Tag Archives: Johannes Witmer

German Origins of John Whitmer, Part 3

NOTE: The intent of what I am calling my family tree experiment is to encourage all genealogists to treat on line information as possible hints, clues or answers to empty branches on their family trees. I have been researching for 35 years and I still remember hearing stories about mistakes in books published in the 1800s(!) and how family historians were continuing to perpetuate myths that had been debunked years before. That was long before the internet was around. Errors abound in family histories found on line because the same thing is happening that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries. The difference is that the internet provides instantaneous contact with mistakes. My hope is that many of John Whitmer’s on line family trees will be updated so that future researchers have the benefit of accessing cited documents that they can read for themselves.

Here is Part 3 of the research completed on the German origins of John Whitmer of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Parts 1 and 2 were posted yesterday and the day before.

The will of John Whitmer was written on 2 Aug 1828 and witnessed by Jacob and Evy Whitmer. He left all to his wife, Catherine, and signed his name “Johannes Wittmer.”69 He died 10 Dec 1828. Catherine died a decade later, on 4 Sept 1838; both are buried at Grundy Cemetery, Muhlenberg County, KY.70

Children of John and Catherine Whitmer:

i. Jacob, born 15 January 1779; bapt. 23 Mar 1779, Frederick, MD (Sponsors: Jacob and Anna Barbara Holtz)71; died 23 June 1854, Muhlenberg County, KY73; married Catherine Short, 1 Sept 1800, Botetourt County, VA. She was the daughter of David Short.72 This couple had 8 children.
ii. John, born 8 June 1781; bapt. 5 Aug 1781 (Sponsors: Johannes Kauffman and wife)74; died 26 Feb 1852, Muhlenberg County, KY73; married Catherine Sheets, daughter of John, 22 Apr 1809, Botetourt County, VA. They had 7 children.
iii. Catherine, born 10 Sept 1783; bapt. 26 Oct 1783 (Sponsors: David and Eva Schultz)75; died 21 Feb 1862, Muhlenberg County, KY76; married Martin Miller, 7 Jan 1808, Botetourt County, VA. They had 9 children.
iv. Valentine, born 26 Oct 1786; bapt. 25 Dec 1786 (Sponsors: Valentine and Chatarina Keyser)77, Rockingham County, VA; died 15 Sept 1855, Muhlenberg County, KY; married Sarah Scott, daughter of Nathan, 12 Apr 1812, Muhlenberg County, KY.78 They had 8 children.
v. Maria Elisabeth, born 4 Sept 1788, bapt. 4 Oct 1788, Rockingham County, VA [Sponsor at Friedens Church: Maria Chate (Kate?) Trobachin (Trobaugh].77; died young. She is not named on the list of children in the family Bible.
vi. Maria Eva, born 12 Dec 179080, probably Rockingham County, VA, although the baptism is not found at Friedens Church; died 25 Aug 1864, Muhlenberg County, KY76; married Jacob Phillips, 1 Apr 1808, Botetourt County, VA.72. They had 5 children.
vii. Elizabeth, born 15 Nov 1794, VA; married Anthony Donohoo, 31 May 1820, Muhlenberg Co., KY. Elizabeth died after 1850 and Anthony after 1860 when he lived next door in McLean County. They had at least 7 children. The Donohoo family was from Sumner County, TN.
viii. Michael, born 24 Sept 1796, MD; Michael reported in 1850 that he was born in MD85, but it is more likely that he was born in Virginia; died 24 Jan 185576, Muhlenberg County, KY; reportedly married Julia Stewart, no marriage record has been found. However, his wife in 1850 was Elizabeth. They had at least 7 children.
ix. Margaret, born c1800, VA; married John Dossett, 13 June 1816, Muhlenberg County, KY. 81 Little else is known about the family, but Dossett family information seems to indicate they perhaps removed to Knox County, TN, Gibson Co., IN in 1834 and then to Greene Co., IL where John reportedly died on 23 June 1843. Margaret has not been found in 1850. There is a John Dosett in IN in 1840 who is of the right age to be this man with a wife and seven children. More work needs to be done on this family. The Dossetts may have known the Donohoo family in TN. There is a Margaret Dossett in Greene Co., IL in 1850 as head of household, born in 1800. A pension record for John Dossett in the War of 1812 indicates that he married Margaret “Whitmore” in 1815 Muhlenburg County, KY and that he died in Greene County, IL on 23 June 1843. The same pension file indicates that Margaret died about 1892. She is last found in the 1880 census when she was living with her daughter’s (Mary A. Lockhart) family in Greene County.
The maiden name of Catherine Whitmer is still unknown. However, it would be very surprising if her name was not the same as someone found with the Whitmers in the records of Frederick County. Some of the people with whom the Whitmers had church contacts are proved relatives of John. It would be unusual if some of the others were not relatives of Catherine.


