by Torsten Eymann (firstname.lastname@example.org), 1997
The history of the Eymann family is closely intertwined with the history of the european anabaptists themselves. A profound summary about this history can be found in "The Story of the Mennonites" by C. Henry Smith, Newton, Kansas, 1957 (This book is also available in german: "Die Geschichte der Mennoniten Europas", ebda., 1964). The part about the historical background of the palatinate emigration is excerpted from the Website of Kraig Ruckel (http://www.cc.utah.edu/~pdp7277/palatine.html).
The roots of the anabaptist movement lie in the swiss city of Zurich, in the year 1523. Ulrich Zwingli developed his idea of a reformed faith; several of his radical followers split the group in 1525 and established an own branch with the main claim of a full segregation of church and government. This made them the radical left wing of all confessions of that era and is the reason for most of the persecution in the centuries to follow.
The first appearance of the Eymann name is in the village of Steffisburg near Thun/Berne in Switzerland. Here are two brothers mentioned; the elder one, Steffen, was born in 1533. From this point we are able to trace the family history unbroken until today, apart from lost branches. In that area of the southern Emmental (valley of the river Emme) there are today still anabaptist communities, the most famous in the village of Linden. Today a part of Linden, Oberdiessbach is considered to be the true hometown of the Eymann family; there can be found a small estate named "Ey" (medieval german: by the meadow). These villages are very remote and hidden in the mountains and gave shelter for the century of persecution to come.
The anabaptist movement spread in that time over the neighbouring countries, especially along the river Rhine as one of the biggest european trade routes. Several communities grew between 1525 and 1535, the most prominent ones in Strassburg (Elsass) and the Lower Rhine area (The Netherlands and Muenster in northwest Germany). After the fall of the infamous Taeuferreich in Muenster 1535, persecution got worse, although the Muenster incidents are considered not typical for the non-violent characteristic of the Anabaptists; but that was not the era of making fine differences... Menno Simons, a Dutch, who gave the movement its today known name of "Mennonites", appears as a missionary in 1536 and worked his whole life in northern germany, while the swiss anabaptists are known as "Taeufer" or "Taufgesinnte" until today (not as "Mennonites").
In the canton of Berne, the government issued a final ban edict in 1659, after a century of persecution and martyrdom. The dutch Mennonites, at that time the most established group in Europe, tried politically and financially to intervene. But nonetheless the swiss Anabaptists were expropriated and banished from their homes. The worst year was 1671, when 700 people were exiled. About 100 from them went towards the Elsass, the rest into the Palatinate; the latter followed an invitation by the government, which intended to repopulate the devastated (by the 30-year-war) country.
1671 also Hans, Hans II. and Ulrich Eymann left Oberdiessbach with most of their families and moved first to Niederroedern near Weissenburg/Wissembourg in northern Elsass on the left Rhine bank. Some months later they moved again for an unknown reason and finally settled in Ibersheim near Worms in the Palatinate. The restless times with small wars between France and his european enemies in the 17th century (beginning in 1688) lead to restless families, and so the immigrants moved twice again until they finally stayed around the Donnersberg mountain north of Kaiserslautern.Other family members emigrated to the Netherlands and to America in the west, and to the Banat and Galizia in eastern Europe.
The winter of 1708-1709 was very long and cold in the Rhineland. It was a very bleak period. People huddled around their fires as they considered quitting their homes and farms forever. By early April, the land was still frozen and most of the Palatines' vines had been killed by the bitter weather. Since 1702 their country had been enduring war and there was little hope for the future. The Thirty Years War lay heavy on their minds, a period in which one out of every three Germans had perished.
The Palatines were heavily taxed and endured religious persecution. As the people considered their future, the older ones remembered that, in 1677, William Penn had visited the area, encouraging the people to go to Pennsylvania in America, a place where a man and his family could be free of the problems they were now encountering.
