The Serwazi Family of Manayunk


Reil: The Breidbachs may have lived in sixteenth century homes like these. In the eighteenth century the French occupying troops turned one of them into a prison



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Reil: The Breidbachs may have lived in sixteenth century homes like these. In the eighteenth century the French occupying troops turned one of them into a prison.
We traced ancestors of the Fellens family in Bengel only back to 1731. Today this village has about 900 inhabitants. The Augustinian monastery in Springiersbach, today part of Bengel, dates to 1102. Its most striking feature today is the attached Rokoko church built in 1769 when Anna Maria Filzen’s grandmother would have been 14 years old. Bengel, like Reil, was in the Cröver Reich. The grandmother’s parents, Johann Fellens and Margarethe Pütz, were listed as taxpayers of Hopscheid manor at the time of their marriage in 1754. Various Fellens are listed for Hopscheid going back to 1630.21

Spouses of Albert and Anna Maria Serwazi’s Descendents
who also came from Pünderich

It is very often the case that immigrants choose their destination to follow after relatives or acquaintances who have gone before them. This process is called chain migration. Looking at whom the Serwazi children married, we can conclude that at least two of their families also came from Pünderich.
Peter Rockenbach (1835-) was born in Pünderich and preceded the Serwazis to Manayunk, arriving in 1852 with his brother, Johann Jakob Rockenbach (1832-), eventually marrying Gertrud Serwazi (1843-). The first Rockenbach to come to Pünderich was Daniel Rockenbach (1737-) in about 1740. Daniel’s son Mathias Rockenbach (1770-) was the father of Johann Jakob and Peter Rockenbach. A niece of Peter, Dorothea Rockenbach (1828-80) was the mother of Nicholas Julius Filzen who emigrated to the US in 1886.
[image: Daniel Rockenbach was Pünderich mayor during the stormy years of 1794-95, at the beginning of the region’s occupation by French revolutionary troops. 019]
Two other sons of Mathias Rockenbach emigrated to Brazil in South America: Johann Daniel in 1827 and Mathias Rockenbach in 1854. The website of the large Rockenbach family in Brazil22 led us to more information about Peter Rockenbach’s ancestors and to the text of the Rockenbach Family Chronicle that was written down in Brazil in 1903. The German and Portuguese text of the chronicle is online on the Brazilian site.
The chronicle tells us that Daniel’s father was a local official in Gehlweiler, twelve miles south of Pünderich on the other side of the low Hunsrück Mountains; from other sources it would appear he (Johann Nikolaus23 or Johann Michael24 Rockenbach, -1739) was from Gehlweiler or Gemünden im Hunsrück (neighboring villages) and may have served as governor of Koppenstein Castle (see image, below), now a picturesque ruin with an impressive view of the surrounding countryside near Gehlweiler. In any event, the chronicle states that this man’s first wife died after bearing him four sons. Thereupon the father sought out a housekeeper, who happened to be from Pünderich. When the father died, young Daniel was disinherited and his mother returned with him to Pünderich.