1. Carolyn Earle Billingsley, The Family History of Eula Mae Miller Fisher, (Alexander, AR: Saline Research), 1987.
2. Dallis and Ann Whitmer, The Whitmer Family Genealogy, (n.p. 1976.).
3. George Holt, County Clerk, Botetourt County marriage record, unpublished, Fincastle, VA.
4. Dauphin County, PA Will Book A, 1:314.
5. Linda Husky, Christus Gardens, PO Box 587, River Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.
6. Ann Sherwin, c/o German Genealogical Society of America, PO Box 291818, Los Angeles, CA 90029.
7. Thomas W. Westerfield, Editor, Kentucky Genealogy and Biography, Owensboro, KY: General Reference, 1969, Reprinted from Kentucky: A History of the State, by Battle, Perrin, Kniffin, 3:81.
8. C.E. Schildknecht, Editor, Monocacy and Catoctin, Some Settlers of Western Maryland and Adjacent Pennsylvania and Their Descendants 1725-1988, 2:106.
9. Evangelical Reformed Church of Barbelroth, Germany Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths, LDS Film 193777, unpaged book.
10. Frederick Sheely Weiser, Translator and Editor, Records of Marriages and Burials in the Monocacy Church in Frederick County, Maryland and in the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in the City of Frederick, Maryland 1743-1811, Special Publication No. 38, (Arlington, VA: The National Genealogical Society), p. 35.
11. William J. Hinke and E.W. Reinecke, Translators, Records of the Evangelical Reformed Church in Frrederick, Maryland 1746-1800 (Silver Spring, MD: Family Line Publications), 1986, p. 7.
12. Ibid., p. 19.
13. Frederick County, MD Administration Accounts, Liber GM no. 2, 1800-1805, p. 483.
14. Margaret Elizabeth Myers, Georg(e) Zimmerman and Descendants of Frederick County, Maryland 1714-1987, (New Market, MD: American Forms and Stationery, Inc.), 1988.
15. Hinke, p. 10.
16. Frederick, MD Land Deed Book J., p. 470.
17. Hinke, pp. 86, 92 and 95.
18. Ibid., pp. 101-102.
19. Ibid., p. 74.
20. Frederick County, MD Minute Book, “Unpublished Revolutionary War Records of Maryland: A List of Persons Who Have Taken the Following Oath Before the Different Magistrates, 1778.” (now at MD State Archives).
21. Frederick County, MD Will Book A 1, p. 344,
22. Frederick County, MD Land Deeds, Liber 2, Folio 15.
23. Ibid., Liber 2, Folio 537.
24. Ibid., Liber 3, Folio 437.
25. Frederick County, MD Will Book, Liber GM-2, p. 186.
26. Hinke, p. 36.
27. Weiser, p. 22.
28. Ibid., p. 25.
29. Hinke, p. 47.
30. Wesier, p. 35.
31. Hinke, p. 92.
32. Frederick County Will Book, Liber GM-1, p. 137.
33. Hinke., p. 36.
34. Ibid., p. 40.
35. Ibid., p. 51.
36. Ibid., pp. 54, 113.
37. Ibid., p. 58.
38. Ibid., p. 62.
39. Ibid., p. 67.
40. Ibid., p. 72
41. Frederick County, MD Adminnistration Accounts, Liber GM no. 2, 1800-1805, p. 483.
42. Frederick County, MD Land Deed Book 15, pp. 13, 483.
43. Hinke, p. 52.
44. Ibid., p. 56.
45. Ibid., p. 61.
46. Ibid., p. 69.
47. Ibid., p. 76.
48. Ibid., p. 82.
49. Ibid., p. 116.
50. John Wayland, A History of Rockingham County, Virginia (Harrisonburg, VA: C.J. Carrier, 1980) p. 270.
51. Netti Schreiner-Yantis and Florence Speakman Love, 1787 Census of Virginia (Springfield, VA: Genealogical Books in Print, 1987) p. 661.
52. Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, PO Box 716, Dayton, VA 22821, miscellaneous manuscript files.
53. Louise C. Levinson and Constance A. Levinson, Rockingham County, Virginia Minute Book, 1778-1792, Part III 1789-1792 (n.d., n. p.) pp. 114-115.
54. Botetourt County, VA 1800 Tax list, book in LDS Family History Library collection, Salt Lake City, UT.
55. Botetourt County, Virginia Land Deed, 7:746.
56. Ibid., 9:505.
57. Ibid., 9:629.
58. Ibid., 9:114.
59. Muhlenberg County, KY Land Deed, 3:32.
60. Muhlenbuerg County, KY Tax Rolls 1799-1809, 1811-1813, and 1815-1829, LDS Film #8176, unpaged.
61. Muhlenberg County, KY Land Deed, 3:276.
62. Ibid., 4:131.
63. Muhlenberg County, KY 1810 census, p. 393.
64. Dallis Whitmer, p. 31.
65. Sumner County, TN 1810 census, AIS Index.
66. Sumner County, TN Land Deed, 10:473.
67. Muhlenberg County, KE 1850 census, p. 201.
68. Muhlenberg County, KY 1810 census, p. 139.
69. Muhlenberg County, KY Will Book 2, p. 490.
70. Grundy Cemetery gravestones, Muhlenberg County, KY.
71. Hinke, p. 41.
72. George Holt, County Clerk, Botetourt County, VA marriage records.
73. Whitmer Cemetery gravestone, Muhlenberg County, KY.
74. Hinke, p. 45.
75. Ibid., p. 50.
76. Old Shiloh Cemetery gravestones, Muhlenberg County, KY.
77. Harrison-Rockingham Historical Society, Friedens Church records, miscellaneous manuscript collection.
78. County Clerk, Muhlenberg County, KY marriage records.
79. Scott Cemetery graveston, Muhlenberg County, KY.
80. Dallis Whitmer, p. 29.
81. Ibid., p. 31.
82. Muhlenberg County, KY 1850 census, p. 234.
83. Dallis Whitmer, p. 32.
84. G.M. Brumbaugh, Maryland Records, Colonial, Revolutionary, County, Church, (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co.,) 1985, 1:272.
85. Muhlenberg County, KY 1850 census., p. 201.

