Category Archives: Estermann

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.



A Most Unusual, Quite Unique Genealogical Find!

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about two of my husband’s ancestors, Abraham Estermann and his wife, Veronica Deler. The Estermanns belonged to a Walloon (Anabaptist) church and seemed to move rather often, perhaps because of their religious beliefs.

I thought I had done well tracing the family from Barbelroth, Germany back to the Heidelberg area, where Abraham was said to have been born, and then tracing his father back into a Swiss village.

None of that came close, though, to matching my latest discovery. I can’t claim credit for the discovery, though, because I only learned about it from a reader Robert Heim, who is a distant Whitmer cousin of my husband’s. The Estermann line eventually comes down to the Whitmers, who were also from Barbelroth.

It definitely ranks as one of the most unusual items I’ve ever come across on either side of the family!

Source: Google Books

Now, I’m the first to admit that my Latin isn’t great. But I can make out part of the title of this dissertation:

Medical-Surgical Dissertation
We Look at the Fractured Cranium
in a Man for 40 Years

Even more amazing is the fact that this dissertation dates from 19 December 1718!!!

Robert advised me that this is a 42 page academic work about Abraham Estermann – yes, my husband’s exact Abraham Estermann – who survived for 40 years with a fractured skull!

I haven’t been able to find a translation tool that produces anything but gibberish, so I haven’t even been able to read the historical introduction.

A second surprise was found at the end of the dissertation – I know what Abraham Estermann looked like! The image is only slightly gory:

Abraham Estermann’s Fractured Skull

I have a newfound respect for Abraham Estermann. I was already fond of the family, as it provides a documented Swiss ancestral line, but Abraham Estermann is another story totally.

Imagine not only fracturing your skull and living to tell about it, but surviving with it for over 40 years! I can’t even imagine how many ways that impacted every single day of his life.

I am on the hunt to find some Latin translation help and will share more of the story once I am able to read it. 🙂 Thank you, Robert Heim, for this extremely unique bit of family history.



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.