Daniel grew up in poverty and without rights because he was not native to the village, but the beginning of the Seven Years War (1756-63) presented him with an opportunity. The Prince Elector of Trier demanded a soldier for his army, and village offered Daniel the rights of citizenship in exchange. He served for the length of the war, and returned as a citizen and an attractive match for Anna Christina Mees (1747-1818) from a well to do family in the neighboring village of Briedel, whose generous dowry helped establish the family. Daniel and Anna Christina Rockenbach would have thirteen children and one of these, Mathias, would be the father of the two immigrants to Brazil and grandfather of the two immigrants to the US.
The father of the governor of Koppenstein and grandfather of Daniel Rockenbach was Hans-Hermann Rockenbach (1641-1696). The family was of noble origin and had its own coat of arms. The chain of ancestors stops with Hans-Hermann Rockenbach, however.
Anna Christina Mees’s family included several remarkable individuals. The family is known to have lived in Briedel at least as early as the mid-sixteenth century. The Güllen family was in Briedel since at least the early sixteenth century, and Martin Güllen was local tax collector of the Prince Bishops in 1595-7. His son was also a high official and then mayor. Anna Christina’s great grandfather Johann Adam Mees (1637-1723) married into this family and held many offices including tax collector and administrator of the princely wine cellars until he was 85. His son (Anna Christina’s great uncle) Johann Adam Mees Jr, (1666-1733) rose even higher, to the post of Landrentmeister (treasurer of the entire archbishopric) in Koblenz, the regional capital. The family declined somewhat thereafter, but two contemporaries of Anna Christina Mees gained the post of mayor of Briedel.25
[image: A view from St. Martin’s church (1772-76), Briedel, toward the Marienburg and Pünderich. 030]
Martin Franzen (1830-1910; born in Pünderich as Johann Maternus Franzen) emigrated to the US in 1854 and married Barbara Serwazi (1841-1919) in Manayunk in 1861. His earliest identified ancestor with this name, Colinus Franzen, was born in the middle of the seventeenth century and died in 1735, and the family of Martin’s grandmother, Anna Catharina Schmitz (1766-1810) was equally old. 84 Schmitz and 44 Franzen marriages are recorded in the parish records from 1668 to 1900, producing 613 children or 4.8 per family.26 Joseph Franzen (1851-) and Wilhelmina Neidhöfer (1868-) were born and married in Pünderich, then emigrated to the US with their children between 1885 and 1887 and ended up in Philadelphia.27 Joseph’s godson Josef Neidhöfer had emigrated to the US in 1884. 28 members of the Franzen family emigrated to Brazil and the US from Pünderich between 1825 and 1913.
[image: The building of the Franzen hotel in Pünderich, prominently located between the old town and the river, dates to 1663. 054 or 055 or 058.]

The Rothmann Family of Baden
Many members of the Rothmann, Reichert, and Knoll families, related to the Serwazi family of Manayunk by marriage, identified Baden as their place of birth. The Grand Duchy of Baden arose in the early nineteenth century to the east of the Upper Rhine River, and north of western Switzerland, from the union of many smaller German states. This region lacked even the degree of political cohesive enjoyed by the Electorate of Trier, and hence it was even more vulnerable to the depredations of armies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The largest Catholic bishopric and administrator of Catholic parishes in the north part of the region was Straßburg in Alsace on the west bank of the Rhine. The French captured the city in 1681 and since then it has been known by English speakers by its French name, Strasbourg. French revolutionary troops occupied the region in 1793. Unlike the Mosel Valley the area maintained its independence, but the French decreed the dissolution of most of the small states in 1805. The Margrave of Baden benefited from this decree by increasing his territory tenfold and taking the title of Grand Duke. In exchange he was obliged to levy troops for the Baden Auxiliary Corps that fought on the side of Napoleon for the next several years. The Grand Duchy of Baden was the first German state to enact its own constitution in the post-Napoleonic era, in 1818. An act of the Baden parliament in 1831 strengthened municipal self-rule and abolished the peasants’ obligation to provide labor service to landlords. Still, Baden’s democrats were unsatisfied and led the most radical revolutionary movement in Germany in 1848. Prussian troops marched in from the north to suppress the Baden Revolution. Our ancestors may have known the Badener Lullaby:
Sleep, my child, sleep softly! And whoever is not sleeping quietly,

The Prussian is marching outside. The Prussian shuts his eyes.

He killed your father, Sleep, my child, sleep softly!

He impoverished your mother, The Prussian is marching outside.28


Emigration from Baden, especially to North America, grew after 1825 and reached its high point in the 1850s after the defeat of the Revolution. The relatively liberal regime of the Grand Duchy recognized the usefulness of emigration as a safety valve for those who wanted to leave. Newspapers published ads from travel agents offering transit to the US, first overland to the ports of Le Havre or Rotterdam and then across the Atlantic, for 350 Guldens. This was a lot of money, but villages and parishes subsidized the journey for poor people and unwed mothers seeking to make a fresh start.29

The wife of Peter Serwazi Sr. (1812-1888) in the US, Theresa Rothmann Serwazi (1841-1914) told the American census that she came from Baden.