Results of my experiment to see how many family trees are updated to reflect this information will be reported the first week of February and the first week of March.

How many trees do you think will have been corrected?

German Origins of John Whitmer, Part 2

NOTE: The intent of what I am calling my family tree experiment is to encourage all genealogists to treat on line information as possible hints, clues or answers to empty branches on their family trees. I have been researching for 35 years and I still remember hearing stories about mistakes in books published in the 1800s(!) and how family historians were continuing to perpetuate myths that had been debunked years before. That was long before the internet was around. Errors abound in family histories found on line because the same thing is happening that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries. The difference is that the internet provides instantaneous contact with mistakes. My hope is that many of John Whitmer’s on line family trees will be updated so that future researchers have the benefit of accessing cited documents that they can read for themselves.

This is a continuing article, begun yesterday, of original research that I did in the 1990’s proving the German ancestral origins of John Whitmer of Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. Please read yesterday’s post for further information.

Here is the next section of my article:

Johannes and Maria Elisabetha were part of a migration of Barbeloth citizens to Maryland in the 1750’s. Conrad Doll and the Holtz family were relatives of Maria Elisabetha who also settled in Frederick County.9

Johannes and his wife had been married for more than ten years, but apparently took only one surviving son, Johannes, with them to colonial America.

Although Schildknecht states that Johannes was in Maryland in 1753, the earliest written record of him that I have found is the Evangelical Reformed Church baptism of Elias “Widmer” on 20 Feb 1757, son of Johannes and Maria Elisabetha. Like four of his sisters, Elias probably died young because no further mention is made of him in any church or state records. On 28 Mar 1758, Johannes and Maria Elisabetha were sponsors at the Baptism of Maria Catharina, daughter of Conrad and Anna Catharina Dick.15

English speaking colonials had great difficulty with the spelling of German names, which were frequently anglicized. For discussion purposes, Johannes born in 1751 will be called John, but the various spellings of his name and the names of all others found in church and state records will be cited in this article as originally written.

Only one land deed has been found in Frederick County for Johannes Wittmer, and this deed is the link between Johannes of Barbelroth and Frederick, MD and John Whitmer of KY. On 22 May 1764, “John Whitmore” recorded a deed between himself and Daniel Dulaney of Annapolis, MD for Lots 230 and 231 in Frederick Town.16 This John Whitmore signed the deed as “Johannes Wittmer.” No further mention is made of Johannes in court, land or church records after this date, although wife Maria is on communion lists in 1766, 1773, and 1778.17 Also, a membership list of the Reformed Church in Frederick dated 1775 includes Margaretha, Maria Elisabetha and Johannes Wittmer.18 This Johannes is John, the son, as he was confirmed and received communion in 1768.19

There is an oath of allegiance administered to Frederick County men in 1776 that shows a John Whitmore Sr. and John Whitmore Jr.20 It is not known for sure whether either of these men is in this Wittmer family. However, there was a John among the family of Benjamin Whitmore of Frederick County, named in Benjamin’s 1769 will21 and the “Senior” and “Junior” designations on the allegiance list probably refer to Benjamin’s son, John, who was of age in 1769 ad “Senior” and John, the son of Johannes as “Junior.”

There was no mention of Johannes or how John came to own the land on 8 May 1779 when John Witmer, weaver, sold Lot 231 to Jacob Holtz, a cousin on his mother’s side.22 On 29 May 1784, John Wittmer, weaver, sold half of Lot 230 to Michael Wittmer, both of Frederick.23 On the second transaction, John’s wife, Catherine, released her dower rights. The final land deed transaction by John Whitmer in Maryland was in Apr 1785 when he sold Lot 230 to Jacob Koehler.24 (Jacob Koehler, limner, wrote a will dated 20 June 1785, which was witnessed by Michael Whitmore.25 The same man or possibly a son?)

