[Last updated: 30 November 2015]

Our Stembel Immigrant Ancestor


On October 25, 1738, at a dock in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a small group of emigrants walked down a ship's gangplank on wobbly legs, feeling both relief and apprehension. Relief because they had survived an ordeal that many of their fellow passengers, even family members, didn't. Apprehension because they were about to begin a new life in a new land. The ship that carried them to this new life was the ship DAVY,(1) and one of those emigrants walking down the gangplank that day was Johan Friederich Stembel.

Friederich(2) may have come alone, for the ship's passenger list recorded only the names of adult males. More likely he was accompanied by a wife and at least one child. His arrival marked the end of what was, by all accounts, a very arduous journey, and the beginning of the Stembel family in America.(3)

We believe Friederich was from the Palatinate, a sprawling, ever-changing region of what is now western Germany. Why he left, we will probably never know.

For us, Johan Friederich's life begins with his arrival in Philadelphia, for no research has yet been done on the Stembel family in Germany. Fortunately, sufficient records have been located in this country to allow us to draw some tentative conclusions about Friederich's past. From these records I have deduced that he was married and had at least one child by the time he left Germany, that he was at least 26 years old when he landed in Philadelphia, and that he was better educated than most immigrants from that region. This latter conclusion is based partly on his signature (see box, page 1) on two oaths all immigrants were asked to sign upon arrival in Philadelphia. These were the "Declaration of Fealty" and the "Declaration of Abjuration"(4) (the originals of these documents--with Friederich's actual signature--are on file in the Pennsylvania State Archives). An examination of his handwriting shows excellent, if somewhat pinched, penmanship. This stands in stark contrast to most other passengers' signatures, which were either simple marks, such as an X, or a barely legible scrawl. Of the 40 adult men from the ship DAVY who "signed" the oaths, 21 could not even write their own name. Of the 19 who could, Friederich's was one of the few signatures that was smooth and legible. In addition, in his pastor's personal journal (more on this later), Friederich was described as someone who was well instructed in the church's fundamentals, and noted that he had been a deacon in his church before emigrating.

Why did Friederich leave Germany? A good education in the 18th century was usually synonymous with wealth. The trip across the Atlantic was long and dangerous. Many died. This was surely no secret. He must have had strong reasons for leaving home. At this point we can only speculate.

Friederich's desire to emigrate was probably a response to an external event rather than a personal decision on his part to move to America. Something significant was obviously occurring in the Palatinate region during the late 1730s and early 40s. This is evident in the number of ships arriving in Philadelphia carrying German immigrants during this time:


Note the sharp increase in immigration starting in 1737 and running through 1744. There are many possible reasons why this might have occurred. It might have been a response to war or famine, or it might have been a response to something more benign, such as a relaxation of emigration laws by the governments in the region. Further research will no doubt shed more light on this.

We know that a Palatine who wanted to emigrate to America in the 1730s had to first get permission from the authorities, then pay 10% of the value of his property as an emigration tax. Persons who owned no land (serfs) had to actually buy their freedom.(5) Once permission was granted, the emigrants usually secured passage on a boat down the Rhine River to Rotterdam, Holland, where most of the ships to America departed. The ship DAVY, however, left from nearby Amsterdam (I don't know if this fact is significant or not).

According to a historian, the Navigation Act in effect at the time of Friederich's journey, required all goods, including immigrants, bound for the English colonies to pass through an English port(6) - usually London or Cowes - where they took on supplies and topped-off their water supply. The ship DAVY's records show she made her final stop at the port of Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, before sailing for America.

The passage from England normally took about eight weeks. The ships were usually crowded and sanitary conditions were poor. Consequently, disease sometimes swept through a ship, often resulting in loss of lives. Indeed, circumstantial evidence suggests that Friederich may have been accompanied by a wife who either died on the passage to Philadelphia or soon after arriving.(7) We know he was accompanied by at least one child who survived, however, other children may have been present who perished on the voyage. Unfortunately, the captain of the ship DAVY, when compiling the passenger list, followed the standard practice at the time and registered only males over the age of 16.(8) Thus, we don't know how many other family members disembarked in Philadelphia with Friederich.

