Jacobs Parents, Birth, and Early Years

Jacob Brumbaugh’s original name was Johann Jakob Brombach.[1] His parents were Jakob Brombach and his wife, Anna Catharina. They lived in the tiny village of Osthelden where they recorded Johann Jakob’s birth as having occurred between two and three in the afternoon of February 8, 1726, in the area around Siegen, Westphalia, Germany. They were part of the Protestant parish of Ferndorf, Kirchenkreis Siegen. They had Jakob baptized there, recording it in the baptism registry book on February 17, 1726. His parents asked Johannes Plim[m] to serve as his sponsor.[2] There in nearby Ferndorf was an “Evangelisch” church, which indicated that parishioners followed either the Lutheran or Reformed tradition.[3]

Jakob’s parents had married on the first of February, 1720, Jakob’s father, born April 1, 1690, died October 12, 1738, and was buried two days later at the age of 48 years. Jakob was the eldest son and had five siblings: one older sister, Anna Maria, born 1723, and three younger sisters, Anna Christina, born 1728, Anna Catharina, born 1734, and Maria Catharina, born 1737. His probable younger brother, Johannes Heinrich, was born 1731.[4]

Back then his small village offered the Brombachs marginal agriculture, and few raw materials, including stands of beech and oak trees on steep slopes. The valleys of the surrounding area were not broad. Forests covered the majority of the territory mid-way down the Rhine River valley, toward the port of Rotterdam in Holland.  The Brombachs lived on the edge of this forest with a little farming, some pasturing, and a trade. This served to circumscribe their lives; they barely eked out a living for their growing family. 

Most German immigrants to America in that era were palatines. Oddly, Jacob was from a land area then known as the Principality of Nassau-Siegen, now the German state of Westphalia, but located just a couple miles outside what was commonly thought of in the eighteenth century as the Palatinate. In 1743, these lands became part of the territory united under Prince William of Orange-Nassau and he was the ruler, dying in 1751, from whose territory Jacob emigrated. Siegerland, as it was sometimes called, had iron mines and forges. Forges require high-quality fuel to smelt ore, and the forests could provide that. The forests had many charcoal burners’ huts producing charcoal, which they transported westward, overland to the forges of Siegen. Jacob could have stayed and become part of that limited economy, but he chose not to do so. 

In the era of Jakob’s birth, the areas surrounding Jakob’s home village still operated as feudal states. Farmers, such as his father, were subjects of the legal authority of minor nobles. The nobles had enormous power over the personal and economic circumstances of their subjects. There was not enough land for men such as Jacob to earn sufficient money to support their families. Men in his position therefore leased extra land for eight-year periods from the Count or the parish. Taxes and fees consumed any possible profits the farmer could have—fees on cattle, poultry, other livestock and firewood, charges were imposed for the Count’s messengers, watchmen, and threshers as well. One-tenth of the farmer’s grains, hay, sheep, and calves had to be delivered to the Count’s farms. Alone these fees and taxes were not great, but in the aggregate they caused a great deal of hardship on men like Jakob. In addition, a farmer had to perform certain services for the Count, including hunting for him, transporting wood for him, and working for set periods on the Count’s farm. The cumulative effect of these taxes, fees, and service obligations created altogether a crushing economic weight.[5] From 1700, for the better part of the next century, the Germans in Osthelden and surrounding communities began to migrate to whatever region they thought offered better opportunities for their families. 

However, to do so, a man like Jakob could either travel east, where by far the greatest number of emigrants went, to Russian or Ukrainian or other Eurasian towns whose princes sought good farmers and settlers. One could also travel west a few miles to board a boat on the Rhine traveling downriver through various, additional fee-charging points  to the city of Rotterdam, in Holland. There it was possible to board a ship bound for the British colonies in North America for payment of fee about £5 or board without paying anything on the condition that upon arrival, the ship captain could sell by indenture of servitude the passenger’s time for five to seven years working for a settler there, either another German or a person of English or other origins who became one’s master.[6]

To get to Rotterdam, Jakob needed to travel 200 miles. To emigrate from most places in the Rhineland or near it, most people had to apply first for manumission. The overlord had the power to grant it, and it often came with taxes imposed. Because of these taxes some emigrants did not apply for a visa. One study says that about twenty-five percent of émigrés left without the exit visa; they left secretly.[7] Those who left without express permission forfeited any inheritance from family one may have left behind. As Jakob is alleged to have arrived with £50, he may have carried his inheritance with him (as we previously learned, his father died in 1738), and he seems never to have revealed his birth family or village of origin. At least we have found no record of his revealing these matters. 

