The Brethren Trout (Traut)
by Noel Trout, © 2000
Upon investigating early TROUT family origins in America, descendants can typically trace their family back to either one of two seminal TROUT lines.The most well-known and documented line is the Wendel TRAUT line, which arrived in America in 1738.One of the most scholarly and source-supported books I have read on this particular line is the book 250 Year History of my Trout Family.This book was written by George Egbert Trout (1913-1999).I was able to purchase one of the last remaining copies before the author passed away.At that time, his grandson—Matthew Curtis—posted a message on the Trout Genealogical Forum, "I have the last 30 copies of his book and I will be selling them for the family.Please e-mail me directly if you are interested" (email@example.com).The other TROUT line, and the focus of this essay, is the less well-known Brethren TRAUT line, which arrived in America in 1719.(Author’s note:I will switch back and forth between TRAUT, the original German variation of the surname, and TROUT, the Americanized variation of the surname).
First, I will give some background on the other line—the Wendel TRAUT line.According to the aforementioned book by George E. TROUT, the Wendel TRAUT line begins with the patriarch himself, his full name being Johann Wendel George TRAUT (1689-1760).He immigrated to America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1738.He brought with him four daughters and at least three sons:Hans George (b. 1725), Hans Nicklaus (1727-1753), and Hans Michael (1730-1780).They all settled into the Strasburg Township area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.In 1752, two of his sons—George and Niclaus—left Lancaster County and moved to Virginia.Niclaus moved to Augusta County and was accidentally killed by a shotgun blast shortly thereafter.George moved to Rockingham County, leaving descendants in the Roanoke area, and he may have eventually made it to North Carolina.The third son—Michael—stayed in Lancaster County until after his father’s death.Around 1771 he and his family moved to Frederick County, Maryland.Wendel TRAUT’s first wife had died before the family came to America so a year after his arrival, he married another woman in the Strasburg Township.They had at least four daughters and two sons:Johan Paul (1739-1794) and Wendel II (1743-1820).It looks like Johan Paul stayed in Lancaster County while Wendel II moved to York County, Pennsylvania.Finally, it must be noted that the patriarch, Wendel I, had a cousin who had immigrated to America prior to him in 1733.His name was Hans Martin TRAUT (b. 1677) and he settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania.He brought with him at least three daughters and two sons:Johan Debalt (1706-1738) and John Henry (1718-1746).The latter son ended up moving to Frederick County, Maryland, just like his half-brother Michael.All of Wendel’s and Hans Martin’s children had their own children in the areas noted above, and this TRAUT family began to spread throughout Pennsylvania and Virginia.
While Wendel’s family is more well-documented, there is another TROUT family that arrived earlier.This is the family that is referred to in the 1903 book, Some Virginia Families by Hugh Milton McIlhany, Jr.This book is one of the earliest and most well-known TROUT family history books, and gives many details about descendants from this other TROUT family.However, the book cannot pinpoint the exact origins of this family, only stating that, "From the traditions preserved in several branches of the Trout family today, it would seem that many years before the Revolutionary War three brothers, Lutherans, fleeing from religious persecution in Germany, emigrated from the neighborhoood of Frankfort-on-the-Main and settled in Germantown, Philidelphia."The book goes on to state that family tradition has it that the three brothers’ names were Nathaniel, Daniel, and Jeremiah.The author states that while the traditional account of this family’s history is "in the main correct…the names of the original immigrants have been handed down inaccurately."Instead, the names of the three brothers were John Balthazar (aka Baltzer), George, and Jeremias Trout, and the book picks up with an account of their lives and descendants beginning around 1740.
If one were only to rely upon the well-known text Some Virginia Families, it would seem that the exact details of this family’s genesis in America have been lost to antiquity.However, there are other, less well-known texts that exist, which I believe give a more detailed and accurate account of just who these initial TROUTs were.These books detail the history of the Church of the Brethren, which began in Germany in 1708.The Church of the Brethren (also known as the "Dunkers") was what could be considered an outlaw sect in Germany at the time.As a result of great persecution, 20 members of this small religious congregation left for America in 1719, eight of whom were TRAUTs, and they landed in Philadelphia, settling in Germantown.One of the earliest books that detailed this church’s history is Martin Brumbaugh’s A History of the German Baptist Brethren in Europe and America, published in 1899.Another Brethren church historian whose books include these earliest TROUT ancestors is Donald F. Durnbaugh (see source footnotes for specific texts).Finally, a TROUT descendant and another Brethren church historian and author is Ellen Louise Larick, whom I have gotten to know and found very helpful and knowledgeable (she has even traveled to Germany to research the origins of this TROUT family; more on that further below).