She informed the pension examiner in 1902 that she had come to the US with her mother at the age of 14 or 15 and that her sister living on Dupont St., Mrs. Engelbert Knoll, and her brother, Joseph Rothmann (a “drinking man”), were still alive in Philadelphia. The sister must have been Catherine Knoll (1841-1907), who married Engelbert Knoll (1839-1912), himself also a native of Baden, in Manayunk in 1861.
Catherine’s death certificate identifies her parents as Francis and Mary (no surname), which contradicts the information in her marriage certificate and her sister Theresa’s death certificate that her parents were named Aloysius Rothmann and Rosina (the German form of Rose; maiden name unknown). Perhaps the family confused the names with those of Engelbert’s parents, Francis and Agnes. It speaks in favor of Aloysius and Rosina being their parents that both women named children Rose. The record of Joseph Rothmann’s first marriage at St. Mary of the Assumption parish in Philadelphia, in November 1850, reveals the name of the Rothmanns’ home village: under status and place of origin it states rusticus ex Regno Badensi Schuterwald, ie peasant from Schutterwald in the state of Baden.
Schutterwald was a large village of 2029 in 1852, in the Black Forest a few miles from the town of Offenburg and across the Rhine from Strasbourg. The common people owed one-tenth of their produce (tithe) and labor services to the local lords. Land sufficed in good times to grow enough grain and potatoes for survival, and peasants kept animals they grazed in the forest on acorns and other forest food. The right to use the forest was the subject of centuries of disputes with the landlords and with Offenburg. The labor obligation of ten days per year might not seem onerous to us, but the lords required during the harvest season when peasants needed to harvest their own crops. During the Napoleonic Wars the exclusion of American products helped lead to a boom in tobacco production, which became a major cash crop in Schutterwald in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Schutterwald has been called a costume and dialect island because of distinctive local folk traditions that have now largely died out. Women wore colorful clothes, especially on holidays, and tied their hair in a distinctive knot above their heads. The dialect belongs to the alemannisch language family also spoken by Swiss Germans.
We have been able to identify several ancestors of Aloysius and Rosina Rothmann.
Johann Heitz married twice. We know of four children by his first wife, Anna

Maria Elble (-10 October 1723):




  • Mathias Heitz (12 Feb 1717-)

  • Anna Maria Heitz and Maria Ursula Heitz (twins, 26 Sep 1719-)

Six weeks after the death of Anna Maria, Johann married Salome Schuster. They had at least three children:




  • Johann Michael Heitz (24 Oct 1724-)

  • Catharina Heitz (10 Oct 1727, died the same day)

  • Lorenz Heitz (6 Aug 1730- 2 Apr 1803)

A list of village men in 1727 includes a certain Hanns Haïtz who was probably the same Johann Heitz.30
Lorenz Heitz was a peasant, later blacksmith. In 1753 Lorenz married Maria Ursula Bross. Her parents Andreas Bross and Maria Eva Isermann married in Schutterwald in 1728 but raised their family in the neighboring village of Höfen, where several of the Bross men were blacksmiths. The children of Andreas and Maria Eva included


  • Anna Maria Bross (7 May 1731-)

  • Maria Ursula Bross (28 Sep 1732-before 1807)

  • Johann Bross (13 Jun 1734-)

  • Philipp Bross (1738-)

The children of Lorenz Heitz and Maria Ursula Bross were




  • Barbara Heitz (4 Dec 1754-6 March 1826)

  • Johann Heitz, who married Katherina Mühl in Schutterwald 11 May 1807

  • Maria Anna Heitz (8 Jul 1758-1787)

  • Andreas Heitz (23 Aug 1761-)

  • Anna Maria Heitz (18 Feb 1767, died the same day)

  • Catharina Heitz (16 Nov 1768- 13 Nov 1833)

  • Anna Maria Heitz (26 Aug 1775-)

  • Theresia Heitz (30 Jul 1777-)


Barbara Heitz married Matthäus Rothmann in Schutterwald 21 August 1780.

Matthäus came from Griesheim, a village near Offenburg in the valley of the Kinzig River. Closeness to the city walls was a misfortune for the village during the many wars of the seventeenth and eighteenth century when armies of both sides laid waste to the surroundings while besieging the city. After its “liberation” by imperial troops in 1697 Griesheim counted only 38 inhabitants.
[griesheim dorfblick, caption: Griesheim, now a neighborhood in Offenburg]
The children of Michael Rothmann and Anna Maria Lurker were


  • Matthäus Rothmann (-16 Mar 1789, in Schutterwald)

  • Johann Rothmann

  • Michael Rothmann (17 Aug 1744-)

  • Johann Michael Rothmann (26 Dec 1746-)

  • Johann Peter Rothmann (22 May 1749- 9 Nov 1770)

  • Michael Rothmann (20 Aug 1752-)

  • Johann Fidel Rothmann (10 Feb 1753-)

  • Michael Rothmann (15 Sep 1754- 23 Mar 1755)

  • Maria Theresia Rothmann (15 Apr 1757-)

  • Joseph Anton Rothmann (11 Jun 1760-)

  • Franz Joseph Rothmann (27 Feb 1762-)

The parish church in Schutterwald has been dedicated to St. James since 1351. It founded a school in the village no later than the early eighteenth century. The church was badly overcrowded by 1780. The current, much larger structure was built on the foundation of the older church in 1784-6.