There was a second Stembel that appeared on the ship DAVY's passenger list: Valentin "Stempel."(9) Sharing their uncommon surname, Friederich and Valentin were almost certainly related. All we know about Valentin is that, by his inclusion on the passenger list, he must have been 16 years old or older. Unlike Friederich, he did not sign the two oaths (evidently it was not required). I don't know if this is significant or not. No further record of Valentin Stembel has been found in America. He may have returned to Germany sometime after his arrival (many did), he may have settled somewhere where records were not kept, or he may have died soon after his arrival.

As for Friederich, we know nothing about his whereabouts from the time of his arrival in 1738 to 1744. We know that many newly-arrived German immigrants initially moved to a section of Philadelphia called Germantown. This settlement served as way-station where new arrivals sought out relatives, or acquaintances from their former hometowns, who had arrived earlier. It's highly probable that Friederich and his family initially lived in Germantown for a time.

Philadelphia, at the time of Friederich's arrival, was fast becoming one of the most important cities in the English colonies. William Penn, whose father, Sir William Penn, was a friend of King Charles II, found that after converting to the Quaker faith, he was no longer welcome in England. So he applied for, and received, a charter from the King for a private colony in America. It was located north of the Maryland colony and east of the Delaware River. The charter was given in 1681. William Penn intended for this colony, called Pennsylvania, to be a refuge for all who were being persecuted for their religious beliefs. He actively advertised in Europe to induce emigrants to leave the Old World and move to his colony.

Because Pennsylvania did not border the ocean (at a time when water travel was the only efficient mode of transportation), the main entry into the colony was up the Delaware River. Penn laid out his principal settlement at the conjunction of the Delaware and the Schuylkill Rivers. The Schuylkill was an important waterway into the interior. Penn laid out the city in a grid pattern where his wide, paved streets crossed at right angles (as opposed to the planless jumble of streets that comprised Boston and New York). Philadelphia's streets were designed with ample sidewalks and were even lighted at night.

Philadelphia was the fastest growing major city in America at the time of Friederich's arrival. Benjamin Franklin was 32 years old and was quickly becoming a major force in the development of the city. In 1728 (at the age of 22) he became the sole proprietor of the influential Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper, and operated a stationary shop which was run by his common-law wife, Deborah.(10) The year before Friederich's arrival, Franklin had organized the Philadelphia police force, the first city-paid constable system in the colonies. He would soon organize the first city fire department (which began as a bucket brigade).

It is certainly possible that during the years he resided in that bustling city of about 15,000, Friederich crossed paths with Benjamin Franklin.

Sometime before 1744, Friederich moved to the town of New Hanover (in present-day Montgomery County(11)), about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia. There he and his family attended the New Hanover Lutheran Church.

The New Hanover Lutheran Church was established in 1718 by Anthony Henkel. Today it is the oldest German Lutheran congregation in Pennsylvania. In 1742, an extraordinary man, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, arrived from Germany to become the pastor of this growing church. Soon after assuming the role of pastor, he initiated a church register which has become the oldest known surviving church register in America.(12)

Allow me to digress at this point.

Searching for records of ancestors who lived more than 200 years ago can be one of the most frustrating activities a genealogist can engage in. Literacy was low and record keeping was spotty. Thus, many settlers who lived in America during the 18th century may have had few, if any, of their major life events (birth, marriage, death) recorded. In addition, many records made 200 or so years ago, never survived to the 20th century.(13) One can search for years without success, never knowing for sure if the desired record even exists. When records cannot be located, we are forced to surmise facts or deduce details about ancestors based on often limited circumstantial evidence.

Given the number of early American settlers whose lives will never be known, I cannot overemphasize how fortunate we are that Friederich moved to New Hanover and attended a church whose new pastor was literate, and had the foresight to initiate a church register. Without that church register, we probably never would have known for sure that the Johan Friederich Stembel who arrived in America on the ship DAVY was, in fact, the father of Frederick Stembel, the common ancestor of all the Stembels found in this book.

Stembels first appeared in the New Hanover Lutheran Church register February 5, 1744. On that date Friederich and his wife sponsored the baptism of a baby.(14) For the next 10 years members of Friederich's family regularly appeared in the church register. From this register we find that Friederich's wife was named Ann Catherine, and that there were seven different children with the Stembel surname [spelled "Stempel" in the church registry]. Of these, we find Friederich is identified in some way as the father of five of the seven. For the other two, there is no indication of parentage.

