Follow that name …

As I crawl out of my latest rabbit hole, I wonder if my discoveries down there are of any interest at all to anyone outside of my immediate family. Yes, this particular rabbit hole weaves in and out around the roots of the German side of the family tree, and although I have now added a dozen or so new names I know very little about the individuals. 

Records for “ordinary” people are scant in fourteenth and fifteenth century German provinces so we can’t be absolutely sure whether the person we have tracked down really is our  15th great-grandfather, but sometimes the line does seem to hold up. At any rate, some of these people have very evocative names that roll around on the tongue, so we’d really like them to be our ancestors simply for that reason. Who wouldn’t want to claim Anna Magdalena Ham Charau or Vuarin Marin Augustin as great-grandparents? Or Königunda Zollmann-Zinck?

I have now come across forefathers who lived in the beautiful alliterative village of Traben-Trarbach at the end of the fourteenth century. The earliest identified, born about 1385, are Peter Holderbaum von Corvey and his wife Anna Glessgin. These are the eighteenth great-grandparents of my daughter. Corvey was a Benedictine abbey in North-Rhine Westphalia so this “von” is not an indication of nobility but simply an indication of where Peter Holderbaum had come from. See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princely_Abbey_of_Corvey

Peter’s son Michael Holderbaum von Corvey married the delightful sounding Elssgin von Leurtzbeuren (my daughter’s seventeenth great-grandmother) about 1440. I haven’t identified Leurtzbeuren, but Elssgin is a diminutive form of Elsa. 

I know absolutely nothing about this family, apart from their names and a few key dates. Sometimes, frustratingly, ancestry.com will provide me with lots of information for instance about the father-in-law of a seventh grand-aunt, but nothing whatsoever about the person I am actually researching. Still, eventually we all get back to Charlemagne!

This particular line records the antecedents of my daughter’s fourth great-grandmother, Maria Katharina or Catherine Buchheit, who became Catherine Sommer – my namesake – on her marriage to Johann Georg Sommer in 1801. The Buchheits were very prolific over the centuries, so if you find one or more in your tree, it may well be a shared ancestor with us. Many of them emigrated to the United States. I’m also intrigued by the variations in spelling, reflecting different pronunciations of this name, and am wondering if that dear fictitious lady Hyacinth Bucket may also have sprung from this root?

Incidentally, I found four consecutive generations of my daughter’s direct ancestors bearing my name! Catherine Buchheit-Sommer’s mother-in-law was Catherine Hafner, born in 1754 in Alsace, and married Joseph Sommer in 1774 (fifth great-grandparents). Her son Georg Michael Sommer married Katharina Regina Becker (third great-grandparents). By that time, the fashion for Frenchifying names was over, so this third namesake retained her German spelling, and passed it on to her daughter Anna Maria Katharina. 

These are, of course, not my ancestors but my in-laws – however, I can’t help wondering what these women were like, and if we have any traits in common apart from our name.

Two Sisters

Ella Helena Sommer, our grandmother from my last post, had a sister, Amalia Margaretha (Malchen) who was seven years older than Ella. Despite the age gap, they were close and in their later years of widowhood almost inseparable. I only knew Tante Malchen as another little bent, black-garbed, white-haired old lady, but she shared that same indomitable spirit that I wrote about a few years ago in my post Daughters of Kunigunda.

These are the two little girls, firstly as babies and then aged about 14, at their respective confirmations, gazing out confidently at the world, unaware of the turbulence that lay ahead in the twentieth century. They spent their entire lives in the same village where they were born, where they knew everyone, and everything about everyone. In fact, Malchen only ever lived in one house, that of her parents, which was later passed on to her son. She once asked me, shaking her head in disbelief when she heard we were moving to Switzerland, “How can you go and live somewhere where you don’t know anyone?” It was a rhetorical question: she might as well have been asking me if it was possible to live on an iceberg.

Ella Helena 1900

Amalia Margaretha 1893
Amalia Margaretha 1907 (Confirmation)
Ella Helena 1914 (Confirmation)

As a young girl, Malchen fell in love with a slim, dark-haired young man called Rudolf. They were both only 17 when they married, on 21 July 1911, and for the sake of convenience they moved in with her parents. Their son Friedrich Ludwig – named for his two grandfathers – arrived in September 1914 but this was no reason to prevent Rudolf from being drafted into the Bavarian Infantry to fight in the trenches of World War I. He never saw his son again.

Many years later, Malchen showed me her little box of souvenirs, containing a dried red rose, a photo, some letters from Rudolf during his military service, and the notice of his death: killed in action in Flanders on 25 April 1918.  He was the great love of her life, and she remained in mourning for him until she died in her eighties.

It was lucky for Malchen that she continued living with her parents, however, especially when her son fell ill with polio. This left him with a lifelong disability, although he was intelligent enough to be able to train as a bank clerk and diligently work his way up to become the manager of the local bank. Malchen was very proud of his achievements, especially as despite all the odds he married and had a daughter. He was able to have the family home extended by having an extra storey built onto it, and so there was room for all four generations to live together under one roof.

The two sisters grew even closer in the early 1950’s, after the death of their parents, followed by that of Ella’s only son and her husband in rapid succession. When I first met her, Malchen would trot up the hill to visit her “little” sister practically every day, and they would exchange news and items of interest – no, please don’t call it gossip! 

Later, when she was less mobile, she would sit by her window looking out onto the main street, watching the world turn and chatting with every passer-by. She was probably the best informed person in the village and she remembered everything she heard. Her sister came a close second. Both of them could tell a tale, and it was a delight to listen to them delivering their versions of local current events – the “hatched, matched and dispatched” – as they wove them into their memories of days gone by. God rest their souls, they could have written a wonderful local history book. 

