Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Like the Cheese

Swiss cheese. It has holes. Like my Shanower ancestral line. Or should I spell it Schonauer? That’s how they spelled it back in Grosshochstetten, Canton Bern, Switzerland, where my possible ancestor Andreas Schonauer was born about 1560.

There’s a huge hole in the line of descent from Andreas Schonauer and his wife Elsbeth Krahenbuhl Schonauer (1558-?). Here, in a previous blog post about my five times great-grandfather Henry Shanower, I pointed out that hole between the Schonauers and their purported Shanower descendants. There’s no definite connection between them, no proof that my oldest direct Shanower ancestor, my five times great-grandfather Henry, descended from the Schonauers of Switzerland.

Two factors support the idea that he didn’t. The first is a discontinuity of names—the lack of earlier Henrys. I’ve found no Henrys among earlier Schonauers, a family that tended to reuse names through the generations.

I’ve come across several Henry Shoners and Heinrich Schoners while researching alternate spellings, but so far I haven’t found any family connections among Shoners or Schoners to my five times great-grandfather Henry Shanower.

There is, however, a Henry Schannauer (1859-1860) descended from the Swiss Schonauers in another line. But this Henry, who died before he was a year old, was born several decades after my five times great-grandfather Henry Shanower probably died. So the existence of this infant Henry probably doesn’t signal a continuity of names.

There are Jacobs and Johns, Abrahams and Magdalenas on both sides of the hole, though, so maybe those names show continuity. And Henry’s son Jacob Shanower (1785-1829) had his last name spelled variously as Shoenauer and Schöenhauer. Those spellings might indicate a link to the Swiss Schonauers, too.

The second factor indicating that Henry Shanower might not be descended from the Swiss Schonauers is the possible German origin of Henry’s ancestors. My father has long believed the received information that the Shanowers came from Germany, not Switzerland. An early twentieth century report of a Shanower family reunion mentions the German origin of the family. So maybe my Shanower line wasn’t Swiss, but German.

However, I can explain how a Swiss family line might come to be considered German. The Swiss Hans Schonauer (1644-aft. 1711) and his wife Elisabeth Aebersold Schonauer (abt. 1647-aft. 1711), of Grosshochstetten, Canton Bern, Switzerland, were persecuted for their religious beliefs. In 1710 they were imprisoned at the Upper Hospital in Bern because they were Anabaptists. They managed to buy their way out of jail, but in 1711 they were exiled from Switzerland and put onto a ship bound for Holland. They escaped at Mannheim, Germany, the main city of the Palatinate.

Karl Ludwig I von der Pfalz by Gerrit van Honthorst.
Germany’s Palatinate in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was a province in southern Germany between the Swiss and French borders along the headwaters of the Rhine. It was known for being an area of religious tolerance by direction of Karl Ludwig I von der Pfalz, Elector Palatinate (1617-1680), known at the English court as Charles Louis I. He wanted people to move into the area, which had been depopulated by the Thirty Years’ War. (Incidentally, Karl Ludwig I is related to David by being the fifteen times great-nephew of Euphemia Bruce of the Scottish royal family, David’s many times great-grandmother.) Many Anabaptist Swiss emigres spent years in the Palatinate before renewed religious persecution from France caused them to emigrate again. This time they settled in North America, primarily in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, where William Penn’s Quaker views were a good fit with the beliefs of such Anabaptist sects as the Mennonites and the Amish.

In 1729 one of Hans and Elizabeth Schonauer’s sons, also named Hans (1688-1749), was living in the town of Perry in the Palatinate. Hans Jr. left Germany about 1744 and settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where his name Hans was Americanized to John. It’s possible—maybe even probable—that one of the younger Hans’s grandsons is my five times great-grandfather Henry Shanower. If that’s true, then the Swiss Schonauers’ sojourn in the German Palatinate could explain the story of a German origin for the Shanowers.

My research on other family lines has many holes, too, but I suspect that some of these lines may have come from Switzerland. My suspicions find support in the seventeenth and eighteenth century pattern of migration from Switzerland to the Palatinate to North America, most often Pennsylvania.

