Friday, February 13, 2009

Missing Wise Link

Today I visited the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center in Pennsburg, PA. I was very impressed with their resources and grateful for the assistance of Mr. Hunt The Archivist. However, I left with more questions than answers ... which I guess is normal in genealogy research?

In my last entry, I wrote that my maternal grandfather's family - the Wises - descend from Rev. George Weiss, the first Schwenkfelder Minister in Pennsylvania. I had gotten this information from the family history book "The Ziegler Family and Related Families in Pennsylvania" by Gertrude Ziegler, and I'd seen the same names on family trees as well as note pages in my family's files. I contacted the Schwenkfelder Center and told them that I was directly related to their founding minister and would like to come learn more about my heritage. They informed me that Rev. George Weiss of the Schwenkfelders had no descendants and so I could not be directly related to him. However, they told me there were a few other George Weisses in their records, and so perhaps I could find what I was looking for.

One generation after (meaning younger than) the mysterious George Weiss is Killian Weiss, and I actually know a lot about him. He was born on Dec 15, 1751 in Pennsylvania. He died Feb 16, 1840 and is buried in a Mennonite cemetery in Bally in Berks County, PA. He married Catherine Ziegler Landis, daughter of Hannah Pawling Ziegler and Martin Landis. Catherine was born Sept 4, 1764 and died May 20, 1826. She is buried next to her husband, and as far as I know their tombstones are still there in Bally. I haven't gone to the cemetery yet, but the church records are available at the Schwenkfelder Library (see photo) and also online. In the records, Killian is spelled Killion and Catherine is spelled Catharine, so perhaps I should go with these spellings until I can check them myself at the cemetery.

Their information is confirmed in the Ziegler book (which, however, gives Catharine a death date of July 10, 1859) and a book called "History of the Descendants of Jacob Funck Wise" prepared by my grandfather John H. Wise in 1962 (which only records Killion, spelled Killian Weisz). My grandfather referenced a book called "Historical and Biographical Annals of Berks County Pennsylvania" by Morton L. Montgomery, which I found in the Schwenkfelder Library (see photo). Montgomery uses the spellings Killian Weis and Catharine Weis and adds that in the 1790 federal census, Killion was listed as "a taxable resident of Upper Milford township, Northampton county."

Both the Ziegler and Montgomery books list Killion and Catharine's nine children: Anna who married John Ehst, Killian Jr. who married Barbara Shelly and is buried in the Boyertown Mennonite Cemetery, my ancestor John Landis who married Mary Funk, Jacob who married Catherine Bauer Boyer, George who married Anna Weinberger, Samuel who married a Latshaw, Katherine called Kate who married Henry Shelly, Henry who married Susanna Weinberg of Quakertown, and Hannah who married Isaac Longacre. The Montgomery book adds that Killion had a brother named Jacob who owned a mill.

So the problem is: Who were Killion (and Jacob?) Weiss's parents? The Ziegler book claims they were Rev. George Weiss of the Schwenkfelders and his wife Anna Meschter, but that can't be true. The Wise book also points to a George Weisz, explaining: "Four brothers landed at Philadelphia in 1725, first of the Weisz family to reach America. They were Kilyan, George, Rudolph and Jacob, settling in the upper part of Montgomery and lower Lehigh counties, and became the originators of the Mennonite church at or near Emause, about four miles from Allentown. Of these brothers, George had a son named Killian, born December 15, 1751, died February, 1840, at the age of 88." The source of this information is not listed, except for a note that says, "Most of the following was written in 1947." I'll have to ask my grandfather if he knows who wrote it and how they made the connection between Killion and George-Of-The-Four-Brothers-Who-Arrived-In-1725.

I continued my search for George/Georg or Killion/Killian Weiss/Weisz/Weis in the Schwenkfelder Library's databases and archives. In a file cabinet, I found a manila envelope labeled "Weiss" that contained three packets of information. The first page (see photo) was incredibly interesting, as it listed some of the same information as the Wise book. It starts out, "The Weisz's originally were Hollanders. They were exiled from Holland, fled from Switzerland, and then came to the United States. They landed at Philadelphia about 1727-1728 or 1729. Four brothers came to this country - Rudolph (died March 26, 1783 age 55 yr 6 m buried at Upper Milford Mennonite Cemetery), Jacob, Kilyon, George (?)." It goes on to list some of the descendants of Jacob Weisz, then it reads, "Of the original forefathers who came to the United States one was a minister, one a doctor, one a military man, and one a free holder." The last paragraph on the page references "Record in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, by H. L. Weisz." It says, "A Mennonite meeting house was built a few miles from what is now called Allentown between 1735-40, members of whom were George and Rudolph." Then is says, "Col. Jacob Weisz was born in Philadelphia about 1750, died at Weissport 1839. His father was a respectable doctor, a native of Germany."

