Friday, April 29, 2022

What About His Wife?


After spending one solid month exploring the journey of one Nicholas Schneider—soon to become Snider after his immigrant journey to Philadelphia in 1804—I'm ready to fold up the notebook, close the online links and call it quits on this assignment for a while. After all, the research plan was to work on the case of Nicholas' whereabouts as April's selection for my annual goal of researching the Twelve Most Wanted in my family history.

As for those goals, set at the end of last year along with plans for the rest of 2022, there were several I did achieve, just as I had outlined before the start of this year. As for backtracking the journey of Nicholas, Elizabeth, and their children from their final home in Perry County, Ohio, through Maryland to their earliest records in Pennsylvania, we observed a modest success in locating baptismal records, census enumerations, and even tax records. There still remains, though, an insurmountable gap between the 1809 Snider entry in the Adams County, Pennsylvania, tax records and the much smaller family's appearance in the passenger list of the supposed vessel which brought them from Germany to Philadelphia in 1804.

As for 1804, even then I have my doubts. You may have noticed, when I first discussed that discovery, that Nicholas' wife, whom we previously had seen listed as either Elizabeth or Anna Elizabeth, was noted in the passenger records as Anna M. Just in case you hadn't noticed, "Elizabeth" does not begin with the letter "M."

With that, we may—or may not—have a problem. German names being what they are, the first name could have been an honorary name, not a "working name." Nicholas' wife could just as easily been Anna Maria Elizabeth Eckhardt. Seeing her documented so many times simply as Elizabeth gives credence to the possibility that her name had been shortened for functionality in an English-speaking world which had no such naming custom.

That simple research question, though, starts me in a direction which should also be considered: what about Nicholas' wife? What details can be found on her story? While women were especially invisible during that particular era of Elizabeth's life, finding anything more on Elizabeth's life might help clarify just which Nicholas Schneider she might have married. Perhaps finding more on Elizabeth's details could also have helped identify their one surviving child whom they brought with them from Germany all the way to Ohio.

Granted, Catholic baptismal records as we know them now include such details as maiden name of the mother, and may also provide clues in the selection of a child's sponsors. In the early records of the Schneiders' first few American-born children, though, the entries were fairly scant in such traditional details. Even their youngest child, Conrad, born after their arrival in Ohio, was baptized in a newly-formed Catholic parish, barely beyond the years of visitation by missionary priests from the closest diocese several days' journey distant. Though I did learn that Conrad was baptized a twin, the record did not include his mother's maiden name.

So, at the end of the research month, what can we devise for a research plan for the next time we tackle this project? Hopefully by then, more digitized records will become available in the areas I'm seeking. Learning of likely migration trails between the port at Philadelphia and the mission at Conewago in Adams County, Pennsylvania, will help, as well as learning the paths that were taken by migrating Catholic settlers, especially those of the German language.

Applying due diligence in examining tax records of the counties between Adams County and that of Philadelphia may surface some sign of Nicholas' whereabouts in those missing years between 1804 and 1809. But we also need to entertain a level of doubt that the passenger record found of Nicholas and Anna M. Schneider was the only possible sign of these ancestors' arrival.

In addition, since my original goal also included completing the review of all DNA matches linked to Nicholas and Anna Elizabeth, I've got work yet to complete. Of the 209 matches listed on's ThruLines program, I've managed to link about sixty percent of them to our family's tree. While identifying the rest of those Schneider matches in our tree won't tell me specifically where the founding immigrants originated, the process may introduce me to other family members eager to collaborate on pursuing this research goal. Who knows? Perhaps someone else will know where I can get a copy of that typewritten manuscript on the Schneiders' immigrant story—or can identify the resources used to make the assertions of where Nicholas and Elizabeth once lived, before they made the decision to leave their homeland for good. 

As with all research projects in my Twelve Most Wanted plan, there will always be more work to complete after the month is done. I'll revisit Nicholas and Anna Elizabeth again at some point. For now, it's time to move on to another research project with the arrival of a new month. In May, we'll tackle another immigrant ancestor's story from my mother-in-law's roots with the 1830s arrival in Ohio of one Michael Metzger.

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