Frederick Roush grave, Massillon, Ohio.
My five times great-grandfather Philip Roush is said to be from Bavaria in Germany. The border between Bavaria and the neighboring Palatinate fluctuated in the seventeenth century, so although I have no proof, this could suggest that Philip Roush was, like the Schonauers, a Palatinate settler originally from Switzerland. While I don’t have any direct confirmation that Philip immigrated to Pennsylvania, his son Frederick Roush (1789-1844) is reported to have been born there before moving to Stark County, Ohio.

My six times great-grandfather Johann Michael Haflich (abt. 1720-abt. 1770) seems to have a similar story. He was born in the Palatinate region—in Mutterstadt, Pfalz, Bavaria, as were his American immigrant parents Johann Karl Hoefflich (abt. 1699-aft. 1760) and Eva Kern Hoefflich (abt. 1700-abt. 1760). So was his grandfather Franz Hoefflich (1677-abt. 1730), as well as his great-grandparents Franz Hoefflich (abt. 1644-abt. 1694) and Elizabetha Hoefflich (abt. 1650-abt. 1690). Could this line have been from Switzerland originally? The Haflichs followed the pattern of moving from the Palatinate area to Pennsylvania, specifically Richmond in Berks County, before 1756. But since they’d been in Pfalz as early as 1644—before the end of the Thirty Years' War—maybe they’re simply German after all.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the French region of Alsace bordered the Palatinate. Between 1671 and 1711 immigrants flooded into Alsace, too, many of them Anabaptist refugees from Canton Bern in Switzerland, where the Schonauers had lived. My six times great-grandmother Eva Catharina Startzmann Haflich (1722-1770), wife of Johann Michael Haflich, was born in Rexingen, Alsace, France. Both of Eva Haflich’s grandfathers were born there, too: her paternal grandfather Hans Martin Startzmann about 1660 and her maternal grandfather Heinrich Arneth about 1670. Like the Haflichs, the Startzmanns also ended up in Richmond, Berks County, Pennsylvania, in the mid-1700s. And none of their names sound French.

If any of my older Roush, Haflich, Startzmann, or Arneth ancestors were Swiss, my genealogical research, like the cheese, is too full of holes to show it. But the Reitenauers, who I’ll discuss next, are a different case. They must be the part between the holes.

My eleven times great-grandfather Antony “Anton” Reitenauer (abt. 1586-?) was definitely Swiss. He came from the area of Gondiswil in the Canton of Bern, Switzerland, possibly from the small municipality of Reitnau in Canton Aargau about ten miles from Gondiswil.

His grandson Nicolaus “Claus” Reitenauer (1650-1717) ended up in Alsace, France, following the migration pattern. Continuing that pattern, several of Claus’s grandsons, including Nicholas Reutenauer (1711-1795) and Henry Reutenauer (1713-1781), emigrated with their father Johann "Hans" Nicholas Reitenauer from Alsace, France, to Maryland in the USA.

Immigrant passenger list of the ship Robert and Alice, September 3, 1739. The third name, marked with the dot, supposedly reads Hans Nicholas Reitenauer, who was son of Claus and father of Nicholas and Henry. I can't make out the writing, but other records show that this Hans Nicholas Reitenauer immigrated to the USA, so I'll accept this reading.
The eldest of those grandsons, Nicholas Reutenauer, had a granddaughter, Anna Elizabeth Ridenour Hawk (1774-abt. 1840), my five times great-grandmother. Anna Ridenour Hawk was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. About 1824-25 she was, with her husband Conrad and their crowd of children, one of the earliest settlers of Green Creek Township in Sandusky County, Ohio.

And—what do you know?—my Hawk line, originally spelled Haag, came from Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, which used to be part of—you guessed it—the Palatinate. Baden-Wurttemberg is right next to—quelle surprise!—Alsace, France. And after the Hawks left Germany they settled in—wait for it—Pennsylvania.

Noah Jacob Huss grave, Clyde, Ohio.
Mary Burkholder Huss grave, Clyde, Ohio.
Conrad and Anna Hawk’s son David Hawk (1805-1855), my great-great-great-great grandfather, married Eleanor “Ellen” Huss Hawk (1812-1889), who was born in York, York County, Pennsylvania. The family of Ellen’s father, Noah Jacob Huss (1790-1843), came from Germany, but I don’t know the region or whether they reached Germany from Switzerland. So far I’ve failed to find the ancestors of Ellen’s mother, Mary Burkholder (1789-1849), my six times great-grandmother, but I know that some Burkholders came to Pennsylvania from Germany. It's probable that Mary’s forebears did, too. And if they did, there’s a chance they came from Switzerland before that.

