Seidenstricker/Silknitter Family

Historical Background
by Jack Silknetter

Having checked through genealogical records at the Family History Center of the Mormon Church in Lancaster and having received from the Main Mormon Library in Salt Lake City copies of the old records of the Lutheran Church in Duerkheim, Germany, here is how the family picture unfolds.

Johannes Sebastian Seidenstricker (translates into "silk knitter" --two  words in English--it's obviously a trade name), your original American ancestor, was born in Duerkheim. That's in the southwest corner of Germany, the Rhineland-Palatinate area, just outside Manheim and in the Rhine River Valley.

His parents were Philip Casimir Seidenstricker and Anna Maria Elizabeth Seidenstricker. On Sebastian's birth record his father is listed as a shoemaker.

He had three brothers and one sister---Johannes Philip (born 1711), Maria Magdalena (born 1720), Johannes Jacob (born 1724), and Otto Philip (born ?).

At that time in Germany, it was common to give a boy or girl a Biblical first name, and the second name became the actual given name. Sebastian's given name, for example, was Sebastian, but his Bible name was Johannes (John). His father's given name was Casimir, but his bible name was Philip.  His mother's given name was Maria; her Bible name was Anna. His brothers Philip and Jacob each had the Bible name of Johannes. His third brother, Otto, had the Bible name of Philip, but so that he would not be confused with his brother Philip, Otto's given name came first, his Bible name second. Otto is not a Bible name.

On October 11, 1740, in Duerkheim, Sebastian married an Anna Margaretha (unknown last name). According to church records, they had three sons---Johannes Heinerich (Henry), born in 1741; Johannes Lorentz, born in 1743; Michael, born ?. On the birth records Sebastian is also listed as a shoemaker.

According to Wm. Diederich of Virginia Beach, VA, who has also done research on the family, Sebastian had two other sons, Jacob and Philip. Mr. Diederich is also the one who informed me originally about Sebastian.  My own later research verified that Jacob and Philip were in fact sons of Sebastian. I could not, however, find Jacob and Philip in the German church records. But some of those records were so poorly written that even the German woman who was helping me at the Mormon Church could not read them. I assume Jacob and Philip were probably born in this country.

On the marriage record, Margaretha's maiden name is blotted with ink, but it could be Shaffers.

Docking records at the port of Philadelphia indicate that Sebastian arrived in America in 1750 aboard the vessel NANCY. I say "indicate." Here's why. Sebastian shows up in Lancaster County in 1757. Prior to that time docking records at Philadelphia show only one Seidenstricker, J. Henry in 1750. Behind his name is a mark, showing that he could not write and that the dock official wrote his name for him. It's possible that the official by mistake recorded not Sebastian's name but the name of Sebastian's 9 year old son, Johannes Heinerich.

The whole matter would be made easier if the names of everyone on board a vessel had been recorded. But docking records gave only the names of males over 16 years of age.

According to those docking records, no Seidenstrickers came into this country through other major eastern ports prior to 1750.

Sebastian's brothers Johannes Philip and Otto Philip arrived in Philadelphia in 1764 aboard the BRITANNIA.  It's possible that Sebastian brought his sister, Maria Magdalena, with him to America. In 1775 Johannes Philip, Sebastian's brother, recorded a will in the Berks County Court House. In it he left his possessions to his wife, his brothers Otto and Sebastian, and his sister, Maria Magdalena "Miller". This action implies that Maria was living in this country. An interesting aside -- Johannes Philip was godfather to Sebastian's son Philip according to the will. And to Philip, Johannes Philip willed his gun.

As said before, two of Sebastian's brothers, Otto Philip and Johannes Philip, arrived in Philadelphia in 1764 aboard the BRITANNIA. Johannes Philip and his wife apparently had no children. They settled in Berks County.  Otto Philip and his wife, Anna Christina, settled in Dauphin County. According to church records in Duerkheim, they had a daughter, Maria Magdalena (obviously named after Otto's sister), born in 1751, and a son, Johannes Peter, born in 1754. In 1769 a Maria Magdalena Seidenstricker married a Henry Umholtz in Dauphin County. Otto's daughter?---and she would have been 18.

Why did Sebastian come to America? Who knows? but from 1740-1748 the War of the Austrian Succession had been fought, and the Seven Years War (French and Indian War in this country) would begin in 1756. Frederick the Great of Prussia was trying to make Prussia a major power in Europe at the expense of Austria. Other countries like the German States (Germany was not yet unified), England, France, and Russia were getting involved on one side or the other to look after their own interests. Central Europe was involved in military turmoil. Sebastian may have left to get his family out of danger. Or, maybe he left to avoid religious persecution. The southern German states were a Catholic stronghold, and Sebastian's family was Lutheran.

In fact, religious freedom could have been the major reason. In his article "Henry Stiegel and His Associates," written for the "Lancaster County Historical Society Journal," George Heiges refers to immigrants from the Palatinate as "distressed Protestants."

From 1750-1757 Sebastian may have been an Indentured Servant, working in the Philadelphia area for someone who paid his travel expenses to America, if he could not have paid them himself. Sebastian finally shows up on the tax records in the Rapho Township, Lancaster County, from 1757 to 1788.

