When one hears the name Alsace, it is often assumed that the region is thoroughly French, but it has not always been under French rule. For much of its history, it was part of Germany. The Palatines were emigrants from this middle region of the Rhine River. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the region was repeatedly overrun by French troops, causing armed conflict, destruction, and famine. Even after it became part of France, many of the people spoke Alsatian or a German dialect and had German customs. After the Protestant Reformation, many Alsatians worshipped in Lutheran churches, which put them in conflict with the Catholic French monarchy. On the map, a small red W marks the approximate location of the village of Waldhambach in Alsace in the late 17th century.
The Ensminger family lived in that village–Waldenbach–very near the Rhine River. I write about the Ensmingers because I am descended from them several times. Both of my great-great-great-great grandmother Elizabeth Miller’s parents were from the Ensminger line. Her father was the grandson of Nicholas Ensminger, and her mother was the granddaughter of Peter Ensminger. Nicholas, born in 1699, and Peter, born in 1694, were brothers, sons of Philip Ensminger and Elizabeth Quirin of Alsace. I am descended from three of Elizabeth Miller’s children, (Thomas Skaggs, Susan Skaggs Withrow, and Cynthia Skaggs Vandal), so my Ensminger ancestry is significant. Additionally, Thomas’s wife, Julia Hunter, was an Ensminger descendant.
The first Ensminger to come to America was Peter. He left Rotterdam aboard the Samuel with his wife, Maria Catherina Trautmann Ensminger, his widowed mother-in-law, Katharina Emmerich Trautmann, and four children, arriving in Pennsylvania in 1733. Peter and Maria Catherina settled in Cocalico in Lancaster County, where two more children were born, and the family attended the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church. Peter was finally able to get 200 acres along Muddy Creek in 1738, but he died in 1739 at the age of 45. Maria Catherina remarried.
In 1738, right before Peter died, his brother Nicholas and his family arrived in Pennsylvania on the Billender Thistle with another group of Palatines. Nicholas and his wife, Anna Ludwig, also settled in Cocalico in Lancaster County and attended the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church, where several of his children were baptized. His daughter Catherine Elizabeth, born in 1742, married Theobalt Mueller (Miller), and they became the parents of Valentine Miller, who later settled in Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia).
Meanwhile, Peter’s son Philip, born in 1727, and his wife, Catherine Margaret Kessinger, had moved from Pennsylvania to Maryland, but they eventually settled in Monroe County, Virginia (now West Virginia). Philip supported the American patriots in the Revolutionary War and is described as an “associator” with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), which has verified that I am his descendant. Philip lived to the age of 80, and his will was probated in Monroe County. I am a direct descendant of two of his children: Susanna, mother of Elizabeth Miller, and Mary Elizabeth, the mother of Julia Hunter. In addition, I am a direct descendant of his uncle, Johannes Nicholas Ensminger.
The family relationships are complicated to keep straight unless looking at the pedigree chart. The bottom line is that I am descended from the first Philip Ensminger and his wife Elizabeth Quirin at least four times. The first Philip and his wife, Elizabeth, died in France, never coming to America, but their sons and grandchildren made a positive contribution toward building this country.
Future research on the Palatine immigration will include these surnames: Koontz, Federkeil, Longenecker, Spahr, Baumgardner, Schnaeder.