Y-DNA can solve mysteries when the documentary evidence does not exist. We are trying to resolve the identity of Jacob Bertschinger who arrived in Philadelphia on the ship Mercury in 1735. Was he later known as Jacob Barshinger who lived in Pennsylvania or was he the Jacob Persinger who lived in Virginia?
No document exists to make a positive identification. I will refer to the two men as Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania and Jacob Persinger of Virginia
For Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania, the exact date of birth, the name of his wife and date of marriage, and the identity of his children and grandchildren are all known thanks to a Bible record which will be discussed below.
There is no such information for Jacob Persinger of Virginia. There is no record of his age on any American document. The maiden names of his wives are unknown. The names of his children can only be inferred by looking at multiple documents.
The identity of the passenger on the ship Mercury has been established in Switzerland. He was Jacob Bertschinger, born 1715 in Zumikon, Zürich, Switzerland.
The story of Jacob Bertschinger in America involved the efforts of several people who helped me research this case. They included Jane Cox (a long-time researcher, Virginia resident, and descendant of Jacob Persinger), Harvey Persinger (a descendant of Jacob Persinger), Stephen Smith (a descendant of Jacob Barshinger), and multiple men who tested their Y-DNA.
Jacob Bertschinger, luckily for us, was a member of an incredibly well documented emigration from Switzerland.
The story of the passengers who traveled with him, and their amazingly difficult journey, have been told from both sides of the Atlantic. Jacob was part of a Swiss migration led by the controversial Pastor Moritz Götschi. The grueling trip involved many months of trials, culminating in the arrival at the port of Philadelphia.
A very detailed account was written by Hans Ulrich Pfister, Swiss archivist, who documented the story of the emigration as well as the origin of each emigrant. His account can be found in Jones and Rohrbach, Even More Palatine Families: 18th Century Immigrants to the American Colonies and their German, Swiss and Austrian Origins (2002), Vol. 2, pp. 1492-1537.
One of Pfister's sources on the identity of Jacob Bertschinger came from a man named Ludwig Weber who had intended to go to America but did not complete the arduous journey. He returned to Switzerland from the port of Rotterdam before the Ship Mercury left for Philadelphia. In 1735, Weber reported the names of the other passengers from memory, the number of people in the family traveling with them, and their hometowns. The list appears in Hinke, A History of the Goshenhoppen Reformed Charge: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (1727-1819) (1920), pp. 106-107.
From the Weber list shown in the screenshot below, we know that Jacob did not travel with any immediate family members [his parents were both deceased, he had no living siblings, and he was not yet married]. We also see the name of his hometown:
|Jacob Bertshinger from Zummikon traveling alone|
Additional information about Jacob is found on the passenger list for the Ship Mercury and on two lists of oaths taken shortly after arrival in Philadelphia.
The passenger list and oaths of allegiance are taken from the three-volume set of Strassburger and Hinke, Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original List of Arrivals In the Port of Philadelphia From 1727 to 1808 (1934). From the passenger list we find Jacob's age. He was 19 years old.
|Jacob Bertshinger, age 19, on ship Mercury passenger list|
After arrival in Philadelphia, the passengers were required by law to take two oaths within 48 hours of arrival. These two oaths were the oath of allegiance and the oath of abjuration. Strassburger and Hinke report these two oaths as List B and List C.
The names of men taking the oaths were recorded by separate clerks, and Jacob Bertschinger's name is spelled differently on the two lists. On list B, the clerk spelled his name Perdschenger:
|Jacob Perdschenger Oath of Allegiance|
Notice that Jacob signed with a mark. Strassburger and Hinke used the letter O to denote a distinctive mark.
On List C another clerk spelled the surname as Pertschinger:
|Jacob Pertschinger Oath of Abjuration|
On the second oath, Strassburger and Hinke noted that Jacob used an X mark.