Matthäus Rothmann and Barbara Heitz had three children:


  • Andreas Rothmann (Dec 1781- 5 Mar 1845)

  • Johann Rothmann (25 December 1783-16 Sep 1860). He married Katherina Junker (June 1787-) and they had seven children, four of whom died before reaching adulthood.

  • Aloysius Rothmann (1786-14 January 1851), also known as Aloys and Alois Rothmann.

The premature death of Matthäus Rothmann must have made it difficult for his sons to make their way in life, though it is possible Heitz family helped raise them. We know that Alois Rothmann was one of the 22 men recruited in 1805 for the Baden Auxiliary Corps, and one of ten known to have survived the ordeal. The Corps served in the campaign against Austria in 1805, Prussia and Sweden in 1806/7, 1808/13 against Spain, 1809 against Austria, 1812 against Russia, and then after Baden changed sides in the war of liberation against France in 1813/15.31


The veteran established a family relatively late in life. He fathered a child out of wedlock, Zyprian Rothmann (16 September 1823-). The mother, Anna Maria Rauf, was present at the child’s baptism. Then 27 October 1824, at age 38, he married Rosina Kern.
The bride had herself born children out of wedlock: Benedikt Kern (20 March 1821-) and Kasimir Kern (20 January 1824). Their unusual first names may have come from their fathers, who are not named in the parish register. Bearing children without being married was fairly unusual in the village. It probably provoked unfavorable comment and provided an extra bond between the newlyweds.
Rosina Kern’s father was the carpenter Joseph Kern (1766-28 November 1811). His parents were Anton Kern and Maria Retzinger, who came from came from Mördingen (now called Merdingen), a winemaking village in the Breisach district of the Black Forest near Freiburg.
[image: merdingen st. remigius, caption: The Baroque church of St. Remigius (1738-41) in Merdingen]
Joseph married Rosina Flath (died before 1810), daughter of Matthäus Flath and Maria Eve Tröscher, in Schutterwald in 1790. Matthäus had at least five children: Maria Theresa (31 January 1749-), Rosina, Anna Eva (18 Feb 1754-), Mathäus (September 1760-), and Andreas (12 Nov 1764-).
The children of Joseph Kern and Rosina Flath were


  • Magdalena Kern (1 May 1791-19 Aug 1812)

  • [unnamed] (1792)

  • Maria Anna Kern (22 August 1794-)

  • Maria Lugard Kern (25 May 1796-04 Sep 1796)

  • Rosina Kern (19 August 1801-9 September 1860, Philadelphia)

The godfather of Magdalena, Maria Anna, and Rosina was Anton Kern, a citizen of the nearby royal free city of Offenburg and probably identifical with the carpenter Anton Kern (1771-) in the online church registers for Offenburg. This Anton Kern and Jakob Kern (1758-1826), a member of the Offenburg city council, may have been brothers of the elder Anton Kern. If he too was a carpenter, he may have met Maria Retzinger while visiting Mördingen during his journeyman years.


Two of Rosina’s siblings died before her birth, then between the age of 9 and 11 she lost her mother, her first stepmother Katharina Späth and Katharina’s infant son Joseph, then Rosina’s father, and her sister Magdalena too.
Alois Rothmann and Rosina Kern Rothmann had seven children, of whom five survived to maturity:


  • Joseph Rothmann (18 Nov 1827- 17 Nov 1904, Philadelphia)

  • Magdalena Rothmann (1 Jun 1830-13 Mar 1831)

  • Magdalena Rothmann (04 Apr 1832-, Philadelphia)

  • Xaver Rothmann (10 Jun 1834-26 Nov 1834)

  • Maria Anna Rothmann (19 Oct 1836-, Philadelphia)

  • Theresa Rothmann (02 Dec 1841-20 Nov 1914, Philadelphia)

  • Catharina Rothmann (2 Dec 1841-5 Oct 1907, Philadelphia)

Five years after their last previous child, the mother bore twins, and they survived! We can imagine the celebration. The family must have lived in modest circumstances, because in every parish entry for Alois Rothmann he is identified as a day laborer by occupation. Perhaps the family helped make ends meet by soaking, drying, and trimming tobacco leaves, a labor-intensive process that was common in the poorer Schutterwald households and required many hands.