We know that three of Friederich's five known children were born in New Hanover, for their baptisms were recorded in the church register. Another child was born before the church register was begun, but after Friederich's arrival in America. Thus, she could have been born elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Friederich's oldest child was born in Germany a few years before he departed for America.

New Hanover Lutheran Church, New Hanover, Pennsylvania (1993)

We are doubly indebted to Rev. Muhlenberg, for not only did he initiate the church register in the New Hanover Lutheran Church, he also maintained a personal journal of his ministry in Pennsylvania.(15) This is extremely fortunate, for Rev. Muhlenberg devoted a considerable portion of his December 1749 journal entry to the events that lead up to Friederich Stembel's death. It is ironic that in describing Friederich's death, Rev. Muhlenberg brought to life a man who otherwise would have existed only as lifeless entries in a church register. In his journal, Rev. Muhlenberg described Friederich's personality, his thoughts, and, quite possibly, recorded some of his very words for us to know him by.

According to Muhlenberg, Friederich was a very faithful member of his New Hanover church who "...neglected no opportunity to hear the Word of God in his church." He found Friederich had been well instructed in the church's fundamentals as a youth, and had held the office of Deacon back in Germany. Friederich was a stout defender of the evangelical faith, which they shared, and on occasion had even gone so far as to admonish Rev. Muhlenberg to defend his doctrine against the rival Zinzendorfers (more commonly known as Moravians(16)).

In the summer of 1749, Friederich was left quite ill after "...having injured himself by taking a drink of cold water during the great heat of summer, and suffering further injury to his liver through taking the violent medicines of a quack doctor." He could not seem to get well. Rev. Muhlenberg visited him on many occasions and ministered his soul. Friederich told Muhlenberg that he was afraid to die because he had small children that were still uneducated. His wife was also sickly [sometimes a euphemism for being pregnant]. Friederich said he was being tortured by thoughts of the many sins he had committed as a youth, thoughts he could not banish from his mind. Muhlenberg writes that eventually Friederich repented of these sins and died with a joyful and confident heart. I've extracted Muhlenberg's journal entry; you can read it here..

According to the church register, Friederich died in November of 1749. The exact date of his death was not entered, nor was his age at the time of death. I have determined he was at least 37 years of age when he died, but I believe he was older, probably closer to 50.(17) Six months after Friederich died, Ann Catherine gave birth to their final child, a son. Sadly, the baby died shortly afterwards.

Friederich's widow, Ann Catherine, remarried just ten months after his death. This may seem disrespectful--even callous--by today's standards, but in fact, it serves to demonstrate just how precarious life was for a widow in the 18th century. Most settlers of that era lived on farms. The husband and older sons generally tended the farm while the wife and older daughters tended the home, the younger children, and the garden. When a woman's husband died, their older sons were expected to take on the farming responsibilities. If they had no sons--or if the sons were too young--the widow could sell the farm to pay off the debts, and move in with relatives. If that was not possible, she could try to remarry. Mourning, and a lengthy courtship, were often luxuries that could not be indulged. When Friederich died, Ann Catherine was left with at least four young children, three under the age of eight. She was pregnant with a fifth. Not only that, but in the short span of eighteen months, she suffered through the deaths of her mother (December 11, 1748)(18), her husband (November 1749), and her baby (May 1750).

On August 7, 1750, Ann Catherine married Johan Adam Eberle in New Hanover's Falkner Swamp Reformed Church.(19) Eberle was himself a widower with at least one child from his earlier marriage. After marrying, Adam and Ann Catherine had at least four more children together.

Falkner Swamp Reformed Church, New Hanover, Pennsylvania (1993)

After they married Adam and Ann Catherine moved to Frederick County, Maryland, most likely between 1754 and 1757.(20) I'm almost certain their children accompanied them and that Adam raised Ann Catherine's children as his own, although they kept the Stembel surname(21). The first church record we've found for Catherine or the Stembel children was when a daughter--Anna Maria Stembel--appeared in the Fredericktown (now Frederick) Reformed Church register. Later, a son--Frederick Stembel--bought property in Frederick County, where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Surprisingly little is known about the Eberle's activities in Frederick County. More research is needed. According to my records, Adam Eberle died on June 20, 1795,(22) at the age of 72. We have yet to find a record of Ann Catherine's death, but she last appeared in a church record in 1782.(23)

Here is a brief summary of Friederich's five known children and the two Stembel children who may have been Friederich's:

A. Felicitas Maria. Felicitas was born in Germany. Although we have no record of her birth, we can estimate her age based on the date of her confirmation in April 1744, as recorded in the New Hanover Lutheran Church register. Unfortunately, in 1744 the ages of the children confirmed that year were not recorded, as they were in most other years. A review of those ages reveals that the youngest age of confirmation during that era was 12 years old. If Felicitas was 12 when she was confirmed, she was born sometime around 1732, or six years before her family journeyed to America.

