Most of us at some time in life ask ourselves,
"Who am I? Where did I come from? How did I get here?" If you share one of these many variations of the Kinser name these pages
may provide some answers.
Why they came:
To understand why these ancestors of ours would uproot themselves from
home and family to travel to a wilderness land half way around the world
we must know a little about the world they lived in.
First a bit of history:
The definition of Germany as a single country with
clearly defined borders applies to less than 150 years of its' history.
Not until 1871 when Prince Otto von Bismarck created a cohesive nation out
of a crazy quilt of self-governing kingdoms, tiny duchies and various
principalities did that definition apply.
Celts occupied southern Germany long before the first
Germanic tribes migrated from Asia into Central Europe. Germany became the
Weimar Republic only after the first World War and that required the
abdication of the last Kaiser and the overthrow of the kings of Bavaria,
Saxony, and Wurttenburg.
Germany first appears clearly in recorded history only
after Julius Caesar tried to conquer these tribes and failed. The Romans
colonized the areas south of the Danube and West of the Rhine but after
the defeat of three of Augustus Caesar's best Roman legions at the Battle
of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. Rome made no further serious attempts to
move into the Germanic territories. The peoples living within the Roman
empire did adopt many Roman customs and attitudes and much evidence of the
Roman occupation still exists in these areas.
The period in history from the collapse of the Roman
Empire-- roughly the 5th century, until the 15th century-- is often
referred to as the Middle Ages, sometimes called the Dark Ages.
Economic dislocation and the invasions and settlement of
the various Germanic tribes in Western Europe changed the face of the
Roman Empire by the end of the 5th century. For the next 300 years western
Europe remained essentially a primitive culture.
During this period the loose confederation of tribes
began to combine into kingdoms but virtually no machinery of government
existed. The only universal European institution was the church, and even
there a fragmentation of authority was the rule; power within the church
was in the hands of local bishops. The bishop of Rome, the pope, had a
certain fatherly prominence but the elaborate machinery of ecclesiastical
government and the idea of a monarchical church headed by the pope was not
to be established for another 500 years.
A system known as Seignorialism arose during the Middle
Ages. Known in England as manorialism, this system encompassed economic,
political, and social relationships between, lords or seigneurs, and their
dependent peasants or serfs.
In all of medieval Western Europe seignorialism was the
norm. Under this system, the great landowners exercised the power of
familias over the people on their lands. They held economic power as
landlords and they often held political jurisdiction by grant or
appropriation of power from the imperial government.
While there were regional variations throughout Western
Europe, with peak years from 1000 to 1350, the seigneurs of the noble
class dominated the lives of the peasants. Whether bond or free the
peasants were all subjects of the seigneurs.
When the lord or his representative held court, all his
peasants were required to attend, to bring their complaints before him,
and to be judged for the offenses that were within the lord's authority.
When the lord needed his lands plowed or his crops harvested, he had the
right to his peasant's labor. By the 13th century his
authority and his rights to labor were well defined in most seigneuries.
From each peasant he had the right to so many days' labor each week and so
many extra days during plowing, harvest, and other special times. He could
build gristmills, ovens, or winepresses and require his people to use them
in order to increase his income.
Generally, he had the right to approve or disapprove the
marriages of his people, to take a head tax from them annually, to tax
their income at will, to take an inheritance tax at their deaths, and to
reclaim their lands if they died without heirs.
In return, the peasants, even those of servile origins,
had the right to hold their land hereditarily, and although the lord might
be able to give or sell them and their posterity, he then had to give or
sell their lands with them. The peasants not only had certain strips of
arable land in the fields of their villages, but they also had grazing
rights on the common pastures and rights to fuel and building materials in
the common woods and wastelands, but usually no rights to any game or
The secular state began to emerge, often nothing more
than a genesis of national feeling. The struggle for supremacy between
church and state became a fixture of European history.
The period of spiritual unrest ultimately ended in the
Reformation. The rise
of Charles the great whom the French call Charlemagne marked a turning
point in the history of Western Europe. Charlemagne's political power
depended on educational reforms that used methods, and aims from the Roman
past. Charlemagne was crowned emperor by Pope Leo III in Rome on Christmas
day in the year 800 A. D. This act implied that Charlemagne was successor
to the Roman emperors and by that papal act the Holy Roman Empire was
born. In name it lasted more than a thousand years until, in 1806, Francis
II of Austria renounced the title under pressure from Napoleon Bonaparte.
