Johann Adam Borstler (before 1650 – before 1695), Kirchengeschworener – What’s That?? – 52 Ancestors #306

We discover that Johann Adam Borstler is the father of Anna Maria Borstler in her 1695 marriage record to Johann Wilhelm Kirsch in Dürkheim, now Bad Dürkheim, in Germany.

Unfortunately, Johann Adam wasn’t able to walk his daughter to the church, or down the aisle. There was no giving her hand in marriage.

Anna Maria is referenced as “surviving legitimate daughter of the late Johann Adan Borsler, former resident and kirchengeschworener from here.”

This tells us, of course, that Johann Adam had died and that he was from Dürkheim, both very useful pieces of information. I’m unclear if this simply means he lived in Dürkheim as an adult, meaning that he was a citizen and might have been born elsewhere, or if that means that he was born in Dürkheim.

Johann Adam’s daughter was born about 1675, judging both from a normal age at marriage as well as the fact that her last (known) child was born in 1718, so Johann Adam would not likely have been born after 1650, just about the time that the Thirty Years’ War was over. If he was about the same age as his wife, he could have been born anytime from roughly 1625-1650. Those dates encompass nearly the entire duration of the Thirty Years’ War, so his marriage and subsequent adulthood must have been anything but “normal” and filled with terror on a daily basis. How does constant strife and warfare ever become “normal” and what is it like to live like that? Perhaps faith was all they had.

History strongly suggests that indeed, Johann Adam Borstler was born in Dürkheim, because only three cities in the Palatinate were left standing for most of the war; Frankenthal, Dürkheim and Speyer.


The word kirchengeschworener is an old German word with no exact translation, according to my German genealogist friend, Chris. A kirchengeschworener was an elected or appointed representative of the church community (“church-sworn”) that worked with the pastor to perform functions like supervising property including roads near the church, maintaining records regarding ownership, managing church assets, collecting income and bookkeeping. In some places, thisperson also performed services as a counselor.

A kirchengeschworener was then a historical form of church leadership found in the old texts as early as the 1500s and into the 1700s in some places. Today, we might translate this duty or position as church elder, church father or deacon.

In one case, the kirchengeschworener was specifically responsible, among other things for “funding the corpse,” which, in this case, meant “Holy Corpse” or changing the host.

The Church

The Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648 when Johann Adam would either have been just being born or perhaps as a young man. He would have witnessed the slow process of rebuilding.

The countryside was devasted, entirely destroyed and depopulated, and most cities fared little better.

Borstler Dannstadt church.jpg

Dürkheim wasn’t large, not the way we think of cities today. In this drawing from the 1700s, we see the ruins of the Limburg Abbey in the distance in the hills, with the village below and the church tower standing to the right.

The church tower faces west, with Dürkheim standing at the base of the mountainous Palatinate Forest.

Borstler Limburg abbey

By Friedrich Haag – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 de,

The Limburg Abbey, overlooking Dürkheim, a landmark always in view, had stood as a sentinel in the distance for 800 years.

Borstler St Johannis Church Durkheim

This 1630 pen and ink drawing of St. Johannis, or St. John’s Church shows the church, churchyard, and surrounding buildings. Little would have changed from 1630 until the burning of the church in 1689. This would have been the church that Johann Adam cared for, and very clearly cared about. The adjacent Latin school would have been where his children were schooled, and it’s possible that one of these houses at the rear of the church is where he lived. A trusted caretaker might well have lived nearby.

Johann Adam’s parents are likely buried in the churchyard that he passed inside the walls each time he entered the church.

The earliest church records that exist are burials beginning in 1640, but it was here, in this gothic baptismal font dating from 1537 that Johann Adam Borstler was likely baptized, and likely baptized his children as well.

Borstler baptismal font Durkheim.jpg

We know that Adam walked past this very baptistry thousands of times in his lifetime.

It’s interesting to note that the church, now known at the castle church, first mentioned in 946 is walled, fortified, and that 1630, the year this drawing was rendered was well into the Thirty Years’ War, a dozen years after it began and long after the rest of the Palatinate cities were laid waste.

