We know that Hans Berchtol’s death was recorded in the church in Konken, Germany, the beautiful hamlet shown below, on June 15, 1711. His death record in the church records tells us that he resided in Krottelbach, just a few miles away.
Hans Berchtoll and his wife, Anna Christina reportedly had the following children:
- Hans Jacob born in 1686 who married Anna Marie Glosselos
- Susanna Agnes born on May 3, 1688 and married Michael Mueller (1692-1771) (One source reports her birth in Ohmbach, a nearby village.)
- Hans Peter born on May 1, 1690 and married Maria Elizabeth Zimmer
- Hans Heinrich born on May 1, 1690
- Barbel (Barbara) born about 1693
- Ursula born about 1696
In 1686, in Steinwenden (shown below,) not terribly far from Konken, we find mention of Hans Berchtol in the baptismal record of Johann Abraham Mueller, the son of Johann Michael Mueller and his wife, Irene Charitas whose last name is unknown.
Hans Berchtol’s wife was not with him in the baptismal records of this child, likely because she was herself quite pregnant or had recently given birth. The first child born to Hans Berchtol and his wife, Anna Christina was born in 1686 as well.
The infant, Johann Abraham Mueller, would die shortly after his birth, but again, in 1692, Hans Berchtol would be called upon to attend another baptism of a child of Johann Michael Mueller and his wife. These two couples were obviously close, even though they didn’t live nearby. Why? Were they in some way related? What was their common bond – a bond strong enough to survive a 15 mile distance in the mountains over several years.
The child born in 1692, Johann Michael Mueller (Jr.) would one day marry the daughter of Hans Berchtol and Anna Christina. How strange is that? Michael’s in-laws-to-be were his godparents. That doesn’t happen often. Hans Berchtol’s daughter, Susanna Agnes Berchtol was born on May 3, 1688 in Konken (or Ohmbach). Whether this family was previously related in some fashion or not, their descendants were destined to be. I wonder if Johann Michael Mueller grew up playing with Susanna Berchtol, his future wife. Did they sit beside each other in Sunday School from time to time? She was more than 4 years his senior, so maybe she wasn’t terribly interested in him until they were teenagers or young adults. And they did live 15 miles apart.
Then another thought struck me. Konken and Steinwenden are really too distant for easy accessibility. Since Hans Berchtol and his wife had stood up with Johann Michael Mueller at his baptism, they would have been his godparents. Godparents were technically responsible for the religious education of the child, and were the people who would have taken the child to raise if their parents died. It has always been assumed because of the close relationship of Johann Michael Mueller (the second) and Johann Jacob Stutzman (born 1706), son of Michael’s father’s second wife, that Michael’s step- mother, Anna Loysa Regina, and her second husband, Jacob Stutzman raised Michael. I know this is confusing, so I’ve created a little chart representing the relationships.
But maybe that wasn’t true, and Anna Loysa Regina and Jacob Stutzman didn’t raise Johann Michael Mueller (the second), or maybe not for the entire time. Maybe Michael was raised by Hans Berchtol and his wife, his godparents. That would explain how the 15 mile difference between Steinwenden and Konken was overcome for courting purposes.
I don’t have the Konken church records or their direct translations, but it would be very interesting to see if Johann Michael Mueller (the first) and his wife, Irene Charitas Mueller, witnessed the baptisms of any of Hans Berchtol’s children. It would also be interesting to check the neighboring church records to see if we can find any additional children for Hans baptized in neighboring churches. I don’t know if the family moved, or if they simply went to the closest church for baptisms, or they changed churches occasionally. Why didn’t they attend the church in Krottelbach where they lived?
As it turns out, Krottelbach historically formed the boundary between the parishes of Ohmbach and Konken, so Krottelbach didn’t have its own church.
This caused some difﬁculty in ascertaining what the village’s population was in the so-called Konker Protokollen of 1609 in which the 12 hearths (“households”) with 65 inhabitants listed for Krottelbach were actually only the ones on the north side of the brook, in the parish of Konken. Corresponding statistics for the part of the village on the south bank are not available. All in all, though, the village as a whole may have been rather large for the circumstances of that time. However, that wasn’t to last.
