The European Origin and Ancestry of Maria Elisabetha Goebel,

Last Wife of Johann Wilhelm Seeber (1721-1777)

Written and contributed by Peter J. Bush




    Much is known about the death of Johann Wilhelm Seeber, progenitor of the Seeber family of the Mohawk Valley. He died in 1777 of wounds suffered at the Battle of Oriskany during the Revolutionary War, where he fought alongside several sons and relatives, and his role in that battle has been well documented.

    But relatively little is known about his birth and early life. He almost certainly was born in Germany, but thus far no-one has been able to find persuasive documentation of the date or place of his birth. Seeber family historians and other genealogists have been researching his birth for decades, and several different places have been proposed as his place of birth.

    Similarly, the number and identity of his wives has been the subject of considerable discussion and disagreement. Much of the controversy about his wives stems from a document that is itself shrouded in mystery. This is the so-called Bullock Bible, which contained two pages, handwritten in German, giving information about Johann Wilhelm Seeber, two of his wives, and twelve of his children. In 1931, Frederick Phillips published a genealogical column in the St. Johnsville (New York) Enterprise and News, in which he discussed the Bullock Bible and lamented that the author's identity and the date of recording were unknown, calling into question the authenticity of the information.1 Today, an English translation of the handwritten information can be found in several libraries and on the Internet, and a photocopy of the original handwritten pages is also available.2 But the author of the information and the date of its recording remain a mystery, as does the current location of the Bible itself.

    The Bullock Bible recites that Seeber was born on 15 November 1721 and was married twice, to Maria Catharina Wallrath on 13 July 1746 and to Maria Elisabetha Goebel on 9 August 1756. The document also provides birth and death dates for the first wife (7 April 1729 and 2 February 1756, respectively); the name and residence of the father of the second wife (Johann Jacob Goebels of "Saltzberg" in the principality of Orange-Nassau-Dietz); and the birth dates of six children by the first wife and another six children by the second wife.3

    Some researchers have questioned the first of these marriages, pointing to a marriage record in the Schoharie Reformed Church. This record indicates that William Sybert married Catharina Ecker on 13 July 1746, the same date recorded in the Bullock Bible for the marriage of Johann Wilhelm Seeber and Maria Catharina Wallrath. One researcher has speculated that Seeber was actually married three times, the first to Wallrath before 1746, the second to Ecker in 1746, and the third to Goebel in 1756.4

    Some of the mystery about his wives and marriages can now be dispelled as a result of information found recently in German church records and other sources. As discussed below, this information corroborates the statement in the Bullock Bible that the last wife of Johann Wilhelm Seeber was Maria Elisabetha Goebel, daughter of Johann Jacob Goebel of Salzburg, Germany.


Ancestry of Maria Elisabetha Goebel

    The baptism of Maria Elisabetha Goebel was recorded in the church books of the Evangelical church of Emmerichenhain,5 which also served parishioners in Salzburg and several other nearby towns.6 The baptism record indicates that she was born 14 March 1734 in Salzburg and was the daughter of Johann Jacob Goebel and his wife, Anna Louisa Benner. Additional information about her parents and two earlier generations of her family is summarized below (unless otherwise indicated, all information is taken from the Evangelical church records of Emmerichenhain, as extracted by Cathy Mellor and published on her webpage):7

--- 1st Generation ---

1. Maria Elisabetha GOEBEL was born on 14 March 1734 at Salzburg, Germany; she was the daughter of Johann Jacob GOEBEL and Anna Louisa BENNER. She married Johann Wilhelm SEEBER on 9 August 1756,8 probably in Montgomery County, New York. Her death date and place of burial are currently unknown.

--- 2nd Generation ---

2. Johann Jacob GOEBEL was born on 14 May 1699 at Rehe, Germany. He married Anna Louisa BENNER, daughter of Walter Velton BENNER and Anna Ursula DOERR, on 27 November 1726 at Emmerichenhain, Germany. He died on 1 August 1751 at Salzburg, Germany, at age 52.

3. Anna Louisa BENNER was born on 11 March 1706 at Salzburg, Germany. She married Johann Jacob GOEBEL, son of Johann Wilhelm GOEBEL and Maria Elisabetha THOMAS, on 27 November 1726 at Emmerichenhain, Germany. She died on 4 November 1761 at Salzburg, Germany, at age 55.

--- 3rd Generation ---

4. Johann Wilhelm GOEBEL was born circa 1655 at Rehe, Germany. He married Maria Elisabetha THOMAS, daughter of Clas THOMAS, on 12 January 1677 at Emmerichenhain, Germany. He died on 12 May 1711 at Salzburg, Germany9.

5. Maria Elisabetha THOMAS was born circa 1660 at Rehe, Germany. She married Johann Wilhelm GOEBEL on 12 January 1677 at Emmerichenhain, Germany. She died on 25 December 1734 at Rehe, Germany.

6. Walter Velton BENNER was born circa 1670 at Niederrossbach, Germany. He married Anna Ursula DOERR, daughter of Thoenges DORTHEN and Maria (--?--), on 4 October 1699 at Emmerichenhain, Germany. He died on 23 February 1731 at Salzburg, Germany.