Once in America, Jakob dropped his Germanic name Johann, in favor of his second or ‘call name,’ the spelling of which he Anglicized to Jacob, while his last name became Anglicized, his full name thus becoming Jacob Brumbaugh. Because eighteenth-century individuals treated spelling casually, Jacob’s name appeared in many various spellings, mostly as Brumbach, Brumback, Brombach, Broombach, Brumbaugh, Brombaugh, or Broombaugh. Although not a common German name, other individuals arrived and resided nearby with the same surname, even with the same Christian names as those of his children. These were Jacob’s probable brother, Johannes Henrich Brumbaugh, and his four sons and his daughters.[8]  


[1] Anne Schmidt-Lange-Brumbaugh Report dated June 7, 2014 (author’s copy), based on LDS Film 0596749, Protestant Church Records of Ferndorf, Kirchenkrais Siegen, Principality of Nassau-Siegen (in 1726), now Westphalia, Germany; Baptisms, 1716-1781, p. 86, no. 8 for the year, top of page. Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh’s compiled study Genealogy of the Brumbach Families including those using the following variations of the original name, Brumbaugh, Brumbach, Brumback, Brombaugh, Brownback, and many other connected families (New York: Hitchcock, 1913) became the bible for research and study of families of this surname and for its time was one of the best of the genre, not only for its comprehensiveness, but also for its liberal reference to and reproduction of land records and its dozens of primary source documents illustrated throughout the book. It did not, however, solve the mystery of where Jacob Brumbaugh was born or when. A typescript genealogy “Descendants of Johann Jacob Brumbach” showing the line of descent from Johann Jacob Brumbaugh was published in 1999 in limited form by Richard Lee Hartle. It is available in the John Clinton Frye Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown, Maryland. Mr. Hartle added a good deal of information on many branches of the tree and had a hand in inspiring the present work before, sadly, passing on in 2012, his 91st year. G.M. Brumbaugh (1861-1952) was a descendant of Jacob’s brother, Johannes Henrich Brumbaugh (1731-ca 1760), and a physician who for twenty-five years, 1917 until 1942, served as editor of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. G.M. Brumbaugh’s Genealogy contained many and varied clues to the villages of origin of the Brumbaughs, but not to Osthelden from which German genealogist in 2014 found Brumbaugh to have emigrated. The city of Müsen had been suggested by other sources, and near there the towns of Osthelden and Ferndorf were found, particularly the Protestant church in Ferndorf, where Brumbaugh was baptized. 

[2] LDS Film 0596749, Protestant Church Records of Ferndorf, Kirchenkreis Siegen, Westphalia, Germany, Baptisms 1716-1781, 86:8. All secondary sources searched to date used a birth year of 1728, which is inconsistent with Jacob’s own later assertion in 1776 that he was age fifty.  No other source had ever been found prior to the 2014 report with any further explanation or reference to primary sources for that year 1728; accordingly, 1726 has been established for his birthdate. See, e.g., G.M. Brumbaugh, Genealogy, 144. 

[3] It consists of a late Romanesque hall church and a western tower and three-halled nave with a tower built before it. (A current photo of the church can be found online).

[4] LDS Film 0596756, PCRF, KS, G, Deaths, 157; LDS Film 0596749, Ibid, Baptisms 1716-1781,  68, 107, 138, 167, and 199. 

[5] _______________.

[6] Wokeck __________.

[7] Duane M. Broline and Robert A. Selig, “‘Emigration and the ‘Safety-Valve’ Theory in the Eighteenth Century, Some Mathematical Evidence from the Prince-Bishopric of Würzburg,” in Yearbook of German American Studies 31 (1996): 145. 

[8] Johannes Henrich Brumbach arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Neptune in 1754. He had four surviving sons, Jacob (called “Jockel”), George (called “Yarrick”), Conrad, and Johannes (called Johannes the Strump Weber in German or “the stocking weaver” in English).  Documentation of the father is hard to find, but the sons are well documented. G.M. Brumbaugh, Genealogy, 349. Martin Grove Brumbaugh, governor of Pennsylvania 1914-1919, and Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, M.D., the genealogist who wrote that 1913 book of family genealogy, were both descendants of Johannes Heinrich.

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