After Charlemagne the West Franks left the empire to
become the nucleus of France. The East Franks followed one of
Charlemagne's grandsons, Ludwig, the German. The Emperor was left with
what was called the middle kingdom between the warring East and West
Franks leaving the Holy Roman Emperor largely a fiction for most of these
In fact this idea of the Holy Roman empire created more
problems than it solved as far as creating a monarchy. The Kaisers had no
capital, no real source of revenue, and were politically impotent. Real
power during most of these thousand years rested with the counts, dukes,
electors, margraves, princes, bishops, and kings of the various German
As Voltaire later pointed out, this German Reich was
"neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire."
Added to these troubles were the religious divisions
that came after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door in
Wittenburg. This beginning for the Reformation broke
Germany into hundreds of tiny Protestant and Catholic states triggering a
century of conflicts. Conflicts that eventually resulted in the
Thirty Years War (1618-1648). During this war
virtually every German town was sacked at least once. Seven million people
died, one third of the population.
In the early 1700's when our ancestors began their
emigration from Europe to the American colonies they were still suffering
from the aftermath of these divisions. There was neither a
"Germany" nor an "Italy" on the early eighteenth
century maps. Some three-hundred-odd principalities made up a
confederation of Germanic states that constituted the Holy Roman Empire.
The power of the empire, generally dominated by the Hapsburgs, was already
on the wane.
Europe of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries held
little hope for the dreams and aspirations of its' commoner citizens.
Entry into the trades was guarded jealously by the guilds. Membership in a
guild was passed from father to son or occasionally to another close
relative. Jobs for wages were poorly paid and relatively scarce. Most of
the nobles paid no taxes while extracting the maximum possible from the
The abuses of the Roman Catholic Church under the
influence of the militant Jesuits were no less a burden to the Protestants
of much of Europe. The resurgence of the Roman Catholic church led to
harsh religious persecution of the Presbyterians and other
Protestants. Changes were underway, however, that later in the century,
would result in Revolution in America and France.
These changes had not yet come when our Kinser ancestors came to
their time of decision (1720 to 1740). The voices of the young Voltaire
and others were just beginning to be heard.
Living under these conditions many peasants were in a
persuadable mood when offered the 'land of milk and honey' by pamphlets
and recruiters sent out to find the people needed to populate the empty
lands of the colonies.
The King of England made a huge grant of land to William
Penn to pay debts owed to Penn's father.
Penn established the Pennsylvania colony in the royal grant but soon
realized that land alone had little value without people to inhabit it,
cut the timber, plant crops, and most important of all, to buy the empty
Penn published pamphlets,
circulated throughout Europe, soliciting people to move to Pennsylvania
and sent recruiters actively enlisting immigrants. Penn's colony was
unique in several respects. He offered equality to all comers regardless
of rank. Greatly influenced by his contact with the Quakers Penn wrote into the opening
paragraphs of the colony's Constitution a promise of religious freedom and
restated the promise just as strongly in the closing paragraphs.
Pennsylvania was the only American colony that offered complete religious
freedom from the very beginning.
Pennsylvania offered much to the German Lutherans and
they accepted Penn's invitation in such numbers that laws were passed
making it illegal to emigrate. Many of Penn's recruiters were imprisoned
but none of these measures stopped the flow.
English citizens, concerned by the large numbers of
German immigrants, feared these immigrants might rebel against the King of
England and declare Pennsylvania a German colony and laws were passed
requiring every immigrant to swear an oath of allegiance to the King of
Our Kinser ancestors joined this flow in the early 1700's. Once the
decision was made the journey was not easy. Every passenger had to have a
passport or letter of permission to leave the country, signed and
witnessed by local officials. Also needed was a letter from the local
pastor commending the person as a member in good standing to a church in
the colonies. Many ignored these requirements and managed to slip away
Again, travel was a problem. Many European roads were
only muddy tracks. Most pilgrims headed to the Rhine River, traveling
downstream for weeks aboard river packets. Every town along the river
stopped the boats to allow customs officials to exact tolls. Twenty-eight
stops on the average journey.