On May 15, 1748, four years after she was confirmed, Felicitas sponsored a baptism with Leonard Rothermal (the Rothermals appear to have been close friends - or relatives - of the Stembels). Two-and-a-half years later, on November 18, 1750, Felicitas and Leonard sponsored another baptism together.

Two baptisms in two-and-a-half years give the appearance that there may have been a relationship between Felicitas and Leonard, especially given that Felicitas was about 16 to 18 years of age at the time of the baptisms, though its possible they were just close friends, or possibly cousins. On the other hand, they may have been engaged to marry (however, two-and-a-half years would have been an unusually long engagement for the 18th century). There is no record, however, of their marriage in the New Hanover Lutheran Church register. In fact, I have found no further records of Felicitas, whatsoever. She may have married someone from a different church nearby and became a member there.

Another possibility will be presented later in this chapter.

B. Anna Maria. The first record we have of Anna Maria is the church record of her confirmation on April 21, 1754. The New Hanover Lutheran Church church register states she was 12 years old at the time, meaning she was born in 1741-2, two years before the church register was begun.

This is the only entry for Anna Maria in the church's register. In 1758, however, she appeared in the church register of the Fredericktown (Frederick County, Maryland) Reformed Church, where she sponsored a baptism.(24) That same church register later shows she married a Daniel Sturm [Storms] on April 7, 1761.

We would normally expect to see additional entries in the church register for Anna Maria and Daniel as their children were born and baptized, but such is not the case. Daniel and Anna Maria do not appear in a Frederick County church register again until 1770 when they sponsored two baptisms in Middletown’s Reformed Church.

In 1771, the birth of their son, Jacob, was entered in both the Frederick Lutheran Church and the Middletown Reformed Church registers.(25) After the birth of Jacob, again there are no more entries for Daniel and Anna Maria. Nor do they appear in the 1790 federal census of Frederick County.

However, 21 years later there is an entry in the Middletown Reformed Church register on April 15, 1792, for the baptism of Elizabetha Sturm, daughter of Jacob and Catherine Sturm. Elizabetha was born October 18, 1791. While it would normally be a stretch to assume the Jacob Sturm in the register was Anna Maria and Daniel’s son (who would have been 20 at the time of her birth), what is intriguing about this entry is that the baptism was sponsored by Barbara Ewerle (Eberle). Barbara Eberle was Anna Maria’s younger step-sister(26). I believe this relationship makes it reasonable to assume that Elizabetha was, in fact, Anna Maria and Daniel’s granddaughter.

As mentioned earlier, neither Daniel nor Jacob appear in the 1790 census in Frederick County. Nor do they appear in the 1800 federal census in Frederick County, however there are two Sturm families found in the 1800 Census for Somerset County, Pennsylvania. One family is headed by a Daniel Sturm and the other, living nearby, is headed by a Jacob Sturm! Not only that, but the information contained in the census concerning the ages and gender of their family members fits what we know about them. Unfortunately, they do not show up in the 1810 census for Somerset County.

According to a descendant of Daniel Sturm, Paula Schoonmaker, Daniel Sturm/Storms was born 1738 in Klein Schifferstadt (in what is now Germany). He was the son of Wendel Sturm. This is the Daniel Sturm who married Anna Maria in 1761. Paula also affirms that hey had a son, Jacob (born 1771), and another son, Daniel, Jr. (born 1780), and several daughters. Sometime before 1790 they moved to Turkeyfoot Township in Bedford County, Pennsylvania (now Lower Turkeyfoot Township, Somerset County).

In 1801 they moved to Crosby Township, Hamilton County, Ohio (just west of Cincinnati). Anna Maria died there on October 21, 1802. Daniel died in 1804. Paula relates that according to the family Bible, Daniel, Jr., had a son named William Stembell Storms. In fact we find a W.S. Storms enumerated in the 1840 census in Middletown, Butler County, Ohio (about 25 miles northwest of Crosby Township).

