in the area comprising the present-day counties of Northampton, Bucks, Lancaster, Lehigh, Dauphin, Lebanon, and York. However, the names and dates of arrival of only a few hundred of the thousands of German immigrants coming through the Port of Philadelphia prior to 18 September 1727 are known.

From that date on, the colonial government required ships' captains to submit lists of their German and other Continental passengers due to a growing concern about the potential dangers of the sizable influx of non-English speaking immigrants whose political antecedents were uncertain. In addition, adult males over 16 were required to sign two oaths: an oath of allegiance and an oath of abjuration. These requirements were suspended in 1775.

In 1785, the Commonwealth reinstated the ship list requirement, but, of course, no more oaths of allegiance to the King of England or abjuration of foreign rulers and prelates were demanded. In 1808, even the ship listings were discontinued.

Unfortunately, not all of these early immigration records have survived. Of the 324 German-bearing ships arriving at Philadelphia between 1727 and 1775, captain’s lists of only 138 ships have survived. In many cases, the records of oath signers enable one to fill in the gaps where the captains' lists are missing. But since many male passengers did not sign the oaths, these records are not a wholly adequate substitute. In all, the lists contain the names of 29,887 of an estimated 65,000 passengers on these ships.

Moreover, such records were required only at the Port of Philadelphia, while thousands of other German immigrants came to America through the ports of Boston, New York, Baltimore, Charleston, and Savannah.

From the lists that are available, we are able to fix the date of entry of only four adult male immigrants into Pennsylvania named "Seidensticker" or "Seidenstricker."  One of these arrived in 1750 and the other three in 1764. We know that some of these brought wives and children with them, but there were others, notably Sebastian Seidenstricker and his family, of whom the records—if there were any—have not survived.

The original lists which have survived are preserved in the vaults of
the Pennsylvania Archives at Harrisburg.

These lists were published in 1934 in Ralph Beaver Strassburger's
three-volume work, Pennsylvania German Pioneers - Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia, 1727–1808," by the Pennsylvania German Society, Norristown, Pennsylvania.

Volume I presents the records pertaining to ships which arrived at
Philadelphia between 1727 and 1775. This includes the captains' lists and lists of the signers of each of the two oaths. Names of passengers and oath-signers are printed, but the spelling is as identical with the original as scholars of old German script could decipher.

Volume II contains reproductions of the signatures of persons who took the oaths during the period 1727 to 1775. Examination of these reproductions reveals how difficult it was to decipher the names of immigrants, most of whom wrote in a hand we would consider an illiterate scrawl. Many, of course, had others write their names for them and interpose this "signature" with their mark. The captains' lists are not reproduced since these were written in English script. The spelling of names on captains' lists should not be considered definitive since the ships' clerks in most cases wrote the names phonetically.

Volume III is a printed record of the captains' lists for the period 1785 to 1808 and the index to names contained in Volumes I and III.

An earlier attempt to publish the immigration records for the period of 1727–1775 is Israel Daniel Rupp's, A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and Other Immigrants in Pennsylvania From 1727–1776. The improved second edition was published by I. G. Kohler at Philadelphia in 1876.

M.V. Koger, in 1935, published an index to Rupp's work entitled, Index to The Names of 30,000 Immigrants—German, Swiss, Dutch, and French—Into Pennsylvania, 1727–1776. Supplementing The I. Daniel Rupp Ship Load Volume.

A comparison of Strassburger's and Rupp's works illustrates the difficulties of deciphering the signatures on the original lists. There are substantial differences in "translation" of the lists, compounded by Rupp's practice of "correcting" the spelling of the names as they were originally written. All in all, Strassburger's volume is far more accurate.

The earliest attempt to print these lists was made by the State of Pennsylvania in 1852 in its Pennsylvania Colonial Records. This printing is of some value as a third source of signature decipherment.

Herewith are presented the immigration records pertaining to four of the Seienstickers/Seidenstrickers who migrated to Pennsylvania during the  period of 1727–1808.

Johann Henrich Seidensticker, who could not write his own name, migrated to Pennsylvania aboard the English ship, "Nancy," in the summer of 1750, He probably was accompanied by his wife and his son, Henry, who was born at Siegen, Westfalen in September 1747. After arriving at Philadelphia, he took the required oaths of allegiance at the court house on Friday 31 August 1750, signed with his mark, and the clerk wrote his name as J. Henry Seydenstiker.  We believe he is the same Johann Henrich Seidensticker who was baptized 4 February 1720 at Siegen, Westfalen, Preussen, now West Germany, the son of Johann Ebert Seidensticker and his wife Anna Cathrin.

He had arrived shortly before on the Nancy which had sailed from Rotterdam with a stop at Cowes in England.  Although the records show that 270 persons were "imported" on the Nancy, only 88 adult males signed their names in the presence of Thomas Lawrence, Esq., mayor of the city.  This list is reproduced in "Pennsylvania German Pioneers" as List 155c, v. 1, pp. 442–443.  Perhaps the best known signer of this list was Henderick Willem Stiegel, who became famous as an ironmaster and glassmaker at Manheim, Lancaster County.

Fourteen years later, three men named "Seidenstricker" journeyed together to Pennsylvania. As part of a cargo of 250 whole freights (an adult, male or female, was counted as one freight; a child as a  half-freight), they arrived in the ship, "Britannia", Captain Thomas Arnot, master. This Ship had also departed from Rotterdam. On 26 September 1764, at the courthouse at Philadelphia, in the presence of Issac Jones, Esq., 112 adult foreign males took and subscribed the usual qualifying oaths. This list is presented in Pennsylvania German Pioneers as list 245c, v. I, pp. 692–694.  Two brothers, Johann Philip and Otto Philip Seidenstricker, signed their own names.  A third Seidenstricker signed with his mark after the clerk wrote his name as "Henry Seidenstreicher".

Undoubtedly, there were others—sisters, younger brothers, wives, and children, of those who took the oaths. The principal evidence for this is in the will of John Philip Seidenstricker dated 6 April 1775 which provides that "two parts shall come to my three blood relations, namely Sebastian Seidenstricker, Otto Philip Seidenstricker, my brothers, and my sister, Maria Magdalena Millerin." See Berks County will book v. 2, p. 213.

This will also clears up a potential problem resulting from the difficulty of deciphering the lists of names.  In Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Otto Philip Seidenstricker's name is shown as "Ott Philipp Seidensticker", which might lead one to conclude that "Seidensticker" was his actual surname. Another researcher, the late Rudolf P. Hommel of Richlandtown, Pennsylvania speculated that the two Philip Seidenstrickers may have been father and son because he read "Otto" as "Old" and concluded a clerk had probably written it to distinguish the two men. See Rudolf P. Hommel, The Seidenstrickers in America in The Pennsylvania Dutchman. Lancaster, Pa.: Pennsylvania Dutch Folklore Center, Inc., 1 September 1951, v. 3, no. 7, p. 6.

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