Arriving at Amsterdam or Rotterdam the travelers then
had to find a ship for the voyage across the Atlantic. Passage was not
cheap and many immigrants sold themselves into bondage for five to seven
years to pay the cost of passage. These passengers usually entered into a
contract with the captain or ship owner and on arrival their contract was
sold or auctioned to the highest bidder.
Many ships were overloaded and in unseaworthy condition.
The food was poor and frequently lacking. Captains often carried supplies for a two or three
month voyage but uncooperative winds might extend the voyage to four or even six months.
were crowded, sleeping four or five people to the bed, on bunk beds two
and three levels high. Sanitary conditions were primitive. Any disease
carried aboard found excellent conditions to flourish. Burial at sea was a
daily ritual on many ships.
Possibly as many as one
third of the thousands of Palatines (German-Swiss) who started out to the
New World succumbed to diseases, hardship, and exposure during their ocean
voyage and were buried at sea. Those who survived were hardy stock indeed.
When they arrived these early immigrants found
Philadelphia a cosmopolitan city of about ten thousand souls. A few miles
outside the city the land turned to wilderness. Those who survived the
rigors of the sea journey faced what was called the 'seasoning time.'
Fully another third did not survive the first year.
They had left a structured environment with neighbors
close at hand to settle in a wilderness. The nearest neighbor might be
several miles away. Fields for crops had to be torn out of the land with
ax, mattock and plow. Many died, but those who did survive were truly
tempered. They were independent, self-reliant and had tasted the heady
flavor of freedom.
Immigrants of the 1700s were called Palatines whether or not they were
came from the Palatine states. They were among those called 'Deutch' or
German who later became known as the Pennsylvania 'Deutch' pronounced
'Dutch'. Also some were French Huguenots, ownership of the area known as
the Saare being often in dispute between Germany and France.
Volume II of a series of Heraldic Guidebooks by the
Swiss Heraldic Society notes a coat of arms for Kinzer in the city of
Schaffhausen. Schaffhausen is located in a small bulge on the northern
border of Switzerland projecting into Germany near Lake Constance.
This coat of arms image is of an old stained glass window, visible in one of the rooms in the Kuenzer family villa in Freiberg, Germany, This photo was taken by Duane Kuenzer during the family reunion in Freiburg in the mid-1990’s.
The villa was a theater/art gallery/law office at the time.
Kintzer and Keinser are variations of the name Küntzer
as misspelled by the immigration officials at the port. Many variations in
spelling of family names came when an immigrant
ancestor gave his name to the authorities at the port of entry. The
immigrant, speaking only German, gave his name. The official recording the
name wrote it down as he heard it, neither being able to speak the other's
language and thus recognize an error. Thus many immigrants left the port
with new, or differently spelled names.
One of our Kinser ancestors had his
names spelled three different ways in the same document. The earliest
German spelling seems to have been Küntzer or Kuentzer, being written as
Kintzer, Kinzer and Kinser on immigration documents in Philadelphia. Six Küntzers
or Kintzers are listed among many German immigrants into the American
Colonies between 1720 and 1750.
One source records a Jacob Kinzer leaving Nuremberg with
a colony of Lutherans about 1730. Nicholas Kintzer was just under fifteen
years of age at the time he arrived in Philadelphia on August 30, 1730,
aboard the ship 'Thistle.' This Nicholas Kintzer married a Julian
Schneider. His family and descendants lived in the Tulpehocken,
Pennsylvania as late as the early 1900s.
Another Jacob Kintzer arrived in Philadelphia aboard the
ship, 'St. Andrew's Galley,' from Rotterdam about September 24, 1737. A
Johan Jacob Kintzer is listed as a passenger on the ship, 'Samuel,' that
sailed from Rotterdam. He qualified for citizenship on August 30, 1737, at
the age of 28.
Johan Jakob Küntzer and Johan Nicholas Küntzer
probably brothers, were aboard the 'Davey' that arrived in Philadelphia,
from Amsterdam, on October 26, 1738.
Our ancestor, this Johan Jakob Küntzer, was one of the few who was able
to write his own name on the ship's lists. Probably traveling with him was
his wife, Anna Maria Seubert or Seibert. Three Seibert men were also on
the ship, Bernard Seibert, Johan Wended Seibert, and Johan Jakob Seubert,
perhaps Anna Maria's brothers. According to German records a party of
people from the Wolfersweiler area sailed together on the Davy.