So apparently these are the same four brothers who are listed in the Wise book. However, nowhere on this Random Page from the manila folder does it talk about George's wife or children. Maybe, as the Berks County Book claims, the Col. Jacob at the end of the page is my ancestor Killion's brother, and so their father is George who was a member of the Mennonite church and a doctor. But besides the missing link between George and Killion, there are a few problems with all of this:

  • Rudolph's grave is listed in the Upper Milford Mennonite church's cemetery records, but George's is not. Maybe whoever made that list couldn't see or read George's grave? Maybe he moved and was buried somewhere else - like in Weissport with his son Jacob? He's not buried in Bally with his son Killion.
  • If Rudolph's gravestone is correct (died March 1783 at the age of 55 1/2) then he was born in September 1727. The top of the Random Page says that four brothers sailed to Philadelphia in 1727, 1728, or 1729. If Rudolph was a tiny infant, wouldn't he be traveling with his parents? Why don't either of the sources - this random page and the Wise book - say anything about his parents?
  • I looked in two sources that list immigrants who arrived in Philadelphia starting in 1727 (based on ships' logs), and neither of them list four Weiss/Weisz/Weis brothers. There are a few George Weisses, but they arrived in the 1730's, 40's, and 50's. And I didn't see any Rudolphs or Kilyons. I guess it's possible their names are illegible on the ships' logs or their logs got lost?
The other two packets of information in the manila folder concern a Rev. George Michael Weiss. For a few brief moments I hoped that this would be the George Weisz from the Random Page and from the Wise Book, and that in these packets I would find the Missing Link. However, this Rev. George Michael Weiss (who is very well documented) was sent by the Reformed Church (not a Mennonite) and, most importantly, had no children.

So I left the Schwenkfelder Library and Heritage Center knowing that Killion's father was not The Rev. George Weiss of the Schwenkfelders, nor was he The Rev. George Michael Weiss of the Reformed Church. He was perhaps George Weisz, one of Four Brothers, who was a Mennonite and maybe a Doctor and came from Germany in the 1720's ... but I'm not really sure about that yet. Fortunately, the trip to the Schwenkfelder Library gave me a few places to turn for more information:

  • There's the Upper Milford Mennonite Church where George and Rudolph were members and where Rudolph is buried. It's still around and apparently published an updated history for its 250th anniversary, so I should contact them. I found a short history of the church in the book History of the Mennonites Historically and Biographically Arranged from the Time of the Reformation which lists all four Weisz brothers as founding members (as well as Abraham Heistand who is another ancestor of mine!). Their family information still isn't clear, but this could be a great lead. Mennonite Congregation in Upper Mil ford Lehigh County A Short Historical Sketch BY SAMUEL STAUFFER THE first Mennonite congregation in Upper Milford Lehigh County was founded and organized as near as can be ascertained between the years 1735 and 1760 The founders of this congregation were Ulrich Easier Heinrich Schleifer Johannes Schwartz Conrad Stamm David Jansen Benjamin Meyer Abraham Funk Heinrich Funk Johannes Mayer Samuel Mayer Conrad Mayer Michael Mayer Johannes Gehman George Weisz Kilian Weisz Rudolph Weisz Jacob Weisz Jacob Hie stand Abraham Hiestand Daniel Greber and others
  • Then there's the Mennonite Cemetery of the Hereford Congregation in Bally, PA, where Killion and Catharine are buried. I could try to visit there.
  • Jacob Weiss, who according to the Berks County Book was Killion's brother, ended up in Weissport. According to, the town is actually named for Col. Jacob Weiss, described as a "wealthy Philadelphian who organized early coal company." So maybe that town has information on their namesake's parents.
  • The Random Page references "Record in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, by H. L. Weisz," so I should try to find that.
  • The bottom of the Random Page lists someone's name and address. Maybe it's the lady who provided the Random Page, so I guess if I got desperate I could try to contact her, Mrs. Narona Gebert.
  • Then of course, there's my grandpa who researched all of this for the Wise Book. He's still very sharp, but I can't expect him to remember all of his sources from a project he did 40 years ago. I probably won't remember all of this 40 years from now ... unless of course blogger is still around and I can look it up.

1 comment:

Sue Farkas said...

Somehow you and I are related though you are much more informed than I am. I have a copy of the descendants of Jacob fun just wise also. (Do you know where I can get additional copies?). Anyway my great grandmother mollie wise is granddaughter of Abraham Ziegler, founder of the Zhaonite settlement.