Seitz Site

The search for the German origins of Johannes Seitz

It's not known when the first descendant of Johannes Seitz sought to discover where Johannes had been born and raised in Germany. However, we do know that in the early 20th century, at least three men were involved in such a search: William Clinton Seitz of Glen Rock, Penn., Don Carlos Seitz of Maine and New York City and Edward Seitz Shumaker of Indiana. The latter two were reported to be working on a never-completed genealogy of the Seitz family in the mid-1920s and all three had been in contact with each other for many years by that time.

On 6 August 1919, Shumaker wrote to a cousin of finding records in York County, Penn., that said Johannes came from Ottle Hoffel, Prussia. Shumaker said he could not find such a place in German gazetters but that Dr. W.C. Seitz had found an Outten Hoffen in Baden. In April 1921, William C. Seitz wrote to E.S. Shumaker that a patient of Seitz had told him that "Otten Hoffen" was actually Aughenhaun, Bavaria.

The 1921 doctor-patient encounter is probably the origin of the family tradition that Johannes Seitz was born about 1743 in Aughenhaven, Bavaria, which is in Ammer Valley. Once the belief was established that he came from that place, it would have been an easy leap to believing he was educated at the nearby Ettal Monastery, site of the famed passion play.

It's not known how this traditional story came to give the maiden name of Johannes' wife as Catherine Diehl. My own theory is that the last name was picked up from the wife of a descendant of Johannes.

Interestingly enough, one part of the traditional story, which was probably in the Seitz family oral tradition from the beginning, has proved correct. Johannes and his wife did arrive in Philadelphia on the Richmond on Oct. 20, 1764. The Seitz-Shumaker trio would not have been aware of it, but later abstracts of German emigration records clearly link the Johannes Seitz who arrived on the Richmond to Adelshofen, a village near and now part of Eppingen, Baden.

Whatever the origins, the Aughenhaven tradition became firmly established and has been repeated in a variety of genealogies over the years, even though we have antedotal evidence that a number of scattered family researchers have failed in efforts to find any record of Johannes at Ettal Monastery.

Enter Caral Mechling Bennett, a descendant of Johannes and Catherine Seitz. While living and teaching in Germany in the 1970s, she came to know some of our Adelshofen cousins as well as a professional genealogist and she engaged in some deep research into Adelshofen records. You will find more about her findings below under the heading "The mystery of Lewis Seitz," but suffice it to say that Caral developed a theory of our Seitz origins that she published in a short-lived newsletter in the early 1990s.

Since that time, an expanding group of cousins has been able to close the document trail linking the Johannes who left Adelshofen with his bride eight days after their marriage to the Johannes who died in York County, Penn., in 1793. But we still have a gap of several years that we feared might never be closed.

That's when DNA testing entered the picture. Our initial focus on proving the circumstances found under "The mystery of Lewis Seitz," produced five male Seitzes scattered across the country with essentially matching Y-chromosome DNA, although no two of us were exactly the same on all 25 tested markers.

Y-Chromosome DNA is passed from father to son with only occasional minor changes. If two men have matching DNA, they share a common ancestor back along their male-only line of ancestors. All three adult sons of Johannes are represented among the results.

We decided to find a male Seitz in Adelshofen who would be willing to have his DNA tested. If his results matched ours, we would know that Johannes came from Adelshofen. We were lucky enough to find such a man on our first attempt and the results came back in late July 2005. He was a perfect match for one of us on the 25-markers that were tested, which means our Seitz family did, in fact, come from Adelshofen.

For information on using Y-chromosome DNA for genealogical purposes, visit DNA 101 (a new window will open).

For the test results for the Adelshofen-American Seitzes, visit Sides/Seitz/Sites/Scites/Sitz DNA Project (a new window will open). To see the entire chart, click on "Enlarge Results Window." All but one of the results in Haplogroup E1b1b1 are ours. We have no known connections to kit 41386

For information on the company that tested our Y-chromosome DNA, got to FamilyTreeDNA (a new window will open).

