What do these lists tell us about Peter?

I was particularly interested in seeing these lists of communicants in the hopes that they might shed some light on where Peter was living in early 1777 when he was conscripted into the British Army. The family story, supported by a letter written in the 1800s, tells that Peter was conscripted from the town square of Ansbach, one of the capitols of the Duchy of Ansbach-Bayreuth at that time. Theses stories and the letter have proven not to be entirely accurate. For example, Peter was not the only son of a widow.*   Additionally I have wondered if there had been confusion with the name of Peters military unit– the Ansbach-Bayreuth Regiment. There is no longer any doubt, however, that the Peter of Münchsteinach was the same person who came to America in 1777.

On the other hand, we are told that he was in the Ansbach portion of the Regiment, but looking at old maps of Ansbach/Bayreuth at the time, it seems that Münchsteinach might actually have been in the Bayreuth portion of the combined kingdom, not Ansbach! Additionally, looking at where soldiers came from in the lists of those who did not return, there was a mix of large and small towns, but it seems that large towns predominated.

Based on my initial look at the church books, there is no evidence that Peter attended church after early summer 1776. Of course, given the uneven coverage of Sunday counts, it cannot be said he was no longer living there and for that matter he may have even left sooner. He might even have left earlier. Ansbach is 30 miles (48 km) south of Münchsteinach. Today it takes less than an hour to drive, but would take 9 hours to walk on today’s roads over hilly ground. In the 1700s I suspect it would take longer. To make the trip would call for a special occasion. Nonetheless, the observations I will present below are also compatible with his having gone elsewhere to seek his fortune.

Why leave lovely Münchsteinach?
There are reasons why Peter might have had to leave home. His brother Balthasar was five years older and almost certainly would have been trained as a as Dreschler (turner) and woodcarver in his father’s workshop. He would have had first rights to take up his father's profession in Münchsteinach. While father Johann Georg may well have begun to train Peter, he died in 1774 when Peter was 15 and his mother did not remarry. Peter would have been at a disadvantage that may well have influenced his decision to remain in America.

On the Road.
To obtain the status of meister (master)" many if not all guilds had requirements that served to train new initiates, but also limited competition and kept prices high. Thus the category of "journeyman" is born. Literally, a trainee for some trades had to register with civil authorities, maintain a "Wanderbuch," and travel around a wide area working for room and board for established members of the guild. I discovered this when I found the Wanderbook of Peter's cousin in Neustadt who became a master shoemaker. His travels took him far. Similarly, Cousin Johann Leonhard Hasselbacher of Leutershausen had to go to Nürnberg to learn the tinsmith (zinngiesser) trade when his Zinngiessermeister father died. Perhaps we will be able to find evidence of Peter in some of the civic guild records. Such things may still exist in the Archives of Ansbach. Someone must take a look! Thus it remains possible that Peter was "on the road" looking for work or learning a trade when he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was conscripted.

Of the three years between his father's death and his conscription, we have known little. The list of communicants tell us that he was living , or still within traveling distance of Münchsteinach at least until early summer, 1776. Without a father, Peter would have had to strike out to find a place and vocation in the world. In March of 1777 when Peter came to America, he was only 18 years old. The conscriptions that occurred were often, but not always completely involuntary. Peter may have been ready for an adventure in the new world. He certainly found one.

There are only a precious few surviving tangible documents or relics that mark the passage of Peter's life on earth. I am aware only of his birth record, these lists of communicants, a muster list taken upon his departure to America, a public notice in 1802 that he was a deserter, and the stone that sits on his grave in Allen Township, Pennsylvania.  His numerous progeny do not need even this evidence!

We may never know more about him than we do now. Nonetheless, our search remains intrinsically interesting in itself as we learn more about what it was like to live in his parts of the world in the 1700s. I must have faith that there will still be records to find and practices yet to learn.

Peter Hasselbacher
Louisville, Kentucky,
September 2013

* Peter had other brothers who lived to adulthood: Georg Konrad was 4 years younger, and Johann Balthasar who was 5 years older. Peter also had an older half-brother named “Hans” by his father’s earlier wife Helena Magdalena. There is no known record of his death or a marriage in Münchsteinach and I do not know what happened to him. He would have been 39 in 1776.


List of Communicants: First Page.
Next Page: Sample List of Communicants.
Discussion of Significance of Findings.
Other Lists.
Table of Sundays Counted.
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