There are numerous references to John Whitmer in Frederick church records. John first appears in these records on 16 Mar 1777, perhaps shortly before his marriage (his first child was born in Jan 1779). Johan Witmer was a witness to the baptism of John Meyer, son of Henry and Eva Meyer.26 On 23 Apr 1779, the marriage of Christian Juzler (Schustler?) and Elsabeth Dickkaut is recorded. Witnesses: Balthasar Dicckaut, Jacob Schnoutiget, Johannes Widmer and wife Catharina and Elisabeth Etschbergern.27 The third record, 9 Feb 1780, notes the marriage of Nicholas Klein and Margreth Schmid. Johannes Widmer and wife Catherine are again witnesses, along with Johannes Kaufmann and wife Catherine, Abraham and Magdalena Ditlo and Prt. (?) Schober.28 (One Johannes Kaufmann married Catharina Beckin at the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Middletown, Frederick, MD on 21 Apr 1776.) On 21 Apr 1782, Simon and Catharina Rapp baptized their daughter, Catharina, with Johannes and Catharina Wittmer as sponsors.29 Another record shows Johannes Widmer witnessing the 28 Sept 1783 marriage of David Schultz an Evan Mayern.30 Other witnesses included Conrad Doll and wife, Anna Maria, Rudolph Rohr and wife Anna Margreth and Maria Schustlern. Anna Maria Doll is the sister of Maria Elisabetha Holtz Wittmer. Catherine Whitmer may not have witnessed this marriage since two weeks previously she had given birth to her first daughter.

John Whitmer’s witnessing of Meyer and Schultz baptisms and marriages, along with a catechetical and communion list dated 177331 in the Frederick Evangelical Reformed Church listing Eva Margaretha Wittmer imply that Eva Meyer is his sister. He was a sponsor for her son, John, and he witnessed her second marriage to David Schultz. David and Eva Schultz were sponsors at the baptism of John and Catherine’s daughter, Catherine, in 1783. In addition, the will of Eva’s first husband, Henry Meyer, shoemaker, probated in July 1779, named wife Eva Margaretha, son Henry, daughter Anna Margaret, and was witnessed by Michael Whitmore.32 David Schultz was still in Maryland for the 1800 census but no other records have been searched for further information on Eva’s family.
Children of Henry and Eva Margaretha (Wittmer) Meyer:

i. Henrich, born 15 Aug 1776, bapt. 16 Mar 1777, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Johan Witmer.33 Named in his father’s 1779 will.
ii. Anna Margaretha, born 20 Dec 1778; bapt. 3 Feb 1779, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.34 Named in her father’s 1779 will.

Children of David and Eva Margaretha (Wittmer) Schultz:

i. Maria Elisabetha, born 11 Mar 1784; bapt. 2 May 1784, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Valentin and Elisabetha Brunner.35 She apparently died soon.
ii. Maria Elisabeth, born 19 Aug 1785; bapt. 2 Oct 1785, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Valentine and Elisabeth Brunner. Died 11 Nov 1789, aged 4 years, 3 months, 9 days.36
iii. Catherine, born 9 Aug 1787; bapt. 23 Sept 1787, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.37
iv. Anna Maria, born 10 Jan 1789; bapt. 1 Mar 1789, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.38
v. David, born 3 Jan 1791; bapt. 25 Feb 1791, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.39
vi. Catherine, born 20 Nov 1792; bapt. 18 Dec 1792, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.40

No marriage record has been found for Michael Whitmer and his wife, Catherine, but preponderance of evidence points to her being a Steckel. Michael “Whitmore” is on the official poll list of the presidential election in Frederick County, MD from November 9-12, 1796. He was a Federalist.84

Administration of Michael’s estate was begun in October 1805.41 It included payment to Nicholas Holtz for Travel to Virginia to summon Michael’s children. Michael is not in the 1800 Maryland census, and having sold off the last of his land in Frederick county in July 179742, the family moved to Virginia. Michael must have returned to Maryland to complete some business and died there.

Children of Michael and Catherine (Steckel?) Whitmer:

i. Anna Maria, born 18 Aug 1784; bapt. 15 May 1785, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Anna Maria Steckel, single.43
ii. Elisabetha, born 10 Apr 1786; bapt. 14 June 1786, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Margaretha Steckel, single.44
iii. Michael, born 20 June 1788; bapt. 13 Dec 1788, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.45
iv. Catharina, born 9 Apr 1789; bapt. 20 Nov 1791, Frederick, MD. Sponsor: Jacob Kitweiler.46
v. George, born 20 Aug 1792; bapt. 19 July 1795, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Parents.47
vi. Nicholas, born 15 Mar 1795; bapt. 19 July 1795, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Nicholas and Susanna Holtz.47
vii. Barbara Susanna, born 9 Nov 1797; bapt. 19 Mar 1798, Frederick, MD. Sponsors: Joh. And Barbara Kopenhewer.48
viii. Margaret41

Widow Maria Elisabeth Wittmer died 6 June 1794,49 completing the information compiled in Maryland on John’s parents and siblings.