“Well, you know, X never had a chance of success. Just look at how his father lived! And I remember when his grandfather was a young man …”

Tales of a German Grandmother

I can’t tell these tales the way Oma did – she was the heroine of them all, but she told them with an amused twinkle in her eye, without boasting and in her broad Pfälzisch dialect, reliving the situations and events as she spoke. We actually managed to record her surreptitiously one day, but sadly someone recorded something else on that tape, and erased Oma’s reminiscings

She was born in 1900 and only 64 when I first met her, but she considered herself an old woman and dressed accordingly in black or navy blue as befitted a widow, her snowy white hair tied in a bun in the nape of her neck. She looked like a million other old women aged between 60 and 90 in Germany at that time. Grey stockings rather than black and maybe a white collar were her only concessions to the fact that widow’s weeds were only supposed to be worn for a year. She was in permanent mourning for her husband and her son who had died ten years previously. 

***

At the end of WWI, the village of Lemberg in the Palatinate of the Rhine was in the zone occupied by the French army. Ella was 18 or 19 at the time, an attractive, lively girl. She had no love or respect for the French, and certainly not for the puny little men prancing around playing heroes, and treating the local Germans like dirt. One day, she went to the family garden where they were growing much needed vegetables and fruit, and discovered a French soldier scrumping apples from her tree. Pitchfork in hand, she went into battle and chased him, screaming for his life, right through the village all the way to the army camp, where she halted only because of the armed guards on duty at the gate. After that, her apple tree and vegetable garden were safe. Her opinion of the French army was unprintable.

***

One evening during the Third Reich her husband Albert didn’t come home from the local pub, so Ella went out to look for him.

“Oh,” she was told, “He’s been arrested and he’s in the lock-up.”

“Arrested? What for?”

“Political offence.”

“But Albert isn’t interested in politics. What’s he done?

“Insulted the Führer!”

Ella was shocked and perplexed: meek and mild Albert had insulted the Führer? And now he was in jail. It was too late for her to do anything about it that night, so she went home to bed still puzzling over what on earth he could have done. First thing next morning she presented herself at the police station to enquire about the case and rescue her criminal husband. After all the formalities had been settled, she confronted him. What had happened?

“Well, we were in the middle of a card game and the innkeeper came and told us we had to leave because he was closing. We said we’d like to finish the game, but he insisted. Said there was a curfew, it was time, and he had to close by order of the Führer.”

“And?” asked Ella.

“I said the Führer can kiss my arse. So he reported me and I was arrested.”

Führerbeleidigung was a very serious matter.

***

There are no secrets in a village. Ella heard on the grapevine that her husband was cheating on her with another woman from the village, so she decided to deal with the situation. She knew that the woman in question was due to arrive back on the bus at a given time, so she marched off to the bus stop to meet her. It was raining, so she took her big black umbrella with her, and when the woman alighted from the bus Ella laid into her with her umbrella and beat her black and blue. That put an end to the affair. 

I always wondered how her husband regarded this. Alas, he was no longer around to give his side of the story.

***

During WWII, an SS group was stationed to Lemberg. The Kommandant decided that Ella’s and Albert’s house overlooking the village was an ideal location for his Kommandatur. He set up his HQ in the kitchen, which was cosy and warm because of the big iron range that was constantly burning, as this was where Ella cooked and baked. 

One day, a young soldier arrived to be reprimanded because of some misdemeanour he had committed. Ella felt sorry for this young lad who was only a couple of years older than her own son, as he stood quaking in his boots before the SS Captain. When the Captain finally dismissed him, she told the private to sit down and placed a bowl of stew before him. The lad was obviously hungry and about to tuck in when the Captain yelled at him to get out. 

Ella drew herself up to her full height – she was not a small woman – and glared at the Captain. He turned on her and told her off for interfering.

“This is MY HQ and I deal with my men as I like!” he roared.

“And this is MY kitchen, and I cooked that stew, and I can invite whoever I like to eat it!” she snapped, standing between the furious Captain and the table where the soldier was sitting. 

“That boy looks like a scarecrow! You want to win this war with scared, starving kids like that?”  

Then standing guard over the petrified private she added:

“Guten Appetit, junger Mann!” 

And he didn’t dare refuse. 

Uncle Harry Pops Up Again!

Previous posts about Uncle Harry:
https://catterel.wordpress.com/2014/09/25/seeking-uncle-harry/
https://catterel.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/finding-uncle-harry-next-stage/
https://catterel.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/the-trouble-with-harry/

My cousin in Sheffield has found an old photo of six men in crumpled suits lounging on some rocks, with the words “Sunday afternoon in Taltal” on the back. Taltal is in Chile, so this probably relates to my mother’s uncle, Harry Green. It also raises a lot of questions! 

The port of Taltal became famous for its copper mines in the mid 19th century, and later for its nitrate mines which were in operation until about 1930, so probably the men in the photo were employed at such a mine. What year is this? Which one is Harry? Is one of the others his brother-in-law Walter Evans, a turner, who went with him in 1914?

Nowadays, we tend to forget how long such a voyage would take in the first two decades of the last century, especially before the Panama Canal opened in August 1914. Steam ships travelled at a rate of 13 to 20 knots, and those going to and from England had to round Cape Horn, so the voyage could easily last up to three months depending on the conditions. I know that Uncle Harry made at least 3 trips to northern Chile on cargo ships between 1910 and 1920, but I haven’t been able to find any record of his departure from England in those years so don’t know how long he stayed each time. Harry wasn’t a tourist, that’s for sure, and probably was there for a year or more, working and earning a good salary. He is listed as a blacksmith on his return both from  Valparaiso on 12 December 1910 and from Taltal on 27 November 1914, and as a spring smith on his return from Mejillos on 16 November 1920.  