But enough speculation—back to the Reitenauers. The second immigrant grandson of Claus Reitenauer, Henry Reutenauer, married, as his second wife, a woman I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, my six times great-grandmother Eva Catharina Startzmann Haflich, widow of Johann Michael Haflich. Through Eva’s second marriage to Henry Reutenauer, she became my eight times great-aunt as well as being my six times great-grandmother already. To complicate the connections even further, Eva’s mother, Christina Arneth Startzmann was the sister of Henry’s mother, Anna Margaretha Arneth Reutenauer. So Eva’s second husband, Henry, was also her first cousin.

These multi-generational connections to the Reitenauers suggest to me that the Startzmanns and the Arneths were also Swiss at an earlier point, especially when considering their aforementioned pattern of migration from Alsace to Pennsylvania. But there are too many holes to be certain.

Catherine Easley Leifer, circa 1880s.
Finally, there are the Leifers. Frederick Leifer (1813-1865) and Catherine Easley Leifer (1818-1892), my great-great-great-grandparents, were born in Switzerland. They immigrated to Ohio in the early 1850s, probably in 1854, with no lengthy stops in Germany or Pennsylvania on the way. Their daughter, my great-great-grandmother, Louisa “Lucy” Leifer Shanower (1856-1916), was their first child born in the USA.
Louisa "Lucy" Leifer Shanower, circa 1900.

Lucy’s older brothers and sisters were all born in Switzerland. Her brother Jacob Leifer (1842-1922) was born in Sougenreed, Canton Bern, Switzerland. Jacob was living in Massillon, Ohio, in April 1907 when he made a month-long trip to Switzerland for a visit to the old Swiss hometown, taking along his son Daniel Webster Leifer (1869-1947), my first cousin three times removed. This 1907 return to Switzerland wasn’t the first; there seems to have been an earlier trip in the late 1860s.

Later, cousin Daniel Webster made at least one more trip to Switzerland, this time in 1937, taking his wife, Iva May “Ivy” Donant Leifer (1869-1956). A few years afterward, Ivy was pained to learn of the destruction World War II was causing to many of the European countries they’d visited on their trip.

The Leifer family, circa 1875. The only person I can positively identify is Lucy Leifer Shanower (1856-1917), my great-great-grandmother, the woman standing to the right of center. Compare her to the later photo of her above. The woman on the left could be Catherine Easley Leifer (1818-1892), Lucy's mother. Compare her to the later photo of her above. If that's Catherine, then the man her hand is resting on is likely her husband, Frederick Leifer (1813-1865). As usual, you can click on any photo to have it open larger in another window.
Those are all my Swiss ancestors, both certain and speculative—at least for now. I hadn’t been aware of my Swiss ancestry before my genealogical research revealed it. I was surprised—and happy—to find it. But I’d still like to fill in some of those holes.


  1. Very nice article. I stumbled across it while researching Nicholas Reitenauer. The family pops up a couple of times in my family tree.

  2. Just came across - interesting reading. My Schonauer was born in Bern, Switzerland in 1850s (John/Johan). Settled in Holmes County, OH.

  3. my most beloved grandparents are burkholders and truly meant everything in the world to me. i am just now learning to research on my laptop. thank you for your findings.

  4. Hi, Anonymous from March 5, if my research helps you make any Burkholder connections, that's great! Click on the Maxine Family tree link above on the right to browse through the whole tree (except for living family members, who are hidden for privacy reasons).

    1. hi, thanks for your reply. my pappy always said we were burkholders from germany. im really confused since i started my research because i dont know what im doing and i have read on my laptop that other different burkholders were from switzerland. so do you think they were related or totally different burkholders.

  5. Hi, Anonymous on March 22. Long ago I hit a wall on my Burkholder line, so I probably won't be much help. There's a well-documented Christian Burkholder who immigrated to the USA in the mid-1700s, but I'm pretty confident I'm not part of that family (although my Burkholders could possibly be related to ancestors of the well-documented Christian). The Burkholders in my line probably came from the Union County/Snyder County, Pennsylvania, area. But that's about all the info I know.