By spring 1785, John and Catherine Whitmer had three young children and had been active members of the church community in Frederick. Sometime between April 1785 and December 1786, when their son Valentine was born, the Whitmer family moved to Rockingham County, Virginia. Valentine’s baptism is noted in the records of the Friedens Church, along with that of his sister, Maria Elizabeth, baptized on 4 Oct 1788. The Friedens Church, located in Moutnt Crawford, is a union church, meaning that the building was held jointly by the Reformed and Lutheran faiths.50

John Witmore appears on the 1787 Rockingham County, VA tax list living near Jacob Witmore and Martin, son of Jacob Witmore.51 Jacob left a will naming sons Martin, Jacob, John and Daniel, but this John is well accounted for in Rockingham County, with a different wife and children born from 1802 onwards. Jacob arrived in Pennsylvania in 1754, was at Culpepper County, VA in 1761 and at Rockingham County in 1779.52 It seems strange that the two unrelated Whitmore families should be living near each other, but no link has been found between them in Maryland or Barbelroth.

John and Catherine were in Rockingham County at least until March 1792 when they were in court testifying in the Commonwealth vs. Keyser and wife, with John Whitmore and Catherine Whitmore each proving five days attendance for the defendant. (Valentine and Catharine Keyser were sponsors at the baptism of John’s son, Valentine.)53

By 1800, John Whitmore was taxed in Botetourt County for three white males over the age of 21 and five horses.54The third male is a mystery, since only John and his son, Jacob, born in 1779, were 21 or older. (Perhaps the male was his brother, Michael, who was not enumerated in Maryland?) In 1802, he bought 235 acres of land from Francis Greenlee.55 He also apparently changed his church affiliation to Methodist as his older children were married by Methodist minister Samuel Mitchell in Botetourt County in the first decade of the 1800’s. However, John must not have been happy in Botetourt County, or else land was too expensive, for in September 1808, he and Catherine sold 100 acres of land to son John Jr.56 and, in September 1809, another 135 acres were sold to Charles Seacutt.57 He and Catherine returned to Botetourt County from Kentucky in August 1810 to sell one remaining piece of land containing 100 acres to Catherine George.58 Perhaps son John sold his 100 acres back to his parents in an unrecorded transaction and John was ending his ties to Virginia.

The first land purchase in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky was recorded on 8 January 1810 when one John Whitmer bought 200 acres of land on Pond River from Daniel Landis.59 It is not possible to prove whether this purchase was made by John or his son. The tax rolls for 1811 and 1812 are unclear and an error may have been made in identifying each man. The 1811 tax list shows John Senior with no land and John Junior with 200 acres, but in 1812, the land holdings are reversed with John Jr. being landless and John Sr. with the 200 acres, even though no other land deeds are recorded in their names between 1810 and 1812.60 On 12 August 1812, one of the Johns sold 100 of those acres to Jacob Phillips.61 On 15 September 1814, Henry Hake recorded a deed in which one of the John Whitmers bought 8 ½ acres on Log Creek.62 This transaction may refer to John Sr. because in 1816, (the 1815 tax list is missing), John Sr. owned 110 3/8 acres of land.

The 1810 census listed John Whitmore as 11001-11001-0063, which would account for John, wife Catherine, son Michael, but it does not fit the ages of unmarried daughters Eva and Elizabeth and there is a male under 10 who may be an unknown son who died young.

Elizabeth Whitmer married Anthony Donohoo. Their family is not well documented, but they reportedly had a son, Michael, born about 1822 in Tennessee. Anthony Donohoo was from Sumner County, TN according to the 1810 census.65

In printed material about John Whitmer, the impression is given that John spent the rest of his life after 1810 in Kentucky. However, the Muhlenberg County tax rolls from 1811-1829 consistently list Whitmers being taxed until 1820. In that year, only John and Jacob were on the rolls. In 1821, not a single Whitmer was on the tax rolls, but in 1822, Valentine, Michael and Jacob reappeared. By 1823, John, John Jr., Michael, Jacob and Valentine were all listed. The 1823 Sumner County, TN land deeds show a land sale by Anthony Donohoo, no wife mentioned.66 Michael Whitmer reported that some of his children were born in Tennessee in the 1850 census enumeration.67This circumstantial evidence points to a trek to Tennessee in the early 1820’s by the whole Whitmer family.

On page 139 of the 1820 Muhlenberg County, KY census, John Whitmer’s household is enumerated as 000101-30101.68 John and Catherine were the oldest male and female. Son Michael was 24, and perhaps was the young male living with his parents, wife and children. He was taxed as a free white male over 21 with no land in 1819. However, less is known about John’s three youngest children than the others and the young couple and three young children could be any combination of those last three children, their spouses and young grandchildren of John.

Part 3 will be posted tomorrow.


