More on the Swiss Estermann Family: Anabaptist Persecution

Last year, I wrote several posts about my husband’s Estermann family from Switzerland. None of his direct line came to America, but they married into the Whitmer family, who did emigrate from Germany to Maryland in the 1750s.

Abraham Estermann was a medical curiosity; he suffered a fractured skull when he was a young man and lived to tell about it for decades afterwards.

Thanks to reader Bob, who sent me a link to a German genealogy forum discussion about the Estermann family and with the help of Google Translate, I have been able to piece together several more generations of Estermanns.

First – BEWARE – that I have not personally seen records and sources to verify this information myself. Apparently, some are to be found on Archion, a subscription website, and the Lucerne (Switzerland) State Archives has several books and a hand drawn family tree.

The earliest ancestor identified is one Hans Estermann, a miller, born c1598, whose home is identified as Traselingen, Switzerland. By 1520, Hans had removed to Rickenbach and then to Niederwil. Children later settled in Neudorf.

All of these towns lie not far from Zurich, all in the canton of Luzern (Lucerne).

Hans received two estates, which were in Niederwil, from the abbey of Beromunster, .

Supposedly, two of his brothers soon settled in Niederwil. Wolfgang, the first brother, had owned the Emmethof (travel lodge) in Bern (today in Aargau) until 1528. He may have left Bern because of the Reformation, which was well underway. Heini (Heinrich?) was the second brother, but I have only seen him mentioned by name, no other details. In 1546, a third Estermann, George, appeared in town, but little is known about him and it is uncertain if he was a brother of Hans or had some other relationship to him.

Heini purchased the Emmethof in Menziken, which had belonged to his brother at one time. However, in 1545, he was operating the Reinacherhof, another travel hotel, in Kagiswil, about four miles from Neudorf.

All the Estermanns still living in that area today are said to be descended from these three brothers, which seems likely given that the surname is fairly rare, but I have done no work myself to document their descendants.

Children of Hans Estermann, the miller, are said to be three sons and at least two daughters, possibly four:

1. Kleinhans (Small Hans, or Hans Jr.?), said to be the eldest son
2. Hans, again, and it isn’t clear if the first Hans died or if Hans Sr. might have married more than once and had a second son also names Hans.
3. Martin, who married several times
4. Daughter
5. Daughter

Martin Estermann, whose wives’ names are unknown, had the following children:

1. Daniel
2. Klaus
3. Jacob
4. Hans
5. Martin, born c1600, Niederwil, Lucerne, Switzerland; married Maria Wapf, 24 October 1621 or 1622, Neudorf, Lucerne, Switzerland
6. Ruedi

Daniel and Klaus were reportedly living in Neudorf by 1610 and other siblings then relocated there.

Martin Estermann, born c1600, married Maria Wapf on 24 October 1621 or 1622. I have seen both dates. Martin reportedly was the father of twelve children, but it is not known whether Maria was the mother of some, or all, of them. If she was but maybe 15 years old when she gave birth to her first child, Maria might be the mother of all these children. It seems more likely, though, that Martin married a second time or there is an error somewhere and the last one or two children were not his. All were baptized in Neudorf.

1. John, baptized 1 November 1625
2. Wendel, baptized 19 October 1627; died before 15 November 1582; married Veronica Deler, 7 April 1656, Bretten, Baden, Germany. Wendel and Veronica were the parents of the faous Abraham with the fractured skull.
3. Adam, baptized 8 February 1630
4. Agatha, baptized 27 March 1634
5. Anna, baptized 17 April 1637
6. Nicholas, baptized 12 June 1637
7. Elizabeth, baptized 23 May 1639
8. Michael, baptized 24 October 1642
9. Laurentz, baptized 27 October 1646
10. Katharina, baptized 25 March 1648
11. Maria, baptized 25 July 1650
12. Nicholas, baptized 23 May 1653

The history of this area of Switzerland and the start of Martin Luther’s Reformation is very important in telling the story of this family. Lucerne was mostly a Catholic canton, as the Reformation began. Martin Luther wrote the 95 These in 1517, to put events in perspective. The Estermann family moved from town to town, but seemed to support the Protestant cause as the 1600s opened. However, the next generation apparently supported and joined the Walloons, or Anabaptists, a religious group which opposed infant baptism. Anabaptists were not welcomed into many small towns in the 1600s.

By the 1650s, families were literally being chased out of towns and villages. Constant wars also brought great economic hardship to families, who migrated both to get away from battle zones and to find work. Martin Estermann took his family to Bretten in Baden, Germany and Sinsheim and, by 1682, when Abraham married, to Mannheim.

Abraham moved once more to Barbelroth in the Palatinate, where he lived out the rest of his years.

Two books were mentioned in the discussion forum: The Heimathskunde for the Canton of Lucerne: History of the Parish of Rickenbach, along with The Nursing Home for the Canton of Lucerne: Neudorf.” I have not been able to find either of these books, but, as they are likely in German, I wouldn’t be able to read them anyway.

While this is far from a proven ancestral tree, it is a good road map to guide me along in further research. Those research options, however, are limited, as FamilySearch doesn’t have any Swiss probate records and, for those places in Germany where records might exist, I will need a subscription to Archion.

Until I have a chance to visit the Family History Library, further research on the Estermann family will have to be put on hold.



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