Germanna Foundation Trustee and Secretary Barbara Gregory Fishback tells how 300-year-old documents important to colonial Virginia researchers were discovered in Germany by Germanna Foundation researchers:
“In preparation for the 2011 Germanna Foundation Trip to Germany, [Germanna Foundation First Vice President ] Dr. Katharine Brown and I made plans to conduct research at the Stadtarchiv Siegen, the Siegen City Archives.
We compiled a list of documents that we wished to secure, which included leave permissions (or manumissions) for each head of household of the emigrants living in the Siegerland.
The holdings in Siegen that were of interest to us were photocopies of the originals that are on deposit in the state archives in Munster.
Imagine our surprise when we opened the records from 1711-1715 to find that the last person who had signed up to search them was Emil Flender more than 50 years ago!
Emil Flender conducted extensive research in Germany for Dr. B. C. Holtzclaw when he was preparing his work Ancestry and Descendants of the Nassau-Siegen Immigrants to Virginia (Germanna Record No. 5).
Emil Flender was the brother of Ernst Flender, the Siegen native and New York banker who was instrumental in acquiring part of the original Germanna tract in 1956 and assisting with the establishment of the Germanna Foundation.
While searching through the records, we found the permissions for several members of the First Colony, the first of which were Hermannus Otterbach and Philip Fischbach, both of Trupbach, a village just outside Siegen at that time, and now a part of the city.
We thought it interesting that these two men, and their families, along with Hans Jacob Richter, who was Philip Fischbach’s son in law, had permission to leave because there are no records that have been found for these two older men in Virginia.
Also of interest to us was the timing of the permission for Hermannus Otterbach.
As we know, Johann Justus Albrecht was employed by the George Ritter Company to recruit miners for the company’s mining interests in the Colonies, i.e., Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas.
Albrecht went to Siegen to do this and he signed a contract with the pastors of Siegen on 15 August 1711, enlisting their assistance in recruitment.
Just twenty-one days later, on 5 September 1711, Hermannus Otterbach applied for permission to leave.
In his application he stated that he was going to Prussia, which seemed puzzling. The Archivist in Siegen told me that many people stated Prussia as their destination when attempting to gain permission to leave.
We did find evidence of Hermannus Otterbach selling his furniture, and other possessions, over the next two years, probably in preparation for departure to the Colonies.
Philip Fischbach secured his permission to leave on 31 July 1713, along with Jost Cuntze on the same day.
Another permission that is of interest because of its date is the document for Hans Jacob Holzklau, dated 17 July 1713, just five days after Pastor Haeger “moved this early morning from here [Oberfischbach],” according to the letter that was sent to the Royal Synod from Rev. Friedrich Georg Knabenschuh on 12 July 1713.
We also found permission for Johannes Hofmann on 28 February 1713, but we did not find documents for the Rev. Henry Haeger; Peter Heide/Hitt; Johannes Kemper; Johann Jost Merten/Martin; Johannes Spielmann/Spilman or Johann Henrich Weber/Weaver.
There was no record of Melchior Brombach requesting permission to leave, but we did find several documents holding his family responsible for debts on property that he left behind.
A document concerning this indebtedness, dated 4 December 1713, involved Melchior’s brother, Caspar Brombach.
There is so much research that still needs to be conducted on the Germanna Colony, including additional work in Siegen and also in Munster. We are chipping away at it, piece by piece!