Published January 16, 2018

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Even though I offer research-for-hire as part of my genealogy business, I’m not super-aggressive about promoting it since I’m often busy traveling to lecture as well as writing columns such as this one.

But when a high school classmate of mine named Peter Engel posted an ancestral tombstone on Facebook – in reply to a tombstone photo I had put online without a whole lot of intention – and said his parents had done some family history years ago but hadn’t found a village of origin for the Engels, I cast out the idea to my classmate about attempting to find that village for him.

Engel was pretty convinced that his immigrant was a Jacob Engel who arrived in 1744. After a few preliminary searches at the Historical Society of Berks County’s library, I was already scheduled for a trip to Salt Lake City’s Family History Library, the world’s largest genealogy repository.

After ascertaining that no record created on the American side – from church records to tombstone inscription to family memoirs – listed the European village of origin, I knew to go-to book for immigrants of the First Wave to America during Colonial times was Werner Hacker’s Eighteenth Century Register of Emigrants from Southwest Germany to America and Other Countries (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1994).

Hacker was a retired German civil servant who scoured the many archives of southwestern German states to compile 10 volumes of emigration evidence, mostly consisting of records of “manumission,” a release from serfdom.

The Closson Press edition abstracts information from the works of Hacker that include the most emigrants to America. Hacker’s original works give additional information and are found in libraries with major German genealogy collections.

So, given that Engel’s information was that his surname immigrant had arrived in America in 1744, I knew that Hacker’s books would be my first play in Salt Lake.

And, sure enough, a notation for a Jakob Engel in the Closson Press edition pointed me to Hacker’s Auswanderungen aus Rheinpfalz und Saarland im 18. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart, Germany: K. Theiss, 1987), which contains emigrants from the Rhenish Palatinate and Saarland.

Hacker’s full entry for Jakob Engel notes that he was a resident of the Palatine town of Standenbühl and was applying on 23 April 1744 for manumission for himself, his wife and six children to go to the new land.

This dovetailed well with my classmate’s information that his immigrant arrived on the ship Friendship on 2 November 1744. This information looked pretty solid but it would help to find church records of the Engel family in Standenbühl. This village, as it turned out, was attached to the parish of Marnheim. The church records showed Jacob’s marriages – he married his second wife just a short time after his first wife died – and baptisms of five children, a good if not perfect match for the six children noted in the manumission reference.

The right source yielded a solution!