A Hohman Discovery?

Tracking down John George Hohman, author of The Long-Lost Friend, has been quite the task, and it’s not surprising that most haven’t followed him far.  The copy of the actual passenger list for the ship Tom, on which he came over in 1802, gives no information about his town of origin, as later records might have recorded.  We have fairly complete records for the port of Hamburg – they just start in 1850.  Beyond that, we have nothing else.

That’s not to say that we don’t have any indications.  Some of the words I’m running across in Hohman’s book seem to originate in southwest Germany, and one of my German correspondents places him in Alsace, the territory along the border of France and Germany that has been part of one or the other over the centuries.  Hohman’s time saw a great deal of upheaval, with the lands of those of German ethnicity seized, leading to a great deal of movement away from the region.  That might be a good place to start – save that he’d have over a thousand possible birthplaces in that area.

Or is there another possibility?

I spent some time at the LDS Family Search site over the weekend, trying out different combinations of Hohman’s names, his likely birth date, and whatever other data I had about his life.  The searches on the site are fuzzy in terms of their results – a good strategy when performing basic searches, but not so much when one’s trying to sort through vast amounts of data for reports that meet specific criteria.

I did find one interesting piece of information:  a Johann Georg Hohman married an Anna Catherine Schwartz in a small town in western Thuringia, a few years before our Hohman departed for the New World.  This maps not only to the name of our author, but to the first and middle names of his wife, and the dates of marriage are also within a few years of both Hohman’s majority and his departure for a new world.

It is all a coincidence?  After all, we are talking about a different part of Germany, a land with many people and no doubt a great deal with the same name.  Or could it be that Hohman stopped after leaving the Rhine in a small town to marry a woman with whom he traveled to the New World?

It’s not much to go on, but I’ll see where it takes me.

UPDATE:  It bears noting that, when Hohman was finally free of his indenture and could pick a place to live, he chose the small township outside Reading named Alsace.

Ancient History asks if literacy might be a way to narrow down Hohman’s origins.  I’m afraid not – the figures I’m seeing indicate that one-third to one-half of the young people in Germany when Hohman was growing up attended school.  It might be possible to tease out how many of those could write as well as read – an important consideration in such matters, I’ve been finding – but I doubt this will get me far.

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 10:06 pm  Comments (2)  

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  1. Would his education be anything to go by? I don’t know what the literacy rates were for Germany in the late 1700s, but he was skilled enough as a draftsman to find steady work with taufschien.

  2. […] you’re interested in more about the book, you can read my posts covering such topics as the background of the author, Saint Lawrence, the Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus, German hymns, beer, the rheumatism […]

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