Lessons Learned: Ancestral Origins of Abraham Estermann

Yesterday, I shared the rather short family sketch of Abraham Estermann and Anna Catharina (MNU) and possibly Lind, who was the widow of Conrad Wacker, when she and Abraham married on 15 November 1682 at the Walloon Reformed Church in Mannheim, Germany.

There are a scattering of German vital records online, but not a lot. However, I was able to locate several marriages and one death record, along with a few baptismal records, before accessing the microfilms in Salt Lake City.

First, Abraham Estermann married Anna Catharina, a widow, at the Wallonisch-Reformierte Church, which was in Mannheim, on 15 November 1682. In 1689, that particular congregation moved to Magdeburg.

The original church book pages aren’t available digitally online, so I will begin by sharing what the “no image available” screens have on Abraham’s origins.

  1. His 1682 marriage record includes the information that Abraham was the son of Wendel Estermann.
  2. Veronica Estermann, daughter of Wendel, married Wilhelm Bones, 14 January 1688, also in Mannheim, Germany.
  3. There is a marriage for Wendel Estermann, son of Martin Estermann, in Bretten, Germany on 7 April 1656 to Veronica Deler, daughter of Hans Deler. It also says that Wendel was born in Munster, Germany.

Now, the $64,000 question is whether the original records include the fathers’ names and the place of birth for Wendel. I question the birthplace because of (1) location and (2) record source.

Mannheim and Bretten are quite close to each other, with only about 40 miles distance between them.

However, Munster is about 250 miles away. That was a huge distance to travel in the 1600s. It certainly wasn’t impossible, but I would want lots more information about this area to decide whether it was feasible or not.

As for the source, it says Germany marriages, which on FamilySearch sometimes refers to the actual church books, but other times refers to data collected from patron submissions.

When I clicked on the collection, a new window opened:
“Index based upon data collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah”

This sounds like patron submitted info, which might be 100% accurate, but it’s really important to view the actual church records.

Further searching on American Ancestors turned up the same database, as they partner with FamilySearch. The database description found there says:

These records were obtained from the International Genealogical Index.

It’s now extra important to view the Mannheim and Bretten church records to see if parent names are really part of the official record.

Why else do I really want to know this besides for accuracy? Because the few records I’ve found online for early Estermanns are based in Neudorf, Lucerne, Switzerland.

Neudorf isn’t exactly along the way from Mannheim and Bretten to Munster.

The church books for Neudorf, Switzerland ARE digitized and available on FamilySearch and I spent several hours reading them.

There IS a baptismal record for Wendel Estermann on 19 October 1727. His parents are named as Martin and Maria Estermann.

Martin Estermann and Maria Wapf married in Neudorf on 29 October 1621. The Neudorf church was a Catholic church.

It is important to take into account that the Thirty Years’ War from 1618 to 1648 tore apart not only Germany but the area around it. Churches that had been Protestant became Catholic overnight.

To add to the political turmoil is that fact that the Estermanns were Anabaptists, or Walloons, as they were called in Europe. Walloons were not welcome in many places and it is very possible that they either felt the need to leave Neudorf or were physically driven out of the town. Their religious beliefs could have been the impetus for frequent moves.

This is the perfect example for the need to understand the social, political and cultural history of a region.

Back to the question about whether the parents’ names are on the Mannheim and Bretten marriage records – if the fathers’ names ARE on the actual record, then I can accept that Wendel was the father of Abraham Estermann and that Martin was the father of Wendel Estermann because I’ve viewed the Neudorf records myself to verify Wendel and Martin.

However, if no father’s name is on Abraham’s marriage record or on Wendel’s marriage record, then the link to Neudorf becomes much more suspect. In that case, I think someone found the baptismal record for Wendel Estermann and his birth year is a good fit for the man who married in Mannheim in 1656 and then added the undocumented fact of parentage to Abraham’s marriage record. We’ll have to see where this goes, but my instincts say that someone may well have added the parents’ names and birthplace to the record with no documentation, as other German church records in this time period don’t usually include parental or birth place data.

