For more information about Freedman’s Bank Records – and access them online, please visit FamilySearch.org: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/United_States_Freedman’s_Bank_Registers_1865-1874_(FamilySearch_Historical_Records)
This video covers the US 1866 Cohabitation Records. These records were produced by the Freedmen’s Bureau in many of the pre-Civil War slave owning states. They are an invaluable resource for those tracing their American slave ancestors.
For more information about the 1866 Cohabitation records, please visit: https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/Cohabitation_Records
Click below to access the registers for a specific state:
The video is a concept intro opening sequence sting for the Genealogy Adventures docu-reality TV series. Two of the three TV production companies interested in my docu-reality TV series pitch wanted me to come up with a concept for this.
Basically, I wanted to put my new Android Tablet through its paces. I’ll be doing a lot of editing on the fly and wanted to know if my tablet was up to the task. No less than 5 apps later…we got this.
So now I know we can edit on the fly with tablets. We can also upload HD video and audio using wireless dongles or wireless smartphone internet hubs – which we’ll need to do in the more isolated regions of the world the series will be visiting.
It’s a concept idea..but I really like it.
Song: My Soul is at the End of the Universe
Label: Aardvark Records
Vocalist: Emm X (recording as Eve Ellis)
Track editor: Nicholas Taylor
It’s inevitable. When you’re researching your family you are going to hit a brick wall. Peter Schultheiss Scheffe is one of those walls.
For a man who became mayor of a town in 18th Century Germany, owned a milling business and is thought to have been a judge, precious little is known about this man. I’ve been throwing every trick I know to smash this wall down…to no avail. If there is comfort to be taken, I am not the only one experiencing a sense of frustration where this man is concerned. A quick scan of family trees in Ancestry.com shows a staggering number of family trees which stop at Peter Schultheiss Scheffe. Whether it’s an American descendant or descendants in Germany, France or The Netherlands – no one has been able to crack this mystery.
Why is he important?
He’s a keystone ancestor which links a number of families in Europe and the US together. It’s only natural to want to know more about him. He is also the person who connects the Scheffe and Sheffey families in the US together as well as the Scheffey and Scheffe families in Germany. In the aftermath of the religious wars which ragged across the region in the 17th and 18th Centuries, and Napoleon’s invasion, a number of his children, grand children and great grandchildren emigrated to the American colonies (PA initially and then MD and VA), Canada, England and the Netherlands.
So what do we know?
The paragraph below is one that appears over and over again in online searches:
Die Mühle wurde im Jahre 1725 durch Peter Scheffe, Schultheiß von Herschberg und Werschhausen, wieder aufgebaut. Besitzer wurde damals Peter Angne, dessen Nachkommen bis zum Jahre 1842 Müller dieser Mühle waren. Angne war wahrscheinlich Schweizer Einwanderer, der zu einer Hugenottenfamilie gehörte und nach dem Dreißigjährigen Krieg in das entvölkerte Gebiet kam. Er hatte sich 1726 mit Maria Margaretha, der Tochter des Schultheißen Peter Scheffe, verheiratet. Die Mühle war vier Generationen im Besitz der Familie Angne. Die Witwe des Peter Angne, Philippine, heiratete in zweiter Ehen den Müller zu Rieschweiler, Adam Bayer. Deren Sohn starb 1885. Dann war die Mühle 10 Jahre an Albert Lenhard von Schauerberg verpachtet. Der neue Besitzer Karl Ludwig Ziegler aus Schönenberg heiratete 1895 Bertha Bayer und hinterließ die Söhne Ludwig und Hermann.
The most reliable translation reads as follows:
The mill was built in 1725 by Peter Scheffe, mayor of Herschberg and Werschhausen. The next owner was Peter Angne, whose descendants owned it until 1842. Agne was probably a Swiss immigrant and belonged to a Huguenot family, arriving after the Thirty Years War in the depopulated area. He had been married to Maria Margaretha in 1726, the daughter of the mayor Peter Scheffe. The mill was owned by four generations of the family Angne. The widow of Peter Angne, Philippine, married a second time to the Müller Rieschweiler, Adam Bayer. His son died in the 1885. Then the mill was leased 10 years to Albert Lenhard of Schauerberg. The new owner Karl Ludwig Ziegler from Schoenberg married Bertha Bayer in 1895 and left the mill to his sons Ludwig and Hermann.
Peter’s highlights are:
- He was born around 1669. There is some conflicting information about where he was born. Some say he was born in Permasens in present day Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz (see the German map below, it’s the ‘state’ highlighted in dark green). Some say he was born in France and others that he came from Switzerland.
