Maybe Easter would be a more appropriate time for this post, but I have been collating all this information in the last few days, so am bursting to get it down in black and white.
My dear son-in-law’s grandmother was born an Egg – that is, her surname before marriage was Egg, which I’m afraid made me giggle. However, I have to take the Eggs more seriously now as he has inherited some family portraits and genealogical details. Hence we have been delving into the history of the Swiss Family Egg and come up with some very interesting findings. My daughter actually has enough material to write a book about it all, if she can ever find the time and I hope she doesn’t mind my intruding on her domain by my summary here.
The first Egg we could positively identify in my DSIL’s line is a gentleman called Rudolf Egg from the village of Schlatt near Winterthur, Canton Zurich, who purchased a mill in the village of Ellikon an der Thur in 1630. Mills being very lucrative in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Eggs were among the wealthiest families in the Zurich dominion, and became very important people in Ellikon. The miller and Chief Magistrate Hans Kaspar Egg (1740-1792) and his wife Ursula née Arbenz had at least four sons, Hans Kaspar, Johann Jakob, Johann Konrad and Johann Rudolf (helvet. Grossrat – Cantonal Deputy in the parliament of the Helvetian Republic 1798-1803) from whom my DSIL is descended.
The eldest son, Hans Kaspar (b. 29.1.1764 Ellikon an der Thur – d. 8.12.1846 Ellikon an der Thur) became Municipal President of Ellikon and then from 1803 to 1830 was a member of the Zurich Parliament. His brother Johann Jakob (b. 9.6.1765 Ellikon an der Thur – d. 18.8.1843 Naples) was a shrewd businessman, who set up a mechanized spinning mill in Ellikon in 1803 (later taken over by another brother Johann Konrad and sold in 1868) and in 1812 established the cotton spinning industry in the Kingdom of Naples, importing 100 workers recruited in Zurich. This rose to over 1,000 by 1840 mainly from poor houses and prisons.
These two great-uncles both led very full and interesting lives but remained without issue. Now, their portraits – one a jolly, chubby judge, the other a slim, sophisticated dandy – are watching over my daughter and her husband, and I’m leaving the task of writing their fascinating biographies up to her.
Still, point me at a family tree and whoosh – you can’t hold me back! For once, the question of who came first, the Chicken or the Egg, is irrelevant. What other Eggs are connected with the Ellikon nest? Google is always good for a starter and I also have ancestry.com at my fingertips.
There’s a Rudolf Egg, marriage 13 December 1707 in Ellikon an der Thur to Gottlieb Zimmermann, daughter Gottlieb Egg born about 1708 but no other information. Are they related to us?
Another Rudolph Egg was born in Ellikon on 17 February 1717 and arrived as a hopeful nineteen-year-old in Philadelphia on 29 May 1736. He settled down, married a girl called Anna Catharina and started a family in the township of Upper Salford, Pa, as shown in the church records of Goshenhoppen (delightful name!). A family tree I found online but have not been able to verify claims that Rudolph’s parents were Hans Rudolph Egg and Barbara née Bachmann, his grandparents Ulrich Egg and Regula née Frei, all from the Winterthur area. The family tree shows the descendants of his daughter up to the present day.
However, Rudolph and Anna Catharina are not the only Eggs of Goshenhoppen. There is also Jacob Egg and family, who arrived in Upper Salford township in 1745. Are they related to Rudolph or to any of “our” Ellikon Eggs? It’s hard to say. But there’s plenty of information about them.
Jacob Leonz Egg and his family were Roman Catholics originally from Blüemlismatt above Egerkingen, at the foot of the Jura in the protestant canton of Solothurn, where their religious affiliation was a disadvantage forbidding them to own land or to graze cattle on the common. The Jura is well known for its precision engineering, producing not only watches. In the seventeenth century, the names of Pfluger and Egg were famous gunsmith dynasties.
Jacob Egg was born about 1690 and married Anna Maria Margaret Kilcher in about 1715. Their eldest son, also Jacobus Leontius and known as Leonz, was born on 15 April 1718 and baptized in Hagendorf/Gäu under the heading “Non-residents” (peregrini). Eleven more children followed, all baptized in Gäu.
