Dennis Prue

Dennis Prue

Dennis has been researching family trees for more than 30 years. His expertise has been invaluable in helping to break through brick walls.

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This Old Tree, November 2016

This month’s column is a byproduct of my fall vacation. I did more research on some of my Lambert family of southern Maine and on Schnebeli family out of Pennsylvania.

  • Schnebeli Family – last time I had done any major work was in 1208 and little more in 2012.
  • Hans Kasper Schnebeli was from Switzerland and had settled in the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania.
  • Kasper’s daughter, Susannah Schnebeli, is my 4th great grandmother. The Schnebeli surname is often called Snavely in English.

I have researched most of Kasper’s five known children. The youngest was a daughter named Elisabeth who was born about 1776. She married in 1795 to Philipp Fischer. From various records, I had a compiled listing of 14 children. They were Hanna 1796, John 1797, Wilhelm 1798, George 1800, Catherina 1802, Alexander 1803, Rebecca 1804, Philip 1807, Catherina 1810, Sara 1813, John 1815, Joseph 1817, Sarah 1819 and Heinrich 1822.

I had just birth dates and the place of birth which was Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I was able to view some church records and was able to add christening dates. For Hanna, Joseph, Heinrich and the first John and the second Sarah, the records stated both parent’s names as Philip and wife, Elisabeth. For the other nine children only the father’s first named, Philip, was listed.

Other than their first names, I really did not have much on the family. So I looked at census records and found that there were two Philip Fischer/Fisher families in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. I then found via Ancestry and Family Search that there were actually three Philip Fischer/Fisher families in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

  • Philip Fischer married in 1795 to Elisabeth Schnebeli/Snavely.
  • Philip Fischer married on Nov. 10, 1805 to Catherina Geiessman.
  • Philip Fischer married on March 20, 1814 to Elisabeth Meily.

The list of 14 children I had researched in the 1990’s and early 2000 was now in doubt as to which couple they belonged to.

I was able to determine that the last three: Joseph 1817, Sarah 1819 and Heinrich 1822 belong to Philip Fischer and his wife, Elisabeth Meily.

Also found that this Philip Fischer b. 1791 was a nephew to the Philip b. 1771 who was married to Elisabeth Schnebeli.

But who was the Philip married to Catherina Geiessman? I had found records on them but did not work on them because I knew that the Philip Fischer I needed was married to Elisabeth Schnebeli. Philip and Catherina were married in 1805. I was only able to find 2 sons, twins born in 1818. I figure that they were married in Lebanon and most likely lived somewhere else due to no children in Lebanon except for the twins in 1818, thirteen years after they married.

I was able to place the first seven children Hanna, John, Wilhelm, George, Catherina, Alexander and Rebecca as Philip Fischer and Elisabeth Schnebeli children. They all were born before the 1805 marriage. But the next four children, Philip 1807, Catherina 1810, Sara 1813 and John 1815 were in doubt. Since the censuses records shows 2 Philip Fischer’ families, I came to believe that these four children belonged to Philip Fischer, widower of Elisabeth Schnebeli, and his second wife Catherina Geiessman.

Elisabeth Schnebeli had Rebecca on Dec. 17, 1804 who was christened on Jan. 14, 1805. Elisabeth must not have recovered from Rebecca’s birth and died. Later that fall, Philip remarried.

To see if this was a possible solution, I listed the 11 children in a column and then next their names I recorded what their ages would have been in each censuses from 1800 through 1830. Example:

  • Hanna 3 13 23 33
  • John 2 12 22 32
  • Wilhelm 1 11 21 31

Once I did this for the children, I then put in the few death dates I had such as Alexander and Sara.

I matched up the ages of the children in the different censuses to figure out who was alive and who was deceased. John b. 1797 died after he was 12. The first Catherina had died by 1810 when the second Catherine was born.

I was then able to recognize that Philip and Elisabeth’s children who lived were Hanna, George, Rebecca and Wilhelm who died in 1827 at the age of 28. Four out of seven lived to adulthood.

Philip and Catherina’s children were Philip who died in 1835 at age 18, and Catherine and John who lived to become adults. Sarah died as infant and of the twins, only Augustus Philip (1818-1902) lived and had a family.