Seidenstricker/Silknitter Families


For more than 35 years, I have found genealogy to be a fascinating hobby and pastime. For me, collecting ancestors is more interesting than collecting stamps or coins. It is like putting together a gigantic jigsaw puzzle in that one starts with a few small pieces of information and through diligent and careful research gradually compiles a mosaic that illustrates how even the lives and destinies of ordinary and unremarkable persons are shaped and influenced by the course of large events.

My interest in the Seidenstricker genealogy stems from the discovery many years ago of my maternal great-great-grandfather Clifford Yost's gravestone, leaning against a tree and encircled by vines in the rear of an obscure Presbyterian churchyard in the small Lancaster County village of Churchtown, Pennsylvania.  Nearby were the graves of two of his children who had died in infancy and a number of gravestones of the Silknitter family.  Later, I learned that his wife's maiden name was "Elizabeth Silknitter" and thus began the task of tracing her antecedents.

The task is by no means completed. The purpose of this report is to record and document most of the information I have gathered to date, to assemble it in some logical form, and to provide clues for others interested in researching other branches of the family in the hope that they may discover additional facts and share them with me.

Inexperienced genealogical researchers, especially those interested in an uncommon name like "Seidenstricker", tend to assume that most of those who bear the name today are descended from one common ancestor or immigrant progenitor. This is the "we-are-all-cousins" theory, often exemplified by the family legend that there were once three brothers: one stayed home, one went west, and one went south. The existence of two or more persons with identical first and last names at the same point in time is more common than one would expect. When the name is somewhat unusual or the records relatively sparse (or not thoroughly searched), the inexperienced researcher will often construct a plausible history that actually merges the records of several separate personalities. Having expressed those caveats, I will proceed to outline and summarize my evaluation of the evidence gathered to date.

A man, Johann Henrich Seidensticker, who could not write his own name, migrated from one of the predominantly Protestant-German states to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1750.   According to research done by Dick and Carol Keister, this man was from Siegen in Westphalia and he was accompanied by his wife Anna Catherine and an infant son named Johann Henrich.   The group sailed from the port of Rotterdam aboard the English ship, "Nancy", and after arriving at Philadelphia, Johann Henrich Seidensticker took the required oaths of allegiance at the courthouse on 31 August 1750, signed with his mark, and the clerk wrote his name as "J. Henry Seydensticker".

To pay for their passage, the group may have signed on as redemptioners and the ship's captain, Thomas Coatam, may have sold them to the highest bidder to serve as indentured servants for a period of seven years. When released from his indenture, Johann Henrich and his family settled in  Lancaster County.

Another immigrant, Sebastian Seidenstricker, apparently migrated to Pennsylvania prior to 1757 but there is no record of the ship he travelled on or the date he arrived.  He first appears in the tax records of Rapho township of Lancaster County in 1757.

Persuaded perhaps by letters from Sebastian, his brothers, Johann Philip and Otto Philip, decided to migrate to Pennsylvania in the summer of 1764.  They sailed from the port of Rotterdam aboard the English ship, "Britannia", and took the usual qualifying oaths at the courthouse in Philadelphia on 26 September 1764.  Although they signed their names to the oaths, a fellow passenger named "Henry Seidenstricker" signed with his mark, and the clerk wrote his name down as "Henry Seidenstreicher". This Henry may have been a cousin.  Maria Magdalena Seidenstricker, a sister of Sebastian, John Philip, and Otto Philip, who was married to a man named "Miller", may have come to Pennsylvania with her husband and family aboard the "Britannia" in 1764. or at some other date.

John Philip Seidenstricker, a shoemaker, settled first in Coventry Township of Chester County where he was recorded on the list of taxables in 1766 as owning a cow. He moved to Caernarvon Township of Berks County in 1773 and died there sometime after 26 April 1775, which is the date he signed his will. He left his wife, Catharine, her choice of the cows, an advance, their bed, and her clothes—as well as a third of his estate. But the other two-thirds of his estate were willed to "my three blood relations, namely, Sebastian Seidenstricker, Otto Philip Seidenstricker, my brothers, and my sister, Maria Magdalena Millerin." He also left his godson, Philip Seidenstricker the younger, his gun and an advance.

Evidently John Philip Seidenstricker had no surviving children.

Otto Philip Seidenstricker's name does not appear in the tax records until 1771, when he was assessed on a horse and a cow in Lebanon Township of Lancaster County. Perhaps he served as an indentured servant during the intervening seven years from 1764 to 1771. He was still living in Lebanon Township in 1773, but on 27 February 1775 he gave a mortgage to William Hendel for 440, secured by 300 acres in Hanover Township, which was then in Lancaster County. This mortgage was finally released 12 May 1797. He lived on this farm the rest of his life, but by the time he signed his will on 9 September 1793, the township and county boundaries had been changed, and the farm was then located in East Hanover Township of Dauphin County. In his will, he left a life estate to his wife, Christine, providing that after her death his son, Philip, and two of his daughters, Anne Maria and Catharine, were to receive an equal share. To his third daughter, Magdalena, wife of Henry Umholtz, he bequeathed 50 "to be paid to her 2 years after the death of my wife, Christine, which is to be her share in full". My son-in-law, Henry Umholtz, to have 0.5.0 in full from my estate, and he shall from thence forth be debarred and excluded forever therefrom." Otto Philip's son, Philip, died without surviving children sometime prior to 13 March 1809, when his will was proved, and he left the bulk of his estate to his unmarried sister, Anna Maria. His two married sisters, Magdalena Umholtz and Catharine, wife of Christian Herman, each received $1.

Since John Philip left no children, and the male line of Otto Philip ceased with the death of his son, Philip, any other Seidenstrickers found in Lancaster County in the latter part of the 18th Century are probably descendants of Johann Heinrich Seidenstricker who came to Pennsylvania in 1750, or of Sebastian or the Henry Seidenstricker who came to Pennsylvania in 1764.  This assumes, of course, that there were no other Seidenstrickers who arrived on ships, the passenger lists of which have not survived.

Based on this assumption, I have concluded that Sebastian's children included Henry, Michael, Jacob, and Philip, all of whom took part in the War of the Revolution.  His daughters may have included Rosina, who married Michael Gick; Magdalena, who married John Quigley; and Elizabeth, who married Philip Miller. Henry settled in Caernarvon Township of Lancaster County, Jacob migrated to Virginia—first to Augusta County and finally to Greenbrier County—and Philip migrated to Dauphin County and then to Greenbrier County, Virginia.

However, as the reader will learn, there was a second Henry Seidenstricker who lived in Manheim and Warwick Townships of Lancaster County in the 1780s and 90s, also served in the War of the Revolution, and he or his son, Henry, may have migrated to Greene County, Ohio by 1815.  There was an Abraham Seidenstricker who served in a York County militia unit during the War of the Revolution and  eventually migrated to Maryland.   There was an Elizabeth Seidenstricker who married Sigmund Schauer at Lancaster on 14 March 1780.  These are probably the descendants of Johann Henrich Seidensticker who arrived on the ship, "Nancy", in 1750.

Admittedly, further research may prove many of my assumptions wrong or may enable me to clarify and document the various family relationships. Any assistance in sorting out the pieces and putting the jigsaw puzzle together will be gratefully appreciated.

Bill Diederich
Incline Village, NV
March 25, 1999

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