Who Was Peter Finger?

Below is census data for the Mennonite Finger family living in the Palatinate, beginning in the late seventeenth century:

Year Name Village Notes
1685 Johannes Finger Osthofen
1724 Daniel Finger Wachenheim Has rented a badly working mill from Kolb.
Most of the time, it is lacking in sufficient water.
1738 Daniel Finger Wachenheim
1738 Johannes Finger Walsheim
1743 Johannes Finger Wachenheim With one woman and one son.
1753 Johannes Finger Wachenheim Hereditary tenant for Count Wartenberg on the in-dependent noble mill which he took over from his father in 1742, wife 1 son, and 3 daughters. 5 persons.
1759 Johannes Finger Wachenheim Wife and daughter.

Osthofen is three miles north of Worms, along the Rhine River. Wachenheim, also known as Wachenheim an der Weinstraße, is located on the eastern edge of the Palatine Forest, about twelve miles west of Mannheim. Walsheim is also on the eastern edge of the Palatine Forest, about twenty miles south of Wachenheim.

It appears from the data in Guth's Palatine Mennonite Census Lists that Johannes Finger, son of Daniel and grandson of Johannes, moved from Walsheim to Wachenhiem upon the death of his father in 1742.

The Finger surname is so rare, and records are so scanty, that it is tempting to believe the Mennonite Fingers of Wachenheim were relatives of our ancestor Peter Finger. But there is a problem with concluding that Peter Finger must have been from this family. Note that the census records above show one son in 1743 and one son (+ 3 daughters) in 1753. Knowing as we do that Peter Finger emigrated in 1749, is it likely that his parents had 1 child by 1730 (the generally accepted approximate year of Peter Finger's birth), no children between 1730 and 1743, then 4 children between 1743 and 1753? I guess it's possible if Johannes Finger married for a second time shortly after 1743. At any rate, more work needs to be done to determine whether the Mennonite Johannes Finger living in Wachenheim in the mid-eighteenth century may have been Peter Finger's father.

Many of Peter Finger's fellow immigrants aboard the St. Andrew were from Mennonite families. According to LDS genealogist Richard W. Davis, the St. Andrew's September 1749 arrival in Philadelphia probably delivered a greater number of Mennonites to America than any other ship since 1717. Passengers on traveling with Peter Finger who had surnames found in Guth's Palatine Mennonite Census Lists include Bawman, Bergtohlt, Behr/Berr/Bear, Eimann/Eymann, Ellenberger, Eschbacher, Eschelmann, Finger, Frey, Funck, Graf(f), Hackman(n), Halte/Haldy, Heger/ Hauger/Hege, Herbig/Herwig, Hershberger/Hirschberger, Hertzler, Jans, Jordte, Jung, Kauffman, Keller, Knebel, Kramer, Linke, Mellinger, Racke, Rohr/Rohrer, Schnebeli/ Schnebele/Schabel, Stahler/Staler/Stalter, Stauffer/Stover/Stawffer, Wagner, Walder, Weber, Weiss, Wenger and Woosing/Woessingen. About half of these names are also to be found in the Friedelsheim Mennonite Congregation, in which the Fingers of Wachenheim were members.

Other evidence of Peter Finger's possible Mennonite background is the proximity of his signature to others on the Sept. 9, 1749 Oath of Allegiance who belonged to likely or certain Mennonites. Peter's signature is literally surrounded by surnames that are prevalent in the Friedelsheim Mennonite Congregation and Guth's Palatine Mennonite Census Lists. For example, Jacob Rohr's signature is immediately above Peter's and Christian Graff's is just below it, followed by Ullrich Ellenberger, Peter Ellenberger, and Christian Stauffer. A little farther down the list is the signature of Josef Bergtohlt. Rohr, Graff, Ellenberger, Bergtohlt, and, especially, Stauffer are prominent Swiss and Palatinate Mennonite names. A Graf family is listed along with the Fingers among the five Mennonite families living in Wachenheim in 1724, and members of the Burgholder/Bergdolt/Bergtold family are listed, along with the Fingers, among the few Mennonite families living in Wachenheim in 1738, 1743, 1753, and 1759. And a Christian (Ölbärg) Ellenberger signed the 1715 lease renewal for the Friedelsheim Mennonite Congregation.

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