Friday, July 26, 2013

Joseph Fishbaugh of Hunterdon County, NJ

Sometimes I like to pick an ancestor I haven't put much thought into and delve as deeply as I can over the course of a few days.  Even the low-hanging fruit on the Internet can help to characterize an ancestor or open additional leads.  At the very least it helps me pull a bunch of links together into one convenient spot.

Joseph (originally Jost) Fishbaugh was my 6th great-grandfather (at least I think he wasthe trail linking us would probably not meet the standards of genealogical proof).  He lived in the area around Alexandria, Hunterdon County, N.J., in the mid-to-late 1700s.  I've seen his years of birth and death listed as 1733 and 1772, respectively, but I don't know the sources for these. They are not inconsistent with other facts about his life (e.g. his children's birth dates).

A New York newspaper extract from 13 August 1771 has the following to say about the location of some of Jost's property being sold:
SEVERAL Farms or Tracts of Land, situate in the County of Hunterdon, in the Western Division of New Jersey, being Part of a large Tract of Land known by the Name of the Society Great Tract.... 
No. 80. In possession of Peter Bloome, containing 209 and 75 Parts of an Acre, situate in the Township of Alexandria, about 2> Miles from the River Delaware, and 3 from Alexandria; 100 Acres cleared, which is good Wheat-land, 10 Acres of extraordinary good Meadow, and more may easily be made.
No. 83. In possession of Joseph Fishbough, containing 284, and 40 Parts of an Acre, adjoining Peter Bloome's Farm; 100 Acres cleared, which is good Wheat-land, and a sufficient Quantity of Meadow in English Grass.
Here are the transcribed birth records of three of Jost's children, from the parish register of the German Reformed Church of Alexandria.  ("Fishbaugh" is a variation of the original German Fischbach, Ferschbach, Forschbach, or the like.)
  • Elisabeth, b. 28 April 1763, baptized 2 June 1763, daughter of John Kirschbach & Anna Magd. Schaeffert. Witnesses: Will. Otto and Maria Elis. Dels. [married Paul Jung]
  • Anna, b. 21 June 1767, baptized 8 July 1767, daughter of Just Fwischbach and A. Magdalena. Witnesses: Paul Enders and Gertraut Firschbaehin.
  • Matteis, b. 15 October 1770, baptized 14 January 1771, son of Jost Forschbach and Anna Magdalena. Witnesses: Theis Schmid and Eva Jung.
I included all other mentions of the surname in the Alexandria parish register below the fold at the end of this post.

Other probable children of Jost include my 5th great-grandfather William Fishbaugh (married Sarah Ferrels); Sarah Fishbaugh (wife of Peter Lerch), Peter Fishbaugh, and Joseph Fishbaugh.  Gertraud Firschbach was a witness at Jost's daughter Anna's baptism, and it's difficult to see how she could have also been Jost's daughter, unless he is older than supposed.  Perhaps a sister?

Jost was supposedly an immigrant from Germany, but finding out exactly where is difficult across such vast time periods.  To complicate things, there was apparently a different Jost Fischbach living in Heidelberg, Berks County, Pa., married to Eva Catherine Elick [hereherehere].  To my knowledge, there were just the two Josts living around that time in that general area.  I believe I found both of them between two different lists of imported foreigners:
  • Jost Fischbach on the ship Halifax; Capt. Thomas Coatam; from Rotterdam, last from Cowes, England; Qualified 28 Sep 1753. (age 20)
  • Jost Ferschbach on the ship Two Brothers, Capt. Thomas Arnot; from Rotterdam, last from Cowes, England; Qualified 15 Sep 1752.
Two bits of information can help in sorting these men out.  First, the Heidelberg Jost was born 1 February 1734, which matches very closely with an age of 20 in 1753.  Second, the Alexandria Jost and his kin almost always had an "r" in their names in the parish register, while the Heidelberg Jost seemed to go without.  So the most likely scenario is that Jost Ferschbach on the Two Brothers is my ancestor.  (Incidentally, I may have found the Heidelberg Jost's birth record, based on dates.  He was christened in Feudingen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany).

Relative distribution of
"Fischbach" via Geogen
A great way to locate the potential origins of various surnames is to search for their frequency in living populations.  High relative concentrations of a certain surname could indicate places where your ancestor came from.  "Fischbach" is most highly concentrated in North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, and Hesse.  There are spikes in four places: Altenkirchen and Siegen-WittgensteinRhein-LahnBitburg-Prüm, and Werra-Meißner-Kreis.  One thing all those regions have in common is a town named "Fischbach":
So the name Fischbach originated with residents of various towns called Fischbach.  The towns in turn were all named after nearby brooks and streams.  The Anglicization "Fishbaugh" is a literal translation of the German "Fischbach"; they both mean "fish stream."

As I mentioned earlier, though, Jost's surname probably had an "r" in it.  The first vowel is unclear. The parish records most commonly used an "i," but the earlier records especially sometimes used a "u" or an "o."  This may all be moot since people in those days weren't terribly concerned about the spelling of things and may have used all three interchangeably.

The "Forschbach" spelling is the most common of all these, and its frequency peaks a bit west of "Fischbach," in a smallish rectangle including Rhein-Erft-KreisKölnRheinisch-Bergischer Kreis, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, and Bonn.  There is a town in the center of the rectangle called Forsbach, which is probably the origin of the name.  I don't know if Fischbach and Forsbach are etymologically related.

One last thing to note while searching for Jost's birth record back in Germany: his father's name could have been Matthias.  It was common at the time to name first-born sons after the paternal grandfather. The two sons of Jost I have identified (William and Matthias) both named their eldest sons Matthias.