From various sources, Hans Ulrich Pfister identified Jacob as follows:
|Jacob Bertschinger identified by Hans Ulrich Pfister|
Pfister did such detailed research on the families of the emigrants that he did an entire account on the Bertschingers documenting that Jacob's father, Hans Heinrich Bertschinger, died 15 Sep 1719 in a Zürich hospital, and Jacob's mother, Anna Graf, died in Zumikon 29 Dec 1721. The first portion of his Bertschinger research appears below:
|Hans Ulrich Pfister research of Bertschinger family|
From the Zumikon parish records, here is Jacob's baptism:
|Baptism of Jacob Bertschinger 28 July 1715 Zumikon, Switzerland|
The official church in the Canton of Zürich was the Reformed church. When a child was born in a particular town, he became a citizen of that town (not of the country of Switzerland), and if the family moved elsewhere copies of their marriage, death, etc. were supposed to be sent to their town of citizenship. Baptisms were recorded within a few days of birth, and these help us determine citizenship as well as religion.
Jacob's parents were married 12 Apr 1715 in Zürich. The marriage record shows that Hans Heinrich Bertschinger was from Zumikon.
|Marriage of Hans Heinrich Bertschinger to Anna Graf|
The story of the ship passengers after arrival in America has been told by Rev. William John Hinke, A History of the Goshenhoppen Reformed Charge: Montgomery County, Pennsylvania (1727-1819).
But what happened to Jacob, in particular, after that? That's the controversy. We have to determine whether he is Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania or Jacob Persinger of Virginia, who are both claimed by their descendants to be the immigrant Jacob Bertschinger.
Two Jacob Bertschingers
I am a descendant of Jacob Persinger of Virginia, and had always believed that he was the immigrant. I was convinced enough to do considerable research in the records of Switzerland.
But last year I saw a comment that Stephen Smith, the author of Barshingers in America: A Genealogical History of Barshinger Families in America since 1735, provided convincing evidence that Jacob Persinger was not the one who arrived in 1735, and that Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania was the one who arrived on that date. I had to see this evidence.
Because of the Coronavirus quarantine, I could not access the facilities I usually use. I contacted Jane Cox and asked her if she could see a copy of the book in the Library of Virginia and send me the evidence provided by Stephen Smith, which she did.
In the book the story of Jacob Barshinger's family is well told, and the book even won an award from the National Genealogical Society. After seeing the evidence, which seemed pretty compelling, I began corresponding with Stephen Smith, and even temporarily removed the connection between Jacob Persinger and his Bertschinger ancestors on my family tree until I was certain.
Although the book is well documented, did Smith make the correct connection between Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania and Jacob Bertschinger of Switzerland? What was this evidence that Jacob Barshinger, and not Jacob Persinger, was the immigrant who arrived on the ship Mercury in 1735?
Evidence for Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania
Smith states that older research on the Barshingers indicated that Jacob was a descendant of an Andrew Barshinger. He lists four possible Barshinger ancestors including Andreas born 1691, Heinrich born about 1700, Casper born about 1700, Andreas born 1709. However, none of these could be the father of Jacob Barshinger because the first Andreas had no children (as proven in a deed), and the other three are too young to be the father.
Smith begins to prove instead that Jacob Barshinger, and not Jacob Persinger, was the 1735 immigrant.
In his book, Smith shows the following evidence that Jacob Barshinger was the immigrant:
1. A Family History: Smith states, "I came across the following passage in the Diehl Families of York and Adams Co., PA:"
Anna Maria (Diehl) BARSINGER b. 20 August 1783 Shrewsbury Twp. d. ca 1818 Windsor Twp. m. Henry BARSINGER b. 26 October 1779 d. 26 April 1849 son of Andrew & Anna Margaret (X) BARSINGER and grandson of Jacob BARSINGER immigrant on "Mercury" 29 May 1735.
2. Age: based on the birth date of Jacob Barshinger from the Bible of his mother-in-law Elizabeth Bechtler. In the Bible, Jacob's birth is listed as "4th mo. 29th 1716."
At the time this entry was recorded, the American Colonies were still using the Julian Calendar in which the year began on March 25. The Gregorian Calendar, which we now use, was not adopted until 1752 in Great Britain and the American Colonies, but had been adopted much earlier in other European countries. Under the Julian Calendar Jacob's birthday was 29 Jun 1716. Stephen Smith interprets the birth date as 29 Apr 1716 (which is possible if Elizabeth Bechtler was using the Gregorian Calendar). If his birthday was 29 Jun 1716 he would have been 18 years old when the Ship Mercury arrived, but if his birthday was 29 Apr 1716 he would have been 19. Here is a portion of the Elizabeth Bechtler Bible as recorded in Barshingers in America:
|Portion of the Elizabeth Bechtler Family Bible|
Jacob's age of 19 matches the age of Jacob Bertschinger on the Ship Mercury.