To go to America meant a long, dreadful ocean voyage and a future in an unknown land, away from their past and family. Everyone knew that the German Elector would stop any migration as soon as it was noticed. Only a mass exodus from the Palatinate could be successful. Many wondered how they could ever finance such a journey even if they wanted to attempt it. Small boats, known as scows, would have to be acquired for the long ride down the Rhine River and then there was the price for the ocean voyage. While some of the people had relatives that could assist them financially, many were very poor. Soon enough, their minds were made up for them as France's King Louis XIV invaded their land, ravaging especially the towns in the Lower Palatinate.
In masses, the Palatines boarded their small boats and headed down the Rhine for Rotterdam. It was April 1709 and the first parties were afloat on the Rhine, many with only their most basic goods and their faith in God as their only possessions. The river voyage took an average of 4-6 weeks through extremely cold, bitter weather. By June, 1709, the people streamed into Rotterdam at a rate of one thousand per week. The Elector, as expected, issued an edict forbidding the migration, but almost everyone ignored it. By October, 1709, more than 10,000 Palatines had completed the Rhine River journey.
Streams of Palatines went to America, with most going to Pennsylvania. The ocean voyage was harsh, with over-crowded, under-supplied, and unsanitary ships. What provisons were supplied were generally the least expensive available to the ship's master. Water frequently ran out, as did food. Dreadful mortality occurred on many voyages. In addition to those woes, the Palatines faced robbery, deception, and worse from those transporting them.
Estimates on the number of Germans in Pennsylvania during this period varies from author to author, but a common estimate is 10,000-15,000 by 1727 and 70,000-80,000 by 1750. A good source for reviewing German arrivals to Pennsylvania is Rupp's "Thirty Thousand Immigrants in Pennsylvania" which contains numerous ship passenger lists and has an excellent surname index. Another good resource is Walter Knittle's "Early Eighteenth-Century Palatine Emigration". Immigrants not only came from Germany, but also Bohemia and Switzerland. Most were either Lutheran, Reformed, or Mennonite in religious belief.
The transatlantic emigration continued with parts of the family for two centuries to come. Most of the emigrants to America left Europe in Le Havre and Rotterdam. In America they appeared first in Pennsylvania, then moved further west to Indiana and Ohio. Some of them fought in the Indepence Wars. Today they are spread over the whole United States.
The author descends directly from those Palatinate families. The american immigrants often disappear from our genealogy and can not be further traced; we would welcome anybody who can trace his Eymann family back to immigration. Please write - the sheer quantity of our genealogic material makes it impossible for us to send self-speaking documents at the moment, but we would love to share our material when specified. As you can see by the very rough history above, we are currently in the hunter-and-collector-phase; if anybody with profound historical knowledge can contribute to that "moving" family history of ours, we would be very thankful.
Some open questions still remain:
The oldest records about an Eymann family are found in the church-records and stock-books of the village of Alfhausen near Osnabrueck in northwest Germany. There lies, at the road to Bramsche, a large farm, the Eymann farm; although it is not possible to prove the direct relation to our family yet, it can be assumed that the Eymann family originally descends from this farm. One can also guess that by the derivation of the name itself. The Eymann farm is quoted in the stock-books way back in 1350; it was called "tor Eye" (medieval german: by the meadow). The farm was an estate in fee. In 1490, Hanneke "tor Eye" owned 5 horses, 2 oxen, 5 cows, 6 cattle, 14 pigs and 5 sheep and paid a feudal 'cattle tax' of one Taler and four Schillinge. Alfhausen was at that time part of the bishopric Osnabrueck. There still exists a catholic Eymann family in that area, but there is no connection yet between the two genealogies. The swiss Eymanns are said to have immigrated themselves before 1535, but from here? Or is it pure coincidence with the same name; the heraldic shield shows an egg, leading to the supposition of rooting the name in "Ei" rather than in "Ey", a craft rather than a geographic description? Why should anyone emigrate to a country of Berne where persecution was worse than at home, the alternative of the Netherlands only a 100km away?
The similar problem occurs with a lutheran family Eymann in Saxony, whose history is yet completely unknown.