Monday, June 3, 2013

Mystery Monday: Searching for Mary Ann, part 2

Mystery Monday is a daily prompt at Geneabloggers encouraging bloggers to share mystery ancestors or mystery records – anything which is currently unsolved.  With any luck fellow genealogy bloggers will lend their eyes to what has been found so far and possibly help solve the mystery.
The Armentrout name is still very common in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, stretching back before the Revolutionary War.  But the Armentrouts had been in North America at least since 1739.

For many years the small German States along the Rhine suffered from war and religious persecution.  Queen Anne of England took pity and invited Germans to come live there.  However, when the resulting growing population, poverty, and disease became unbearable for the citizens, the monarchy began shipping the foreign guests off to Ireland and the New World.  However, a fresh start came with a price: several years of service to the Queen in exchange for passage and land.

Then William Penn came along offering Germans inexpensive land and freedom from religious persecution.  In 1739, 340 passengers aboard the Samuel arrived in the new colony, Pennsylvania.  Only males age 16 and older were listed on the manifest.  Among them were Johannes Ermantraud (22), Philipus Ermantraud (18), and Johan Friederich Ermantraud (16).

“Armentrout” is one of several Anglicized versions of the German spelling “Ermentraudt.”  In much of the family research, the German spelling is generally used for those born prior to 1800. 

The Ermentraudt family that arrived on the Samuel included the widow Anna Elizabeth Hain Ermentraudt and her seven children:  Johannes, Anna Elizabeth, Johan Philip, Johan Friederich, Christopher (Christople), Johan Heinrich, and Johan Georg.  With them was Anna Elizabeth’s brother Philip Hain and his family.

The Ermentraudts bought land in what today is Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Apparently they did quite well as the widowed mother and her sons together owned over 500 acres of farm land.  They were active members of the Hain Church.

Meanwhile, in the 1730s-50s, the Virginia colony was dedicated to westward expansion.  A campaign to entice settlers promised good land at lower prices than what was available in Pennsylvania.  The Ermentraudts sent a family member to investigate, and he was impressed, mainly because the Shenandoah Valley with its limestone outcroppings reminded him of home in Germany.  In 1752 the matriarch and five of her seven grown children packed up and moved to Virginia.  They bought land and settled around the western and southern ends of the Massanutten Mountain, in what today are the towns of Keezletown and McGaheysville.  

A view of the Massanutten Mountain
overlooking the Shenandoah Valley

As they had done in Pennsylvania, the Ermentraudts became active and influential members of the church, helping to establish the Peaked Mountain Church.  Most of the Armentrout children were baptized there, so not surprisingly the children of Mary Ann Armentrout and Fielding Jollett were as well. 

The church cemetery is one of the saddest losses to Armentrout research.  Many tombstones were little more than field stones, long ago lost, moved by cattle, or even vandalized.  Therefore, while most of the early settlers are likely buried there, the graves cannot be located.  So if Mary Ann is among them, there is no way to know.  A successor to the old Peaked Mountain Church, Brown Memorial Reformed Church, stands to the west, and a monument honoring the dead has been erected on the old location. 

Brown Memorial Community Church
McGaheysville, VA
photo courtesy of BMCC website

Next time I will present a brief overview of the Ermentraudt children who represent the seven main lines of Armentrouts in the United States. 

Armentrout, Russell S.  Armentrout Family History 1739-1978. Harrisonburg: Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society, 1980. Print.

"Record of the Peaked Mountain Church." Ed. William J. Hinke and Charles E. Kemper. US GenWeb, n.d. Web. 21 May 2013.

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. An unusual surname either way you spell it...guess a simple first name like John and Mary made life simpler, but it sure makes for a job sorting them into proper genealogy lines.

    What a lot of research you've done, and very interesting to see what a big part religion and old homeland traditions play in the lives of the New World families.

    Sue CollectInTexasGal~Today's Post~
    Here Comes The Stinking Bride

    1. The religion piece is very interesting. I noticed that in every case in this Armentrout line, the child was named for his/her sponsor at Baptism.

  2. So sad about the cemetery...

    I'm looking forward to the next part of the mystery. :)

    1. Yes, that cemetery history is so discouraging.

  3. Can't wait for the next information on the Armentrouts! I know you will do a good job!

  4. Wow, great research Wendy! So this is how part of your ancestral lines ended up in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

    How very sad about the loss of the tombstones though.

    1. Well, that's right - it explains one line anyway. Now how did the Jolletts get here??? And the Slades?? And Davis?? And Rucker?? Actually, that one probably can be traced easily because the Ruckers are very well documented.