German Origins of John Whitmer, Muhlenberg Co., KY, Part 1

NOTE: The intent of what I am calling my family tree experiment is to encourage all genealogists to treat on line information as possible hints, clues or answers to empty branches on their family trees. I have been researching for 35 years and I still remember hearing stories about mistakes in books published in the 1800s(!) and how family historians were continuing to perpetuate myths that had been debunked years before. That was long before the internet was around. Errors abound in family histories found on line because the same thing is happening that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries. The difference is that the internet provides instantaneous contact with mistakes. My hope is that many of John Whitmer’s on line family trees will be updated so that future researchers have the benefit of accessing cited documents that they can read for themselves.

Although genealogy, as a hobby, is more popular today that it has ever been, I am disappointed with the number of people claiming to be “researching” their family history. That is because researching now usually means finding your family in someone’s tree and importing the information, right or wrong. Dave, my husband, is descended from John and Catherine Whitmer, whom I have blogged about before.

However, I have never told the story of how I discovered the ancestral home of John’s family. Back in the early 1990’s, I hunted down every clue I could find about the family and eventually discovered their European home. I wrote up the story of my genealogical adventure and submitted the article to the Kentucky Genealogical Society, which published it in the summer 1993 issue.

John Whitmer, Page 81

I was later contacted by the Society and told that I won second place for the best researched article submitted that year. I am proud of the work I did on the Whitmer family.

Today, John Whitmer has hundreds, if not thousands, of descendants. I looked just on one website and found 358 family trees that contained my John Whitmer. Of those 358 trees, only three had John’s parents correctly named as Johannes Wittmer and Maria Elisabetha Holtz. One of those three trees was mine. A fourth tree had Maria Elisabetha as his mother, but still incorrectly identified his father as Michael Whitmer. I’d say the remainder of the trees were split quite evenly, with some showing no parents known and the other half naming Michael Whitmer and his wife, Barbara from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania as his father and mother.

I’ve decided to conduct an experiment and do a good genealogical deed to start off 2015. First, I am going to post the Whitmer article in its entirety here on my blog. The original article was eight pages long and there are 85 footnotes, which I will include on the blog. Next, I am going to begin contacting the Whitmer tree members letting them know that his origins have been identified. Perhaps in about one month’s time, in early February, I will check to see how many trees have been updated. I will check again in the beginning of March. I am most curious to see if I can make a difference so that others will have the correct information.

So, as of 3 January 2015, the count (excluding my own tree) is 355 trees with wrong parentage or unknown parentage for John Whitmer and 2 trees with  correct parentage for a total of 357 trees. I wonder what the count will be in March??

Here is the first part of my article:

John Whitmer of Maryland, Virginia and Kentucky

When I first began researching my husband’s family history, and rather quickly came upon the line of John and Catherine Whitmer, it appeared to me that it would be relatively easy to trace this family back for at least a couple more generations. The name did not seem terribly common and a maiden name of sorts (Valde) was given for Catherine. It could have been a corruption of “Welty.” What followed became a classic lesson in documenting all information firsthand, rather than accepting the word of others.

I began my search with the information about John Whitmer in Muhlenberg County, KY. Census records, land deeds, tax rolls, and John’s will provided more than enough primary documentation. However, I wanted to take him out of Kentucky back to his parents. A friend of mine saw an ad for a genealogical book titled The Family History of Eula Mae Miller Fisher.1This Miller family was from Muhlenberg County and included some information on other local German families, such as the Shavers, who had ties by marriage to the Whitmers in Kentucky. I was very interested in this book because the Whitmers and other German families in the area appeared to be very clannish, intermarrying for at least 200 years. The Shavers had been traced from Botetourt County, VA. A while later, I also found a book called The Whitmer Family Genealogy2 about John and his Muhlenberg County descendants, put together for the Bicentennial by Dallis and Ann Whitmer. The Whitmers opened with an introduction that records had been compiled from cemeteries, court records, censuses, obituaries, marriage records, Bible records and archival information in Philadelphia. It also made the statement that there was an old Whitmer family Bible, written in German, that was given to John Whitmer by Frena Whitmer Nesbitt in 1809. This book also placed John Whitmer in the family of Michael and Barbara Whitmer of Manor Township, Lancaster County, PA.

Lastly, a quick check of the LDS Church IGI showed a listing for Jacob, John and Catherine Whitmer, children of John and Catherine, baptized in the German Reformed Church of Frederick, Maryland. The baptismal dates corresponded closely to birth dates on their gravestones in Kentucky, leading me to believe it was the same John Whitmer family.

There appeared to be quite a wealth of information about John Whitmer and his origins and enough information was provided in the various publications to being to prove this information to my own satisfaction, using primary sources.