According to these various texts about the history of the Church of the Brethren, of the eight TRAUT family members who made the trek to America in 1719 with 12 other Brethren congregants, the adult men consisted of three brothers.Their names were Johann Henrich, Georg Balthasar, and Jeremias TRAUT.The names of these three brothers as recorded in the Church of the Brethren history is strikingly similar to those mentioned in the McIlhany’s Some Virginia Families book.All three brothers were from Frankenthal, Germany.Again, this is very similar to the fuzzy traditional account documented by McIlhany ("Frankfort-on-the-Main"), as is the fact that the three brothers immigrated here in the pursuit of religious freedom.These original three TRAUT brothers settled in the vicinity of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.However, while the details of the very initial history of this family coming to America are preserved, once they arrived in America it becomes very difficult to determine who their offspring were.Apparently, many of their children bore the same name as the original three brothers, probably in honor of each other.It becomes impossible to tell, for example, when a land grant states that Baltzer TROUT owned property in Germantown, Philadelphia in 1734, whether this was the original Baltzer or one of the many descendants who retained the Baltzer namesake.Further complicating this puzzle is the confusion over Johann Henrich or John Henry (see further below).In some ways it appears that the three brothers may have been the children of a man by the same name.One day I hope to stumble upon some new pieces of information that will shed light on this mystery.
Nevertheless, let me go back to the beginning in Germany and then onto Philadelphia, and I will give as full account of the origins of this TROUT line as I can.Some of this comes from the aforementioned Brethren history texts while other information is pieced together from other sources (see footnotes to determine what comes from where).Not surprising for genealogical research, not all of the pieces fit.However, I wanted to give as full account as possible of all the information that I could find in hopes that someone else with other or new information might be able to eventually put things together in their right or complete order.
To start off with, in Germany during the late 1600s and early 1700s, there was the state-mandated form of Christianity and then there were other illegal denominations or "Pietists."One such group was the Anabaptists.They believed that infant baptism was not valid; an adult, in the understanding of his or her own mature mind, must make a decision to follow Christ and then be baptized.Thus came about their name "Anabaptist":in other words, re-baptizers.As uncontroversial as it may sound today, this was a crime punishable by hard labor, prison, or banishment.Part of the problem was that all of these sects were a challenge to the church-state’s prevailing viewpoints and consequently their power.While certain groups, like the "Inspirationists," made dramatic prophecies in which they "denounced the wickedness of the authorities," the Brethren were not as exciting.They were considered merely troublesome by the authorities "only because of their belief in the necessity of baptism by immersion."
In 1705 a Johann Henrich TRAUT was one of four citizens of Lambsheim (near Frankenthal), Germany, imprisoned for their refusal to swear oaths of allegience.In 1706, a Johannes TRAUT was accused of Pietism in Lambsheim Rheinland/Pfalz and sentenced to cleaning the town’s ditches.This may have been the same Johann Henrich TRAUT that was one of our original three brothers or it may have been the father of all three.Records show that he was married to Anna Katharina and had two sons, aged 10 and 6 at the time; a daughter and a son-in-law also were living with him.At any rate, some records state that he sold his home in Lambsheim in 1709 and went to London, England.He was 40 years old at this time.Later on, he sailed to New York and then settled into the Dublin Township of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Upon examining the early TROUT land records in America, there is mention of one John TROUT who owned 100 acres of land in Upper Dublin, Philadelphia County in 1734.In McIlhany’s Some Virginia Families, he contends that the original three brothers were actually sons of this "John Trout of Upper Dublin Township in Philadelphia County, Yeomen, who in his will, made April 3, 1728 and approved May 7, 1728, mentions his wife Catharine, his eldest son John as his executor, and his youngest son Philip."So it is possible that this John Henry TROUT was the father of the three original TRAUT brothers mentioned in the Church of the Brethren history.He may have preceded his sons by a decade in his devotion to the Pietistic movement and in his immigration to America.Since this John Henry TROUT was 40 in 1709, it is conceivable that he could have left behind three teenage sons who were old enough to fend for themselves.Furthermore, by 1719, when the three brothers traveled to America with their Church of the Brethren cohort, each would have been an adult old enough to have their own families.