SS Ortega, a steamship of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, launched in 1906, scrapped in 1927. (Credit: Wikipedia) Uncle Harry returned to Liverpool on her in 1920.

In addition to these confirmed trips, I found a Mr H Green, engineer (no further details), who was a passenger on the SS Victoria, a ship that left Liverpool on 24 May 1906 bound for Taltal – is this our Harry Green, and is this how he set out to make his fortune? Harry wasn’t an engineer (which in those days referred to a man who drove or operated an engine) but as a smith he probably could turn his hand to driving steam engines, so we can’t rule out this possibility. If so, and this was his first trip to Chile, did he stay there from 1906 until 1910? 

There’s also a record for a man called Harry Green on a ship leaving Liverpool bound for Taltal in 1911 but I have no other details about him, either. Was this also Uncle Harry? If so, did he then stay there until 1914? That might explain why I haven’t found him in the 1911 census. Well, it’s taking a long time, but little by little, pieces of this jigsaw puzzle are coming together and slowly filling in the blanks.

From Rags to Riches

This week I have been allowed to borrow some very precious old documents with the family trees of my son-in-law, including a particularly ingenious arrangement of heirs in 1886 showing their consanguinity. This brought me back to the Eggs, who occupied my attention for a while a year ago, and it has finally allowed us to fill in some vital missing links as well as solving a few mysteries where several people shared the same name.

Digging around online in the roots of the tree, I came across the story of one of the earliest forebears, a man known as Pierre Arbensen  or d’Albenson – until he arrived in Zurich, at which point he became Peter Arbenz. 

I have mentioned before that many people in the olden days had a very cavalier attitude towards names, maybe because most of them couldn’t read and write so it was all phonetic. Pronouncing your name in a certain way probably created a more positive impact on the group you wanted to impress, or if your name sounded foreign to them they would translate it or say it as they perceived it. Clerks would then write down what they thought they heard.

Pierre Arbensen/d’Albenson aka Peter Arbenz was  born in 1543 in Torgnon in Châtillon, a French-patois speaking village high up in the Aosta Valley on the Italian side of the Matterhorn. The name seems to come from their pasture, called Albenson (which seems strange for a French-speaking area of Italy, but that’s another investigation!). 

The family scraped a living, with Pierre and his father selling satin, silk and coral, and his two brothers trading ironware, but life for this family was very hard in their desolate alpine village, especially in winter. After his father died in the mid 1500’s Pierre packed up his wares, crossed the Alps and made his way to the canton of Zurich to seek his fortune.

On 23 August 1567 “Peter Arbensen” appears as godfather at a baptism in Zurich cathedral (Grossmünster) and on 24 October 1567 he is “Petrus Arbesun” as godfather to another child in Winterthur. Eventually he arrived at the town of Elgg near Winterthur, where on 10 May 1570 he married Ursula, the daughter of a successful cloth merchant in the Vordergasse (High Street) who sported the splendid name of Pantaleon Mantel. This man – locally known as Pantli – was also from Torgnon but had been a citizen of Elgg since 1538. He may have been a friend of Peter Arbenz’s father, or simply a business acquaintance.

Their first child, Jacobea, was born on 21 October 1571 in Elgg but they soon moved to the town of Rapperswil where in 1571 Peter Arbenz paid 200 guilders to obtain citizenship. This wouldn’t be Swiss nationality, by the way, or even cantonal citizenship, but only that of the town of Rapperswil, allowing him to settle there and have the same rights and obligations as the native-born citizens. Their second child, Pantaleon, was born there in 1572. Also during their time in Rapperswil, Pantaleon Mantel died. In those days a wife’s property belonged to her husband, so on his father-in-law’s death Peter Arbenz inherited 3,200 pounds of which he had to render 300 pounds as inheritance tax to the canton of Zurich. 

In 1577 the young family moved to Andelfingen, a village in the centre of the canton, where Peter was charged 160 pounds as an “admission fee” and 80 pounds “Schirmgeld” or “protection fee” giving him the right of citizenship with permission to settle there and buy land. At first they lived in the “Kloster” which means monastery, but was in fact a farm later known as Felsenhof, and then they  bought the upper mill in Andelfingen. Peter and Ursula Arbenz had three more sons, Peter (1577), Martin (1580) and Antoine (1582) all born in Andelfingen. 

Peter Arbenz had at least two brothers back in Châtillon. Perhaps his success inspired his younger brother Petitpierre (Little Peter), who had been selling ironware in the Aosta Valley. In 1580 this young man also arrived in Andelfingen and set up as a merchant in the nearby village of Dorf. He married a local girl but had no children. However, in 1589, Antoine (Anton) the son of the third brother, another Panthaleon, also joined his uncle in Dorf bei Andelfingen where he married and fathered the Arbenz dynasty in Dorf.

I have to say that I was a bit confused by the name of Dorf, which means village, until I consulted a map and realised that there is actually a village called Village. This is also a family that likes to use the same names over and over again, so that has also been challenging. However, I think I’ve got it right now and have spouses and offspring, mills and farms, all correctly assigned.

Peter Arbenz’s son Pantaleon inherited the Kloster farm and the mill, but died in 1629 of the plague, which was ravaging the country at the time. Millers were especially vulnerable, as many rats were brought in with the sacks of grain, and it was the rats that spread the disease. In another branch of the Egg family tree, one miller lost his wife and five children to the plague in that same year.

