History and Biography of John (Hans) Sechrist (Siegrist/Sigrist)
John Sechrist, or Hans Sigrist as his name was spelled in Rafz, Switzerland church records, was born and raised in Rafz, Switzerland. He was the youngest child of Georg Sigrist and Susanna Schweizer and was baptized on July 26, 1705. The Sechrist family had resided in Rafz, Switzerland since the early 1600’s as church records indicate that Georg’s grandfather was born there around 1607. Additional records from Rafz, Switzerland indicate the Sigrist name has been present in that town since at least 1467. The name Sigrist comes from the Latin word sacrista, and in English is the word sexton and means the person who was associated with the task of church caretaker or some other church related task.
John married Anna Wildberger, daughter of Caspar Wildberger and Catherine Maag. She was born in 1709 and baptized on January 1, 1710 in Neunkirch, Switzerland. I have located what some people believe is the original church record of the marriage of John and Anna, which is said to have taken place on June 2, 1731 in Neunkirch, Switzerland.
Rafz Parish records indicate that John and Anna had 4 children prior to departing Rafz on March 31, 1744. The records are transcribed in the book “List of Swiss Immigrants in the Eighteenth Century to the American Colonies” by Albert Bernhardt Faust, and was published in 1920. It mentions that John was born in 1705, Anna was born in 1709 and it lists four children, Jacob born in 1731, Francis (Franz) born in 1738, Anna born in 1740 and Susanna born in 1742.
According to the book titled, “The Five Sisters: Our Sechrist Heritage, 1705-1999”, the journey to the new colonies was not a quick one, as they believe it took them over 6 years to arrive in Philadelphia aboard the ship Brotherhood on November 3, 1750. There is record of a Hans Seegerist arriving on that ship, however there is no other evidence to suggest that it is our John Sechrist, as that name would not be uncommon and it is possible more than one John Sechrist emigrated to Pennsylvania. Three things make me uncertain that this is our ancestor, the first being the fact that John didn’t arrive in Philadelphia until over 6 years after he left Rafz. For people with families, it was not common for them to take that long to arrive in the colonies once they left their home, most times it took about 1 year or maybe slightly more. It would have been difficult for a farmer such as John to support his family for that long a period of time without land to farm.
The second thing that makes me uncertain is the fact that John and Anna’s daughter Catharine was baptized by Reverend Jacob Lischy in April 1750 according to his private pastoral records. How could Catharine be baptized in April 1750 in York County if the family didn’t arrive until November 1750? The book “The Five Sisters: Our Sechrist Heritage, 1705-1999” states that baptismal dates can’t be taken as proof someone was actually in this country as some families wanted their children baptized here and therefore a baptismal date here does not verify that the family was actually in the colonies. I have not heard of this theory before and have not run across it, as there would be no benefit in having a female daughter baptized in the colonies versus having their baptism take place where they were actually born, as naturalization wouldn’t have been an issue since females didn’t go through the naturalization process during this time period when they emigrated to the colonies.
The third and final, and I believe most convincing thing that indicates John and Anna arrived before November 3, 1750 is the birth of their fifth child Mary. Mary was estimated to be born around 1747 and through John’s Orphans Court records we know she married Felix Albecht/Albright. “The Five Sisters: Our Sechrist Heritage, 1705-1999” notes that a baptismal record exists at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster, PA for a Dorothea Siechrist born on August 9, 1747 and baptized on May 15, 1748 to parents John and Anna Segrist. The book speculates they believe it is possible she is the child of John and Anna, but she must have died before John did since she is not mentioned in his estate records. However, I believe she is actually their daughter Mary who married Felix Albrecht. The first child of Felix and Mary was baptized at Christ Lutheran Church in York in 1764, and the church record lists Mary’s name as Maria Dorothy Albrecht. It appears to me Maria Dorothy Albrecht and Dorothea Seichrist are the same person, she just dropped the Dorothy part of her name (as later baptismal records for her children suggest) and went by the name Mary or Maria.
While this is not conclusive, I believe it is more likely that John and Anna arrived in Pennsylvania with their family sometime between 1744 and 1746 and their daughter Maria Dorothy was born in Lancaster County in 1747. They then moved to York County sometime before 1750 when their daughter Catharine was born and was baptized in April 1750 by Reverend Jacob Lischy. Their youngest daughter Margaret was then baptized in September 1754 by Rev. Jacob Lischy as was recorded in his Private Pastoral records.
John passed away sometime before October 29, 1763 in York County, since that is the date listed on the inventory for his estate that was filed with the Orphans Court in York County. Also among his estate papers is a petition made by his oldest son Jacob on May 29, 1765 for 50 acres of land that John owned that was located within York Township. While at this time it can’t be definitively proven where John’s 50 acres were located in York Township, I believe we can make an assumption about a probable location. John’s son Francis had applied for a warrant for 100 acres for a property called “Snowy Walk” that is located within York Township on April 30, 1765 and had it surveyed on November 14, 1765. The survey lists the neighbors to the property, and the neighbor located on the southeast side of the property was Jacob Sechrist, almost certainly Francis’s older brother. The fact that both brothers owned land right next to each other in the same township their father owned land makes it seem very likely that John’s 50 acres of land mentioned in the will is contained within either the land Jacob or Francis owned in 1765. More than likely, John’s land went to Jacob since he was the oldest son and generally they have right of first refusal to inherit the land. Also, the land Francis owned was warranted on April 30, 1765, and that date is before John’s land was settled by the York County Orphan’s Court on May 29, 1765, making it very unlikely this was part of the 50 acres that John owned. According to the connected draft map for York Township completed by Dr. Neal Hively, the location of the “Snowy Walk” tract owned by Francis covered part of the northern and western section of what is now the borough of Dallastown.
As mentioned, John died sometime before October 29, 1763. His estate papers list his wife Anna as the administrator, and also lists his 7 children. It lists his two oldest children as Jacob and Franz, then mentions that his daughter Anna is intermarried with Francis Graff, Susanna is intermarried with Jacob Crone, Mary is intermarried with Felix Albright, and that his two youngest daughters Catherine and Margaret were still minors and under the age of 14. Through additional sources, we know that his Catherine daughter later married William Reigart, but there is no further information on what happened with his daughter Margaret. So far, no date of death has been established for Anna nor a place of burial for John or his wife Anna.
John Sechrist, son of Georg Sigrist and Susanna Schweizer, was born in 1709 in Rafz, Switzerland, baptized July 26, 1705 in Rafz, Switzerland and died before May 29, 1763 in York Township, York County, PA. He married Anna Wildberger on June 2, 1731, daughter of Caspar Wildberger and Catherine Maag, in Neunkirch, Switzerland. She was born in 1709 in Neunkirch, Switzerland, was baptized January 1, 1710 in Neunkirch, Switzerland and died sometime after May 29, 1765 (the last known Orphans Court record for Anna).
Children of John Sechrist and Anna Wildberger:
- Jacob Sechrist (1731-unknown) married Elizabeth Magdalena Gossler
- Francis (Franz) Sechrist (1738 – June 1819) married Veronika Feiser (May 17, 1739 – 1815)
- Anna Sechrist (1740 – unknown) married Francis Graff/Grove (1733-1811)
- Susanna Sechrist (1742 – unknown) married Jacob Grau/Crow (1732-1823)
- Mary Dorothy Sechrist (August 9, 1747 – unknown) married Felix Albright (March 14, 1734 – December 1780)
- Catharine Sechrist (1750 – unknown) married William Reigart
- Margaret Sechrist (1754-unknown)