|Peter, Gerhard, and Anna
Siblings in Search of a New World...
My Link to an Old One
Thomas Journey to America
My genealogical quest is to identify my immigrant ancestors and where they came from. This was a particular challenge in the case of my ancestor who brought my Thomas surname to America. After years of searching and following possible leads, I had little information to link to families back in Europe. My oldest known Thomas ancestor was Peter Thomas, who married Eva Maria Six on 6 April, 1760, in the Bethel area of Berks County, Pennsylvania. He died there in 1789 leaving a wife and 9 children (a 10th child died previously). I had no birth date for him or names of his parents. I didn't know when he arrived. But, all was not lost. With some new strategies and a little luck, I was able to establish that this Peter Thomas was the Johannes Peter Thomas who was born to Peter and Anna Elisabetha [Kurz] Thomas, and baptized on 11 March 1736, in Pleizenhausen, Germany (a small village in the Hunsrueck area of the present-day German state of Rheinland-Pfalz). Peter (age 18), along with his brother Gerhard (age 22), and sister Anna Elisabeth (age 30) emigrated to America, arriving in Philadelphia on 1 October, 1754, onboard the Ship Phoenix. Another of Peter's sisters, Maria Margaretha, was married to Johann Jacob Mühleisen, and emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750.
Peter most likely had a period of servitude to someone who paid for his voyage to America. After working off that debt, he married Eva Maria Six (daughter of Dietrich Six) and settled in Berks County, on the Six property, which he eventually owned. This property is well known in Berks County history since it was the location of one of Pennsylvania's Provincial forts during the French and Indian War (Fort Henry, built in 1756, also known as Dietrich Six's Fort since it was on his property and the first Indian attacks of the area occurred there in November, 1755). The fort was no longer garrisoned after 1758, and attacks by the Indians had ceased by the time Peter married Eva Maria. There is some irony in the fact that one of the reasons for German emigration was to get away from the continual series of wars affecting the Rheinland area throughout the preceding century, yet Peter, Gerhard, and Anna Elisabeth arrive in Pennsylvania just in time for the French and Indian War.
This web site presents the history of this family line, the ancestors, early descendants, and general information about the locations, life and times. Please let me know if you see any errors, have information to add to the site, or would just like to make comments. In addition, if you are working on collecting your own family history, please provide credit to this site or any other source you obtain information from.
Dealing with "brick walls" in your ancestry can be very frustrating. One common technique used to find new information is to expand the search to family lines of people surrounding the lives of your ancestor. Often these other people lead you to the place where you need to search. This is particularly true of immigrants from Germany, who tended to travel in groups. Using the baptism records of Peter and Maria's children, I explored the family lines of the baptism sponsors. Baptism sponsors have close relationships (either as relatives or close friends) to the parents. I also examined lists of ship passengers coming to America, not only for Peter, but for clusters of names that matched other lists such as land purchases or tax lists. It's all about looking for clues. With some coaching and suggestions from another more experienced researcher, Suzy Bettac of Texas, who was looking for the ancestry of a Gerhard Thomas, the breakthroughs finally came. You can read the full account in gory detail in a paper I have written containing the proof arguments for the my direct Thomas pedigree presented on these pages. I think the arguments are credible, but I would be interested in your feedback or opinions as well.
Here is a summary of the evidence used to establish that the Peter Thomas who lived and died in Bethel Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania, had in fact been born in Pleizenhausen, Germany.
1. A Peter Thomas is born in 1736 which is a reasonable timeframe to match the age of his future wife in Pennsylvania (Eva Maria Six, born 1742),
2. His family contains an Anna Elisabeth and Gerhard, matching the record of a 1754 emigration group,
3. The relatively uncommon form of signature used by a Peter and Gerhard Thomas associated with the 1754 arrival of the ship Phoenix in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, matches the signature of Peter in a later land acquisition, and
4. A Jacob Mühleisen marries Maria Margaretha Thomas (believed to be Peter Thomas’ older sister), who apparently is the Jacob Mühleisen subsequently sponsoring the baptism of two of Peter and Eva Maria Thomas’ children in Pennsylvania.
No information has been found to conflict with this conclusion.
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Last Updated: 08/29/2015