Thursday 11 February 2010

Digging into my Hochstetler family origins - and some very dramatic history!

It might interest you to know that I'm a 9th generation direct descendant of Jacob Hochstetler, who came to America by ship in 1738 at the age of 26 (my daughter's current age) settling near Reading, PA. He became one of the leaders of one of the earliest (if not THE earliest) Amish Mennonite settlements in "the new world." However, in 1757 a family tragedy unfolded as a result of sticking to strong religious convictions about non-violence, and never killing someone - even if they wanted to attack your family - though Jacob's sons were expert hunters and marksmen.

Do check out "The Massacre" link - the fifth one down on this
Hochstetler Family Association website to absorb this dramatic story which has played a major role in shaping my family's ethos and theology. Had Jacob and his sons not escaped his arduous and long captivity among the Indians I would not be here today! I remember how this story was put into a very powerful drama which ran for quite a while a few decades ago at a playhouse in Lancaster PA with the title "Joseph, Put Your Gun Down!"

Here is a very interesting map of my ancestor Jacob's
probable route and significant experiences throughout his captivity in 1757-58.

...and I found this little collection of rather dated movies, but posted now on
YouTube, which were originally taken at and around the original site of the Jacob Hochstetler homestead very close to what is known today as Roadside America at Shartlesville, PA.

The Hochstetler Family Association site and its plethora of links enabled me to study up today on the most recent information regarding my ancestor's own probable European origins (in the Palatinate region near the French-German border) before he emigrated with family to America. However, I have known about - and there still remains - a bit of mystery as there are some significant gaps in the details. Probably always will because literally hundreds of Hochstetler geneologists abound - many of whom have already spent considerable time and energy seeking to address these questions over recent decades. For a great summary of the key issues behind all the puzzlement, one can digest these two brief articles
here and here by Virgil Miller.

To spur
some more reflection and possible conversation, here is one scenario a relative painted regarding what it might be like if that massacre had occurred in contemporary society in America!

Since many people in Australia who find out I'm associated with Mennonites ask this, I'll clarify now that I didn't grow up in an Amish family. However I did grow up bilingual - speaking "Pennsylvania Dutch" as well as English with my Amish friends and neighbors in northern Indiana. Today I joined the FaceBook group "I'm not Amish but can still speak Dutch" so that I can keep working on recovering what I've lost along the way!

(And no, not all Hochstetler's are Mennonites, although I suppose most of them were up until a couple of generations ago. Today there is no way to count them all but estimates range between 500,000 to a million people with Jacob Hochstetler DNA in our bodies throughout North America and the rest of the world to we all have scattered.)

-Clair in Canberra

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! According to some, the name Veen goes back to one single ancestor in the 16th century who was a Mennonite in Groningen. The only thing is, I may not be a descendant from that man, but one of my real ancestors might just have taken his name. But, anyway, the kind of historical drama that unfolded within your ancestry is awesome!