The ships records report the captain, both mates, and
one hundred and sixty passengers as dying during the crossing. The ship
with 94 surviving passengers was brought to port by the ships carpenter,
the highest ranking crew member still living.
Records from LSD Libraries show all of these Kinsers
including the Johan Nicholas who arrived aboard the 'Thistle' and the
Seiberts came from Wolfersweiler or Hirstein, small villages located a few
miles North of St. Wendel. These various Kinser immigrants appear to be
Since the passenger lists did not include the names of
women and children under sixteen we have no way of knowing how many had
wives and children traveling with them on their arrival in this country.
In some cases German records have more information and a search there may
reveal more about who traveled with each. We do know that one Kinser
arrived with his sixteen year old son.
Most of these immigrants settled initially in Lancaster
and Berks Counties of Pennsylvania, later migrating west into Ohio and
Indiana and South into Virginia.
In 1834 a Harry Kinzer built an Inn on the
Philadelphia-Lancaster turnpike, now Pennsylvania Highway 30. He later
laid out a town and sold lots, becoming an early real estate developer and
establishing the town of Kinzers, Pennsylvania. . A Kinzer Mennonite
Church is located in the township of Kinzers. The Philadelphia-Lancaster
Turnpike was one of the first road projects in Pennsylvania planned and
financed by the State.
In 1792 A Jacob Kinser was assessed taxes on 130 Acres
of land in the Greenwood Township in Pennsylvania and in 1794 on a
Distillery. His will provides for the transfer of two distilleries to his
In December of 1789 one Jacob Kinser granted to William
King 100 acres on the "waters of the New River," in Montgomery
County, Virginia. In "The Peopling of Virginia," by Dean, a Lt.
Kinser is listed as the Commissioner of the Peace among the officers of
the court for Wythe County when the county was organized from Montgomery
County on May 25, 1790. Wythe County became home to many Kinsers. In
"The Virginia Germans" the Kinsers are listed among the new
names immigrating into the New River country around Montgomery, Pulaski,
he Kinsers were active in the Lutheran church and,
according to one source, as they moved south the Lutheran congregations,
on Thom's Creek, Sinking Creek, and at Price's, in Virginia added new
members. In 1798 Jacob and George Kinser and Peter, Joseph, Christopher,
and Michael Wampler signed a document as Deacons and Elders under which
four small Lutheran Congregations, St. John's, St. Paul's, Kimberling, and
St. Mark's, in the Wytheville, Virginia area, combined to call a minister.
Under this covenant if three of the churches agreed on hiring a minister
then the other would agree to accept him. The same applied for firing a
minister. If the fourth congregation refused to accept the minister that
congregation would be denied his ministry and the minister would be free
to seek out another congregation to make a fourth. The minister was to
preach at each church on a rotating basis. Apparently every adult male
member of each church signed the document thus confirming his agreement to
the terms of the covenant.
The church records show that several devout Catholics
applied for membership and were accepted with the provision that, if a
Catholic church was built in the area, they would be released from their
obligations to the Lutheran congregation to unite with the Catholic
George, Jacob and Walter Kinser appear as purchasers of
items in the estate sale of a George Fawney on February 9, 1802 in Wythe
After a few years these Lutheran pioneers moved on from Southwest Virginia
into East Tennessee. Among the early Lutheran pioneers in East Tennessee
are listed George Crumley in Sullivan County, John Harmon and Jacob Harman
in Washington County, Peter, George, Walter, and John Kinser and Henry
Mauck in Monroe County. All these names are branches on the Kinser family
The Kinsers immigrated into Greene Co., Tennessee about
1800 or shortly thereafter. George, Jacob, and Walter Kinser are all
listed as Virginia Taxpayers in Montgomery County, Virginia between 1782
and 1787. These three Kinsers are listed as purchasers of items at Peter
Kinser's estate sale in the small community of Liberality, Tennessee in
Jacob Kinser, Jr. and Sr. appear, along with Peter
Kinser, in the 1809 Greene County, Tennessee Tax records all residing on
Licking Creek. John Kinser is added to this small group of Kinsers in 1811
and George in 1813. Greene County, Tennessee deed indexes record transfers
for Jacob, John and Peter Kinser in 1813. Adam Kinser appears in 1826.
reene County was formed in 1783 and Monroe and McMinn
Counties from Greene in 1819. A deed dated March 29, 1849, transfers 114
acres of land in Monroe County, Tennessee from John Kinser Sr. to John
Kinser Jr. for the sum of $500. One of the witnesses is Jacob Kinser.