However, on the whole the family was prospering.  Pantaleon’s eldest son, another Pantaleon or Pantli (1594-1645), is recorded as “Obermüller, Bärenwirt, Klosterbesitzer” (Miller of the Upper Mill, Innkeeper of the Bear Inn, Owner of Kloster farm) on his death record. When the farmers brought their grain to the mill, they would sit around waiting for it to be ground and during this time the miller would sell them a glass or two of beer or wine. Opening an inn was thus a logical progression and an opportunity to expand the miller’s business. It was also an chance for the miller and his family to glean all the local gossip and various insider tips, which gave them an advantage over the rest of the village.

Prosperity led to social rank and importance: mills were a lucrative business, millers married their sons and daughters into other millers’ families, and so the Arbenz family advanced, acquiring farms, mills and inns in Andelfingen. Not to mention wealth and status.

Pantaleon’s two sons, Pantli III and Hans Jakob, each had a farm and a mill, and seem to have kept the Bear Inn together. The records get a bit tricky at this point, as each of these brothers and most of their descendants kept using the names Pantaleon, Hans Jakob and Ursula in every generation of their families – quite discombobulating! After hours of comparing names and dates in various records and family trees – plus a lot of head-scratching! – I have figured out who’s who, and have managed to trace the descendance of Hans Jakob down to Ursula Arbenz who married Hans Caspar Egg in 1763, and was the daughter of Hans Conrad Arbenz, miller of the Halden Mill in Andelfingen. 

In more recent times, Jacobo Arbenz turned up as President of Guatamala in the early 1950’s, ousted in a coup organised by the CIA in 1954. Is the name a coincidence? No: he was the son of a Swiss immigrant, and also a descendant of Pantaleon and “our” Hans Jakob Arbenz from Andelfingen.

Return of the Native

I’m still on a genealogy roll, this time targeting my daughter’s paternal line. We were surprised a few years ago to discover that one strain we had considered to be solidly German, rooted firmly in the Rhineland-Palatinate, was in fact predominantly Swiss. How strange that we had come to live in Switzerland in the early 1970’s without any idea at all of “returning to native soil”. 

I touched a little on the situation in the Palatinate in the seventeenth century in two posts a few years ago (here and here) and in my last post about the Huguenots I mentioned the Thirty Years War and the invasions of Louis XIV that had caused devastation in the area west of the Rhine. As the turmoil slowed down, Swiss and Tyroleans came in to repopulate the area and of course  they intermarried with the remaining inhabitants as well as among themselves. 

As I dived further and further back into our family history, I found more and more well-documented Swiss ancestors. There’s a minor challenge in sorting out who’s who, because not only are names spelled phonetically (Gut – Guth – Gutt – Guttan – Good is all the same) and quite often diminutives are used, so you need to know that in Swiss German Joggeli is Jakob and Welti is Walter, for instance. Women also sometimes have the suffix -in added to their surname (Guthin, wife or daughter of Mr Guth). 

Following some of these individuals back even further brought me to a single village in the canton of Zurich, not really far from our present homes, and eventually all the lines converged into just two couples who lived in the second half of the sixteenth century. 

Fridli Wydler – what a wonderful name! – (1566-1648) married at nineteen and fathered nineteen children that we know of. Eighteen of them were legitimate. His first wife died in 1604 giving birth to her tenth child, his mistress bore him a child in July 1605, and he then married another woman who gave birth to his twelfth child in December 1605. This was followed by another seven. There’s an age gap of thirty-six years between the youngest and the oldest. Presumably, he must have had income from somewhere, but apart from siring children I can find no record of his occupation. I think he was probably a farmer. Most of his children survived, married, and had children of their own so it isn’t surprising that so many lines lead back to Fridli Wydler.

The other gentleman whose name keeps popping up among the great-great-grandfathers is Hans Gut. We know quite a lot more about him, so first a little background.

Tax records have been kept scrupulously in Switzerland for many centuries and provide a surprising amount of information, so we know that a certain Rudi Guttan (Rudolf Gut), born in 1370 in Obfelden/ZH, had at least six children and was paying taxes on his farm, called the Meyerhof, in the village of Ottenbach in 1412. Rudi’s son Welti (Walter) and his grandson Klaus (Niklaus) continued to pay taxes on the same farm from 1450 to 1493. Klaus had two sons, Hans (Johannes) and Heini (Heinrich), who paid the taxes between 1505 and 1517. 

It would seem that Heini stayed at home and ran the farm while Hans went off to find adventure in the Swiss army. In 1513 he was a sergeant in the military march and siege of Dijon, Burgundy, by the troops of the Old Swiss Confederation, and in 1515 went to fight in the historic battle at Marignan in Italy where the Swiss were routed by the French (this was the last battle the Swiss ever fought on foreign territory, though there were a few internal skirmishes over the next few centuries). 

Hans survived all his battles and obviously did well as a consequence of his military exploits, as on his return he bought the large Jauch farm at Knonau in 1517, as well as paying tax jointly on the Meyerhof. 

He lost his second son, Junghans Gutt in 1531 in the religious battle at Kappel am Albis under the leadership of the Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, against the Catholics. Zwingli was also killed in this battle. 

Hans figures in the records as “Military Hans”, and died between 1536 and 1544. I can find no information about his brother Heini, who seems to have died without issue, so the Meyerhof farm remained in the hands of soldier Hans’ two remaining sons – another Hans born in 1495 and Heinrich born in 1500. 