7. Anna Ursula DOERR was born circa 1678 at Salzburg, Germany. She married Walter Velton BENNER, son of Johannes BENNER, on 4 October 1699 at Emmerichenhain, Germany. She died on 5 November 1733 at Salzburg, Germany.

--- 4th Generation ---

10. Clas THOMAS

12. Johannes BENNER was born circa 1650 at Niederrossbach, Germany.

14. Thoenges DORTHEN was born circa 1644 at Salzburg, Germany. He married Maria (--?--).

15. Maria (--?--) was born circa 1648 at Salzburg, Germany. She married Thoenges DORTHEN.


Other documentation

    An addition to the Bullock Bible, another source has been found that links Maria Elisabetha Goebel of Salzburg directly to Johann Wilhelm Seeber. This source is a 1930 document by Adolf Gerber entitled Die Nassau-Dillenburger Auswanderung nach Amerika im 18. Jahrhundert; das Verhalten der Regierungen dazu und die spaeteren Schicksale der Auswanderer (in English, "The Nassau-Dillenburg Emigration to America in the 18th Century; the Attitude of the Government Toward It and the Later Fate of the Emigrants").10 The document has been reprinted, in German, in a book that is widely available in American libraries: Ship Passenger Lists: Pennsylvania and Delaware (1641-1825), edited and indexed by Carl Boyer, 3rd.11

    Maria Elisabetha Goebel is mentioned three times in the Gerber document. She appears first in a list of persons who emigrated in 1750-52. This list is organized by town of origin, and she is listed under Salzburg and is said to be single (Boyer, page 32). She appears next in a discussion of the places of disembarkation and settlement of various emigrants. This passage mentions that the "Goebel woman" had become the wife of William Seeber and in 1767 was living in Canajoharie on the Mohawk (Boyer, page 34). She is mentioned for the third time, in passing, as "Maria Elisabetha Seeber, geb. (born) Goebel" (Boyer, page 40).

    These references leave little doubt that Maria Elisabetha Goebel born in 1734 in Salzburg was the same woman who married Johann Wilhelm Seeber, probably in 1756. Unfortunately, this newly-discovered information does not advance our knowledge of the place of origin of Johann Wilhelm Seeber himself, except perhaps to eliminate Salzburg as a possibility. Since there is no baptism record for him in the Emmerichenhain church records,12 it does not seem likely that he was from Salzburg and the search for his place of origin should probably focus on other possibilities.

1. Frederick Phillips, "Queries: Seeber," St. Johnsville (New York) Enterprise and News, 2 September 1931. A transcript of this column appears on the webpage of Marcia Seeber Alary at www.geocities.com/heartland/prairie/7191/.

2. In addition to copies in libraries, a transcript of the English translation can be found on Marcia Alary's webpage, supra.

3. The English translation of the Bullock Bible information states that Johann Wilhelm Seeber, along with his father-in-law Johann Jacob Goebel, had been a church elder in "Saltzberg." This is a translation error; when read carefully, the handwritten German text makes that statement only about Goebel, and does not say anything about the birthplace or residence of Seeber. This translation error is the source of many assertions, in genealogies appearing on web pages, that Johann Wilhelm Seeber was born in Saltzberg. As discussed in this article, these assertions are not supported by the Bullock Bible or any other sources known to the author.

4. See the notes of Margaret E. R. Bohart on Marcia Alary's webpage, supra.

5. Photographs and information about the Evangelical church in Emmerichenhain can be found at www.ek-emmerichenhain.de.

6. Emmerichenhain is a community of about 740 people in the current German state of Rheinland-Pfalz. In 1969 it was merged with the neighboring city of Rennerod, and they had a combined population of about 4,350 in 2004. Salzburg is a small community about 3.9 kilometers northwest of Emmerichenhain.

7. Records of the Evangelical church of Emmerichenhain, extracted by Catherine Mellor for the period 1669-1806. The extracts appear on her webpage at homepages.rootsweb.com/~lindv/gedcom/emmerichenhain/WC_TOC.htm. Ms. Mellor has also submitted information extracted from the Emmerichenhain church records to the International Genealogical Index, Ancestral File, and Pedigree Resource File, databases which are available on the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) at www.familysearch.org,

8. Their marriage date appears in the handwritten information in the Bullock Bible, current whereabouts unknown. A photocopy is in the possession of the author.

9. His date and place of death appear in his entries in the Ancestral File, International Genealogical Index, and Pedigree Resource File databases (see note 7 above) but not in the extracted records on Cathy Mellor's webpage.

10. Flensburg, Germany: Flensburger Nachrichten, Deutscher Verlag G.m.b.H., 1930.

11. Westminster, Maryland: Family Line Publications, 1992.

12. The surname "Seeber" does not appear in the index of Emmerichenhain church records that can be found on Cathy Mellor's website. The surnames Schaefer, Schaeffer; Schafer, Schaffer, Schefer, Scheffer, and Seibert do appear in the index, but there are no Wilhelms or Johann Wilhelms with those surnames that have a birth date close to the accepted birth date of Johann Wilhelm Seeber (15 November 1721).


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