Three Generations of Johann Jacob Schweitzer

The fruit of the vine, that makes the wine, a watercolor by Wendy Harty March 2021

Picture me a little monkey climbing around in my ancestral tree, venturing out on branches, peering through the leaves. I find my father, John Waddell, in his retirement planting grapevines and harvesting grapes. Oh if I could share with him, the vine growers of his ancestors going straight up the tree trunk of the Switzer family, in Assenheim, Germany. Their names aren’t hard to remember; they were all the same: Johann Jacob Schweitzer , Johann Jacob Schweitzer, the Elder, 1620-1710 Johann Jacob Schweitzer the Younger 1658-1746 my 11th, 10th and 9th great grandfathers.

My DNA matches are continually taking me back to Johann Jacob Schweitzer and with the findings come more information. His name is telling in that he came from a religious home as each male child, as was their German custom was given a Biblical name. In this case it was Johann or John. Followed by the name Jacob, his mother would have called out, “Hans Jacob”. As years went on and he had his own family, he would be called Hans Jacob the Elder. There would be a Hans Jacob the Younger, who would use the name again in the third generation of Hans Jacob Schweitzer the father of the two boys fleeing Germany in 1709. So three generations of grandfathers, my 11th, 10th and 9th all using the same name; the following is my version of sorting out their stories.

Sometime prior to 1645, a few people of the Rhine or Palatine, began to return to their respective villages. For the thirty years war, they had lived in a covered wagon and avoided death by the French armies. Hans Jacob, the Elder, returned to his village, at Bad Durkheim, and worked in the vineyards as a laborer. He worked hard and became the foreman. With his future secure, Hans Jacob’s thoughts turned to having a family of his own. The German girls were pretty, but one named Eva, caught his eye. She was the beautiful daughter of Michael Renner, the Schultheiss or Chief Magistrate at the neighboring town of Assenheim, in Germany. This match would advance his social standing and include a dowry. During his courtship, his pending father-in-law invited him to attend the ceremony reestablishing the village court at Assenheim on April 30, 1647. It was a service of thanksgiving during which this prayer was recorded. Close your eyes and listen to the words that my great grandfather heard that day at court!

“We, a few people, have, by the Grace of God, returned home, after many years of war and now are beginning to enjoy our long-wished for peace. We pray that our sufferings during those unhappy years, when we were driven from home and farm, fleeing hither and yon, are over. We believe that these tribulations were a just punishment for our sins. Therefore, we should rightfully give thanks unto Almighty God from our hearts and mouths and beseech him to preserve and keep us for evermore, providing that it is His Will and necessary for our salvaton. Gradually, everything that we prayed for, has come to pass. Our Faith in God has been restored and our feeble spirit revived. Amen”.

The Court was held three times, as decreed by the Schultheiss and the Members of the Court. Justice in the land was restored. When Hans Jacob Schweitzer married Eva Renner, that could have made the head magistrate of Assenheim, Germany another great grandfather. Imagine the happy tears streaming down their faces as they said, “Amen”. I imagine he was deeply touched and added his own prayer for no more war. Hans Jacob and Eva left the service and he walked her home, becoming hopeful of a future together. Every Sunday, he walked over to Assenheim and had dinner with the family. Finally Hans Jacob had enough money saved and he asked for her hand. The Lutheran Church at Bad Durkheim, recorded their marriage: On the 22nd of January, 1650, Hans Jacob Schweitzer, of Germany and lead hand at Bad Durkhelm was married to Eva, the endowed, legitimate daughter of the Magistrate. After seven years of happiness, Eva, died, leaving Hans Jacob to grieve alone, as she had been barren.

Disaster struck the village in 1671. The Emperor of France invaded. The Court records show the invasion lasted till 1683. Hans Jacob remarried a second time to Elizabeth Kesselring and named their child, a boy after himself, Johannes Jacob Schweitzer in 1658. He would be know as Hans Jacob, The Younger. The records show that in 1686, Hans Jacob his father, The Elder, bought a house and barn and land at Assenheim for 300 Florin. Of the total, 190 Florin, was given to him by his wife, Elizabeth Kesselring. These two Johannes Jacob Schweitzer would be my 11th and 10th great grandfathers.

Johannes Jacob Schweitzer, the 3rd generation to use the name, married Anna Marie Jonerin would be my 9th great grandparents and had their first child, Hans Michael Schweitzer born in 1681. In 1685, during the five year peace before King Louis army invaded the second time, Hans Christopher was born in 1685, my 8th great grandparent.

It is here again I catch up with Hans Jacob and Anna Marie who were the parents to the two brothers featured in the podcast An Irish Palatine, Johann Christopher Schweitzer. When I researched Christopher’s brother, Johann Michael, I decided I had to go back and capture the story of three preceding generations told above. Life was good again for the couple, the crops abundant and the grapes were made into wine. Then the winter of 1709 occurred, where everything froze for three months. The family had meetings and two of their boys, hearing of William Penn’s plans to settle Pennsylvania petitioned the court for permission to go. Imagine the feelings of Anna Marie, the mother. She knew that when Michael and Christopher left she would not see them again. She knew that the two tiny grandchildren of Michael’s would never know their grandmother. In the days that it took the court to issue their passports with attestations of their characters to go to a foreign land, the family helped gather belongings for the two brothers. What would they or could they take on their trip? A bible written in German, extra pairs of socks knit by Anna Marie’s hands, small packets of vegetable seeds she had grown perhaps? With a prayer on her lips and one final farewell hug, she watched the cart with her daughter-in-law Dorothea and grandchildren, Johann Antonius and Michael move away with sons Michael and Christopher walking beside.

The next year, Hans Jacob Switzer father, known as Hans Jacob the Elder, would pass at the age of 90. The third generation Hans Jacob Switzer, the Younger would outlive his wife Anna Marie by 13 years. Anna Marie died in 1733 and Hans Jacob on September 15, 1746 at Assenheim, Germany age 88. The two boys never did make it to America but instead settled near Courtmatrix Castle at Rathkeale, Ireland and had large families there. It was the next generation of Switzer’s that would come to America.

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