3. Dates and places. Jacob Barshinger was born 1716, married in 1736 [after the 1735 arrival], and received a land warrant in 1738 for 100 acres of land in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
4. Spelling of name. Smith believes that the spelling Barshinger, instead of Persinger, is further proof that Jacob Barshinger was the same man as Jacob Bertschinger of Switzerland.
Items 5-6 below contain Smith's evidence that Jacob Persinger is not the immigrant:
5. Naturalization. On page 44 Smith begins to present evidence that Jacob Persinger was not the 1735 immigrant. The [sic] in brackets is my notation, the other brackets are his:
Marsha Martin pointed out that: "in 1727, England started requiring that all aliens [in America] take a oath of allegiance to the King. To make sure this affected everyone, under provincial law, a unaturalized [sic] alien could not be granted land. If a man sold land in his name then you could assume he had either sworn allegiance to the King, become naturalized, or was a natural born subject of the King. Jacob [Bertschinger] Perschinger/Persinger when he arrived in 1735 swore an oath of allegiance to the King. This was the easiest way for the English to reach new people coming into the country, as they got off the boat. In 1765, Jacob Persinger became naturalized in Augusta County, VA. This Jacob [Persinger] must have been in the country before 1727.
Smith concludes "[Therefore Jacob Persinger can not be the same person as Jacob Bertschinger who arrived in America during 1735--being naturalized at that time. Jacob Persinger could be the son of other Persinger/Bersinger families who were in America before 1727--possibly some of the families discussed in the Barshinger Ancestors? section in this Chapter.]"
6. Signature. Marsha Martin also points out that
[Of] the signatures and marks of the people arriving on the Ship Mercury on 29 May 1735, Jacob Perschenger's mark is very distinctive. It looks like the letter 'B' sideways. It is a line drawn across the page with two bumps on the top of the line. The mark of Jacob Persinger on early land transactions in VA is a circle with an "X" in the center of the circle.
. . . the documentation presented in this book is tangible and supportive of the conclusions reached about Jacob Bertschinger's Barshinger identity--the highlights include: Jacob's Pennsylvania land records in Lancaster County--the deed records the spelling of his name as BARSHINGER, and the deed places him in the proper local [sic] --a place where they are consistent with other records: Baptism records for two of Jacob's children--with one of them indicating the name of his wife as Magdelena (the other baptism record only listed the name of the father); the Bible Records of Jacob's mother-in-law, which ties the information together--especially the age match for her son-in-law with the Jacob on the ship Mercury, and the Bible's age matches to other records of Jacob's children; and the Diehl records indicating Jacob Barsinger, immigrant on the ship Mercury, is the grandfather of Henry Barshinger, who died 26 April 1849. With this evidence, the conclusion must be reached that Jacob from whom the Barshingers in America descend, is the Jacob Bertschinger from the ship Mercury.
After seeing Smith's evidence, I looked at the Persinger DNA Project at Family Tree DNA. This section will discuss STRs and SNPs, so you may want to refer to this post: Y-DNA STRs, SNPs, and Haplogroups.
Here is a portion of the Persinger DNA Project page:
|Persinger DNA Project at Family Tree DNA|
There are several Persinger descendants whose DNA results all matched. The first twelve STR markers are displayed in the above image. The results beginning with 15-26-15, etc. are all from descendants of Jacob Persinger of Virginia.
There was also a descendant of Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania. His results begin with 13-24-14, etc. Stephen Smith was the one who arranged for this man to be tested. Unfortunately, this man is now deceased. Here is his descent from Jacob Barshinger:
|Descendant of Jacob Barshinger|
Barshinger's DNA results matched one other man whose ancestor was John Persinger of Roanoke County, Virginia, but did not match any of descendants of Jacob Persinger.
