Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Hessian Soldier Episode Continues

Last year at RootsTech 2013 I had a wonderful time learning new things in the exhibit hall, and in the classrooms and lectures.  But some of the best learning moments were outside of the planned activities of the conference.  The usual schmoozing, hugging and hanging out with genealogist friends and blogging buddies is fun, but at RootsTech there was more than just social exchanges.  Some of the invitations I had to hang out on the air with Dear Myrt, meet up with friends at the famous Family History Library, and discuss technology with the innovators were RootsTech moments that don’t happen at other conference.

One of those moments that just seems to go on and on, and even continued on at RootsTech 2014 while I wasn’t even there!  This is what I call “The Hessian Soldier Episode”.   This episode started last year as a side comment about an ancestor, and that little comment took on a life of its own.  While being interviewed by Dear Myrt last February, I casually mentioned that it was my first trip to Salt Lake City and I was going to take advantage of the chance to use the famous Family History library.  My original plan was to mine the resources for Spanish records to look up my husband’s family tree, but I also figured that there might be some German records for my Hessian soldier ancestor.

After my interview, I was halfway OUT the door when Myrt called me back to continue the discussion.  It seems that Barry Kline, her photographer, was interested in Hessian research, and so was a viewer named Judy Holcombe Smith.   We had a great second discussion of the Hessians and the Johannes Schwalm Society.  Two days later I found the journals of the JSHA on the shelves of the FHL and we also found records about Judy’s ancestor, Anthony Schoppe.  I emailed these images to Judy.  The discussion of Hessians continued at “Mondays with Myrt” for a few weeks.

Over the past year I’ve been asked many times about this Hessian Soldier research.  This is not an area I have a lot of expertise in researching, but because of Dear Myrt’s show, the story spread.  Someone stopped me in the halls of the NERGC conference in April last year to talk about Hessians.  Another person got me talking about Hessians in the stacks of the NEHGS library in Boston last summer.  And then RootsTech 2014 rolled around…

I wasn’t at RootsTech 2014, nor was I in Salt Lake City last week during the conference, but I was so surprised to hear that Hessian story mentioned by Lisa Alzo during her talk on Friday February 7th.  She had emailed me about this story and asked for photos many months earlier, but I had completely forgotten it was going to be used in this lecture. And then email poured in from friends telling me to watch Dear Myrt’s RootsTech 2014 classes because the Hessian story was discussed twice!  Yes, the story was repeated during both her classes on Thursday  February 6th and Friday February 7th.  I’ll post the links below.

This little story started out as a passing comment and then grew and grew.  I hope that along the way it was valuable to Barry Kline, Myrt’s viewer Judy Holcombe Smith, and anyone else who had never heard of the Johannes Schwalm Society.  Perhaps a few people found more information on their Hessian ancestors, or confirmed that their ancestor did belong to one of these regiments.

It also got me thinking about family stories.  They all start out years and years ago, and are passed on through the generations.  Finally someone takes that story and does the research to confirm the who, what, where and when at the root of the tale.  That’s probably not the end of the story because most researchers take the myth and the truth and continue passing on it on, through articles, reports, blogs, books, and social media.

Good luck with your family traditions and myths.  They are probably true!  And they’ll continue being passed around, just like “The Hessian Soldier Episode”.

Thank you to Lisa Alzo, Dear Myrtle and Russ Worthington for mentioning this story at RootsTech 2014.


To go along with all the serendipity in this story,  today on "On Point" on National Public Radio, there will be a story on "Crowdsourcing and the New Genealogy Boom".  Guests will be journalist J. J. Jacobs, Judy Russell "The Legal Genealogist", and Spencer Wells, geneticist of the Genographic Project.  Listen live online at 11am or on the air, or catch the archived version:


For the truly curious:
Lisa Alzo “Tweets, Links, Pins and Posts: Break Down Genealogical Brick Walls with Social Media”
RootsTech 2014

The following two classes are from RootsTech 2014, on YouTube (not the RootsTech website):

Hangouts on Air – The Panelists View (Thursday)  (check minutes 40:30 – 43:30)

Hangouts on Air – The Panelists View (Friday)   (check minutes 7:10 – 9:20)

The original “Mondays with Myrt” 18 March 2013
To see the Hessian soldier story tune in to about 18:00 minutes, and after I tell the story I almost walk out of the interview booth at 20:20 minutes, but Myrt calls me back to collaborate on the air with Barry Kline and viewers!  (18:00 – 27:00)

The Johannes Schwalm Historical Association (Hessian Soldier Research)

UPDATE:  added 17 February 2014
A database sent in by a reader (see the comments below)

UPDATE: added 21 February 2014
sent in by reader Skip Murray (see the comments below)

The URL for this post is 

Copyright ©2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I've probably mentioned this before, but Anette Rodriques, a German lady living at Bangor, Maine, has been researching the Hessian involvement for years, including many trips to Germany. I first met her at a Loyalism conference where she had a fascinating presentation. In the always entertaining "however-did-they-meet" department, one of my favorites, is that a daughter of Hannah Weston, heroine of the Revolution, married the son of one of the 5000 Hessians who stayed in North America. That Hessian was your Anthony Schoppee!

  2. Hi Heather, great blog. Do you know that we have here in Hessen a online database about "Hessian Troops in America"? A friend of mine +Kathy Wurth has written a little blog about it in 2012

    The link for the database is here. It's in English and free. Wish my taxes here would be ever be use so usefull.

    1. Thanks, Matthias! I went right over to the database to see if I could find my ancestor. I was not so lucky, but perhaps someone else will be lucky. The database can be found at this link:

  3. Years ago, I found the folks in this group very helpful. You've motivated me to return to my Hessian brick wall, Andreas Anacker!