The Gontz, Gantz, Ganß Family & The Pferdsfeld Connection

Written by: Trevor Gontz (descendant of Friedrich Gantz)
The most current version of this document and my genealogy database can be found on http://www.gontzfamily.org.


The story of this Gontz family in America begins with Friederich Gantz. Friedrich Gantz landed at the port of Philadelphia on a ship named Union on September 30th, 1774.1

Our immigrant ancestor known to us as Frederick / Friedrich Gantz and buried as John Frederick Gantz was born Johann Friedrich Ganß in Pferdsfeld (present day Germany) on March 29th, 1757.

Before going any further with our Gantz ancestry I will talk about when Gantz become Gontz. Frederick had a son named Philip Gantz (Sr.) and it was his children and wife (after he died) that first took on the spelling of Gontz with an “o” instead of the “a”. Ironically, as a result of the change in spelling our Gontz line has retained the original German pronunciation of our ancestors! The German pronunciation of Gantz in English would be spelled as Gontz, Gonce, or Gaunce. On the flip side of this Frederick’s other descendants that retained the spelling of Gantz with an “a” now pronounce Gantz as though it rhymes with the English word ants (the insect) or pants (the clothing you wear to cover you legs). (I have written more about this below.) As to why the spelling change occurred, unfortunately, I do not have an answer.

On the topic of spelling, it is important to discuss spelling and language differences between German and English. To start with our Gantz ancestors in Pferdsfeld always spelled their last name either Ganß or Ganss and there was one occurrence of Gans (Liborius Gans) but thay never used Gantz. However, this does not mean that other families did not use Gantz. There were other families in what is now present day Germany that did spell their last name Gantz as far back as the 1600s. (There was a Georg Gantz that was the mayor of Würzburg in 1625.) So the Gantz family members that immigrated to Pennsylvania from Pferdsfeld (three of them that I know of) only took on the Gantz spelling upon arrival in Philadelphia. This is odd to me, though, as the English equivalent pronunciation of the German Ganß, Ganss, or Gans is Gontz, Gonce, or Gaunce and NOT Gantz! Because of this spelling people now pronounce Gantz as though it rhymes with the English word ants (the insect) or pants (the clothing you wear to cover you legs). The modern German spelling is now Ganz.

For the purpose of simplicity when I use the name Ganß from this point on I am also referring to and including Ganss and Gans.

In addition to spelling differences German words sometimes take on endings that are not used in English. In Frederick’s christening record the last name of his father is recorded as Ganßen. However, the addition of this en is an ending added to Ganß and Ganßen is not a completely different name or variation of the Ganß spelling. In old German (Evangelisch/Lutheran) church records the pastor would commonly add an “en” to males who were either the father or godfather of the person mentioned and the pastor would add “in” to females who were either the mother or godmother of the person mentioned.

Origins of the Name Ganß

Family names in Germany (in the 16th century) arose from occupations, areas, appearance, etc. Gans is the German word for goose. So name Ganß (in all its variations) could have derived from one of our ancestors being either a goose handler or one who raises geese. There is also another possibility as to the origin of our family name. According to Dr. Udo P. Krauthausen there is a mountain near Pferdsfeld with a slope (or precipice) on this mountain is called Gans, which may be where the name our family came from. (Source: Frantz Henrich Gantz of York County, Pennsylvania; His Parents and Descendants 1686 - 1920. Page: xv)

German Church Names / Saint Names

Also, Johann was NOT Frederick's first name. It was his church name or saint name. Beginning in the 17th century and lasting through the early 19th century it was common practice among German speaking people in Europe and the New World to give their children a saint name. This name was only used in church records. So Johann Friedrich would have been known only as Friedrich. The English equivalent for Johann is John and the equivalent for Friedrich is Frederick. So Johann Friedrich = John Frederick.

Here are three pieces of evidence and one strong coincidence to support that our immigrant ancestor John Frederick Gantz was Johann Friedrich Gans born in Pferdsfeld (modern day Germany):

1. There is an entry in the family book of Pferdsfeld for Johann Friedrich Gans (page 83, 103/16-4) with a birth date of March 29th, 1757 but no date is given for his death. The fact that no date for his death is given indicates that he left Pferdsfeld. The actual title of this book is Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 19002 which translates from German into English as Inhabitants of Pferdsfed 1721 - 1900. This book was written in German by Paul Wilbert in 2001.

Frederick is buried in Milton Grove Cemetery, Milton Grove, Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and his gravestone lists his birth date as March 29th,1756 and NOT 1757 like the entry for Friedrich Gantz in Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 1900. However, I find it too unlikely for there to have been two Friedrich Gantz persons born on the exact same day only one year apart. The most likely explanation for this discrepancy is that an arithmetic error was made by either Frederick himself during his lifetime or by a family member after he died. (They may have subtracted his age from the year he died to get his birth year and subtracted wrong.)

Others have suggested that perhaps Frederick lied about/changed his birth date in order to be eligible to emigrate, immigrate, get a job, etc. because he was too young to do something at some point. However, I doubt this to be the case as I cannot find any age requirements for that time period. There was no minimum age requirement for him to emigrate (leave Pferdsfeld) or immigrate to Pennsylvania.

The sources of information for Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 1900 were church records and inhabitant lists. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Library has a microfilm with these church records titled Kirchenbuch, 1721-1821, Evangelische Kirche Pferdsfeld (Kr. Kreuznach) (Main Author) Parish register of baptisms, marriages, deaths and confirmations. So I rented the microfilm and viewed it at my local LDS Family History Center. The film number is #0493279. Anyway, my goal in doing so was to confirm that the birth year entry for this Johann Friedrich in Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 1900 was correct. It is. I found this Friedrich’s christening record in the microfilm on page 119 of Volume 1. It is written on the pages following “Anno 1757” which is latin for “Year 1757” and it lists his christening date as April 3rd and his birth date as March 29th. Also, listed are his sponsors and his parents who were Johann Nikolaus Ganß and Anna Margarethe Beck.