Tax records for Turkeyfoot Township show Daniel and Anna Maria were present in that township as early as 1788. This and Pennsylvania and Ohio census records support Paula's information.(27)

Update (2013): It now appears that Anna Maria and Daniel had eight children, four of whom I have found information about. However I'm only confident of the information we have on one of them, their oldest child, Maria Magdelina Storms. We know for certain that Maria married Peter Helmick, and they had at least one child, Daniel. Daniel Helmick married Polly Miller, and they had at least one child, Samuel. Samuel Helmick married Mary Ann Marsden, and they had at least nine children between 1845 and 1864, one of whom was Samuel Marsden Helmick who applied for membership in the Iowa chapter of the Sons of American Revolution (SAR). It is through this membership application and census records that we know all of the above.

The other three children of Anna Maria and Daniel that we know of are Juliana Storms, who we believe married Emanuel Vantreese, Jacob Storms who we believe married and had at least two children, Lewis and Elizabeth, and Daniel Storms, Jr., who married and moved to the town of Franklin, Ohio, where he raised a large family. We know of three of his children at this point (2015), a son William, and two daughters, Sarah and Theodosin. Daniel, Jr. died in 1865 and is buried in Dayton's Woodland Cemetery.

This is all preliminary information and more research is needed on this branch of the family.

C. Christoph.(28) Christoph was born on November 30, 1746. He was baptized about a week later December 7, sponsored by his namesake and close friend of the Stembel's, Christoph Rothermal.

This is the only record we have of Christoph Stembel. Did he die as a child? Did he move to Maryland with the rest of his family? We don't know.

I have found an intriguing coincidence, however. A Christian Stemple (spelled Stempfle) briefly appears in the church register(29) of a Frederick County church(30) where Christoph's younger brother, Frederick, regularly attended. Christian Stempfle moved his family to nearby Hagerstown soon after, where he lived the rest of his life. What makes this such an intriguing coincidence is that my records show both Christian and Christoph were born in 1746!(31) While I would like to prove that Christian was Frederick's brother, Christoph, I doubt this is anything more than a coincidence. If Christian and Frederick were brothers, I would have expected their last names to be spelled the same in the church register. They're not. Also, I would have expected them to sponsor the baptism of at least one of each other's children, but that was not the case either. It should also be noted that all of Christian's children spelled their last name 'Stemple' as adults, while Frederick's children spelled their last name 'Stembel' as adults. Still, we cannot ignore the possibility that Christian and Christoph were one and the same.

D. Frederick. Frederick is the subject of the following chapter.

E. (infant son). Six months after her husband died, Ann Catherine gave birth to Friederich's last child, a son. The baby died at birth or soon after. His birth was not recorded, just his death. The May 19, 1750, entry in the church register reads simply "Stempel..............infant son of widow of Friederich."(32)

There are two additional "Stempel" children that appear in the register of the New Hanover Lutheran Church whose only link to Friederich is their surname.

?. Anna Regina. Anna Regina Stempel was confirmed on the same day as Felicitas Maria (see above). They were almost certainly related, having the same unique last name and being listed next to each other in the church's list of confirmations. What is puzzling, however, is that all but two of the girl's on the list had their father's name entered next to their's (another had "orphan" written where her father's name would have gone). Felicitas' name was followed by "Johan Friederich Stempel's daughter," but Anna Regina's name (listed just above Felicitas') is followed by a blank.(33) In cases where a father had more than one child confirmed, the children's names were bracketed with a pointer toward the father's name.

I am puzzled why Anna Regina's father's name was not entered in the church record. As noted above, if she was an orphan, this would have been entered where her father's name would appear.

Here are some possible reasons why her father's name was not given:

1. She was the daughter of Friederich, but his name was left off or a bracket was not placed around Anna Regina's and Felicitas' name due to an oversight, or because the Stembel family was so well known within the congregation that there was no need to identify them both as Friederich's daughter's. I find this highly unlikely because Anna Regina's name was listed first in the register and thus would be the one most likely to have Friederich's name entered.

