The ancestors of Johannes and Anna Maria Margaretha Plantz Of New York's Mohawk Valley
The search for the German origins of Johannes Plantz and his wife Anna Maria Margaretha Plantz of the Mohawk Valley of New York began as an effort by Josef Plantz of Frankenthal/Eppstein, Germany and myself to see if we could discover a common ancestor. As the investigation progressed, it quickly became apparent that our search was also a case study of the need to question basic assumptions about one's ancestors. Often these assumptions rely on undocumented family stories, or insufficient or inaccurate research. As it turned out, Johannes and Anna Maria Margaretha's German roots were found not by the discovery of "new" information locked away in some distant, dusty German archive, but rather by the re-examination of "known" information and its correlation with discoveries made in sources previously unexplored by Plantz researchers. Very often, vital information had been missed or its importance not realized.
When Josef and I began our search for a common ancestor, I relayed to him the commonly held assumption by American Plantz-researchers that our patriarch in colonial New York was a Johannes Mathias Plantz who had arrived in Philadelphia in September of 1742 aboard a ship called the "Francis and Elizabeth." Invariably, Plantz family trees listed his wife as Maria Margaretha (unknown). Some researchers spoke of Johannes Mathias I and II, along with some confusion as to whether both I and II came to America. There was also a suggestion that Johannes's parents were a Heinrich and Anna Sybilla Plantz of Erkelshäuserhof b. Queidersbach. This couple had been noted in a letter of 4 Nov 1956 from Don Yoder of Devon, PA to Truman Plantz, an early Plantz researcher.
During the course of checking on the family in Quiedersbach, Josef learned of an inquiry there by Norman Blantz of Columbus, NJ. An exchange of information with Norman led to serious doubts about the 1742-Johannes Mathias theory. Norman was able to provide considerable documentation (wills, churchbooks, tax records, etc.) to show that both Johannes Mathias Plantz I and II settled in Pennsylvania and lived out their lives there. At this point, I inquired of several Plantz researchers whether they had ever seen a primary-source document (will, baptismal record, contract, etc.) with a middle name given for our Johannes. No one had.
About this time, another long-held assumption about the family's origin came into question. Most researchers seemed to subscribe to the notion that Johannes had come from the duchy of Baden (near present-day Baden-Baden) in the Black Forest region of southern Germany. This view is vividly expressed in an old book, "Pioneer Men and Women of Fulton County, New York," on file at the courthouse in Fonda, NY. (The entry also includes a fascinating story of shipwreck, parental disapproval of a marriage, a family estate in Germany, and a land grant in gold on sheepskin. It's a great story, but also, apparently, mostly fiction.)
At first, the validity of the Baden origin seemed very questionable. During a trip to Germany in the fall of 2002, my wife Kathy and I worked with Josef Plantz on an English translation of an article by an Alfons Plantz on the history of the Plantz family in Germany. Alfons found the 17th-century roots of the family in the Allgaeu region of Bavaria. Many of these Plantzes were craftsmen such as stonemasons and bricklayers who began migrating seasonally to the central Rhine region to find work repairing castles and monasteries damaged during wars such as the Thirty Years' War. Over time, many began to stay year-round in the area. Numerous baptismal and other records document this migration (see churchbooks/article Alfons Pflanz) . Alfons notes, by the 18th-century, at least ten different Plantz "tribes," or family groups in the central Rhine region. It must be noted that none of these families were found in or near the city of Baden. On the other hand, given the 18th-century fragmentation of Germany, it was still possible that Johannes was from an area under the control of the duchy of Baden. Recent research by Josef in Germany, discussed later in this article, provides strong support for this latter explanation of the Baden-origin theory. (For the text of Alfons's article, see the Josef Plantz website listed in the notes.)