However, as I wrote to confirm these facts, I quickly ran into stone walls. My only initial success was taking a guess that since the families were closely tied together in Kentucky and the Shavers came from Botetourt County, VA, perhaps John Whitmer followed the same route. The Botetourt County clerk found a marriage record for Martin Miller and Catherine Whitmer, identified as the daughter of John, married on 7 Jan 1808,3 although this marriage was omitted from the published volume of Botetourt marriages. My next venture proved that Frena Witmer Nesbitt could not have possibly given the Bible to John in 1809, as she had died by the time her father wrote his will in the 1790’s. Frena Witmer, wife of Nathaniel Nesbitt, was the daughter of Peter and Anna Catharine Baughman Witmer of Lebanon Township, Lancaster, PA, now Lebanon County, PA. Peter left a will dated 31 Oct 1794 which was probated in Jan 1795 in Dauphin County, now Lebanon County, PA.4 In it, he left equal shares of his “movables” to four living children and to children of deceased daughters Veronica (Frena) and Catharine. Finally, I traced the old German Whitmer family Bible (published in 1736 in Basel, Switzerland) to Christus Gardens in Gatlinburg, TN, where the clerk made a photocopy of the handwritten material in the Bible5 I sent a copy of the writing to a translator for the German Genealogical Society of America,6 telling her only that I wanted to know if a typed translation done in the 1940’s did, indeed, match the original Bible inscription stating that John’s wife’s name was Catherine Valde. Her reply was that the original writing was a list of names which, unknown to her, were the names of the children of John and Catherine Whitmer, apparently in birth order. The third child named was Catherine, my husband’s ancestress. For this fourth child, a son, Valentine, John wrote “Valde”, probably meaning the nickname “Velty” or “Felty”, frequently used for Valentine. No mention of John’s wife was made in the writing of the Bible, and apparently from the 1940 translation came the misinformation that his wife was “Catherine Valde”, which was actually a combination of the names of two of the children linked without a comma.

I had now disproven John’s parentage and Catherine’s maiden name. On the positive side, I could place him in Frederick Maryland in the late 1770’s, in Botetourt County, VA in 1808 and in Muhlenberg County by the 1810 census. By sheer coincidence, I could also prove John’s residence in Rockingham County, VA before he moved on to Botetourt County. I saw a biography of a grandchild of John’s that stated that Valentine Whitmer was born in Rockingham County.7 While talking to a genealogy pal, she mentioned that she was working on a German line in Rockingham County and that there were some church records still in existence for the 1780’s, when Valentine was born, because she had a copy of a baptismal record for 1786. We were both shocked when she got out the photocopy of the record which fit into her line and found that the last entry on the very same page (the only page she had from those records) was the baptism of Valentine, son of John and Catherine Whitmer, on Christmas Day 1786! A check of those records, to be explained more fully later on, also showed the baptism of a daughter, Maria Elizabeth, on 4 Oct 1788. This daughter apparently died soon, but her name turned out to be a piece of evidence linking John to his parents.

Finally, while looking at Maryland records, and eliminating Benjamin Whitmore of Frederick County as a father of John, I came across an obscure statement on early Frederick settlers that a John Whitmore emigrated from Barbelroth, Zweibruecken in 1753.8 At this point, I left the published secondary sources on John Whitmer and worked solely from primary sources. The remainder of this article will document some of the ancestors and descendants of John Whitmer, born Johannes Wittmer, and baptized in the Evangelical Reformed Church of Barbelroth, Pfalz, German on 27 June 1751.9

Barbelroth is a small village in the Palatinate. It is not in Zweibruecken, as stated by Schildknecht, but is instead about halfway between Landau and Karlsruhe. Although the Barbelroth Evangelical Reformed Church records begin in 1596, the Wittmer family does not appear until 20 Oct 1672, when the baptism of Susanna, daughter of Johannes Jacob and Christina Wittmer is recorded.

It is possible that Johannes Jacob (aka Hans Jacob) Wittmer was born in Altnau, Thurgau, Switzerland. There is a baptismal record there for a child of his name dated 12 Aug 1644, which matches the age of Hans Jacob at his death. If they are the same person, his father is recorded as “Widmer” and his mother is listed as “Anna Pejerin.” There is a second Hans Jacob Widmer baptized there a few years later on 2 Feb 1647. Father is listed as Hans Jacob Widmer and mother as Anna Widmer. It is not known whether this is the same set of parents, who likely lost their older son or if these records represent two different families. No death record has been found in Altnau for the elder child.

There is a gap in births of the Wittmer children. It is not known whether Susanna Wittmer happened to be a daughter of an earlier Johannes Jacob and Christina, whether the couple lost several young children in a row, or if they removed from the area for several years. The mortality rate among children was high in Barbelroth, as can be seen from the gaps in births, burials of young children and the lack of marriage dates for this family, so they may well have lost three or four children.

No other records have been found to document the lifestyle of the Wittmers in Barbelroth. They were most likely peasant farmers who had a difficult life. Why they settled in Barbelroth is not known, although they probably didn’t move because of religious persecution. The Reformed faith was the accepted church of the majority. Perhaps they sought a better life in Germany and then for the same reason emigrated to the New World almost a century later.

