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The Westerwald and Colonial America




The Westerwald and Colonial America

            I have been working on an effort for a few years now, but never really understood it was to become such a major project.  I guess a little more thoughtful consideration about my efforts might have helped to understand what I was really doing and what I was about to take on.


            Mostly, I began to look at records from an area of Germany called the Westerwald.  For me, this area represented the most likely source of German ancestry on my father's side.  His line passed through time with variances to the family name.  One of my great-great-grandmothers married a man named Maurice Decker Tinsman.  This event led me to track my Tinsman line back through the middle of the country (Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska), to portions of the Northeast (Maine, New York, Pennsylvania), and finally to my "Brick Wall".  This ancestral wall was built in West Jersey.  My research focused on the colonial time period and that has left me discovering some sparse records if any at all.  


            As I approached the early 1800's I discovered a variety of names that seemed like they might be early derivatives of the Tinsman lines I had tracked.  Yes, names, what a chore to work through!   As a researcher and genealogist of the not-for-profit sort, this was a place where supposition and "guess work" seemed to take hold, not just for me, but for others as well.  In some areas I could track the name Tinsman, in other places and records; Tinstman, Stinsman, Dimeson, Stinstman, Dinesman, and some other "one-off" entries emerged. So, not only are the records few and far between, once those records were found, I found they had been written by Germans, Dutch, Englishmen, and who knows who.  Those that wrote these records did the best they could to write what they heard, at least that makes some sense.  They are not exactly written as Tinsman.  This is also the time period where one can understand a variation of names as people Anglicized the names of our German ancestors.


          Where does this leave me?  Well, as far as my Tinsman line tracing from today back to the furthest point I feel really comfortable with, I get back to an area of New Jersey and the "MAN", Dennis Tinsman Sr.  I don't have a single authoritative record that convinces me who his father is, though I am very close to committing to a name.  Doing so will still leave me with this question.  If I decide who Dennis Sr.'s father is and I am still about the year 1770, how do I then go one step further and align that decision with the next one that needs made.  Who was his grandfather or great grandfather?  All of this backward tracing left me wondering if I could also track forward towards 1770 if I could decide on where the line may have begun.  Some of these early colonial records have led me to believe that the original name was Dünschman.  The next records I can find are the immigration and oath records and they indicate a number of Dünschman persons came to the colonies between 1740 and 1753.  At least 5x males of "oath age" arrived in the colonies, though I am not certain there are not others.


           How does this all tie in to my original entry about the Westerwald?  It seems a dedicated group of researchers and accomplished genealogists had done some initial work for me.  They had taken time to look at this Palatine immigration period and sought to better understand facts.  Henry Z. Jones had already published written works about the Palatines from the 1708-1711 migration, as well as other associated events.  One of his books was published with Annette Kunselman Burgert, this book is called "Westerwald to America".  In this book, I discovered the research that they had conducted, and might even relate to my potential line.  There are 4x Dünschman men identified in this book, and each had a story of various depth about their families and lives.  They even state that they "MAY" be ones that went on the Journey to America. 


          I wish to respectfully point out what they already wrote in their book, a thing I seemed unwilling to take to heart during my early research.  On page 7 of the book, they point out the difficulties that constrained there body of work.  They identify some of the assumptions they placed in the book, and even that areas just did not get the time they had desired to apply.  The most striking sentences are found in the middle of page 8. They write; "this book should be used as a springboard for the reader's own ancestral research", "there may be additional children and grandchildren of the emigrants to be found", and finally, "as found" was another meaningful phrase they used to describe what the work they had completed, it's state, and that application they hoped others would find valuable. Yes, it was bold in the book as well.  I wish I had paid more attention.


          I am not sure how to describe this time in genealogical life, but I was so excited to have found so much quality research.

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There is so much wonderful research that others have done before us. The reality is that new records continue to appear every year and new research techniques and knowledge continue to help all genealogists. There are also so many opportunities to build upon that research and create new content. Your research to expand on this great resource is going to help the current and the next generation of genealogists find their families.

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