The Kinser families seem to have been concentrated at
first in one community, Liberality, in Greene County. The area is now part
of Monroe County. Three small streams flowing through several Kinser farms
combined into a small creek was called Kinser Creek. These farms also
bordered on Dancing Creek, so called because the Cherokee Indians held
ceremonial dances on a flat topped hill near the creek. There is also a
Kinser Creek in Wythe County, Virginia.
February 24, 1793, in Virginia, was married February 27, 1810, to
Sussannah Mesimer, born Dec. 10, 1792, in Pennsylvania. John died July 12,
1873. John and Sussanah are the East Tennessee ancestors of our branch of
the Kinser family. Records of John's parents have not been found and there
are differing opinions as to their identity.
This Sussanah Mesimer was supposed to be a link for the
Kinser family to a large estate in New York. According to the newspaper
stories of the time, nine million dollars was to be divided among three
hundred citizens of Greene county who were descendants and therefore heirs
of two nieces of the King of England. These nieces were given a grant of
land by the King prior to the Revolutionary War. The grant supposedly
included land which now is some of the most valuable real estate in the
world, including the Woolworth building and the New York City Post Office.
Several family members spent a great deal of time researching the
relationship during the 1930s but nothing ever came of it. Erskine
Kinser(7300) was said to have much of the paper work in his possession.
When asked about it one time in later years he remembered having done some
research years before but the records were all packed away and he didn't
know where they were.
A cedar chest that belonged to Sussannah Mesimer Kinser(17)is still in the family. The owner
remembers it setting in the upstairs hall of the Kinser family home near
Madisonville, Tennessee and being told it belonged to John Solomon
John Kinser, Sr. (16)and
Sussanah had twelve children, Mary, Peter, Henry, Sussanah, John Jr.,
George, Lydia, Easter, Jacob, Sarah Ann, Catharine, and Francis Marion.
The Kinsers and
other devout Lutherans established a church called St. Mary's near
Madisonville, Tennessee. In 1879 John Kinser, Jr. (618) donated an acre of land for a site to
build the building, now known as St. Mary's Methodist Church. This church
maintained a German speaking pastor into the late 1800s. The original
church was built from logs but has now been replaced with a concrete block
building. John and Sussanah and several other Kinsers are buried in the
cemetery adjacent to the church.
According to the 1850 census records John Kinser, Jr.(618), the fifth son of John and Sussannah
Kinser were born in South Carolina. One researcher believes this is an
error where a census taker simply placed ditto marks under the previous
entry which listed a South Carolina birthplace thus confusing researchers
forever after. John Kinser, Jr. was quite prolific having sixteen children
by two wives. As a matter of interest, when John and several other Kinsers
were listed in the 1850 Tennessee Census the name was spelled Kinsor.
Various court documents spell the name Kinsar.
Francis Marion Kinser(8),
son of John Kinser, Sr. was born Dec. 10, 1836, in Monroe County,
Tennessee. Francis Marion Kinser was named for General Francis Marion, a
Revolutionary war general who gave the British army a merry chase through
the swamps and lowlands of South Carolina. F. M. Kinser married Sarah Jane
Wampler, March 25, 1857. He died on April 28, 1914.
Francis Marion and Sarah Jane had nine children, John
Solomon, Mary, Jefferson Davis, William Henry, Sarah L. Caroline, Francis
Jacob, Delia, and Ella Jane.
Francis' will makes special provision for his daughter,
Cora T. Fain if she agrees to care for he and his wife in their old age.
olumes I, II, and III of the History of Monroe County,
Tennessee, by Georgia Cox Sands contains considerable information on the
East Tennessee Kinsers.
Kinsers have fought in other wars as well. A Marine base
on Okinawa is named for Sergeant Elbert Kinser from Monroe County in East
Tennessee. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously
for his bravery during the battle for the island during World War II. The
Citation states that he was awarded the Medal because he threw himself on
a grenade thrown into the bunker where he and several other soldiers were
billeted, saving the lives of his comrades at the cost of his own. There
are also two Kinser's named on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.