If you have the surname Motsinger in your family tree, chances are you know about the immigrant, Hans Jacob Matzinger. In this blog, I’ll be sharing some facts that you may already know and some facts that just may surprise you. Jacob was born in Marthalen, Switzerland and was baptized in the year of 1698. Jacob married Margaretha Fissler, daughter of Hans Conrad Fissler and continued to live in the area until the year of 1734. Margaretha died in January of 1734 and when autumn arrived, Jacob and his young son, Felix, left the village. It was October of 1734 when Jacob and Felix departed with several other families, including the Goetschy family who were widely known around the region. The history of the Goetschy family dates back to 1315 in Zurich when Henry Goetschy was mayor of the city. A blog about this family will be posted here at a later date. When Jacob and his son were traveling the 300 miles to reach Rotterdam, the citizens of the villages along the way scorned and laughed at them and their fellow travelers. It was crazy, thought by many, to leave your homeland in search of the unknown so late in the season. Jacob reached the Rhine River on October 5, 1734 and boarded a ship with his son. They left Basle and began traveling towards Rotterdam. This phase of the trip, mainly over water, was harsh, cold and filled with rain showers. Families were not allowed to cook on the ships, so when the chance arrived to head ashore, families jumped at the opportunity in order to cook, warm themselves and dry their wet clothing. Small children were often heard crying due to the overwhelming conditions of the weather and the hunger. Some citizens helped the travelers along their journey, either by feeding them or providing them clothing, etc. Goetschy promised the group, that Carolina was the destination and since he was a reformed religious minister, they would surely prosper with their travels and new settlement. When they arrived in Neuwied, 4 couples were married. These were the only couples married on the trip and they are documented as the following: Hans Conrad Wirtz to Anna Goetschy; Conrad Naff to Anna N.; Jacob Rathgeb to Barbara Haller and Conrad Geweiller to unknown. Some researchers have claimed that Jacob married Magdelena Mantz while traveling in 1734. But, I have not found any proof that Jacob ever married again after his wife, Margaretha died in 1734. In fact, I have found proof that Jacob was still single in the year of 1740 in Pennsylvania after donating his labor to the building of a church and school . The early documents listed him as single Jacob Matzinger.(Personal documents obtained from Heidelberg Historical Society, Pennsylvania)
When the group was just outside of Rotterdam, several small children fell overboard, but according to several documents, all were saved. Upon arrival in Rotterdam, they learned that the ships were no longer docked and the trip came to a quick halt until other arrangements could be worked out. The captain of the ship that brought them to Rotterdam requested the passengers to unload their belongings quickly as he had to return to Basle. So the cargo was unloaded on the bank of the river in one huge heap.(page 102, History of the Goshenhoppen Reformed Charge by William John Hinke) Several months would go by with some of the travelers staying in an inn, others camping outside along the banks of the Rhine and many suffering from sickness and lack of food. It is documented that 2 died during this time and several others left the group to return to their homes. During this time, Goetschy was attempting passage for his weary travelers and was able to connect to Friess in Zurich and arrange for passage upon the ship Mercury to Pennsylvania in order to accommodate several churches in the Great Swamp area. The Mercury set sail in late February of 1735 for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There were several families who were unwilling to change their destination from Carolina to Pennsylvania, but Jacob was not one of them. He and 8 year old Felix boarded the ship to cross the Atlantic. The ship was mastered by Captain William Wilson and arrived in Philadelphia on May 29, 1735. The good weather lasted only 2 days after the ship set sail and for 12 weeks, the ship and it’s passengers endured heavy downpours of rain, wind and high waves. Galley bread was the last of the food near the end of the trip and the only water available was muddy and filled with worms. When they arrived at the Delaware River, the ship was halted for an additional 3 days due to the lack of wind needed to push them onward to Philadelphia. But, as we all know, the Mercury did indeed arrive at port and unloaded it’s passengers and cargo.
This is just a small portion of Jacob Matzinger’s life and experiences. As you can imagine, the trip to the “New World” was quite an adventure in itself. Why did Jacob leave his homeland? Some genealogists have stated that Jacob had at least 3 other sons all of whom died prior to his wife dying in 1734. Could this be the reason why Jacob seeked new surroundings? The total length of time between his departure in October of 1734 and arrival in May of 1735 was 7 months. That is a long time to travel with a young boy of 8. As for me, I’m so glad Jacob decided to take that chance and allowed the family of Matzinger to thrive here in the “New World”.