Because this John Persinger lived in Virginia, many people have tried to find his connection to Jacob Persinger. They could never find any connection, and the DNA shows us that he is not related to Jacob Persinger. John Persinger is listed in the 1850 census of Roanoke County, Virginia:
|1850 United States Federal Census, District 57, Roanoke, Virginia|
The census states that John was born in Pennsylvania about 1766. Jacob Persinger's family had long been in Virginia by that time, and the Y-DNA confirms that John Persinger is related to Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania. He is not, however, listed in the Bechtler family Bible, so Jacob Barshinger and John Persinger most likely share a common ancestor from an earlier Pennsylvania Barshinger line.
The most interesting part was that there was a man from Switzerland whose STR results matched the descendants of Jacob Persinger.
Y-DNA STRs can show probable relationships, but the results from SNP testing can definitively determine how two men are related. The Big Y test from Family Tree DNA contains both STRs and SNPs.
Only one man in the Persinger Project had taken a Big Y test. Because the Big Y test can determine a much more precise haplogroup than the ones estimated by STR results, the man who took the Big Y test is listed as being in haplogroup R-BY168384, and he is a descendant of Jacob Persinger of Virginia.
I did not want to rely on STR results. I wanted absolute proof which can only be provided with SNP testing. So I corresponded with the Bertschinger man who was from the area in Switzerland where Jacob Bertschinger was born. He agreed to take the Big Y test.
I will not identify the two Persinger and Bertschinger men who took the Big Y, but their results will determine whether Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania or Jacob Persinger of Virginia was the 1735 immigrant.
Time to re-examine the documentary evidence
I never take anybody's word for anything when it comes to genealogy and family history; I always try to examine the original records.
Now that the Y-DNA appeared to refute the evidence provided in Smith's book, I was determined to verify every piece of evidence by looking at the original records.
The unfortunate thing was that, again, due to the Coronavirus quarantine I would not have access to any original records that could not be found online. However, Jane Cox lived in Virginia where she could get access to the records in the Library of Virginia by making a special appointment limited to four hours, going through screening, and then having access to the records.
So the research went like this: I made a list of the initial records that I wanted to see. Jane went to the library and sent me copies of the records. She also went through her previous research to find more evidence. I would transcribe and evaluate the records and send another list of records that I wanted to see. Jane went once a week to the Library, and we corresponded every day for months.
If we could find convincing evidence in the records, we might be able to provide final proof with Y-DNA. I had to evaluate all of the Smith evidence, see if I could find alternative explanations for all of it, and try to find further evidence that Jacob Persinger was the immigrant.
Evaluating evidence presented in
Barshingers in America
We saw above the evidence that Jacob Barshinger is the same man as Jacob Bertschinger. Below are alternatives for Items 1-3 that Jacob Barshinger is supposedly the 1735 immigrant:
1. A Family History: On page 25 of his book Smith states, "I contacted the author (Harry A. Diehl) about the source of this passage from the book on Diehl Genealogy, but he indicated that it would be difficult to locate in his records even if it was noted--however he was confident that it came from a primary source other than this bible record."
So there is no source to verify Diehl's claim that Jacob Barshinger is the same person as Jacob Bertschinger of the Mercury. There is a well-known statement among genealogists "Genealogy without documentation is mythology." We cannot place confidence in a statement without documentation.
2. Age: The birth date of Jacob Barshinger from the Bechtler Bible [4th mo. 29th 1716] directly contradicts the birth date of Jacob Bertschinger of Switzerland [28 Jul 1715] shown in his baptismal record above. Baptisms in Switzerland occurred within a few days of birth.
3. Dates and places: Stating that Jacob Barshinger was in the right place (Pennsylvania) at the right time (after 1735) is not proof that he is the immigrant. We will examine the dates and places of Jacob Persinger later in this post and see that he was also in Pennsylvania at the right time.
4. Spelling of name:
The fact that the spellings Barshinger and Bertschinger both begin with B is not evidence that Jacob Persinger cannot be the same man as Jacob Bertschinger. This is especially the case since we know that Jacob Persinger did not spell his name. It was always spelled by a clerk who wrote what he thought he heard.