- He married Anna Elizabetha from the influential Kiefer family. No marriage certificate has been found so the date and place of this marriage is unknown. While little is currently known about this marriage, Anna Elisabetha was the mother of his children.
- He married for a second time. In 1779 he married Maria Elisabetha Margaretha Wagner in Thaleischweiler which is also in Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz. This second union doesn’t seem to have produced any further children.
- All of the digital information available illustrates the same story. He arrives in Herschberg, Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz at an unknown date. In 1725 he either built or re-built the town’s flour mill, which he owned.
- He was the Mayor of both Herschberg and Würschhausermühle
- He died in 1749 in Thaleischweiler, Sudwestpfalz, Rheinland-Pfalz,which where he is buried.
There is a conflicting account of his origins, as I’ve mentioned above. What we do know is that he practiced Lutheranism. If it is true that he was born in France, he would have been born within living memory of divisive and controversial historical figures like Louis de Bourbon, Prince of Condé (1530–1569, French Huguenot figurehead) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_I_de_Bourbon,_prince_de_Cond%C3%A9 and Catherine de Medici, Queen Regent of France during a period of great religious upheavals. Like many French Huguenot families, his may have very well escaped to either neighbouring Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany or Switzerland.
It’s also worth remembering that Rheinland-Pfalz, like Alsace-Lorraine, passed back and forth between France and Germany like a football as succession of various kings won and lost territorial wars. So it is plausible that his family may have had to swap back and forth between French and German nationalities as control of this region changed hands.
Some online inquiries
In a pique of frustration, I contacted two professional genealogists who specialize in this region of Germany as well as the Herschberg municipal offices to see if any more information could be found. The municipal office knew the name but knew nothing of Peter’s origins. It was a complete mystery to them. The genealogists took a punt. The deal was that if they found anything after a week’s preliminary investigation, that I’d hire them to pursue this line of inquiry. They found very little that I didn’t already know.
What they did find made me laugh, in a good way. Peter Scheffe began his working life as…a Schuhmacher – or shoe maker. He was engaged in the same profession as his son Johann Adam Scheffe (later Adam Sheffey of Fredericksburg, MD) and Adam Sheffey’s son Daniel Henry Sheffey (who would go on to become a celebrated lawyer and congressman). Peter then went on to become a Mühlenbeständer – miller (auf der Mühlhauser Mühle und Schultheiß) and then mayor of Herschberg and Wörschhausen…and then a Schultheiss, or judge. So shoe making and public office were in the family’s blood as far back as the mid to late 17th century. Traits the family brought to the New World.
The genealogists went on to offer some other interesting insights. These are around the family’s name itself. They suggested that Peter’s father perhaps had the surname Schoffe, Schoeffe = Gerichtsmann or Schaefer = shepherd. I have to admit I’m still getting my head around 17th Century German naming conventions, which I’m finding confusing. Added to this, family names changed radically during this period and the preceding centuries, just as they did elsewhere in Europe. This is based on phonetic spelling variations of names as well as spellings which were considered ‘fashionable’ at different periods in time. Added to the variations given above, we can also add Shaff and Sheaff to the mix. It makes finding the ancestors of Peter Scheffe a Herculean challenge. One that’s just too expensive for me to hire a professional genealogist to sort out (not that they aren’t worth every penny).
The genealogists then went on to say that the 30 Years War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirty_Years’_War was an important consideration. During the war, and immediately afterwards, people from many parts of Germany, the Tirol and Switzerland emigrated to the Palatinate.
Then came the kicker that I wasn’t expecting: it’s really interesting that he was a mayor and Schultheiss, a judge, in early 18th Century Germany. Neither of these professions were taken lightly and only men of standing could hold them. Normally, an immigrant could never be considered for this level of public office. Which makes it all the more intriguing, mysterious and surprising that nothing is known of Peter’s origins.
Will this mystery ever be solved? I hope so. I have the feeling that there’s a compelling story behind this man which has remained hidden for centuries.
My foray into family history and genealogy initially began with researching my Sheffey ancestors. Five years down the line and I feel as though I have a good understanding of the relationship that existed between my African American Sheffey ancestors and their white Sheffey masters and mistresses. Not the least of which was the fact that both sides of this family were related and that relationship was at least tacitly acknowledged by the white side of the family…if not outright openly acknowledged.
As I’ve written previously, the strength of the connections between these two sides of the family can be shown in their migration patterns after the Civil War. Black and white relations left Virginia together, living very close to one another in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Illinois.