Although Philip is not noted as being one of the three brothers intimately involved with the foundation of the Church of the Brethren, this doesn’t preclude him from being a sibling.After all, John Henry’s will states that he was the youngest son.Perhaps he came over to America as a child with his father in 1709.Whatever the case may be, there is no doubt he too is somehow tied in to this history because his name comes up frequently.A Philip TRAUT held land in the Philadelphia township of Franconia (140 acres) during 1734.Remember, this is all prior to Wendel TRAUT arriving in America in 1738, so these individuals cannot be a part of that line.There are also records of land deals in the Cocalico Township of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania by a Philip TRAUT around the 1750s.The Cocalico Township was where the "Ephrata Cloister" was located.This was a breakaway group of Brethren members who organized a commune.One of its peculiar beliefs was in the practice of celibacy, even for married couples.They believed this would help them devote themselves more fully to the Lord.Philip TRAUT became a member of this group and his wife is recorded in their records as having died in 1754.Philip is also recorded as having a daughter named Susanna.It is not known whether the Philip who lived in Ephrata was the same Philip who earlier owned land in Franconia, but it may be likely.
Philip isn’t the only TROUT that spent time in the Ephrata Cloister in Lancaster County.A John Henry TROUT had also joined their group, presumably one of the original three brothers.In the Brethren historical records he is listed as being a member who "never married."[9,10]However, another Brethren history book states that he "temporarily renounced celibacy and married, but later returned to his celibacy."The same publication states that he had a daughter named Eufenia that died at the Ephrata Cloister on 5 July 1753.There was also a Joseph and Mary TROUT who lived in the Cocalico Township and engaged in land deals with Philip TROUT and Adam MOSER in the 1750s.Adam MOSER may be the brother of Eva MOSER who married Balthasar TROUT, probably the son of one of the three brothers.He lived in the Colebrookdale Township of Berks County, Pennsylvania.In his will dated 1782, he names his brother-in-law Adam MOSER, as well as his wife Eva MOSER and seven children:George (the eldest), Catharina, John, Jacob, Abraham, John Baltzer, and Magdalena.All of the boys were under 21 years of age at that time.So you can see it is a convuluted mess, but a good mess all the same because the Brethren connection keeps resurfacing, further substantiating through circumstantial evidence that the original three brothers were indeed ancestors of this other TROUT line not tied in to the Wendel TRAUT line.
At any rate, let me get back to Germany again.The Brethren movement began around 1708 in Schwardzenau.Johann Henrich TRAUT, a native of Frakenthal and a sackmaker by trade, moved with his family (two sons, a daughter, and a son-in-law) to Marienborn in the same year.The fact that he had a son-in-law living with him would indicate that he had a daughter of at least 18 years of age.Therefore, this would lead me to believe that this John Henry was the father of the three brothers I spoke of earlier, and the one who left Germany the following year in 1709, presumably leaving behind three of his sons including one by his same name.A man also by the name of John Henry TROUT (the son?) attended Brethren baptisms in Marienborn between 1712 and 1714; he was listed as being a Brethren member in 1714.The state began compiling lists of people who were engaged in illegal religious practices, the Brethren being one of them.Balthasar TRAUT, also a native of Frankenthal and a sackmaker by trade, was on one such list as a member of the Brethren in the area of Dudelsheim (a section of Marienborn).Johann Henrich TRAUT and his family were also on the same list.As a result of the pressure the authorities were putting on them, they both moved along with the congregation to Krefeld.Eventually it got to a point where the state gave them an ultimatum:if they refused to confine their religious expression to devotions in their homes, then they must leave.
The first group of the Brethren to leave Germany in order to seek religious freedom in America constituted around 20 families.The TRAUT family was one of these original 20, of which they numbered 8 total.Of the names we know, there were the three aforementioned brothers--John Henry, George Balthasar, and Jeremias.The customary route was to sail down the Rhine River to Rotterdam, where one would book a voyage to America.Normally the route would take them to England first, and then onto Philadelphia.The ocean passage took at least seven weeks and was marked by high mortality.
Once the group arrived in America in the Fall of 1719, they became dispersed as they settled into different townships.The dispersion incapacitated them to meet for public worship; and therefore they soon began to grow lukewarm in religion.In response, a "missionary journey" was undertaken by the leaders of the church to visit the scattered Brethren.John Henry emerged as the second in command to the leader of the church, Alexander MACK.[10,9]He and his brothers were among the leaders that visited the various congregations around 1722.They held "love feasts" where the group’s spiritual fervor was temporarily revived.Interestingly, in attendance at the first love feast was one Magdalena TROUT.She may have been George Balzer’s wife since he is recorded as having been married twice.At any rate, the visiting TRAUT brothers and other Brethren leaders did not try to establish any sort of hierarchial manner of control over these congregations.Instead, upon leaving them, John Henry said to one such gathering, "You can now arrange your affairs among yourselves to the best of your ability; the better you do it, the better we will be pleased, since you constitute together a small congregation.You are in no way to be bound to us, as we are at too great a distance from you."Unfortunately, this revival did not last.