One very important aspect of Alfons's article was the section on spelling variations of Plantz and how they really all refer to the same large family. This would also prove very important in later research on the family in America. Some of the German variations found included Plantz, Blantz, Pflantz, Blanz, and so on. In Josef's own family, baptisms of siblings showed different spellings, using a P or a B, apparently the result of being recorded by different priests. In America, the name has been recorded as Plantz, Plants, Plance, and Pflanz, among others.
So now, as I considered what we had been able to confirm and NOT confirm, it became apparent that we were almost back to zero as to the origins of Johannes and Maria Margaretha.
The first breakthrough came as a result of a return to a well-known work on German immigration to colonial New York: "Palatine Families of New York, 1710," by Hank Jones, Jr. Jones notes on page 297, in the 1768 will of Johann Conrad Gondermann, the marriage of a daughter Ana Margretha to a John Plance (listed as John Plants in the index). Also noted in the will is the marriage of another daughter, Anna Rosina to a Johannes Pickert. This was exciting because I remembered that Johannes Pflanz and his wife had served as sponsors, 11 Mar 1756, for the baptism of Maria Margaret, daughter of Anna Rosina and Johannes Pickert. It seemed likely that Anna Rosina had called upon her sister and brother-in-law to sponsor her child. The baptism is recorded in the records of the Lutheran Trinity Church of Stone Arabia, NY. From this beginning, several other connections followed.
Spelling Note: As with the Plantz name, several different spellings of the Gondermann surname appear in the old records–sometimes in the same document. These variations include Counderman, Contreeman, Couterman, Konterman, and the modern spelling: Countryman. In Johann Conrad's will, three spellings are used, as well as his baptismal name Georg Cunradt. The original of the will is on file at the New York State Archives in Albany, NY. The following from page 64 of a Countryman family history furnished by Herb Schrader of Utica, NY helped clear up the confusion about the various given names (Anna Maria Margaretha) of the first Mrs. Plantz:
As far as is known, Anna Maria never used her complete name in any particular instance, but rather in a combination of ways. For the baptisms of her (first) two children she is recorded as Margretha; in her sponsorship of a child of her sister Anna Rosina, she is listed as Maria Margaret; in the sale of her property in 1786 as Anna Margaret Pflanz. The will of her father lists her as "Ana margretha plance." Her husband's name has been noted as Pflanz, Plants, Plance, Pfloend (?), and Blants.
The Countryman connection leads to new insight into the life of Johannes Plantz and his wife in the years prior to the purchase in 1786 of the family farm on what is now Plantz Rd. near Johnstown, NY. On 12 Nov 1731, Conrad Countryman, Hartman Windecker, and Casper Lipe were granted a land patent, the Windecker Patent, for some 2,000 acres four miles northwest of present-day Fort Plain, NY. In 1752, Conrad was granted another 900 acres, the Countryman Patent, just south of the first patent. Maps of both patents are on file at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Fonda, NY. Montgomery county land records indicate that the four Countryman sisters and their husbands were given 50-acre adjoining tracts in the new patent sometime before 1768.
The records of Trinity Lutheran (founded in 1749) suggest that Johannes and Anna Maria Margaretha were probably married sometime around 1752, as their first child Ann Eva was baptized there 10 Apr 1754. A second child, Johannes, Jr. was baptized 1 Apr 1756. As will be pointed out later, Anna Eva's baptism provided the key to the probable origin of Johannes Plantz in Germany.
A handful of other records give us glimpses of Johannes's life. In volume IV of "The Colonial Laws of New York," printed in 1994, his naturalization in an act passed 11 Sep 1761 is recorded on page 546. From 24 Jul to 28 Jul, he was called out with Captain Jacob Klock's Company on an "Indian Alarm" at Burnetsfield, German Flatts (this record is somewhat confusing, it could also mean 24 Jul to 28 Aug). On the same militia roll his Countryman brothers-in-law and several Pickerts are also listed. In 1766, he paid a tax of 2 pounds sterling on Lot 6A (owned by his brother-in-law George Countryman, who paid a 10-pound tax) in the Windecker Patent. A photo copy of the Canajoharie Tax List can be found on page133 of Florence Christoph's "Upstate New York in the 1760's;" the militia roll is on page 209. Finally, DAR records list Johannes's service during the Revolutionary War as a member of the Associated Exempts of Tryon County, New York Militia.