However, I kept returning to one essential question. If the black and white sides of the family were related, and had good relations, why weren’t the black members of the family freed upon the death of their master of mistress? Given the times they lived in, the Sheffeys appear to be a progressive family. This isn’t the place to broach the institution of slavery and its ills. All I can say is that, with only a few exceptions, the Sheffey family were unusual in the practice of slavery. Many of their slaves were taught to read and write, regardless of whether they were kin or not. It’s worth remembering that this was an illegal act in the Antebellum South. They don’t have a track record of splitting slave families apart. In many of the wills I’ve read, every effort was made to ensure that the black members of the family were kept together in family groups. These black Sheffey family groups kept these family connections alive prior to the end of slavery. White or black, this was a tight knit family in regular contact with one another.
And yet, this question around emancipation continued to simmer at the back of my thoughts.
Previously, I’d only found an old record of one free African American Sheffey from Virginia. Abraham Sheffey, born around 1810, who left the US for Canada in the 1840s. Whether he escaped and emigrated, or was free, it appeared he was the only free African American Sheffey prior to the Civil War. His trail in the records runs cold after he emigrates to Canada.
And then I stumbled across Rhoda Sheffey and her family. There isn’t much in the way of information about this Sheffey group. However, what little there was enough to begin answering my question.
Rhoda wasn’t a Sheffey by birth but a Sheffey either through marriage or a partnership. There is precious little information about her husband. He’s simply known as S Sheffey in the marriage record of their daughter Jane. Without a full first name and a county of birth, it’s difficult finding any further information about him.
By 1850, a free Rhoda was resident in Lynchburg without her husband. It’s an interesting locale as the white Sheffey family didn’t really have a presence in Lynchburg until the arrival of Edward Fleming Sheffey (1865 – 1933). In other words, it appears that Rhoda established residence here before members of the white Sheffey family. Naturally, I’ve asked myself why here and not Wythe or Smyth Counties where she had relations in abundance. At the moment, I haven’t the foggiest.
The 1860 Census shows her daughters still reside in Lynchburg. Further research showed that Veto died in 1851 at the age of 11 from smallpox. Closer examination of the census return threw a curve ball for Rhoda’s daughters Kitty, Mary George and Martha Ann. Under occupation, each is recorded as being a prostitute. In their death records, Rhoda, Kitty, Mary George, Martha Ann and Martha Ann’s daughter Jane are all described as “sporting women” – the polite term for their profession in those days. Amazingly, there are burial records for them: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=89581017 Frustratingly, the headstones are so worn through age, and the image too small, to be able to read the inscriptions. It’s a shame as the inscriptions might provide more information about these women.
Incidentally, baby Jane married young and established herself as matriarch of the Robards family of Lynchburg.
And, of course, there’s another mystery. Lacy W Sheffey (1865 – 1869). Lucy is buried near to Rhoda and her children. Born after Rhoda’s death, presumably Jane, Martha Ann or Martha George is her mother.
There’s also a mystery around Willie Jones. There are two William Jones born in Lynchburg in 1866. One survived to adulthood and married. The other died in 1972 at the age of 6. Given the tragedy which seems to have surrounded this branch of the family, my hunch is that the William Jones who died young is Rhoda’s grandson.
I keep myself grounded in the times they lived in. Life for the poor was hard, regardless of race. I recalled my research on the free black Drew family of Virginia and how they struggled to pay their taxes. Whether it was though death, divorce or desertion, there is no sign of Rhoda’s husband from 1850 onward. As a single black woman with children, there weren’t many options available to Rhoda. Harder still, there wasn’t a black family network of free Sheffey for her to fall back on for support. She was a on her own.
There is the argument that she and her family could have left Virginia for a better life. However, if Virginia was all she knew, and was the state where all of her black relations resided, it would take a fiercely brave woman indeed to leave the known and familiar for the unknown. Rhoda’s story is markedly different from what I’ve found on the Drew and Roane families. The Drews had been free prior to the Revolutionary War. A number of Roanes, freed from the 1830′s onward, also had established a family network of free Roanes which embraced and supported newly freed family members.
The white Sheffey clan of the 19th Century were noted for two things: strong political beliefs that were ahead of their times in many ways…and strict moral conduct. This was a very religious family.
It’s conjecture at this point, however, I believe that Rhoda and her husband were one of the first of the black family members to be freed from slavery by the Sheffeys. Given the hardships faced by Rhoda, and the path she, her elder daughters and Martha Ann’s daughter Jane, travelled; the Sheffey family very well may have decided not to emancipate more members from the black side of the family. Jane’s marriage either came too late or wasn’t enough to change opinion.