Johannes Jacob Wittmer married Christina Konigs on 26 Sept 1671 in Barbelroth, Germany. Johannes, or Hans Jacob as he appears in Barbelroth records, was likely born in the 1640’s, as was his wife. She was the daughter of Jacob Konigs, but a birth record has not been found for her.

Bold font number citations correspond to footnotes at the end of the article.

Children of Johannes Jacob and Christina (Konigs) Wittmer:9

i. Susanna, bapt. 20 Oct 1672, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Nicholas Wild, 10 Jan 1701, Barbelroth, Germany
ii. Hans Adam, bapt. 2 Aug 1679, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Anna Maria Joly, 6 Jan 1705, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany.
iii. Benedict, bapt. 5 Mar 1682; died 24 Jan 1753, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Anna Christina Estermann, 28 Jan 1706, Barbelroth, Germany.
iv. Maria Sarah, bapt. 8 June 1684, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Hans George Scherr, 21 Nov 1713, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany.
v. Elisabetha Catharina, bapt. 24 Nov 1686; died 10 May 1687, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany.
vi. Johannes Nicholas, bapt. 10 Aug 1689, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died 31 Oct 1721, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Maria Barbara Daum, 15 July 1720, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany.
vii. Johannes Jacob, bapt. 9 Aug 1693, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died 3 June 1730, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Margaretha Elisabetha Estermann, 19 Jan 1717, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany.

Benedict2 (Johannes Jacob1) was baptized 5 Mar 1682, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died 24 Jan 1753, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Anna Christina Estermann, 28 Jan 1706, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany. Anna Christina was likely the daughter of Abraham and Anna Catharina (Lind) Estermann, baptized 3 Aug 1684, Mannheim, Baden, Germany, which was only about 40 miles from Barbelroth. The Estermanns may have removed to Barbelroth sometime after the birth of their daughters, as Abraham died in Barbelroth on 28 Apr 1721. Abraham was the son of Hans Wendel Estermann, as he reported at the time of his marriage, but no further information has been found about his family. Anna Catharina Lind was a widow when she married Abraham. Her deceased husband was Conrad Wacker, no further information found.

Children of Benedict and Anna Christina (Estermann) Wittmer:

i. Benedict, bapt. 12 Apr 1708, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died 28 Feb 1760, Zeiskam, Bayern, Germany; married Maria Elisabeth Weinheimer, 14 Feb 1736, Zeiskam, Bayern, Germany. Zeiskam is only about 33 miles from Barbelroth.
ii. Johannes, bapt. 28 Dec 1710, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; married Maria Elisabetha Holtz, 2 Feb 1740, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany.
iii. Anna Maria, bapt. 26 Nov 1713, Barbelrith, Pfalz, Germany; died 18 Jan 1735, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; unmarried.
iv. Anna Christina, bapt. 15 Dec 1715, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany. No further information.
v. Anna Margaretha, bapt. 22 Apr 1724, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died 22 Aug 1734; unmarried.

Johannes Wittmer was baptized 28 Dec 1710, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died between 1764-1775, probably in Frederick, MD; married Maria Elisabetha Holtz, 2 Feb 1740, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany. Maria Elisabetha was baptized 7 Oct 1716, Barbelroth, Pfalz, Germany; died 6 June 1794, Frederick, MD. She was the daughter of Johann Michael and Catharina Elisabetha (Scheer) Holtz of Barbelroth. Johann Michael was baptized 30 Dec 1691, Barbelroth. Her paternal grandparents were Johannes and Anna Christina (Schaffer) Holtz who married 25 July 1691 in Barbelroth; her maternal grandfather was Joh. Nicholas Scheer, born 1650 and died 20 Apr 1726, Barbelroth.

Children of Johannes and Maria Elisabetha (Holtz) Wittmer:

i. Juliana Margaretha, bapt. 3 Nov 1740, Barbelroth, Germany; buried 29 Mar 1741, Barbelroth Germany.9
ii. Susanna Margaretha, bapt. 27 Oct 1741, Barbelroth, Germany; buried 30 Oct 1741, Barbelroth, Germany.9
iii. Margaretha, bapt. 2 Dec 1742, Barbelroth, Germany.9 No further information.
iv. Anna Maria, bapt. 6 Dec 1745, Barbelroth, Germany; buried 9 Aug 1747, Barbelroth, Germany.9
v. Johannes,
bapt. 27 June 1751, Barbelroth, Germany9; died Muhlenberg County, KY; married Catherine, c1778, probably Frederick, MD.
vi. Eva Margaretha, born c1755, probably Frederick, MD; married (1) Henry Meyer, c1776 (2) David Schultz, 28 Sept 1783, Frederick, MD.
vii. Elias, bapt. 20 Feb 1757, Evangelical Reformed Church, Frederick, MD. Sponsors were Elias and Albertina Brunner.11
viii. Johannes Michael, born 2 Apr 1760 (born Wednesday before Easter 1760); bapt. 7 Apr 1760 (Easter Monday), Frederick, MD12; died by 20 Oct 180513; married Catherine Steckel.14

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.