The evidence FOR Jacob Barshinger as the immigrant is extremely weak. With an undocumented statement in a family history, and a birth date that directly contradicts the date found in the Swiss records, the only evidence left is that he lived in Pennsylvania at the right time, and the Pennsylvania clerks continued to spell his name starting with the letter B.
The strongest pieces of evidence is the case AGAINST Jacob Persinger. Those are the items 5 and 6 above: the signature and the naturalization.
Jacob Bertschinger could not write his name, so he signed with a mark. His mark on the first oath is shown below. It is, indeed, distinctive.
|Jacob Bertschinger's mark|
If this mark was found on any document for Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania, it would be very solid evidence. However, Jacob Barshinger's signature has never been found on any document. The mark of Jacob Persinger of Virginia, on the other hand, has been found on numerous documents. It is consistently a + with a circle around it.
|Oath of Abjuration|
Here's a closeup:
|Second mark of Jacob Bertschinger|
Here Jacob has appeared to make his original sideways B mark, and then changed it to an X. Why he changed it will never be known, but perhaps a 19-year-old was seeing many older men sign with an X and thought that it might be the proper way to sign.
After his arrival in Virginia many years later, his mark had further changed and remained the same throughout the remainder of his life. Instead of an X with a circle around it, his mark appears to be a consistent cross with a circle. In fact, here is Jacob and his wife using the same mark:
|Jacob and Catherine Persinger signatures|
The sideways B was never found on any other document, and Jacob Persinger's signature only proves one thing: neither he nor the man who arrived on the Mercury could write his name.
First, let's look at the statement above by Marsha Martin that "If a man sold land in his name then you could assume he had either sworn allegiance to the King, become naturalized, or was a natural born subject of the King." If that statement is correct, then if Jacob Persinger sold any land prior to 1765, he was already naturalized.
Jacob and his wife Catherine sold multiple properties in Virginia prior to the 1765 naturalization.
Here is one example: On 26 April 1762 Jacob Miller sold lot 110 in the town of Woodstock, Frederick County, Virginia, to Jacob Pershinger (Frederick County, Virginia, Deed Book 7, pages 449-452). On 3 October 1763 Jacob and Catherine "Passenger" of Augusta County sold Lot 110 in Frederick County to Peter Opp. (Frederick County, Virginia, Deed Book 9, pages 34-35) Jacob's signature on the deed is shown below:
|Mark of Jacob Persinger, 1763|
Current naturalization law makes it difficult to believe that a man who was naturalized upon arrival in this country would be naturalized again. So, we must understand the history of naturalization law. A colonial naturalization only applied to the colony in which it occurred. Jacob and his children were naturalized citizens of Pennsylvania. However, when Jacob Persinger moved to Virginia, he, and his children, were not naturalized citizens of that colony.
In Augusta County, Virginia, Court Order Book 7, page 211, we find the naturalization of Jacob's son Henry Persinger:
|Naturalization of Henry Persinger, 10 May 1762.|
The record reads "Henry Stone . . . Henry Persinger . . . produced a certificate of their having received the sacrament and took the usual oaths to his Majesty's Person and Government, subscribed the abjuration oath and test which is ordered to be certified in order to their obtaining warrants of Naturalization."
On October 16, 1765 the following oath is recorded:
|Colonial Virginia Oath of Office|
The important information in the above record is transcribed below [punctuation added]:
At a Court continued and held for Augusta County October the 16th 1765 . . .
Robert Brackenridge and Israel Christian, two of the Gentlemen in the Commission of the Peace for this County, took the usual oaths to his Majesty's person and government, subscribed the abjuration oath and test, and then took the oath of a Justice of the Peace and of Justices of the County Court in Chancery.
Robert Brackenridge and Israel Christian were already Justices of the Peace before they took the above oath. They can be seen in the list of Justices of the Peace in Augusta County, June 12, 1765. This list is on pages 66 and 67 of Justices of the Peace of Colonial Virginia, 1757-1775 .