A friend and fellow genealogy buff added a different interpretation. He makes a good point. His observation was that if enslaved black members of the family knew of Rhoda’s circumstances, and were familiar with the hardships and tragedies that she faced on her own, they may well have opted not to be freed.
To-date, no other free black Sheffeys appear in the records. Is it coincidence or is there a connection? Time and further research will tell.
While not plainly evident, Rhoda succeeded in one respect. Despite the hardships and sorrows she faced, Rhoda kept her remaining children together, as is shown in later census records. She persevered.
The Sheffey clan produced a number of Civil War heroes. Captain John Preston Sheffey (who could give Jane Austin’s Darcy a run for his money if contemporary accounts are correct), Lawrence Brengler Sheffey, Hugh Trigg Sheffey figure largely among them. This isn’t exactly a newsflash given the Sheffey family’s standing in the Antebellum South.
I didn’t expect to stumble across a documented account of the wartime actions from a member of the black side of the family during the Battle of Wytheville. I certainly didn’t expect to find an account for my great-grandfather, Daniel Henry Sheffey, Jr.
Gary C. Walker documents this account in his book The War in Southwest Virginia: 1861-1865 http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dwGoe9z3RooC&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=daniel+sheffey,+fire,+wytheville&source=bl&ots=YhGS44kgsW&sig=shsb4mnipm0Lwgbcs233IFMhOq8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jPJGUcTmCKiZ0QX1kYH4BQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=daniel%20sheffey%2C%20fire%2C%20wytheville&f=false
When describing the approach of Union soldiers to this small Virginia town, strategically important because of its salt and lead mines, Walker writes:
If it wasn’t for the women, children, and slaves who had been hiding in the cellar during the battle, more houses would have been burned. For example, Mrs. Haller was hiding in the basement when she heard the Federal soldiers break into her house (now the Rock House Museum). She arrived in time to see them set fire to the beds. The soldier told her he had orders to set the house on fire, but he didn’t stay and watch them burn. Hi lit the bed and left. Mrs. Haller, with the help of slaves, threw the mattress and burning materials out of the window. The floor in one room still bears the scorch marks of that night. A hotel on Main Street (may be the Kincannon) and the [Julia] Morrison house were saved by Daniel Sheffey, a slave of the Morrisons. (p.53)
OK, so it’s only a sentence…but what a sentence! Given that Walker’s book was first printed 120+ years after this event, Daniel’s deeds that evening must have been significant enough for the tale to be passed down and still readily known in modern times. When it comes to researching Antebellum African American history, such finds are like priceless gold dust.
As a side note, the Hallers, Morrisons and Sheffeys were kin through marriage as well as through blood. The Haller and the Morrison families both inherited Sheffey slaves through a succession of Sheffey wills. I’m guessing that some of the slaves hiding in Mrs. Hallers basements were Daniel’s relations. If possible, I’ll be searching through the records and the accounts of this battle to see which of his relations also made contributions.
In my post DNA Results Part 1: My Y chromosome has been on quite a journey http://genealogyadventures.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/dna-results-part-1-my-y-chromosome-has-been-on-quite-a-journey/ there were two possible routes my 3 x great-grandfather Jacob Sheffey’s ancestors took from Egypt to West Africa some 50,000+ years ago. One route was across the Sahara. The second route was across North Africa.
Further DNA analysis has solved the question of which migration route these ancestors took.
A little thing called Subclade E1b1a1f clinched it.
Looking at the image above, haplogroups and subclades are like different branches in a common ancestral family tree. These genetic family tree branches show how different human populations are related to one another…and how far back each branch began to share common ancestral populations.
The more branches you uncover through DNA testing finely tunes which populations you share DNA with and how close, in terms of time, you’re related to the other branches in the overall human tree…and the routes taken as these branches and sub-branches were created. It all has to do with DNA mutations and the populations which carry these mutations. It’s what makes an E1 person an E1 and not an E2. While E1 and E2 are different, they share a common ‘ancestor’ subclade, which would be E.
So what’s so special about Subclade E1b1a1f? It’s primarily found in modern North African populations. It arrived into North-western and Central Northern Africa tens of thousands of years ago.
So based on the latest DNA results, Jacob Sheffey’s ancient paternal African ancestors didn’t traverse the Sahara to arrive in present day Mali and Burkina Faso. His ancestors left present day Egypt along the North African coast, part of a population of ancient peoples who would form the present day Berber speaking peoples. The map below shows the distribution of these peoples, which is a perfect correlation to the refined DNA results:
Science can be an incredible thing.