This is the Hans Gut– often referred to as Judge Hans Gut, because he served as a provincial judge in Maschwanden bei Ottenbach for the district of Knonau – to whom all lines lead back. Either his wife or his mother had the unusual name of Marignons.

Judge Hans Gut had eight sons and three of these – Peter, Andreas and Paul – turn out to be ancestors of my daughter, as their descendants inter-wed. Untangling the births, marriages and deaths during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was something like those puzzles we used to get where you have several anglers with their lines tangled and you have to sort out who has caught which fish. The surnames Gut, Wydler, Meier, and one or two others, constantly recur: families were very large, and the village wasn’t. The same Christian names are also used over and over again, but fortunately there are some clever people on the internet genealogy sites who have figured it all out, so as they quoted their sources I’m pretty sure I have finally got it sorted.

Once again, during the process I learnt a lot of history. 

The three Gut brothers in our tree appear to have been Anabaptists, especially Andreas who was the leader of the local Anabaptist community. This is interesting because their grandfather had fought with Zwingli, who was strongly opposed to the Anabaptists and even persecuted and executed them (by drowning – ironically and cruelly referred to as “their last baptism”). And as the idea of a division between religion and state was unheard of at the time, I don’t think their father would have been allowed to be a Judge if he had been an Anabaptist.

I was saddened to read the accounts of how badly the Anabaptists were treated by their countrymen who claimed to be Christians but it’s nothing new – nowadays this ugly face of intolerance wears the mask of identity politics. My first impression had been that the Swiss who emigrated to the Palatinate had done so chiefly for economic reasons, but as I looked at the events during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries I realised that religion must also have played its part. Some of those who travelled up the Rhine stopped and settled on the way, and these include some of my daughter’s forebears. Others continued, spreading out as far as Russia and the Ukraine to the east, or undertaking the perilous journey to the New World to the west. 

The following was posted by Axel Gut (Canada) in 2011:

“During a cantonal census of Zurich in 1634, seventeen GUT families were recorded, all of them from Ottenbach parish and the five surrounding villages. When the Anabaptists or Dunkards appeared in the Zurich cantonal area, many GUT families were involved from the beginning as they were during the uprising in the Zurich lowlands around 1550.

At that time, a Melchior GUT was recorded as a Dunkard and under pressure of opposition, emigrated from the Zurich area to the village of Finsterthuelen. From this Melchior GUT probably originate all the Mennonite GUTs/GOODs in Germany and America.

The persecution of the Anabaptists in Switzerland resulted in large emigration out of the country. A great grandson of this Melchior GUT by the name of Jakob GUT [born 1639] was arrested as a Dunkard in 1660, taken to prison in Bern Canton, and together with ten comrades, shipped down the Rhine River and out of Switzerland. Jakob with his wife Barbli settled in Kraichgau in northwest Wuerttenberg, Germany.

Many GUT families also emigrated to the Alsace and the Rheinpfalz/Palatinate [Southwest Germany], where the Thirty Years War [1618-1648] devastated the area. After the war, settlers from other parts of Germany and Switzerland were attracted to help repopulate the area. Then in 1674 and 1675 the French invaded the area. Again from 1688 to 1689 the War of the Palatinate occurred, and the French General Melac laid waste to the whole area, making it almost uninhabitable. People were driven from their homes in the dead of winter. In addition the people were taxed excessively, so that the German Princes could emulate the French court by building palaces and gardens. The religious persecutions took many forms. The Electors-Rulers of the Palatinate changed their religions four times in as many reigns. With each change the people were expected to follow the lead of their rulers. An extremely cold winter in 1709 brought much suffering and was the last straw for many.

Did the GUT/GUTHs arrive from Switzerland as settlers in the Palatinate and did they, as did many others, find life there unbearable, and left?”  

(This last sentence links with my post From the Welsh Border to the Palatinate. 

From Metz to Berlin in 9 Generations

The genealogy bug has begun inflicting its irresistible itch again, this time as a result of my investigations into the family background of my son-in-law. A year ago, I was following up the Swiss side of his family, but in the last week I’ve turned my attention to another aspect of his ancestry, his Huguenot lineage; in particular, those ancestors who made the remarkable trek from Metz and the “pays messin” in eastern France to Brandenburg, and settled in Berlin. Taking the various obligatory detours into account, that’s about a thousand kilometres. Usually on foot, sometimes on horseback or with a cart drawn by a donkey, ox or even a cow.

I didn’t know a lot about the Huguenots, just that they were French protestants who were persecuted under the Sun King Louis XIV and fled into exile. One of the positive side effects of genealogy is that it makes you aware of history and geography in a very personal manner. Why would more than 400 families, amounting to about 1600 individuals, undertake such a journey? Metz is close enough to the river Rhine and the German border: why didn’t they just settle in the neighbouring province of the Palatinate, which was tolerant towards protestants? Maybe some did, but French troops invaded the Palatinate with a scorched earth policy in 1688 so that wasn’t such a good idea.

Caravans of destitute refugees, desperately looking for a new home, aren’t a new phenomenon. 

This one was triggered in 1685 by Louis XIV revoking the edict of Nantes, which had allowed a certain religious tolerance to Protestants after the horrendous St Bartholomew’s Day massacre in 1572. Under the new Edict of Fontainebleau all Protestant ministers were given two weeks to leave the country unless they converted to Catholicism and all other Protestants were prohibited from leaving the country. Recollections of the massacre in the previous century inspired dread. In spite of the prohibition, the renewed persecution – including many examples of torture – caused as many as 400,000 to flee France at risk of their lives. About 20,000 of them relocated to Brandenburg.