There’s one other detail that I haven’t discussed yet – Wendel’s marriage record reporting that he was born in Munster.

If place of birth is NOT on the church record, and this detail came from patron submitted records with no documentation, then, again, the trail to Neudorf becomes much more probable.

When I was in Salt Lake at the Family History Center, looking at the German microfilmed records was high on my “to do” list. What did I find?

With the help of the wonderful gentleman I mentioned in yesterday’s post, who is Swiss born and speaks German, I was able to verify fathers’ names for both Abraham and Wendel:

Abraham Estermann’s Marriage Record

This definitely isn’t the easiest script to read, but I’ve noted where in the record it identifies Abraham as the son of Wendel Estermann. There is nothing in this record that indicates his place of birth.

Next, we have Wendel Estermann’s marriage record:

Marriage Record of Wendel Estermann

This entry is even more difficult to read. Wendel’s father is named as Mar- tin Estermann, with Martin hyphenated between two lines.

What about that pesky mention of Wendel’s birth in Munster?

Munster is also mentioned in the record entry, but there is one word that makes a huge difference, according to my expert help in the Family History Library. The first word, noted in red, does NOT say BORN, it says FROM. The elder who helped me says that all it is indicating about Munster is the Wendel Estermann lived there before he moved to Mannheim.

It is also his opinion that given the fact that the Estermanns were Walloons, the places where they lived after leaving Neudorf – Bretten, Munster, Mannheim and eventually Barbelroth – were in a commonly traveled corridor used by many Swiss, Germans and others to find work and to escape political turmoil.

He further believes that Wendel Estermann in Germany is the same man born in Neudorf because the surname is not a common one and only one Wendel is found in this time period. The Estermann family disappears from the Neudorf records when Estermanns begin appearing in Germany.

All the puzzle pieces are fitting together nicely. I learned one more tantalizing tidbit from this record – because I had someone who could read it – that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else.

Wendel Estermann married Veronica Deler, daughter of Hans Deler, which I have seen noted in other places. However, there is a word that I don’t think others have been able to read, or they never looked at the original record after an early researcher viewed it. It is also hyphenated, which likely added to the difficulty. I never, ever would have been able to figure this out on my own.

The Deler family was from Fahrwangen! A quick check with Google maps made me very, very happy!

Fahrwangen is only about ten miles from Neudorf, Switzerland. The Estermanns and Deler family are most likely part of a FAN club that migrated together when they left Switzerland. I now have a new bread crumb trail to follow that might lead to new twigs on a branch of the family tree.

There are several lessons to be learned from my experience. First and foremost is to do your own research to verify information. Yes, sometimes that takes expert help, which I was most fortunate to have at the Family History Library.

Second, read a record in its entirety. Not only do the marriage records name Abraham’s and Wendel’s fathers, but they also mention that both were pipemakers and, as we have seen, BORN and FROM have two very different meanings.

There is still more to be done in the German records when I return to Salt Lake, but Swiss church records have been digitized and I am hoping to be able to share information on the Deler family from Fahrwangen in a future post.


One thought on “Lessons Learned: Ancestral Origins of Abraham Estermann”

  1. I hope you will be delighted with my find. I suggest your search for the following work in google books, “Dissertatio medico-chirurgica, sistens miram cranii fracturam in homine per 40 annos superstite … sub præsidio … Johannis Salzmanni, … Patroni atque præceptoris sui ad dies vitæ colendi in Alma Argentorum universitate … Johannes Gambs, Argent. d. 19 December. 1718 …” It will take you to a work that tells the story of Abraham Estermann’s remarkable injury and life that made him a medical curiosity. Most exciting is the discovery at the end of the brief work of Abraham’s portrait with his remarkable injury. It is incredible that he survived the skull fracture and subsequent chronic condition for years. Your husband only exists because of Abraham’s remarkable staying power. I hope you and others enjoy. The most pertinent aspect is near the beginning in the “Historia” and at the end with the image.

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