There could be several reasons why they were considered non-residents. One, being Catholic, the family could have been uprooted because of the recent conflict. Two, his occupation, gun maker, may have required the move in order to master the trade and become a journeyman, or master gun maker. Three, he or his wife might have had relatives in the Gäu area of the canton of Solothurn and they were on their way there.
In any case, they eventually moved from Blüemlismatt and tried to make a living in the area around Basle before undertaking the great and dangerous adventure of emigrating to America. Sons Leonz, Joseph and Durus stayed behind. The family that arrived in Pennsylvania was reduced to Jacob, his two daughters and three sons. There’s no record of what happened to his wife and the other children but they probably perished on the long, arduous voyage
Jacob was able to purchase 125 acres of land in 1746, but died only two years later. As a Roman Catholic, he may have chosen the homestead site for the express purpose of being near a church and neighbours of his own faith. There was only one Catholic Church in Pennsylvania outside of Philadelphia at that time, St. Paul’s Mission at Goshenhoppen (now Most Blessed Sacrament Church at Bally, Berks Co.) which had been established only a few years earlier in 1741. The Goshenhoppen Register, church records for St Paul’s Mission, do not mention Jacob Egg specifically and the church records are very incomplete for the early years but it does have information about some of his children and later descendants up to the present day.
In the list of Jacob Egg’s children there is a repetition of names for some of them. Giving more than one child the same Christian name was a common practice during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An example is that three sons were named John Paul, John Peter and John George. Usually one son would be called John and the others were known by their second name. The same principle held for daughters who had the Christian name of Mary or Anna. There may be other reasons for this practice but Jacob Egg presented a real problem for researchers of family history because two of his sons, Hannes and Johannes, were both known as John Eck. They attended the same church and lived in the same general area of Pennsylvania.
Jacob Egg, realizing that his death was near, almost certainly asked one of his children to write his will as he dictated it. In it, his children are all named except for Leonz, Catherine, Anna Maria Barbara, Jacob Christian and the son who died in infancy. The court could not accept the will as valid because his children, or heirs, signed the document as witnesses. Letters of administration were issued. Hannes Egg and Valentine Wiebel, Jacob Egg’s future or new son-in-law, were appointed administrators. It is a very interesting document as it shows, on the single piece of paper, the handwriting of one of the children as well as the signatures of all six family member who were present. Here is the English translation of Jacob Egg’s will:
February 13, 1748
Because of an extended illness, I, Jacob Egg have to distribute my belongings in the presence of witnesses. If it can be executed, I will to Hannes Egg and Jacob Egg and Johannes Egg, each one 33 pounds, to Durus Egg and Joseph Egg each one 25 pounds. And Hannes Egg and Jacob Egg and Johannes Egg are to draw for six years the interest from the sale once it is carried out. If one or the other of the two brothers should come, he must receive his appropriate share. Anna Maria Eggin and Anna Eggin shall each receive 25 pounds and each one the bed she is sleeping in and each one her dishes.
Everything is to be sold, horses and cattle, hogs and household goods and everything there is. If at all possible, each one should receive an equal share. If, however, the final proceeds are smaller, each one should proportionately take a lesser amount. And once the six years have passed and neither of the two sons has appeared, then the other five shall receive everything in equal parts.
(signed) Jacob Egg
Witnesses: Hannes Egg, Jacob Egg, Johannes Egg, Anna Maria Eggin, Anna Eggin
The final inventory totals approximately £200. The daughter’s names appear with the feminine form of the surname, Eggin. Jacob Egg died some time between 13 February 1748, the date of the will, and 28 April 1748, the date of the estate inventory. Although the exact date is not known it is probable that he expired shortly after the date of the will in February or early March. I’m indebted for most of this information to ECK FAMILIES, A Compilation of Eck Families Primarily Listing Descendants of Jacob Egg/Eck and Anna Maria Kilcher compiled by Helen E. Arkey,plus some amendments of my own.
The eldest son, Leonz, is not mentioned in the will but I was able to follow him and his descendants up from a detailed account in the 1996 article Die Solothurner Büchsenmacher Dynastie Egg by Hans R Degen. And that will have to be another post!
(Continued in Explosive Eggs)