A genealogy search


The key to a successful search for information about a Hessian soldier, (a German Auxiliary), ancestor is to know his name and to have a STRAIGHT-LINE GENEALOGY from the present generation back to the generation of the Hessians. That generation would be men of age 20 to 40 in the period of the Revolutionary War, 1776 to 1783. Most Hessian soldiers were born between 1736 and 1760.

A STRAIGHT-LINE GENEALOGY consists of names for everyone in a line of descendants from the Hessian to someone of the present generation.  Dates and Places of birth for everyone should be documented.  Standard genealogical records are preferred.  This record provides the kinship relation between the Hessian and his descendants.

If the soldier's name and hometown in Germany are known, it may be possible to obtain family birth, baptism, marriage or death records from the church in his hometown.  The JSHA guide to requesting church records from Germany may be of some assistance.

In establishing ones straight-line genealogy, it is suggested the researcher work from the known to the unknown.  Family records such as Bibles often show birth, marriage, and death dates.  Town and county records, federal and state censuses, land tax records, marriage bond and wills, as well as church and cemetery records are sources that should be searched.  In many places the various records are indexed making the task easier.  Libraries and Historical Societies offer resources such as newspaper records indexed by names as well as some of the records listed here.

The Internet may provide access to genealogical information found by other researchers who have an interest in the same surname.  Using People Search via any Internet search engine will show persons with the surname.  Contacting those with the same name could result in obtaining information gained from their search results.  Also, posting an inquiry for an ancestor's name on web-sites offering that service might produce responses from someone with helpful information.

Without knowing the ancestor's full name, searching for a Hessian with the “possible” surname may be interesting but can often be disappointing.  Many German soldiers had the same name and determining the one that could be one's ancestor might be impossible.   Also, finding a Hessian with the "right" name who deserted at a known location may or may not be the location where he settled and started his new life in North America.   Showing that a deserter is one's ancestor can only be done by establishing the STRAIGHT-LINE GENEALOGY from the present generation back to the Hessian generation.

German soldiers deserted in North America from Canada to Florida.  Major desertions took place during the evacuation of Philadelphia and during the march across NJ in June, 1778; on Cornwallis' march north to Virginia in the Spring and Summer of 1781; at Savannah GA and Charleston SC prior to the evacuation by the British in 1782; from the Convention Army as it moved from Saratoga to Boston to Virginia in 1777-1779; from Frederick MD between 1782 and May 1783; from POW facilities at Lancaster, PA and Winchester, VA; and in the vicinity of Manhattan and Long Island during the period from 1776 to November 1783.

In some instances the actual full name of the soldier, as it appears on the records, may not be precisely known. Some soldiers changed their names or had them changed for them when they established residence in their new country. For example; Mueller became Miller, Voges became Vocust, Grein became Crain and then, Krain, Walther became Walter, and Schellhausen became Shellhouse.

The soldier's "first" name may differ between the old German and the new American or Canadian records.  Johannes and Hans became John, Ludwig became Lewis, Karl became Carl, and Heinrich became Henry, for example.  When the German record shows two given names, Johann Martin for example, the new name might be simply, Martin.  Generally, the given name immediately preceding the surname is the one used as the "first" name.

If the soldier's name is not positively known, educated guesses may be needed to interpret the military records and identify a soldier or soldiers who could have been the ancestor in question.  That effort usually requires comparing military records with civil, church, or court records

The JSHA, for more than 20 years, has searched for and obtained copies of official and personal records of Hessian military units and soldiers who served the British in the American Revolutionary War.  Since its inception in 1976, JSHA has compiled information on more than 600 German Auxiliary soldiers who remained in North America and who became the progenitors of present and past generations of Canadians and Americans.  It has been estimated that between 6000 and 7000 German Auxiliaries remained in North America after the war.  They were either discharged in America or they deserted.  Most gravitated to German speaking areas in PA, NY, NJ, NC, and Canada.  The Auxiliaries who served in America and commonly called Hessians because most came from the Principality of Hesse-Cassel, actually came from six German States; Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Hanau, Braunschweig, Waldeck, Anhalt-Zerbst, and Ansbach- Bayreuth.

Many of the records obtained have been studied, reported on, and preserved for members and researchers interested in military history or the war experiences of individual soldiers.  Much of that found has been published in the annual journals of the JSHA.  All of the JSHA genealogical holdings and files on soldiers who remained in North America are located in the German Collection of the Martin Library of the Sciences at Franklin and Marshall College at Lancaster PA.  See Hessian Registry to learn more about finding or researching your ancestor.  The microfilmed military and naval records owned by JSHA have been deposited on permanent loan in the David Library of the American Revolution, in Washington Crossing, PA.  For detailed listings of the holdings of the David Library, see

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Scotland, PA 17254-0127

E-Mail can be sent to Hal Schwalm
JSHA Genealogy Primer 3.4, last updated 7/24/2011