Return to German and Swiss immigrants page.

Return to Family Tree introduction.

Return to Seitz Site home page.

The Mystery of Lewis Seitz

For many years, there were mysteries at both ends of the life of Lewis Seitz. The circumstances of his birth were and remain uncertain. And even though it was obvious from probate records in Fairfield County, Ohio, that his family knew in 1823 that he had died, no record had been found for the date, place or circumstances of that death. The latter mystery was cleared up a few years ago when Joe and Rebecca Seitz McKee discovered a Washington, Penn., newspaper clipping that revealed Lewis died of bilious pleurisy on 10 May1823 at the Washington home of John Schaeffer while returning to his Fairfield County, Ohio, home from Pennsylvania and/or Virginia.

While we may be closer to solving the mystery surrounding Lewis' birth, we haven't solved it yet.

If we had only the documentation of the Johannes Seitz family in the United States and the Y-chromosome DNA results from descendants of Lewis, John and Andrew Seitz, nobody would question that all three men are sons of Johannes and Catherine Seitz of York County, Penn.

Comparing those DNA results with the results from a Seitz who lives in Adelshofen, Baden-WŸrttemberg, it is clear Johannes and Catherine came from Adelshofen. That's where the complications start.

We know from E.S. Shumaker's research on Johannes' will, that Lewis was the oldest child of Johannes and was born in Germany. We know that his sister Catherine was born 5 Jan. 1765, a couple months after the family arrived in Philadelphia and just short of eight months after the marriage of Johannes Seitz and Catherine RŸb/Ripp/Rupp in Adelshofen 8 May 1764.

That means for Lewis to be the son of Johannes and Catherine, he had to have been born before their marriage. However, there is no record in the Adelshofen church records of a child born to Catherine or to any woman with Johannes listed as the father. It's not that the church was adverse to recording out-of-wedlock births. To the contrary, such births were routinely recorded.

There is the case of Ludwig, born to the unmarried Dorothea Welck/Welk, who claimed the father was Philipp von Gemmingen. From a review of the church record entry, it appears the recording priest avoided endorsing that claim by the mother. That leaves open the possibility that Johannes was the actual father and Dorothea lied to protect him or, for some unknown reason, to cause embarrassment to Philipp von Gemmingen.

There is no further mention of Ludwig in the Adelshofen church records, which means we cannot dismiss the possibility that Dorothea's child, Ludwig, is actually Lewis Seitz. It is all but certain that Johannes and Dorothea knew each other. Not only is Adelshofen a small place but they are first cousins.

Yet another possibility, although my instincts tell me not likely, is that the father of Dorothea's Ludwig is another member of the Seitz family. It would be almost impossible at this late date to narrow the number of suspects to less than the total number of adult male Seitzes living in the Adelshofen area in 1762 (Ludwig was born 5 Jan. 1763). The only way to prove he is not our Lewis would be to find some record of a child being born to Catherine Rueb before her marriage. The Adelshofen records have already been checked.

However, there is something else about the Adelshofen area that doesn't immediate register with Americans accustomed to considerable distances between places. The towns and villages of the Kraichgau region are very close together. Several parishes are within easy walking distance of Adelshofen. It is entirely possible that a birth could be recorded in one of these parishes, perhaps because Catherine was staying with friends or relatives at the end of a pregnancy.

For information on using Y-chromosome DNA for genealogical purposes, visit DNA 101 (a new window will open).

For the test results for the Adelshofen-American Seitzes, visit Sides/Seitz/Sites/Scites/Sitz DNA Project (a new window will open). To see the entire chart, click on "Enlarge Results Window." All but one of the results in Haplogroup E1b1b1 are ours. We have no known connections to kit 41386

For information on the company that tested our Y-chromosome DNA, got to FamilyTreeDNA (a new window will open).

Return to German and Swiss immigrants page.

Return to Family Tree introduction.

Return to Seitz Site home page.

Rev 08/09/2010