Then, in 1786, two very important property transactions took place. On 16 Feb, Johannes and Anna Maria Margaret sold the 50 acres they had received from her father to her nephew, Nicholas Pickert, son of Johannes and Anna Rosina (Montgomery County Deed 12:55). Exactly six months later, on 16 Aug "John Plantz of the County of Montgomery" paid $250 for lots 21 and 22 (a total of 150 acres) in Butler's Bury Patent. A copy of the original contract, found in Montgomery County land records, Deed Book 54, page 193, was provided by my cousin Gordon Elliott of Paxton, MA. This is the farm located on what is now Plantz Rd in Montgomery County.
Of particular interest in the text of this contract is the designation of Michael Plantz, Peter Plantz, and George Putman as parties of the third part, "already in possession of the land as assigns of John Plantz." This was especially interesting because the earliest Michael Plantz appearing on a Plantz family tree was the eldest son of Peter Plantz, born in 1788. Who is this 1786 adult Michael? It seems likely that he is John Plantz, Jr. born in 1756. John, Jr. appears together with John, Sr. and Peter on the 1790 census. However, I have no evidence other than the lack of any other record for this Michael.
So what of Johannes and Anna Maria Margaretha's German roots? Anna Maria Margaretha's Countryman/Gondermann family has been well-researched and documented by Jones (pages 294-297), as well as several Countrymans, especially Herb and Erma Schrader of Utica, NY. Briefly, Johann Conrad Gondermann was baptized 30 Jun 1701 at Enzberg (6 mi. s. of Maulbronn, Wuertemberg). He was the son of Johann Friderich who brought his family to America as part of the massive migration by Palatine Germans to New York sponsored by the British government in 1710.
Yet, Johannes's birthplace, after more than a year of searching, remained elusive. LDS online records had been searched again and again both here and in Germany. In some cases, Josef Plantz had gone personally to check out a possible name. It then occurred to me that all the known variations of Plantz had not been entered into the LDS search engine for Germany. Under "Pflantz," a very interesting family turned up in Becherbach bei Kirn (often confused, as it appears to be by the LDS, with a near-by village of Becherbach). There was a Johannes Pflantz born 30 Jun 1727. As with the Johannes in America, there was no middle name listed. I noted that his father was a Johann Rheinhardt, a name given by the New York-Johannes to his youngest son, Rynhart Plantz. Josef advised that this was an extremely rare given name among Plantz families in Germany.
However, our most compelling evidence lies in a juxtaposition of names in Becherbach bei Kirn and New York. The male baptismal sponsor of Johannes and Anna Maria's first child, Ana Eva Plantz, in 1754 is a Peter Adami. (The female sponsor is Anna Eva Contrimann, and the male sponsor for Johannes Plantz, Jr. two years later is Conrad Contriman.) A search of the German churchbooks showed a large group of Adami entries for Becherbach bei Kirn. Among them was a Johann Peter Adami, christened 20 Aug 1728. Becherbach bei Kirn was then and is now a very small village – fewer than 500 inhabitants. The conjunction of a Johannes Plantz and a Peter Adami in a small village in Germany and a small village in New York was very compelling. Following up, we learned from Jones that the New York-Peter Adami's age at his death in 1810 matched exactly with the age of "our" German-Peter Adami. Seeking further verification, we contacted a Stefan Riegel of Frankfurt, Germany who has studied the churchbooks of Becherbach bei Kirn at great length. He is also related to Peter Adami AND Johannes Pflantz. Stefan confirmed our suspicions and kindly provided a genealogy for Johannes Pflantz.