Like all villages in the region around Kusel, Krottelbach suffered heavily under the twin blows of the Plague and the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). After that war, there were only four people living in the village. The populace was devastated. This area of Germany was barren and desperate for settlers who were willing to work and farm, and actively sought people from Switzerland and other regions.
The newcomers welcomed the opportunity and settled, but more lives were lost towards the end of the 1600s in French King Louis XIV’s wars of conquest. It seemed that there was no end to wars and violence.
Krottelbach belonged to the village church in Ohmbach, which Count Gerlach V of Veldenz had bequeathed to the Werschweiler Monastery after 1258. During the Reformation, the monastery was dissolved, whereafter some of the then Lutheran villagers still belonged to the parish of Ohmbach, while others belonged to the parish of Konken. Until 1817, the village of Krottelbach remained solidly Reformed, a faith that in 1817 united with the Lutherans. At that point, the whole village once again belonged to the parish of Ohmbach.
What this history of Krottelback, along with the Konken church records, tells us is that Hans Berchtol lived on the north side of the brook in Krottelbach.
Perhaps Hans farmed one of these beautiful fields or maybe he lived on Krottelback Creek, meaning “Toadbrook.” At this time, farmers did not live on farms in the countryside, but they actually lived in the villages clustered together and then went to farm their fields that surrounded the village.
A second Berchtol male was having children in Steinwenden where Johann Michael Mueller lived. Hans Simon Berchtol and his wife Catherine had the following children according to Steinwenden church records:
- Hans Samuel born 1685, godparent Hans Michael ?
- Maria Magdalena born 1686, godparents Hans Michael Muller of Steinwenden and Anna Catherine
- Maria Elizabeth born 1691
- Anna Catherine born 1696, godparents Anna Catharine, Johannes Lampon, frau, Jacob ??
- Johannes Theobold born 1697, godparent Maria Elizabeth
- Johannes born 1698, godparents Johannes Berchtol and Anna Maria
Hans Samuel Berchtol, born in 1685 above is believed to be an immigrant and possibly the Samuel Berchtol found in records in Pennsylvania with Johann Michael Mueller born in 1696. One Samuel Becktel arrived on the ship Robert and Alice on September 30, 1743.
Were Hans Berchtol of Krottelbach and Hans Samuel Berchtol of Steinwenden brothers? These families were surely related, but how?
These villages, Krottelbach and Steinwenden were nearly as far apart as Konken and Steinwenden, being a distance of about 18 km.
The fact that both families were of Pietist leanings and settled in this part of Germany, traveling a non-trivial distance between locations, suggests that perhaps they had a pre-existing connection before settling here, other than their obvious religious leanings and refugee status. Remember, we don’t know the maiden name of either man’s wife, Hans Berchtol’s Anna Christina or Johann Michael Mueller’s Irene Charitas.
We know that the Mueller family was originally found in the Canton of Berne, Switzerland where Johann Michael Mueller, the elder, was born in 1655 in Zollikofen. Many Pietist families from this region removed to this same part of Germany in the 1680s. So it’s not unlikely that the Berchtol family did the same thing, which would explain why Hans Berchtoll was willing to travel 18km, each way, twice to stand up with the Mueller family for the baptism of babies.
The record from Konken Reformed Church shows that Michael Muller, son of Johann Michael Muller from Steinweiler in Churpfalz, married Susanna Agnes Berchtel, a Swiss, at Crottelbach (sic) on January 4, 1714. “A Swiss,” in fact confirms that indeed, the Berchtel family too immigrated from Switzerland.
The Steinwenden records begin in 1684, but the Konken records begin in 1654, so perhaps more information awaits in those records, once they are translated and indexed in some location so that you can find entries without reading the entire church book – or more accurately stated – paying someone else to read the entire church book.
Just three years after Hens Berchtol’s death in 1711, his daughter would marry Johann Michael Mueller Jr., that baby born in 1692. Maybe when Hans died, Johann Michael Mueller stepped in to help the family.
Krottelbach, shown above, is about 5 miles from Konken.