The scattered church struggled until a second group of immigrants from the original church in Schwardzenau arrived in Philadelphia in the Fall of 1729.Upon arrival, one such individual wrote, "John Henry Traut from Germantown, another of the Brethren, hauled our things a distance of four hours to this place without taking pay."With these reinforcements, the church began to grow and flourish, and it exists to this very day (its present-day headquarters are in Elgin, Illinois).
Sadly, just a few years later, Stephen KOCH--one of the early leaders of the church--wrote, "An important brother, Henry Traut, by name, passed out of time into eternity, on January 4, 1733.When with sorrowful heart and deeply grieved I saw him pass into eternity, it made so deep an impression on me that I continually sighed unto God....But at length the power of darkness so revolted within me that for the life of me I had no resource left; and I now was able to realize in what grievous condition the deceased brother, Henry Traut, had been when at times he had so sorely wept, for I was in like condition....But when I came to again, I felt an inexpressibly pleasing love to God in my heart; and on the other hand, all anxiety, with all the temptations of the unclean spirits, had vanished.Yes, it seemed as if all my transgressions were pardoned and sealed, and day and night there was nothing else in my heart but joy, love, and praise to God."Another publication says about him, "He lived a quiet, godly life, rich in deeds of love, and died Jan. 4, 1733.His loss was deeply felt by the entire congregation."
We don’t know exactly what happened to the other two brothers.All three were described as "worthies of the early church...rich in experiences with God’s people in Germany...all sterling men of God."Jeremias was believed to have been a minister and he was rumored to have been a chaplain in the Army during the Revolution.Apparently there is a record of one of his sermons printed in Harper’s Magazine but it is attributed to a Joab TROUT.Jeremias was also listed in the Brethren records as having "never married," although we know this might have meant he never married as a member of the church once coming to America (see the confusion over John Henry’s marital status).He may have been previously married and his wife may have died so it is possible that he might have had children.George Balzer TRAUT was twice married, although we don’t know the names of his wives (one may have been Magdalena).Overall, we just can’t conclusively determine who the children of these original three TRAUT brothers were.The Church of the Brethren was similar to the Mennonites.They didn’t believe in taking oaths nor suing nor fighting in the military; they basically eschewed all government relations and this included keeping governmental-style records (this was considered too worldly).As a result, once in America in 1719, they did not register births or marriages with the state, and thus there is a frustrating dearth of the crucial vital records that could help us make connections with some of the later records that start showing up around the 1740s (such as McIlhany’s Some Virginia Families).
Louise LARICK, the Brethren researcher and TROUT genealogist, related to me how when she visited Germany, she tried to scour the Lutheran (Germany’s state church) record books in order to find the names of the children of the three brothers.If we could find out their names, then much of the mystery of exactly who the second generation in America was and from which brother they descended could be solved.However, upon locating the town in which the baptismal records were kept, she was horrified to discover that the names of the TRAUT family had been physically cut out of the church book, presumably by the church itself back in the early 1700s.This was probably in response to what the state church viewed as the family’s apostasy in joining the Brethren sect; in essence, they were viewed as having fallen away from the faith and were therefore cut out of the book of life.However, there is one last place where this mystery might be solved.Besides church records, each town in Germany usually kept a record of births, marriages, etc.These were called ort sippen books (ort means "place" and sippen means "list of").Since we know from Brethren records that the TRAUT family was in the following areas of Germany—Frankenthal, Lambsheim, Schwarzenau, Krefeld, Mareinborn, and Dudelsheim—then if the ort sippen books for each of these areas could be perused between the years of approximately 1665-1719, then perhaps the names of the three brothers could be found along with their wives and children.