On the next page and same date [16 Oct 1765], we find the entry for Jacob Parsenger:
|Jacob Persinger Oath of Office, 1765|
It reads, "Jacob Harper . . . Jacob Parsenger . . . produced a certificate of their having received the Sacrament, took the usual oaths to his Majesty's person and government, subscribed the abjuration oath and test, and then took the oaths of Justices of the Peace and of Justices of the County Court in Chancery."
The only difference between the record of Jacob Persinger and the record of Robert Brackenridge is that Jacob [and the other men in his record] has an additional requirement before taking an oath of office--he must also prove that he has taken the sacrament. It fulfills the requirements for both naturalization and taking office. However, this oath of office is more likely to be for Jacob Persinger's adopted son Jacob because he was being called as a county official, and Jacob Jr. could write his name. His father could not. Jacob Jr., if his age in the 1840 census is close to correct, was about age 21 in 1765.
Swearing allegiance to the King was later replaced by swearing allegiance to the United States Constitution. The oath of abjuration (and similar religious tests) were soon prohibited by Article VI, clauses two and three, of the United States Constitution which read:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Justices of the Peace and other officers in Virginia in the 21st century take a similar oath of office to the Colonial oaths. However, instead of swearing allegiance to the King of England, they swear to support the Constitutions of the United States and of Virginia. The current oath is, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent on me as (a magistrate), according to the best of my ability (so help me God).”
The right place at the right time
Jacob Persinger was listed in the 1735 census of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and, beginning in 1744, in store records in the portion of Philadelphia County that late became Berks County. These store records are mentioned in Misbach Matthew A. and Misbach, Grant L, The Life of Jacob Persinger: A collection of stories, documents, and other information about the life of Jacob (Godfrey) Persinger and his family, p. 74:
"Richard A Pence has a website where he states the following
Gen. Pence also reported that Jacob Bentz and Valentine Bentz appear on a list of German settlers in Berks, Lebanon, and Lancaster counties who were customers of a Mr. Potts, a merchant of Pottsgrove. The records of these transactions were kept by Christian Lauer and Conrad Weiser, members of the Reformed Church at Tulpehoeken. ‘Based on the foregoing,’ wrote Gen. Pence, ‘it appears that our ancestor Jacob and brother Valentine lived in the vicinity of Tulpehoeken during their stay in Pennsylvania.’ Another customer of Mr. Potts was a Jacob Persinger, probably the same man who became a widower and later married Jacob Pence's widow, Catherine."
The Pence website is then cited: http://www.pipeline.com/~richardpence/shenback.htm
The above store is said to have been operated by Christian Lauer on the following site where it is noted that "These accounts now form a part of Volume IX of a collection known as Potts papers, now on deposit in the vaults of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania," and the name "Jacob Perfinger" appears on the website:
Jacob Persinger and his son-in-law Michael Kern are associated with the aforementioned Adam Bentz (Pence) and Valentine Bentz (Pence) on multiple records in Augusta County, Virginia. After the death of his first wife, Jacob Persinger married Catherine, the widow of Jacob Pence (brother of Valentine Pence). Jacob Persinger's son-in-law, Michael Kern, is one of the witnesses to the will of Jacob Pence.
|Witnesses to Will of Jacob Pence|
In Augusta County Court Order Book VII, p. 486 is:
Jacob Persinger, Jacob Pence, and Valentine Pence
The record reads, "Jacob Parsinger and Catharine his wife late Catharine Pence Plaintiff against Peter Millar Executor of Valentine Pence deceased who was Executor of Jacob Pence Defendant."
Jacob Persinger's family in Virginia
Jacob Persinger's life and family are very difficult to document, and there are many online errors. After living in Pennsylvania County in the 1740s, the first record we have found in Virginia is a land survey of 370 acres of land in Frederick County for Jacob Persinger dated 20 April 1753.
|Jacob Persinger land, 1753|
Jacob would have been married to his first wife Mary at that time. Many online family histories state that the name of Jacob's wife (the mother of his children) was Rebecca. There is no document whatsoever that has this name. However, we can determine that her name was Mary by comparing two important lists, and also looking at the naming patterns used by Jacob's children.