So, by piecing scant records together, we know that Hans Bechtol, Bechtel or Berchtol was “Swiss,” lived in Konken or more likely Krottelbach by 1686, but traveled that same year to Steinwenden, without his wife, for the baptism of the child of Johann Michael Mueller and his wife, Irene Charitas, whose last name is unknown.
During this same time period, a Hans Simon Berchtol was living in Steinwenden and having children there. Johann Michael Mueller was a godparent to one of Hans Simon’s children as well. These three families were likely related in some fashion.
Hans Berchtol and his wife continued to have children in Konken until about 1696. We don’t know if this was when his wife died, or whether she had reached the age where children were no longer forthcoming. If that was the case, it would put their birth year at about 1653 or so. It would be worth checking Hans actual death record to see if his wife is mentioned as either living or dead.
Hans died in 1711 where the Konken church records reflect that he lived in Krottelbach. He was born probably before 1653, which means he would have been at least 57 when he died. Another source states that he was born on June 15, 1641 in Germany, but they do not provide the source of this information. Regardless, Hans was not a young man when he died.
We know that two of Hans sons lived to marry, although I have no information about their children, or if they immigrated.
I noticed that in the Biddle/Bechtel project at Family Tree DNA, there are several Bechtel and Bechtol males who have Y DNA tested. Unfortunately, there are eight different groupings, and none of them reach back to Hans Bechtol in Germany. Several are found in Germantown, Delaware Co., Huntington Co., York and Berks Counties in PA. These would, of course, be the exact locations where these German families would have settled. Bechtel immigrants are documented here and none of these seem to be candidates for sons of our Hans.
Many of the Bechtol/Bechtel families were Mennonites and one group arrived in 1729. These men don’t look to be Hans sons, but we don’t really know, apart from the fact that we are looking for a Jacob, a Peter or a Heinrich.
However, we know positively that there were Bechtol men with the Brethren families in Chester and York Counties in PA.
On February 7, 1744, Michael Miller, Nicholas Garber, Samuel Bechtol and Hans Jacob Bechtol, who all lived in Chester Co, PA, purchased a tract of land consisting of 400 acres northeast of Hanover, PA in York County.
Today this land is near Bair’s Mennonite Church, probably lying south from the church, shown below.
Today, that land has a cemetery on both sides of the road. It’s possible that the church is on the original land owned by these 4 men.
Let’s see if we have a participant from this line in the Bechtel DNA project.
The last group of Bechtel men in the DNA project track back to one Samuel Bechtel, reportedly born in 1700, died in 1785, and is buried in the York Road Cemetery in York County, PA. A little bit of digging shows us that indeed, the church shown in Samuel’s Find-A-Grave picture is Bair’s Mennonite Church, shown below from Google maps, street view.
Is this the same family line of Samuel Bechtol who purchased land there in 1744? Assuredly. Additional deed work would likely confirm the land history. Is the Samuel Bechtol of Chester County, PA the same Bechtol family as was found in Konken and Steinwenden, Germany. Most likely, but we don’t know for certain. The dates don’t align exactly. Hans Simon Berchtol of Steinwenden had son Hans Samuel in 1685. It’s hard to imagine the continued connection with the Mueller/Miller family if it is not the same Berchtol family line, but we need more than circumstantial evidence.
If any Bechtol, Bechtel or Berchtol male, meaning any of Hans Bechtol’s or Hans Simon Berchtol’s descendants who are males and still carry the surname, by any spelling, are discovered, I have a DNA testing scholarship for the first individual. Let’s find out more about our ancestors. I’m betting that Samuel Berchtol and Hans Berchtol from Germany are related, one way or another, and so is the Samuel buried in the Mennonite cemetery at Bair’s Mennonite Church.
Various kinds of DNA testing could help unravel this puzzle.
It’s possible that autosomal DNA testing can solve this puzzle as well, even though there are several generations between Hans and descendants today. If we don’t look, we’ll never find that connection. If you descend from these lines, let me know.
It’s amazing that DNA has the potential to answer these questions that have been burning for decades – and questions that our ancestors knew the answers to and thought nothing of. They are probably chuckling at our inquisitiveness today, given that they still know those answers, and we still don’t.