Adjacent buildings include the Latin school, and of course, the churchyard is in view. Not shown are gravestones for the hundreds of burials that would pack this churchyard full over the preceding 684+ years.

It would be here, in this churchyard, that Johann Adam Borstler was assuredly laid to rest, sometime after his daughter’s birth about 1675 and before her marriage in 1695.

We might be able to speculate a bit about what might have happened to Johann Adam, although we will never know for sure.

Amazingly, the church was spared during the Thirty Years’ War, but warfare began again when invaded by the French in 1673 after the French king decreed that the Palatinate should be made a desert. This war escalated until Dürkheim was taken in 1689 and very nearly burned to the ground.

Somehow, at least some of the church books were saved, thankfully. That’s nothing short of a miracle. The church itself burned, the walls so hot they buckled. The bell mounts melted and the bells dropped to the floor, melting into a molten puddle. The church books were clearly not in that building.

I have to wonder if Johann Adam, in his capacity as kirchengeschworener, had something to do with that. Did he hide those books away, outside of the church to keep them safe – unwittingly salvaging them for me to find him more than three centuries later? A gift, perhaps, to undreamed-of future generations. At that moment, the only future he was probably thinking about was survival – not someone 10 generations distant. With the fire and devastation, would there be any future for his family or would flames, death and foreign soldiers consume his entire family for eternity?

I also wonder if Johann Adam perished during this time, one way or another.

He could have been a relatively young father when he died, or he could have been several years older. Given his level of responsibility within the church, I’d think he would have earned that trust over the years, which would suggest he was older. It also tells us he was educated because he would have needed to be able to read and write. Could some of the handwriting in those church records actually be his own script?

If Anna Maria was a middle child, born about 1675 when he was 35, and he died in 1689, he would have been 49. Of course, he might not have died at this point in history. All we know for sure is that he was gone by her marriage in 1695, recorded in those very same church books.

How bittersweet.

The old portion of the church still remains after being repaired and restored in 1717, although the tower has been rebuilt.

Borstler Durkheim st john church

You can read more about the church here and here.

Other Records in Dürkheim

There are other early records in Dürkheim, although none that we can definitively tie to our Johann Adam Borstler. Translations courtesy of Tom.

Burial: 16 Aug 1684

On the same day was buried, Anna Maria, dau of Hans Adam Borstler, age 1 ½ years……

This could have been the daughter of our Johann Adam Borstler, and the sister of Anna Maria, having been born in early 1683.

Or, this child could have been the daughter of another Johan Adam Borstler. Yes, of course there were two men in the same place by the same name. This IS my family, after all.

Burial: Laetare Sunday the 4th of April 1700 committed to the earth here in a Christian ceremony, Joh. Adam Borsler, citizen, age 47 years. Text 2 Cor, verse 5, last.

This man could have been the brother of Anna Maria, having been born about 1657. If so, that tells us that his father was born no later than 1632.

I’m always fascinated by funeral sermons of specific times and places, because certainly ministers reused their favorites, so the same passages might have been read at for Johann Adam Borstler’s funeral when he died.

2 Corinthians 5

1 Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.

2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling,

3 Because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked.

4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.

5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

7 We live by faith, not by sight.

8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.

12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.

13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin [1] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Anna Maria Borstler surely attended the funeral of the man with the same name as her father. She had been married in that “church” 5 years before, although the actual building had not yet been rebuilt. It’s very likely that this man was closely related to the family, if not Anna Maria’s brother. Often, children were named after Godparents, so our Johann Adam may have been his godfather, if not his father, standing beside that baptismal font 47 years earlier, in 1653.

Was this man, still relatively young, laid to rest in the cemetery adjacent the burned church beside our Johann Adam Borstler?

The Johann Joachim Burschler Family May Provide a Clue

Tom found and translated several other early records of similar surname spellings, with little concrete to show for the effort, unfortunately.