Since 1803 school attendance was mandatory for girls and boys until the age of 13 or 14. The three eldest children would have contributed to the family income after they completed school between 1840 and 1850. When a new school was built in 1841, the year of the twins’ birth, they placed a document in the cornerstone that read in part:
Schutterwald with its hamlets Höfen and Langhurst belongs to the Grand Ducal- Badenese district (Oberamt or Landkreis) of Offenburg in the Circuit of the Middle Rhine; it is completely Catholic, has a parish church, two priests and two teachers; 1856 souls, 324 houses, 405 families. The population is strong of body and healthy, diligent and thrifty, respects the religion and customs of its ancestors, and on average can be described as prosperous…The compassionate and just head of our district is His Honor Mr. N. Kern.32
[image schutterwaldaerial; caption: Schutterwald today, with St. James Catholic church dominating the village and the cathedral of Strasbourg in the distance.]
By the time Alois Rothmann passed away in 1851, his eldest son Joseph had already emigrated to the US and married in Philadelphia. Magdalena and Maria Anna would marry in the same Manayunk parish in 1855 and 1857. The twins must have completed their education in 1855-6 and emigrated with their mother shortly thereafter. Perhaps better-off relatives in the Kern family of Offenburg helped finance their emigration. Rosina’s son Kasimir married in 1850 and had at least four children before their grandmother left Schutterwald.
They were not the first Badeners to settle in Manayunk

The Reichert and Knoll Families from Baden
Death records and entries in the Southwest German emigration database identify members of Manayunk’s Reichert and Knoll families as having come from Schielberg, Burbach, and Pfaffenrot, which are now parts of the municipality of Marxzell in the northernmost part of the Black Forest. The villages were part of the territory of the monastery of Frauenhalb, first documented in the thirteenth century and dissolved in 1803. Burbach was the seat of the Catholic pastor who served all three villages, and Schielberg was the highest in altitude, over 1500 feet.
[image klosterruine_frauenalb, caption: Frauenalb Monastery, now a ruin]
One large Reichert family arrived in the US in1828:


  • Johann Adam Reichert (1777-), cooper (barrelmaker)—the father

  • Barbara Reichert (1784-)—the mother

8 Daughters:

  • Franciska Reichert (1802-)

  • Crescentia Reichert (1810-)

  • Walburga Reichert (1813-)

  • Rosalia Reichert (1816-)

  • Matherpis Reichert (1818-)

  • Barbara Reichert (1822-)

  • Ernestina (1825-)

  • Amalia Reichert (1827-)

2 Sons:

  • Joseph Reichert, cooper (1807-)

  • Johann Reichert (1823-)

A certain Joseph Reichert born in Schielberg then emigrated by himself in 1836, and there is a Joseph Reichert born in 1801 in the 1850 census for Manayunk, and one born in 1806 in the 1860 census. We don’t know if these are all the same Joseph Reichert or different ones. A son of Joseph Reichert, also named Joseph, married Catharina Serwazi in 1866.


Another Reichert family emigrated in 1846, a couple with two daughters:


  • Thomas Reichert (born in Pfaffenrot, 1817-1901)

  • Amelia Reichert (1822-1892)

  • Phoebe Reichert (1841-)

  • Franziska Reichert (1844-)33

Ten more children were born into this family in Manayunk.


The Knoll family of Schielberg emigrated in 1847 and landed in Manayunk:


  • Franz Anton Knoll (born in Burbach, 1809-1864)

  • Franziska Reichert (1809-)

They married in Schielberg in 1833. Franziska was the daughter of

Johann Reichert, probably the one who served as mayor of Schielberg 1823-39, and Theresa Ebert. The children accompanying them were two daughters and four sons:



  • Agnes Knoll (1836-)

  • Theresia Knoll (1841-)

  • Gustav Knoll (1838-)

  • Engelbert Knoll (1839-1912). In Manayunk he married Catherina Rothmann, the twin sister of
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