Some prisoners still in possession of Native Americans in 1764 are listed in Pennsylvania Historical Commission, The Papers of Col. Henry Bouquet, Vol. 18. "A list of prisoners among the Shawnee Indians: A list of the prisoners at the Lower Shawana towns" appears on page 250. This list is dated November 1764.
I compared the list of prisoners taken in 1756 to the list of prisoners still remaining in 1764. By 1764 many of the people who were taken prisoner had died or had been returned. I listed below only those for whom I could find matches between the two lists. Both of these come from transcripts, and the spelling of names was almost always different in the two versions. The reference from Chalkley below will be immediately followed by the same family found by Bouquet.
a. list:Prisoners taken 1756 [Source: Chalkley]
b. list: Prisoners listed 1764 [Source: Bouquet]
a1. Mrs. Vanscher (Vause) and 2 daughters, at Ft. Vause
b1. Susanna Voss
a2. Ivan Medley and 2 daughters, at Ft. Vause
b2. Wm Medley, Betsey Medley
a3. 5 children belonging to Charles Boyl, at Jackson River
b3. Boyles and brother
a4. Mrs. Bird and 6 children, at Jackson River
b4. Margrett Bard and five children
a5. Mrs. Kinkead and 3 children, at Jackson River
b5. Aley Cincade 3 children
a6. Mrs. Parsinger and 2 children, at Jackson River
b6. Mary Pringer and two children [i]
a7. 5 Carpenter children, at Jackson River
b7. Solomon Carpenter
[i] Henry Bouquet abbreviated the word “per” with a P followed by a raised R. The surname Persinger may have been written as Prsinger and was transcribed as Pringer. There were no Pringer families living in Augusta County, Virginia, during this time period. Mary and her children were never returned, and by the time she was located Jacob had married the widow Catherine Pence.
When some prisoners were returned to Virginia, Jacob and his wife Catherine adopted one of them and raised him as their son Jacob Persinger. The son Jacob later found a record that led him to believe that his original surname was Godfrey, and he used the birthdate of the Godfrey child as his own.
Further confusion in this family comes from the fact that many researchers have combined two of Jacob's sons, Henry and John, into one man and named him John Henry. Henry married a woman named Grace. I have not yet been able to find out when this marriage occurred, but Henry's Will in dated 25 Nov 1824 in Alleghany County, Virginia. Jacob's son John married (1) Elizabeth Kimberlain 14 Nov 1788 in Botetourt County, Virginia, and (2) Catherine Stull 23 Dec 1803 in Botetourt County. His will was written 3 Apr 1810 in Kanawha County, Virginia.
In addition, most researchers do not have Jacob's daughter Elizabeth listed in his family. There is good reason for this--her marriage to Michael Kern could not be documented. In fact, I had been to Augusta County, the Library of Virginia, and other places looking for this marriage. Jane Cox located it in the Historical Foundation of the Presbyterian and Reformed Churches, Montreat, North Carolina.
Naming patterns can sometimes provide evidence of the names of the parents. The naming patterns are not proof of relationship because people did not all use the same naming pattern. However, often the first two sons are named after the husband and wife's father, and the first two daughters are named after the husband and wife's mother.
In the case of Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania, we know the names of all of his children and grandchildren because they are listed in the Bechtler Bible. He did not have a son named after his supposed father Henry.
We have no list of Jacob Persinger's children, and we don't know the order in which they were born. It appears, however, that his two eldest sons were Henry and Christopher. If Henry was the eldest son this is entirely consistent with the fact that Jacob Bertshinger's father was named Heinrich (Henry). We have only been able to determine the names of two of his daughters.
Jacob Persinger's children named one of their first two sons and daughters after their parents Jacob and Mary. The adopted son Jacob did not have one of his first two daughters named Mary.
Religion: the most important evidence
Jane Cox lived in the area of Virginia where Jacob Persinger's family lived. She says the Persinger descendants are adamant that Jacob was from Switzerland because their family belonged to the Reformed church, and not the Lutheran church that the Germans in the area attended.
Jacob Persinger is proven to have remained a member of the Reformed church. The records of the Peaked Mountain church of Rockingham County, Virginia, show that Jacob was an Elder of the church in 1762.
|Jacob Persinger, Elder of Reformed Church|
Although the name Barshinger may appear to be a closer spelling to "Bertschinger" than Persinger is, note that the spelling of Jacob's surname in the church record above is Perschinger which is similar to how the clerks spelled his name on his Pennsylvania naturalization oaths (Perdschenger and Pertschinger).