Sebastian had an uncle in Germany, Johannes Martin Seidenstricker, who, according to church records, married a Magdalena Seibels. They had six children, who would have been Sebastian's cousins---Johannes (born 1707), Anna Barbara (born 1708), Maria Julianna (born 1714), Elizabeth (born 1716), Peter (born 1718), and Hannah Magdalena (born 1721). On the birth records Johannes Martin is listed as a carpenter.

Here's an interesting detail---in 1761, Sebastian and Anna Barbara Seidenstricker were sponsors for the baptism of a friend's child at Zion Lutheran church in Manheim, Lancaster County. Barbara is listed as Sebastian's wife. I can find no trace of Margaretha in this country. Maybe Anna Barbara was Sebastian's second wife, and maybe the children born in this country were born to her. Or maybe Margaretha died after bearing all Sebastian's children, and Sebastian married Anna Barbara late in life.???

But, I have another theory. I think Anna Barbara and Anna Margaretha are the same person. Here's why; In 1793 Sebastian's son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Barbara, had their daughter Margaretta Barbara baptized by the Rev. Traugott F. Illing of Churchtown, Lancaster County. According to the reverend's records, the sponsor at that baptism was Margaretta Barbara Seidenstricker. She was also a sponsor at the baptism of Michael's daughter Maria Barbara in 1795.

You'll remember that Biblical names were not always used in identifying a person. And since Margaretha is German for Margaretta, the Margaretta at the baptism could have been Sebastian's wife, Anna Margaretha. But what about the name Barbara? It could be her whole name was Anna Margaretha Barbara and that she used her given name on formal occasions but preferred informally to be called Anna Barbara.

And isn't it interesting that Michael and his wife had a daughter named Margaretta Barbara. Named after Michael's mother?

You'll remember that Sebastian had a cousin named Anna Barbara. Heaven forbid he brought her to this country and later married her. I think we can throw out that idea.

Maybe Margaretta Barbara was one of Micahel's sister-in-law. No. There is no trace of Johannes Lorentz in this country, and brother Henry's wife's name was Dorothea. True, brother Jacob's wife's name was Anna Margaretta, but by the time of the baptism in 1793, Jacob had moved his family to Virginia. By 1793 brother Philip had moved his family to Dauphin County.

Another clue that I'm right---the Census of 1790 shows Sebastian's son Michael's household consisting of two males (one 16 or over, one 15 or under) and two females (no ages given). By 1790 Rev. Illing's baptism records show that Michael had one son, age 1; Michael would be the older male. He had no daughters yet, so if one female is his wife, who's the other one? Is it Margaretha come to live with son Michael's family following the possible death of Sebastian in 1788?

I know the facts are not there to prove it, but I feel strongly thatAnna Barbara Seidenstricker, Margaretta Barbara Seidenstricker, and AnnaMargaretha Seidenstricker are the same person, the widow of Sebastian.  One way I could find out for certain is by checking the Duerkheim Lutheran Church records for her birth and baptism records. I have looked but found nothing. Maybe she wasn't even baptized in Duerkheim Lutheran.

Besides, I'm not even certain of her last name because of that darn ink splot.

I wish the church records of Zion Lutheran Church in Manheim, Lancaster County, were more complete. I feel that was Sebastian's home church because he lived nearby, and records at the church show that Sebastian and Anna Barbara communed there several times. I think those records would give us a definite answer to Anna Barbara's real identity. Unfortunately, the early records of that church are very incomplete.

Records at Cocalico Reformed Church, Lancaster County, show a Maria Elizabeth Seidenstricker (you'll remember that was Sebastian's mother's name) being confirmed there in 1773. She was 15. An Abraham Seidenstricker was also confirmed there in 1777 at age 16. That means Maria would have been born in 1758, Abraham in 1761. They could easily have been Sebastian's children because in 1758 he would have been 41; in 1761 he would have been 44. Since they were not in Rapho Township with Sebastian, they could have been hired out.

Church records at First Reformed Church in Lancaster City show that an Elizabeth Seidenstricker was married there in 1780 to a Sigmund Schauer. If this was the same Elizabeth who was confirmed at Cocalico Reformed Church, she would have been 22. That makes sense. I checked the census of 1790 for PA but found no Sigmund Schauer. Apparently he had moved his family out of the state.

I found no trace of Sebastian's son Johannes Lorentz except his birth record and no trace of Abraham except his confirmation record. And so it seems as though by 1780 Sebastian's family in PA consisted of Sebastian, Anna Barbara and four of the sons---Henry, Jacob, Michael and Philip.

Sebastian disappeared from the scene in 1788, probably through death; he would have been 71.

I know this story has some assumptions in place of facts, but the assumptions make sense on the basis of facts that are available. Again, I wish the early records of Zion Lutheran Church in Manheim were more complete. Those records I feel would answer a lot of questions.

Jack Silknetter 
2684 Harrisburg Pike,
Lancaster, PA 17601

Tel: (717) 898-2100.

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