The protestant community of the city of Metz and its surrounding area (the Messin) were invited by Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I to settle in Brandenburg which had been devastated by the 30 years war. In fact, most of what is now modern Germany had been laid waste by that war plus various other skirmishes in the first three-quarters of the 17th century. Friedrich Wilhelm offered all kinds of incentives to the Messin people and they were relieved to take him up on these. Fleeing with only what they could carry, but armed with plenty of skills and experience in their various trades and professions, the protestants of Metz made their way to Berlin. This was no holiday trip: various accounts of the hardships endured – especially vicious rejection, violence, imprisonment and persecution in the towns they passed through – are plentiful. Refugees are seldom welcome but Friedrich Wilhelm was happy to swell the numbers in his army and repopulate his ravaged lands.

The earliest forebear with the same surname as my son-in-law is first recorded in  Rauschenberg by Marburg, where he married on 21 October 1688. I haven’t been able to trace any antecedents either for him or his wife so I’m not sure which part of France they came from. The entry simply says they were refugees there. (NB: Correction – I have since found the names of his parents, so know that they came from Picardie.

However, once in Berlin the Huguenots formed a very close knit community and kept detailed BMD records in the church registers, which are written for the most part in clearly legible handwriting using the Latin script rather than the beautiful but hard to read old German script. After spending several hours reading the facsimiles of these on line, I discovered that some kind soul had transcribed the baptismal pages from 1685 to 1708, confirming much of what I had deciphered. 

These records are wonderful for their time: they give not only the names of bride and groom at weddings, but also their parents’ names and the men’s occupations, and death records often also show the time and cause of death, for instance: 

“Le 12° octobre à onze heures et demi du soir est mort d’hydropsie Guillaume Clavel âgé de 56 ans natif d’Orange. Il a été enterré le 16° au cimetière de la Fridericstadt.”

Baptisms include date of birth and mother’s maiden name as well as godparents’ names, such as:

“Mr Bancelin (père) a baptisé au temple de la Dorotheestadt Anne, fille de Pierre Claudeboulanger et de Judith Robert tous deux natifs de Metz. Parrain: Paul Thiriotbrasseur et Anne Claude, sa femme.”

The details in the entry above are useful to my research as there was another couple called Pierre Claude and Judith Robert, but he was a watchmaker. Both couples had a lot of children, so the father’s trade was decisive. In fact, I had a little difficulty sorting out Judith Robert, as there appear to be at least three women of this name and two of them appear in our family tree. Cross-referencing also confirmed that Anne Thiriot née Claude was the sister of the baker Pierre Claude. 

From these archives I was able to trace back other lines to three couples all born around 1650, who were the 8th great-grandparents of my son-in-law. Two of them are from Metz, but the third couple comes from Champagne: the husband from Dampierre and the wife from Château-Thierry in La Brie, which may go some way to explaining my dear SIL’s appreciation of fine wines and cheese.  

Later generations continued to use a mixture of French and German in their names, and if they had more than two Christian names they didn’t always list them in the same order. This complicates research, as Charles Frédéric Guillaume on his marriage certificate turns up as Karl Friedrich Wilhelm on his death certificate and Anne Marie Sophie Ernestine on her marriage certificate becomes Maria Anna Hedwig Ernestine on her death certificate.

One lady in particular caused me a headache. She was the first wife of a great-great-grandfather, and died in 1861. She was listed on the marriage certificate as Henriette Mathilde Büttner, daughter of Carl Büttner, born in 1822. The birth certificates of her children have both Henriette Mathilde née Büttner and Henriette Mathilde née Zuber. On her death certificate she is named as Agnes Mathilde née Zueber. Was this all the same woman, or were there two wives who coincidentally shared the name Mathilde, married and died in rapid succession? Then I found a baptismal certificate for Mathilde Henriette Felcke or Zuber, mother Felcke, father Zuber. Was she illegitimate? In the end, it turned out that her father Carl Büttner had died either just before or just after her birth, and her mother had remarried when she was 9 months old, so she was using the surnames of both her biological father and her stepfather. Where did the Agnes come from? No idea! Interestingly, after her death, her husband remarried: his second wife was Henriette Mathilde’s youngest sister who became my SIL’s  great-great-grandmother. 

Finally, I have to say that the nineteenth century German records are not only highly informative but that the clerks who filled in the forms usually had exquisite writing. My only problem is that the old German script is so elaborate that I can’t read it. Luckily, names are often written by the same hand in Latin script. Here’s an easy one:

Scrambled Eggs

What wonderful places are digital genealogical sites! You meet all kinds of interesting people and dig up some fascinating facts and stories you would like to think are true, but often turn out to be family legends. That doesn’t make them any less interesting, though. Sometimes there’s a grain of truth there. I’m still hot on the trail of my Dear Son-in-Law’s Egg ancestors.

As I reported here on 4 December 2019, our earliest known Humpty-Dumpty was a certain Rudolf Egg who purchased the mill in Ellikon around 1630. From my online research, I had discovered that this Rudolf was a scion of the miller family in Heitertal, Schlatt, a tiny village not so very far away from where my DD and DSIL live, so at the end of December 2019, we visited the water-mill there, first documented in 1361, that has been grinding away nonstop for at least 650 years.

We were informed that several years previously, a local historian had written a monograph on the history of this mill and the families associated with it. That was exciting news, but we were then very disappointed to hear that the owner of the mill had lent this little book to someone – and as so happens with borrowed books, it never came back. And that was the only copy in existence! So we had no further information on Rudolf’s background.