As christening records are contemporaneous (originating, existing, or happening during the same period of time) they are considered primary records whereas gravestones are secondary records. Therefore, providing that our Frederick and this Friedrich from Pferdsfeld are the same person, Frederick’s birth year should be documented as 1757.

2. Frederick immigrated as Friedrich Gantz on the ship Union which arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 30th, 1774. Also on this ship was a young man from Pferdsfeld who was the same age as Friedrich! This person’s name was Johann Nikolaus Sutor who was born in Pferdsfeld on December 4th, 1756. (He is listed as Nicol Sutor on the passenger list.)

While I acknowledge that it is possible that this Friedrich is/was not our Frederick, it is unlikely. Only one Friedrich Gantz can be found on/in ships’ passenger lists of immigrants to the Colonies between the time of our Frederick’s birth (1757) and when he first appeared in Lancaster County.

3. Frederick settled in Lancaster County in very close proximity to George Gantz who was from Pferdsfeld. It is possible that Frederick even lived with George until he went out on his own. I would like to research this further. The specific location in which Frederick settled was Milton Grove, Rapho Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, ( ). Milton Grove was a very small town between Elizabethtown and Manheim in Lancaster County, PA.

Although the exact relationship between Frederick and George cannot be determined it is possible that were 1st cousins once removed. Frederick’s father, Nikolaus, could have been cousins with George (Johann Georg). This is because it is very possible that Johann Tilman was Johann Nikolaus’s father. Johann Tielmann was ~ 35 when Johann Nikolaus (the grandfather of our Frederick) was born. See below.

From Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 1900:

Frederick’s Ancestry:
Johann Friedrich (103/16-4, p. 83) b. 3/29/1757 was the son of Johann Nikolaus Gans (103/16, p. 83 or 103/6-2, p. 81) b. 11/7/1722 d. 9/5/1798
Johann Nikolaus Gans (103/16, p. 83 or 103/6-2, p. 81) b. 11/7/1722 d. 9/5/1798 was the son of Johann Nikolaus Gans (103/6, p.81) b. ~1694 d. 9/24/1762
Johann Nikolaus Gans’s (103/6, p.81) b. ~1694 d. 9/24/1762 father is unknown

George’s Ancestry:
Johann Georg (103/9-7 p. 81-82) b. 11/27/1741 was the son of Johann Friedrich (103/9 p. 81-82) b. ~1698 d. 2/12/1754
Johann Friedrich (103/9 p. 81-82) b. ~1698 d. 2/12/1754 was the son of Johann Tielmann (103/1, p. 80) b. ~1659 d. 11/20/1723

This table is another way to show how Frederick and George would have been 1st cousins once removed IF TILMANN WAS THE FATHER OF NIKOLAUS (Sr.).
Generation 4
1st Cousins Once Removed
Generation 3
(Cousins)
Generation 2
(Siblings)
Generation 1
Frederick (b. 1757) Nikolaus (b. 1722) Nikolaus (b. ~1694) Tilman ???

George (b. 1741) Friedrich (b. ~1698) Tilman
Tilmann (Thielmann) married Anna Catarina (Catharina) in 1687 but Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 19002 lists their first child as being born in 1698 (Johann Friedrich). It is highly unlikely that Tilman and Catarina did not have any children for 10 years.  It is likely that Johann Nikolaus (b. ~1694) was Tilman's son but no record has been found to confirm this.

First cousins once removed may seem to be a very distant relative for many people but for others it is not. My wife is very close to some of her first cousins once removed. Also, more importantly here is the possible relationship of Frederick’s father, Nikolaus, to George. If Nikolaus and George were cousins it is very possible that Nikolaus “sent” his son to Pennsylvania trusting that George would take care of him!

Also, even though there was a 16 year age difference between Frederick and George, as Pferdsfeld was very small village it is almost certain that they would have known each other. Frederick would have been very young, 6 or 7 years old, when George left Pferdsfeld but I think that Frederick would still have remembered him. George immigrated to Pennsylvania on the ship King of Prussia which arrived in Philadelphia on October 3rd, 1764. He was 22 years old at the time and his name on the passenger list was Johann Georg Gantz. (Source: A Collection of Upwards of Thirty Thousand Names of German, Swiss, Dutch, French and other Immigrants in Pennsylvania From 1727 to 1776. by Daniel Rupp. Pages: 360-361)

Strong Coincidence:
Another piece of information to support that our ancestor, Frederick, was from Pferdsfeld and linked to George is the fact that both Frederick and George had children named Catharina, George, Frederick, Magdalena, and Peter AND in the same order! All of these names are common/recurring names within the Gan
ß family of Pferdsfeld!

I will write more on Pferdsfeld (the area) later.

Other Gantz Immigrants from Pferdsfeld

The first Gantz immigrants that we know of to have come from Pferdsfeld came to America before both George and Frederick. In depth information about this family and much of what I know about Pferdsfeld is oultined in the book

Sources

1. Egle, William Henry. (1892) Names of Foreigners who Took the Oath of Allegiance to the Province and State of Pennsylvania, 1727-1775: With the Foreign Arrivals, 1786-1808. Pennsylvania: E. K. Meyers.

2. Wilbert, Paul. (Auen 2001) Einwohner Pferdsfeld 1721 - 1900, Genealogie im Nahe-Hünsruckraum Heimatkundliche Schriftenreihe der Verbandsgemeinde Kirn-Land 29.

About the Author


Trevor Gontz can be contacted online via the Contact Form on http://www.gontzfamily.org or by phone using (717) 618-0513.