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Shaking Your Family Tree

Delving Into the History of the Hessians

January 15, 1988|MYRA VANDERPOOL GORMLEY

Question: My ancestor, Jacob Detamore, was a Hessian soldier who came to America during the Revolutionary War and served under the English Gen. Lord Howe. Family tradition says he crossed English lines and enlisted in Colonial forces.

After the war he became a citizen, married and settled in Rockingham County, Va., but we do not know for sure what really occurred during the war. How can I verify he was a Hessian soldier and learn more about him?

Answer: So many of the German soldiers who came to America found both the land and the women attractive.

Clifford Neal Smith has written several monographs on the Hessians. Check at libraries for his works, especially "Muster Rolls and Prisoner-of-War Lists in American Archival Collections Pertaining to the German Mercenary Troops Who Served With the British Forces During the American Revolution."

Copies of this and other of Smith's works are available from Westland Publications, Box 117, McNeal, Ariz. 85617-0117.

"The Hessians in the Revolutionary War" by Edward J. Lowell is a basic source for reliable information on the role of the German mercenaries in the American Revolution. Originally published in 1884, copies are available for $17.50 from Corner House Publishers, 1321 Green River Road, Williamstown, Mass. 01267.

If your ancestor also served in the American forces, possibly he applied for a pension or received bounty land. You should check the Revolutionary War soldiers records available on microfilm at the National Archives Records Branch near you in Kansas City.

Your German ancestor's name may also have been spelled Dittmar, Dietmar, Dietemore, Dittmar and Dethmar. For additional reading on the Hessians, see pages 714-715 (November 1975) of the Genealogical Helper magazine.

Q: My grandparents were born in Zemplen County, Hungary, and I have conflicting information about how to obtain birth, marriage and death records from this country for dates between 1810 and 1870. My ancestors were Roman Catholics. Are there church records or civil records available?

A: Civil registration of vital records in Hungary began October 1, 1895; prior to that date you will find the information in church parish registers.

Many records of present-day Hungary have been microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah and are available at its branch Family History libraries. These include parish registers; census, nobility and military records and some genealogical charts dating from the early 1700s to 1895. The records are in Latin, Hungarian and German.

There is an 1869 census of Zemplen County, Hungary, available from Salt Lake City's famed genealogical library, and you should consult the Hamburg, Germany passenger lists (also available on microfilm), as most likely your family emigrated via that port. These lists give the town of origin plus additional information.

"Handy Guide to Hungarian Genealogical Records" by Jared H. Suess, is a handy guidebook. It's available for $6.50 from Everton Publishers, Box 368, Logan, Utah 84321.

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