2. Anna Regina was the daughter of a relative, probably a brother, of Friederich's who lived in an area where church services were infrequent. That relative may have sent Anna Regina to New Hanover to be confirmed with Felicitas. This seems like a reasonable scenario, but it doesn't seem to offer a reason why Anna Regina's father's name was not entered in the church record, since it would have been known by all of the family members.

3. Anna Regina's father (a Stembel) died when she was young, and her mother remarried. Like the scenario above, Anna Regina came to New Hanover to be confirmed with Felicitas, or possibly to live with Friederich's family because her mother and stepfather could not provide for her. If she was very young when her father died, she may not have remembered her father's name when asked at the time of her confirmation.

4. The father's name may have been blank because of a family embarrassment. Illegitimacy was not unknown at the time. Or perhaps her father had become an embarrassment to the church or community. While highly unlikely, it must still be considered.

There are certainly other possibilities, but of the four listed above, I favor the third. Since women and children's names were not listed on the DAVY's passenger list, Friederich might have been accompanied by a brother's widow and her children and we would never have known it. Another possibility is that Anna Regina was the daughter of the Valentin Stembel who appeared on the passenger list with Friederich.

Sadly, I have found no subsequent record of Anna Regina. I hope someday we can solve this mystery. Given the fact that she was confirmed with Felicitas, she, too, was probably born before her family emigrated. If so, there is a good chance her birth is recorded in a church register somewhere in Germany. This would reveal the names of her mother and father.

??. Elisabeth. Elisabeth Stempel may not exist.

On February 3, 1751,(34) the New Hanover Lutheran Church register shows that an Elisabeth Stempel and a Casper Keplinger sponsored a baby's baptism. This is the only record I have of Elisabeth Stemple. There is nothing to link her to Friederich other than her surname.

A year later (March 18, 1752) a Casper Käpperling (note the similarity with Casper Keplinger above) married a Litz (short for Elisabeth?) Stemple. It takes no great leap in logic to assume "Elisabeth" and "Litz" are one and the same, except for one thing: nicknames were rarely used in the 18th century when recording important events, like marriages, in the church registers.

When trying to reconstruct a family's history based on sketchy church records written in German more than two centuries ago by someone of, often, limited education (by today's standards), one must become adept at reading between the lines. Often the only evidence that a person ever existed in the 18th century is one or two scrawled entries in a church register. It is important, then, to try to glean as much about that person as possible from that entry. It is just as important, however, to avoid the trap of jumping to conclusions based on one's desire to tie up all loose threads into a nice, neat, coherent package. Frequently, different records present contradictory information, leaving the researcher to wonder whether there are two different people or just one. The researcher must accept the fact that some of these questions may never be resolved.

Back to Elisabeth and Litz. There is a later entry in the church register that, at first glance, appears to solve this dilemma, but in fact, confuses the situation even more. On October 22, 1752, a baby's baptism was sponsored by "Casper Capperling and wife." I believe we can assume this is the same Casper Käpperling who married Litz Stemple seven months earlier (the name Casper was no more common in the 18th century than it is now). Since we are trying to determine the real name of Casper's wife, the fact that it wasn't given in this entry is disappointing. However, all is not lost. There was a tradition among Germans in the 18th century to name babies after their sponsor. Since this baby was a girl, the name given to her could very well reveal the real name of Casper's wife.

The baby's name?


Is it possible that the records for Elisabeth and Litz were actually referring to Felicitas? It's a real possibility. The name Felicitas is phonetically very similar to Elisabeth, and if Litz was a nickname, it fits Felicitas just as well as Elisabeth. Even more telling is the fact that if we assume Felicitas was born in 1732, she would have been about 20 years old at the time Casper married Litz, a likely age for a woman to marry.

This is a very nice theory indeed, except for one little problem: the baptism sponsored by Casper Keplinger and Elisabeth Stembel a little over a year before Casper Kapperling (Keplinger?) married Litz Stembel. The baby whose baptism they sponsored was also a girl...and she was given the name Elisabeth, after her sponsor, not Felicitas. This puts a real damper on the theory because we know Felicitas's middle name was Maria, so how could she and Elisabeth possibly be the same person? Is it possible she was named Elisabeth Felicitas Maria Stembel? Did she adopt the name Elisabeth because she didn't like the name Felicitas? I don't have the answer.


1. Ralph Beaver Strassberger, and William John Hinke (ed.),Pennsylvania German Pioneers (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1966), pp. 233-237.