In later years, the descendants of this family spread out as various Church of the Brethren congregations created their own settlements.The first settlement was in Germantown (Philadelphia) in 1719, which later moved eastward into Lancaster County (Cocalico, Conestoga, etc.) in the 1720s and 1730s.Another Brethren settlement was established in Amwell, New Jersey in 1733 and some Brethren TROUT descendants can trace their ancestry to one George TROUT (b. 1729) who lived there, presumably a son of one of the original three brothers.Brethren settlements were also established in South Carolina along the Broad River in the 1740s and 1750s, and along the Savannah River in Georgia (midway between Augusta and Savannah—a place then known as "Tuchosokin") in 1759.Similarly, Baltimore and Frederick County, Maryland had Brethren settlements by the 1760s.Virginia had settlements in Roanoke County by 1745, and then Shenandoah County by 1752, and Franklin County by 1765.My TROUT ancestors were from Franklin County, Virginia (siblings Joseph Jr., David, and Abraham, all sons of Joseph TROUT Sr.).They all lived there at least between 1789-1804 (as did a Christian and a Jacob TROUT; I haven’t figured out yet who they were exactly, although they were relatives no doubt.I suspect that this Christian might have been the same Christian TROUT who later moved to Pike County, Kentucky).At any rate, David happened to be a Brethren minister, which would seem to indicate that these TROUTs, too, were descendants of one of the three original Brethren TRAUT siblings.Brethren congregations also sprang up in North Carolina in the Rowan County area in the 1760s.I can’t help but wonder if the Revolutionary War veteran Jacob TROUT, who enlisted from Rowan County, was tied in to the Brethren TRAUT line (no one has been able to establish his parentage, as of yet); he could have been a son or a grandson of one of the original three TRAUT brothers.
In summation, I believe the little-known Brethren TRAUT history should provide many missing details for the origin of the TROUT family alluded to in McIlhany’s Some Virginia Families.Unfortunately, it doesn’t establish the names of the children of the original three TRAUT brothers.However, McIlhany’s work captures many of the descendants.For other TROUT researchers like myself, who can trace a TROUT ancestor back to the late 1700s but are unable to connect him or her with any of the individual’s listed in McIlhany’s work, then I think it would be wise to try to cross reference this individual with the numerous descendants from the much better-known Wendel TRAUT line (one incredible and exhaustive list is John A. Knouse’s "Trout Family Descendancy" website:http://www.frognet.net/~jaknouse/trout.html)http://www.frognet.net/~jaknouse/trout.html).And if, as in my case, you cannot find your ancestor listed amongst any of Wendel TRAUT’s descendants, and if your TROUT ancestor happened to live in the vicinity of any of the Brethren settlements I listed above, then I believe it would be a good bet that your TROUT ancestor is tied in to the Brethren TRAUT line!
1. Durnbaugh, The Brethren Encyclopedia.
2. George E. Trout, 250 Year History of My Trout Family (1991), Closson Press, 6741 W. Lincoln Avenue, Space #117 Buena Park, CA 90620-4181, (714) 761-1154.
3. Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (1898), Landholders of Philadelphia County, 1734:PA, USGenWeb Archives by James L. Stokes firstname.lastname@example.org, http://searches.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ifetch2?/u1/data/pa+index+1276524+Fhttp://searches.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/ifetch2?/u1/data/pa+index+1276524+F.
4. Durnbaugh, European Origins of the Brethren.
5. Hugh Milton McIlhany, Jr., Some Virginia Families:the Trout Family (1903).
6. R. Thomas Mayhill (1973), Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Deed Abstracts 1729-c1770 and Oaths of Allegience.
7. Ronald J. Gordon, "Church of the Brethren Network:The Ephrata Cloister," 1998.
8. Julius F. Sachse (1983), Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine and Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography:The Registers of the Ephrata Community, 1, 163-178.
9. Martin Grove Brumbaugh (1899), A History of the German Baptist Brethren in Europe and America, Brethren Publishing House.
10. Donald F. Durnbaugh, The Brethren in Colonial America, The Brethren Press.
11. USGenWeb Archives, Tim Conrad, email@example.com, "Will of Balthaser Trout, 1782," http://www.surf-ici.com/mosier/textfile/trout000.txthttp://www.surf-ici.com/mosier/textfile/trout000.txt, 1998.
12. History of the Church of the Brethren of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (1915), 17.
13. Louise Larick, personal correspondence, 4 April 1998.
14. The Pension Roll of 1835, Vol II, p. 32 (Jacob TROUT of Burlington Co, NJ); Vol II, p. 759 (Baltzer TROUT of Westmoreland Co, PA); Vol III, p. 445 (Jacob TROUT of Rowan Co, NC); Vol IV, p. 74 (Anthony D. TROUT of Harrison Co, IN).
15. Surname Index to Roster of Soldiers and Patriots of the American Revolution Buried in Indiana, Fort Wayne Public Library, 1976, Volume I.