Johann Nickel Pflantz (grandfather of Johannes)
Johannes Reinhardt Pflantz (father)
Margaretha Catharina Endres (* 23.1.1685 in Becherbach)
Elisabetha Catharina *20.7. 1712
Johannes Jacob * 5.7. 1717
Maria Catharina * 24.10.1720
Anna Dorothea * 12.10.1722
Johann Peter * 4.2. 1725 (later profession: shoemaker)
Johannes * 30.6. 1727
Anna Dorothea Pflantz
Johann Jacob Klein (* 2.1.1694 in Becherbach)
Anna Elisabetha * 14. 1. 1718
Anna Appolonia * 10. 2. 1720
Johann Jacob * 21. 8. 1721
Anna Margaretha * 1723
Maria Christina * 28.11.1724
Anna Catharina * 18. 7. 1727
Maria Elisabetha * 26. 9. 1730
Anna Maria * 8. 8. 1733
Maria Margaretha * ?. 1. 1736
Johannes * 16. 3. 1743
Johann Nicolaus Pflantz
Anna Christina Heuser
Johann Jacob ~ 25 .7. 1721
Maria Margaretha ~ 14. 7. 1723
Juliana Elisabetha ~ 31.10.1725
Maria Juliana ~ ? . 4.1728
Johann Heinrich Pflantz (* 1697 / + 1771 in Hennweiler)
Anna Catharina Gross
Anna Justina * ?. ?. 1719 in Hennweiler
Anna Dorothea * 15.11.1720 in Becherbach
Anna Juliana * ? later: oo to Gottfried Schlarb
(* A letter in the possession of my cousin, Bob Eggleston of Skaneateles, NY says that, "grandfather John (Johannes Plantz) had sandy red hair, and was a shoemaker.")
Another interesting fact is the presence in both Becherbach bei Kirn and the Trinity Lutheran congregation in Stone Arabia of other relatively uncommon surnames; for example, Riegel, Riemenschneider, Kirn, and Schnell.
And what of the family tradition that Johannes came from Baden? Recent research by Josef Plantz in Germany actually supports this tradition. Among the feudal lords of Becherbach were the Earls of Sponheim. In the 16th century, the Houses of Sponheim and Baden became connected through marriage. In 1706, the area of Becherbach bei Kirn came under the control of Ludwig Georg of Baden when he was four years old. The year before, young Ludwig had become head (Earl of Baden) of the House of Baden-Baden upon the death of his father, also a Ludwig. Here the name Baden-Baden is not used in reference to the modern city, but as one of the 6 lines of the House of Baden. The other lines are Baden-Sponheim, Baden-Zaehringer, Baden-Hachenburg, Baden-Pforzheim, and Baden-Durlach. The elder Ludwig of Baden-Baden is famous for his role in defeating the Turks at the entrance to Vienna. Because Germany was not unified as a nation-state, people identified with the local noble family. German immigrants such as Johannes Plantz and Peter Adami coming from Becherbach bei Kirn in the mid-18th century would likely indicate "Baden" or "Baden-Baden" as their place of origin.
To conclude, have we "proven" that Johannes Pflantz of Becherbach bei Kirn, Germany and Johannes Plantz of Johnstown, New York are one in the same? I don't know what constitutes 100% certainty, but I feel very confident we "have our man." As I write, research continues. Both Josef Plantz and Stefan Riegel are searching German sources for more information. It is hoped that we will continue to learn more about Johannes and Anna Maria Margaretha.
Thanks to the following helpful souls:
Josef Plantz family of Eppstein, Germany
Stefan Riegel of Frankfurt, Germany
Gordon Elliott of Paxton, MA
Bob Eggleston of Skaneateles, NY
Shirley Holley of Lodi, CA
Herb and Erma Schrader of Utica, NY
Rudy Dehn of Schenectady, NY
Note: The text of the Alfons Plantz article on the history of the family in Germany can be viewed here.