2. German children were usually given two names at birth, as is the custom today. Normally the child became known by the first of these names, but because Johan (or Johanne, Johannes,) was so frequently given as a first name to male children, most went by their second name to avoid confusion. Hence Johan Friederich was commonly known as Friederich and will be referred to as such throughout the book.

3. The ship SAMUEL, which arrived in Philadelphia a year earlier (August 30, 1737) than the DAVY, had a Johann Peter Stembell on the passenger list. Thus Johann Peter may have been the first of our family in America. There is a fair chance that Johann Peter and Friederich were related. I have found no other positive record of Johann Peter in America. However, a Peter Stemble was listed in the U.S. federal census records for Frederick County, Maryland, in 1790 and 1800.

4. The "Declaration of Fealty" required the signer to swear to be faithful to King George II of England and to declare that no other power, either ecclesiastical or spiritual, had any jurisdiction over Great Britain or her possessions. The Declaration of Abjuration" denied that the former Prince of Wales, James III, had any right to the Crown, and the signer refused any obedience to him (the term 'abjuration' means to renounce under oath).

5. Dieter Preuss and Joachim Hemmerle, "Punishment for Serfs and Free Subjects in the Palatine Electorate Who Emigrate Without Permission", The Palatine Immigrant, Vol. X, No. 2 (Autumn, 1984), p. 59.

6. "Passenger Departure Lists of German Emigrants, 1709-1914," by Friedrich R. Wollmershäuser, 1997. Found on the website of ProGenealogists at "https://web.archive.org/web/20140705161549/http://www.progenealogists.com/germany/articles/gdepart.htm" on 11/11/2017.

7. I base this on what we know of Friederich from the records found in this country. We know he had a wife, Ann Catherine, in Pennsylvania who bore children by him. We know she re-married after his death and bore more children by her new husband. We also know that at least one of Friederich's children was born in Germany. We know that the latest that child could have been born was 1732. Ann Catherine bore her last known child (by her second husband) in 1759. If Ann Catherine was Friederich's only wife, then between Friederich and Adam Eberle, she would have borne children over a span of at least 27 years. While possible, it's not likely.

8. Captains were only required to list males over 16, but some Captains listed all passengers.

9. Valentin's name appeared only in the ship's passenger list, which was written by the ship's captain (or his designee). Valentine and Friederich are listed together in the passenger list, both last names are spelled the same: Stempel. We know Friederich's last name was spelled 'Stembel' because he signed the oaths himself. Experts who examined his signature have agreed he signed his name as "Stembel" rather than "Stempel". Valentine did not sign the oaths, therefore we don't know positively that he was a Stembel, but the circumstantial evidence strongly suggests he was.

10. Deborah had once been married to a potter who fled to the West Indies to escape his creditors. He was never heard from again. Because there was no hard evidence to prove his death, Deborah could not legally marry again.

11. New Hanover was part of Philadelphia County at the time Friederich moved there. In 1784 Montgomery County was carved from the northwest portion of Philadelphia County.

12. Charles H. Glatfelter, Pastors and People: German Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the Pennsylvania Field, 1717-1739, Volume I. (Breinigsville, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1980). p. 376.

13. In the early to mid-18th century, the most common records in which a person might appear were church records, tax records, legal proceedings (wills, debts, criminal, etc.), and military muster rolls. Many families lived where no churches existed, or the local church had not begun to keep registers (often local pastors were poorly trained and marginally literate), or the records were subsequently destroyed (often in a church fire). A person who owned no land (to be taxed), left no will (which was common), was never involved in a legal dispute, or did not serve in a military campaign, would be very hard to prove they ever existed.

14. The New Hanover Lutheran Church register shows that Friederich and his wife sponsored the baptism of Johann Friederich Alt, son of Valentin and Catherina. He was born November 7, 1743.

15. The Journals of Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, in three volumes. Translated by Theodore G. Tappert and John W. Doberstein. (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1962).

16. The Moravian religion originated in what is now Czechoslovakia, by John Huss who broke with the Roman Catholic church in 1467. The number of followers remained small until the early 18th century when Graf von Zinzendorf brought about a renewal on his estate in Saxony (in NW Germany) - hence the name Zinzendorfers. The Moravian religion was brought to Pennsylvania ca 1740 and was centered around the town of Bethlehem, which Moravians founded. The Moravian Church still exists today. I don't know what doctrinal differences there were between the Lutherans and the Moravians in the 18th century, but they were sufficient to cause much apprehension among the Lutherans.