Big Y results
As mentioned before, one of the descendants of Jacob Persinger took the Big Y-500 test. The Bertschinger man who lives in Switzerland took the Big Y-700 test.
Here is how Mr. Persinger appeared in the Family Tree DNA's Block Tree in September, 2020:
|Persinger in Block Tree, September 2020|
Mr. Persinger is that long block on the right that says he has 33 private variants. This means that he has 33 mutations that have not been seen in any other man. The chart shows the common ancestor between Mr. Persinger and the men in the block next to him to be about 50 SNP generations ago. They are not related within thousands of years.
Finally: The answer
Mr. Bertschinger's Big Y-700 results have just arrived, and now we know whether Jacob Persinger of Virginia or Jacob Barshinger of Pennsylvania was the Jacob Bertschinger of Zumikon, Switzerland.
The results were completed January 13, 2021. Here are Mr. Persinger and Mr. Bertschinger as they now appear in the Block Tree:
|Persinger and Bertschinger in Block Tree|
There is now no further question about the identity of Jacob Bertschinger. He was born in 1715 in Zumikon, Switzerland, arrived 1735 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and moved to Virginia where he was known as Jacob Persinger.
Here is how they now appear in the Persinger DNA Project:
|Persinger and Bertschinger share Y-DNA|
Mr. Persinger's haplogroup has been further refined from the previous R-BY168384 to R-BY169037, and it matches the haplogroup of Mr. Bertschinger (shown at bottom of the image).
We have definitely determined that Jacob Persinger of Virginia was born 1715 in Zumikon. However, his ancestral line is extremely difficult to trace due to the fact that there are many men with the name Hans Heinrich Bertschinger, Hans Bertschinger, and Heinrich Bertschinger in the parish records. The same is the case for his mother Anna Graf. There are multiple guesses as to the lineage of Jacob Bertschinger.
More Y-DNA testing of Bertschingers in Switzerland, with known ancestry, will help determine which Bertschinger line is correct.
Furthermore, we cannot determine the relationship between Mr. Persinger and Mr. Bertschinger because they took different versions of the Big Y test.
Mr. Bertschinger took the more recent Big Y-700 which tests many more Y-chromosome locations than the Big Y-500 did. For example, Mr. Bertschinger has 10 private mutations. At least half of these may be due to the fact that many of these locations were not read in the Big Y-500 test of Mr. Persinger. All we know right now is that the two men are related, but they probably more closely related than the Big Y results suggest.
The test results should show us how closely Mr. Persinger is related to Mr. Bertschinger. What we want to know is how closely Jacob Persinger is related to the common ancestor of Mr. Persinger and Mr. Bertschinger.
Mr. Persinger is a descendant of Jacob's son Henry. The best use of money would be to find at least one descendant of Jacob Persinger from another one of his sons and upgrade his test to the Big Y. This would give us the Y-DNA profile of Jacob Persinger and tell us how closely Jacob is related to the common Persinger-Bertschinger ancestor.
The search never ends, but Y-DNA testing has now told us where to look. Thank you to all the men who took the Y-DNA test. Please consider upgrading to Big Y. Also, thank you to all those who helped with this research, and will continue to do so. To Jane Cox: You're the best!
This story, more than most, really helps me to appreciate the struggles out ancestors endured. Jacob Bertschinger was from a poor family in Switzerland (documented by Hans Ulrich Pfister). He lost both parents at a young age and was an orphan at age six. He later decided to emigrate to America, but had to get help from others along the way. His journey was horrendous.
After arriving in America Jacob lost his wife and two of his children to an Indian attack and never saw them again. We don't know what Mary's life was like after that. Jacob then lost at least one son in the French and Indian War. Thank you Jacob for enduring it all, for without you I would not exist.
May we all continue to find the stories of our ancestors and leave these stories for future generations.
To see another great Colonial American immigrant story solved with Y-DNA, see The Amazing Power of Y-DNA