However, someone up there apparently likes us: a little more online research brought me to a family tree that included some of these jolly millers. I contacted the owner of the tree – who lives in California – and struck gold: she had also visited the mill in 2014, and actually had photographed every page in the lost book! Hallelujah! And she was willing to share her treasure with me. It’s all in German, so in return I have promised to send her a translation that will hopefully be superior to her mangled Google-translate version. The author celebrated his 94th birthday in December 2018. I’m hoping he is still alive and that we can make contact with him.

This very carefully researched and annotated account not only gives the genealogy of the Eggs, but also includes some fascinating factual information about many of the individuals. Thus we now know from the State Archives that

“Rudolf Egg, the miller at Heitertal, bought the lower or “front” mill in the village of Ellikon on 20 October 1628 from Ulrich Singer for 7,100 guilders which he paid off in instalments. Even the wealthy miller didn’t have that much cash in his safe, so he took out a bridging loan of 1,000 guilders from the architect/builder Andreas Künzli of Winterthur in May 1629. The purchase of the mill in Ellikon included wagons, a carriage, all the old mill documents, the associated water rights, and a right of first refusal on the upper or “back” mill. In 1630 Rudolf Egg, Molitor (= miller), also bought this mill from the miller Isaac Fischer. Certainly by 1644 both mills were in the hands of Rudolf Egg.”  

Milling was a very lucrative occupation, and soon the Ellikon millers, Rudolf’s sons and grandsons, were doing very nicely thank you.

What is of particular interest to us, however, is that this little history book traces the family back to Ulrich Egg who bought the mill at Heitertal in 1536 and died in 1550, so we have been able to go back another century. Records prior to that time are scant, so we may have to accept that we’re unlikely to find out much more about his origins.

The book gives a colourful picture of life as a miller in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Yes, millers often became rich and held high office, but there was also the threat of disease, especially plague, brought in by rats infesting the corn and flour sacks. This was rife in the early years of the seventeenth century: on 28 April 1611, the Heitertal miller’s wife and son both died of the plague and his father followed in the autumn. Then a few months later another son and daughter-in-law died in rapid succession leaving their two babies orphans.

Nevertheless, the Eggs were very prolific, and in the heyday of milling they seemed to occupy most of the mills in the region, marrying and intermarrying with other miller families, some of whom were actually named Müller (= miller). Unscrambling “our” Eggs from their siblings and cousins promises to be fun! And I still haven’t found a link to the gunsmith Eggs or the Goshenhoppen Eggs, although I’m sure there must be one somewhere.

Explosive Eggs

(Continued from Putting All The Eggs In One Basket)

Leonz Egg (born in 1718) stayed in the Gäu area, married Maria Burkhard and had five children. He was naturalised as a citizen of Oberbuchsiten on 1 January 1746, and was able to buy property there. Like his father, he was a talented gunsmith and locksmith, and taught his sons the same trade. Apparently widowed, he remarried on 18 April 1768.

Was this the cause of friction between him and his grown-up sons? The elder son, Hans Jakob, moved quite early to Upper Alsace near the Swiss city of Basle, where the French had built a fortress with an arsenal near Hüningen, obviously an attractive opportunity for a gunsmith. He married the widow of a well known French gunsmith, which probably also helped his career. Soon, his younger brother Urs Christian, who had fallen out with his father, turned up on Hans Jakob’s doorstep, where he found a welcome and work.

However, “der Urs” was an ambitious young man. in 1770 he appeared in London “with 3 shillings and 6 pence in his pocket” and found work with the then famous British gunsmith Henry Nock. By 1772 he had his own business with rented premises in the Haymarket, Panton Street, under the name of Durs Egg. On 3 June 1776 he sold two “Ferguson Rifle Guns” to the British army for £31, the first of many regular orders for arms, and by 1778 he was ensconced at St James, Piccadilly, where he counted the Prince Regent among his customers.

Among the numerous Durs Egg weapons which are shown as masterpieces in the weapons collection in Windsor, is a pair of pistols on which the trademark “Gun Maker To His Royal Highness” appeared for the first time. The prince’s esteem for Durs Egg was revealed in a letter to his brother Prince Ferdinand of Hanover:

“… the rifle barrel gun was made by the best workman we have here; he is a Swiss German and his name is Egg. This gun is made after Ferguson rifle, it is almost the neatest piece of workmanship, ever was made.”

One of these weapons is also kept at Windsor Castle.

At the age of 35, Durs Egg married Ann Mary Salomon, daughter of a London merchant of German descent, and had seven children with her. On 29 August 1791 he became a British citizen. At this time a conflict with France began to emerge, which he could survive better as a British citizen than as a national of a country which soon had to come under French influence.

In 1792 his father Leonz Egg died in Oberbuchsiten, leaving Durs the relatively modest sum of 900 guilders (approx. £70 ). From 1799 Durs Egg was allowed to call himself “Gun Maker To His Majesty, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York”.

During the war years against Napoleon Bonaparte, Durs Egg produced a large number of rifles and pistols for the army and he also supplied the French royalists, who had established themselves on the Channel Islands, with a large series of carbines. The historian John F. Hayward mentions in his work “The Art of the Old Gunsmiths” that Durs Egg was particularly famous for his double-barrelled shotguns and duel pistols, which he produced in large numbers.

Having made his fortune, Durs Egg participated in various companies and buildings and himself bought a few properties. At this point, he made the acquaintance of a fellow Swiss, equally if not more ingenious than himself, who fired his imagination with a totally new project. The inventor Samuel John Pauly (born Johannes Samuel Pauli near Bern) had arrived in London from Paris. Please read his fascinating story on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Samuel_Pauly as I can’t do him justice here.