17. Friederich's oldest known child, Felicitas Maria, was confirmed in 1744. She had to be at least 12 years old at the time, meaning she was born no later than 1732. If Friederich was 20 at the time of her birth, he would have been born around 1712. In that case he would have been 37 years old when he died.

18. An entry in the New Hanover Lutheran Church death records states simply "Mother-in law of Friedrich Stempel". This was almost certainly Catherine's mother.

19. "Marriage Records of the Falkner Swamp Reformed Church", Pennsylvania Archives, Second Series, Vol. VIII. Edited by John B. Linn and William H. Engle, M.D. Harrisburg, Pa., 1880.

The Falkner Swamp Reformed Church and the New Hanover Lutheran Church are the two oldest German Reformed and Lutheran churches in Pennsylvania. Ironically, they are within sight of each other. Both churches still exist, occupying the same sites that they occupied when Friederich and Ann Catherine attended.

The discovery of Johan Adam Eberle and Ann Catherine Stembel's marriage record provides a perfect example of why imagination and perseverance (and luck!) must be part of any search of old records. As I was about to give up searching the Falkner Swamp church register for Stembel entries, I came across the following entry quite by accident: "1750, Aug. 7, Eberle, Johannes, and Cath. Hempel"! This entry had only been indexed on "Hemple." If I had restricted my search to the surname index and had quit after finding no Stembels, I never would have found this record, which had eluded us for over 30 years. (I later learned that when reading 18th century German, a handwritten "St" can easily be mistaken for a capital "H.").

20. The last New Hanover Lutheran Church record entry for a Stembel was April 21, 1754. The first church record entry for a Stembel in Frederick County, Maryland, was May 4, 1758.

21. If Friederich's children had been adopted by Johann Adam, their surname would have changed to Eberle, and all subsequent Stembels would now have the last name of Eberle (or the anglicized versions: Eberly or Everly).

22. "The Genealogy of the Michael - Stempel Families and its Relation to 1st Lt. Friedrich Stempel (1745 - 1840), D.A.R. #407,915." Dated November 1953. By (Dr.) W. Moore McLean. [Dr. Moore hired a professional genealogist to research the Stembel family for his mother's application for membership into the Daughter's of American Revolution (DAR), which he then compiled into a multi-page document which he kindly shared with this author.]

23. Ann Catherine attended the Middletown Reformed Church in her later years. She appeared in the church register for the last time on April 27, 1782, on a list of church members taking Holy Communion.

24. On May 4, 1758, Anna Maria Stembel (spelled "Stemplin" in the church register) and Hans Adam Wurtenbecher sponsored the baptism of Hans Adam Wurtenbecher, son of Bernhart and Eva Maria Wurtenbecher. I don't know what relationship existed between the Stembels and the Wurtenbechers.

25. "Baptismal Records of the Monocacy Lutheran Congregation, and its successor, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Frederick, Frederick County, Maryland, 1742-1779", Maryland German Church Records, Vol. 3. Translated and edited by Frederick S. Weiser. Noodle-Doosey Press, Manchester, Md., 1987. p. 62.

26. Barbara was 16 years younger than Anna Maria. At the time she sponsored this baptism, she was 33 years old and single. A year and a half later she married Peter Grove.

27. This information was provided on a family message board at www.ancestry.com by Paula Schoonmaker on September 6, 2003.

28. One is tempted to assume that Christoph is short for Christopher. However, Christoph's baptism sponsor was referred to as Christophel (Rothermal) elsewhere in the church register.

29. Christian sponsored a baptism on June 9, 1783. On May 12, 1784, their own son (born March 1, 1784) was baptized there.

30. The Zion Lutheran Church in Middletown, Maryland.

31. Christian's date of birth (January 15, 1746) comes from his tombstone. It should be noted that dates of birth on old tombstones are notoriously unreliable.

32. J. J. Kline, Rev., A History of the Lutheran Church in New Hanover, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (New Hanover, PA: self-published, 1910), p. 692.

33. Ibid, p. 508.

34. Ibid., p. 427.

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Copyright. Oren Stembel, STEMBEL FAMILY HISTORY PROJECT (familyhistory.stembel.org)