However, there are some interesting findings, trails and hints. Keep in mind that early records are in archaic script, not always in good shape, and surnames were spelled however the person writing them down decided to spell them.

One Johann Joachim Burschler, a cooper, born about 1620, given that he married in 1643, was having children during this time. He married three times, first to Anna Catharina Voltz who died in 1668, next Otilla widow Korb (possibly Koob?) whom he married in 1676 and who died in 1677, then to Anna Catharina widow Storck.

Johann Joachim’s recorded children were:

  • Georg born 1647, died 1667
  • Johann Simon born 1649 married Anna Margaretha Burckhard in 1671. There is a Hans Simon who died in Schauernheim in 1708 and in 1712. One of the Simons married a Koob in about 1686 in Fussgoenheim.
  • Johann Adam born 1652, married Anna Ottilia Pantzer in 1679, which precludes him from being the father of Anna Maria Borstler who married in 1695 and was born about 1675. There is a slight possibility that he could have been married previously and had Anna Maria.
  • Hans Diether born in 1658 and died in 1682. The godparents were Diether Renner from Schauernheim…she wife (some text unreadable)…and Adam Stupp, citizen and shoemaker here. This ties this Borstler family with the Borstler family of Schauernheim who is tied to the Borstler, Kirsch and Koob families of Fussgoenheim, creating a circle of connections. A Johann Jacob Borstler died in Schauernheim in 1704.
  • Johann Joachim born in 1661, died in 1667.

There is no mention of children with Anna Catharina Storck, who, if she was Johann Joachim’s age, would have been about 60, beyond childbearing years.

Two children of Johann Joachim Burschler, certainly another spelling of Borstler, connect with Schauernheim and Fussgoenheim where Anna Maria Borstler moved with her husband, Johann Wilhelm Kirsch.

While Johann Joachim Burschler may not have been our Johann Adam Borstler’s father, he may have been his uncle or cousin. These Borstler families are connected, or maybe intertwined is a better word, in this region of the Palatinate, with the Renner, Koob and Kirsch families found in Schauernheim, Fussgoenheim and Mutterstadt.


A male with the Boerstler or similar surname has not yet tested their Y DNA which would help us learn even more about our Borstler family. We know that these four families from the Borstler line immigrated to the US, and several had male children who may have male descendants today.

  • Hans Michel Borstler born August 1701 in Schauernheim to Johann Michael Borstler and Anna Margaretha Lackinger, died 1767 in Berks County, PA, married Anna Catharina Krehl in Assenheim in 1726.
  • Jacob Borstler born 1700 in Fussgoenheim to Johann Theobald (Dewald) Borstler and Maria Catharine Kemp (Kamp), married Catharina Peter in PA about 1727 and died in Berks County, PA. They had son, Johann Georg Berstler born in 1732 in Oley, Berks County, and died in 1790 in Bethlehem, Northampton Co., PA. This line had sons with Borstler, Berstler, Burstler, or Buerstler males today.
  • George Borstler (Berstler,) brother of Jacob, above, born about 1712, died in Alsace, Berks County, PA.
  • George Berstler born in 1734 in Ludwigshafen to Johann George Boerstler who died in 1798 in Schauernheim, immigrated, served in the Revolutionary War and died in Berks County, PA. He had sons Johann (John) 1775-1823, Jacob born in 1776, Samuel born in 1780, and David born in 1791.

I have a Y DNA testing scholarship for any Borstler or similar surname male from these or connected lines. Are these your relatives? Please reach out!



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1 thought on “Johann Adam Borstler (before 1650 – before 1695), Kirchengeschworener – What’s That?? – 52 Ancestors #306

  1. Isn’t it wonderful when records survive fires! I’ve seen the baptism record of a many great-grandmother at St Clements, Eastcheap in the City of London in 1582 and her marriage a couple of decades later at the same church, just before Queen Elizabeth I died.

    Then it dawned on me that it’s less than a mile from Pudding Lane, and we all know what happened there in 1666. Fortunately someone had the wherewithall to take the parish registers with them when they fled the flames.

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