Although penniless, Pauli brought with him the blueprints for an airship that he had developed with support from Maréchal Ney. Durs Egg was enthusiastic about Pauli’s airship plans and became a partner investing large sums of money, from £5,000  (statement Pauli) to £10,000 (statement Egg). Together they entered a patent specification for the construction of the airship “Dolphin”. Pauli was to prepare the plans and supervise the construction. The length of the hull was approx. 29 m and its largest diameter approx. 8 m. The hull was made from the dried intestines of 70,000 oxen sewn together in several layers into the shape of a dolphin, with a second hydrogen-filled balloon inside and it had a moveable tailfin as a rudder. It was driven by a steam engine, since the combustion engine had yet to be invented. It took a long time to develop, but plans were announced for regular flights between London and Paris carrying 15 to 20 passengers at a time, and the public poured in to pay a guinea per person for a peep inside the hangar where this aircraft was being constructed.

Unfortunately for Durs Egg, the defeat of Napoleon and the ensuing peace meant that in 1815 his income fell from around £90,000 pa to about £2,300. He was also beginning to lose his sight at this time, and clearly getting cantankerous, involving lawsuits with family and business partners. He fell out with Pauli, dragged him to court, and work on the Dolphin was stopped. His airship was later sold to the American showman Phineas T. Barnum who exhibited it as an attraction with his famous midget General Tom Thumb in the gondola in the zoological garden of Surrey. It was an irony of fate that this was the only use of the costly but captivating project, wrote J. E. Hodgson in 1924 in “The History of Aeronautics in Great Britain”.

From 1822 Durs Egg was blind. He lived until 1831.

Only one of his sons, John Egg, born 1795, followed his father in the gunsmith profession but the economic situation forced him to give up until 1837 when, with the support of his family, he was able to reopen his own business. He chose an address three doors away from his father’s former shop (No. 4 Pall Mall, In the Opera Colonnade) and was successful, although as a gunsmith he wasn’t in the same class as his father. John Egg was probably the supplier of arms for the last known pistol duel in England in 1843.

He was married and had two sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Georg D. G., born in 1842 and died young in 1870, is mentioned in the annals of the gunsmiths of London, but no further information can be found. It seems that he left no children. His brother John chose another profession and remained unmarried. One hundred years after Durs had set foot in London his line died out.

However, Jean Joseph Egg, a son of Hans-Jakob Egg – the brother of Durs Egg who had emigrated to Hüningen in Alsace – became a gunsmith like his father and followed his uncle to London. Joseph Egg worked for Henry Tatham from 1801 and later co-founded the company Tatham & Egg. In 1814 he opened his own shop at Piccadilly Circus. In addition to his professional successes, Joseph Egg’s personal references are sparse, as he is not included in the traditional family chronicle written by a daughter of Durs Egg.

What is certain is that Joseph was probably the most creative of the entire gunsmith dynasty. His speciality at first was a new type of miniature pistols (pocket pistols) of the highest quality, whose precision is reminiscent of the work of watchmakers. They have one or two barrels and fittings made of engraved silver, in some cases even gold. This was followed by a whole series of inventions and patents. Joseph Egg’s weapons can be found in Windsor Castle, the Leningrad Hermitage and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Augustus Egg, born 2 May 1816, the son of Joseph Egg, inherited the creativity and considerable wealth of his father and became an important artist of the Victorian age. He was admitted to the Royal Academy in 1835 and his works can be seen in numerous museums and galleries in England (Leicester; London: South Kensington, Tate, Birmingham, Preston; Sheffield). He was also an excellent actor in the amateur group around Charles Dickens, the most important writer of the time. With Charles Dickens he travelled around Italy in 1853. Because of his fragile health he spent the last years of his life in southern climates, in Italy, France and finally in Algeria where he died in 1863.

Claude Blair, the weapons historian and author of a newspaper article “The Egg family” described the significance of the Egg gunsmith dynasty as follows:

“Among the outstanding gunsmiths of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Great Britain, Durs and Joseph Egg were among the most important. Most English collections contain weapons from their hands that are much sought after and valued for their great reputation.”

This is a summary of the Egg Gunsmith Dynasty:
(see also https://londonstreetviews.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/joseph-egg-gunsmith/

Egg Jakob abt. 1690-1748, from Blüemlismatt, Solothurn, emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1745, father of Leonz
Egg Leonz 1718-1792, naturalised in Oberbuchsiten, gunsmith, father of Hans Jakob and Urs Christian .
Egg Hans Jakob 1745-1815, born in Oberbuchsiten, gunsmith in Hüningen (F), father of Jean Joseph.
Egg Urs Christian (Durs) 1748-1831, born in Oberbuchsiten, gunsmith in London, father of John
Egg John 1795-1870, born in London, gunsmith in London, son of Durs

Egg Jean Joseph 1775-1837, born in Hüningen (F), gunsmith in London, son of Hans Jakob.
Egg Charles 1811 – 1867, born and lived at 1 Piccadilly, London, gunsmith, son of Joseph
Egg Henry 1815-1869, born and lived at 1 Piccadilly, London, gunsmith, son of Joseph.

How do these Eggs tie in with my daughter’s in-laws, the millers in Schlatt and Ellikon? The Solothurn Eggs were Roman Catholics, registered as “peregrini”, non-residents, in the Gäu region of Solothurn in 1718. Where had they come from in those turbulent times? So far, I haven’t been able to identify a connection, but I’m pretty sure there is one if I can get back to the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.

(All images credited to Wikipedia)

Putting All The Eggs In One Basket

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)