#52 Ancestors Week 18 - "Close Up"

Michael Hess helped put a face to my ethnicity estimate puzzle. The results showed a pretty large percentage of Europe West DNA, which was news to me! The primary locations included Germany and the Netherlands. Michael Hess had German parents and his wife Gertraudt Van Courtlandt was Dutch. This pair of 5th great grandparents must have added to that percentage. I had never heard one story about this branch of my family tree, and it took some time to link to them. Michael was first generation American, his father being part of the German immigration in the early 1700's. Gertraudt's past is still a mystery, but some genealogists have linked her to the Van Courtlandt family who settled New Amsterdam, aka New York City, in the 1600's. My close up will focus on Michael, because his story is well documented, and introduced me to a time in American history I knew very little about, the "Poor Palatine" immigration.

Woodcut, showing the Palatines encamped on Blackheath outside London
Michael Hess was born on July 12, 1741 in Williams Township, Northampton, Pennsylvania.  His father, Johann Peter Hess, was the eldest of the surviving children of immigrants Jeremias and Anna Maria Heim Hess. Jeremias had been trying to get his family to America for several years.  They first set out from Mutterstadt, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany in 1709. They sailed from Holland to England, but there was no room on any ship bound for America.  There were 13,000 German families who migrated to England between May and November of 1709, fleeing repeated invasions from the French. The English tried to settle them in England, Ireland and the Colonies. The Hess family were detained at the Blackheath Camp, eventually being redirected to County Limerick along with 3,100 other Poor Palatines. Here is an interesting blog post  by Susan Reed, Lead Curator on Germanic Studies at the British Library, which details the Palatine's experience.

There are a few things that prove Jeremias Hess was amongst the Palatines dispersed in Limerick, including a note that two of his children, both born in Mutterstadt, Hans Conrad, (b.May 3, 1705) and Elisabeth, (b. October 21, 1708) "mortuus in Irland". The family was transported back to Mutterstadt in 1711. They had 3 more children, including a son named Hans Conrad (August 17, 1714) after his dead sibling. Finally, in June of 1730 , the Hesses were one of 77 families on board the Thistle of Glasgow and made their way to Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

Statue of Teedyuscung in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pa.
Michael's father Johann Peter Hess was 27 years old when his family finally made it to the colonies. He married Anna Margaretha Jung of Palatine, Herkimer, New York before 1733. They had at least 4 children, including my 5th great grandfather Michael Hess. Their lives as Colonists were marked by tragedy. December 31st, 1755, Michael's older brother, Hans Adam Hess (1740-1755), was killed in an Indian raid. The very next day his father, Johann Peter and eldest brother Henry were taken prisoner by the Delawares. Among the Indians who made the attack were Teedyuscung and three of his sons. They murdered (scalped and mutilated) Johann Peter in the presence of his son Henry. Henry was delivered up by the Indians eleven months later at the Easton Conference of November, 1756. It was there that he made an affidavit, recorded in Pa. Archives, Vol. 3, page 56, giving his testimony of what happened. All of the gory details of the attack can be found here.

Michael's mother passed away four years later when he was 19 years old. He married my 5th great grandmother, Gertraudt Van Courtlandt in 1762. They had ten children, who were all baptised in Upper Mount Bethel Township, Northampton, Pennsylvania. The taxation roll for 1780 lists him as a shoemaker. He served, along with his cousin Christian, in the Northampton Militia of 1780 under the command of Captain Patrick Campbell. Some time after 1789, the Hess family emigrated to Barton, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.  Michael is buried in the Hess Cemetery pictured below. There are several areas of Hamilton named for son Peter Hess.  Googling around I discovered this book about the Hess family of Barton. I had no idea.

For years I was stuck trying to find the ancestors of my 2nd great grandfather William Uriss Little. Thanks to a little company called GEDmatch (they've been in the news this week!), I connected with a fourth cousin. William's mother, Mary Ann Patterson was the sister of their relative. Mary Ann's mother was Charity Gertraudt Hess, my 3rd great grandmother & daughter of Michael and Gertraudt Van Courtlandt Hess! They had lots of information.  It has been fascinating finding out about this branch of my family tree. There is so much I learned from researching the Hess family. When I was traveling in Germany, often people would approach me assuming that I was German. They'd ask for the time, or directions, etc. Well, no wonder, "Ich bin Deutsche" after all.


  1. Libby if you are still 'listening', I may have a connection to your Michael Hess. The OGS apparently has information showing that 'Mary Hess' one of Michael's daughters married a possible ancestor of mine - Jacob Long of Barton. Jacob Long & Michael Hess were both very early (i.e. late 1700s) settlers of Barton Township. Would you happen to have any information about either Mary Hess or Jacob Long?

    1. Hi Denise, in one of the documents I found on Ancestry, it indicates that Michael Hess's daughter, Maria (b. 1770), married Jacob Long and moved to Ohio. There is a marriage record for a Charity Long in Ross County, OH, who I think is likely to have been the daughter of Jacob and Maria. Maria's mother, Gertrude, is said to have gone by the name Charity, and Charity Long was likely named after her.