Introduction

     The purpose of this website is to clarify the European origin and early generations of the Seeber family in the Mohawk Valley of New York State.

    Prior to the Revolutionary War the Seebers were solidly established as farmers and merchants in what is now Montgomery County, New York. The best-known member of the family -- Johann Wilhelm Seeber (1721-1777) -- was a storekeeper at Sand Hill (just outside the current village of Fort Plain),1  a leading member of the Tryon County Committee of Safety, and a high-ranking officer of the Tryon County militia during the early years of the Revolutionary War.  He died of wounds suffered at the Battle of Oriskany in August 1777.

    Although a lot is known about Johann Wilhelm's wives and children, and his Revolutionary War service, the same cannot be said about his birth and early life -- or about other family members living in the Mohawk Valley at that time.  Seeber researchers face a serious problem that is common to families then living in the region -- namely, a scarcity of written records.  The Mohawk Valley was a frontier area, with European settlers living cheek-by-jowl with Mohawk Indians.  The New York colonial government was far away in New York City.  The principal records kept about individuals were the church registers of baptisms, marriages and burials.  Unfortunately, some of these records were lost or destroyed as a result of raids, battles and dislocations during two wars that ravaged the region -- the French and Indian War from 1756 to 1763, and the Revolutionary War beginning in 1775. 

    With respect to the Seeber family, information is particularly sketchy because:

  • The Seeber home and store at Sand Hill were burned during a raid on 2 August 1780 by British soldiers and Mohawk Indians led by Joseph Brant. Although the house was later rebuilt, family papers in the house and store are presumed to have been lost in the fire.

  • The Sand Hill church, known as the Reformed German Church or Reformed Calvinist Church at Canajoharie, was also burned during the 1780 raid. 
    (Johann Wilhelm Seeber had been one of three petitioners in 1761 for a license to collect money to build and operate the church.)  The church was eventually rebuilt, but the early records were destroyed in the raid.3   
  • There are significant gaps in the records of other churches which the family attended in the decades leading up to the Revolutionary War.  Though the Seebers were in the area by the early 1740s, there are no systematic church records about them until the 1760s, in the Stone Arabia Reformed Church.  In that church, only a handful of records survive from the time of the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). These gaps in the Mohawk Valley church records make it difficult to paint a complete picture of the family.
  • Many of the early Seeber family members, including Johann Wilhelm, are thought to be buried in an old abandoned cemetery at Sand Hill. Unfortunately, the headstones in the cemetery were removed by a local family in the 1940s and were crushed and used for fill.4  There is only one headstone remaining in the cemetery, and there are no written records of the burials that were made there.  (Ken D. Johnson has created from other records a list of early settlers who are presumed to be buried in the cemetery, which can be viewed at Findagrave.com by clicking here.)
  • The men of the Seeber family were decimated by the Battle of Oriskany.  Johann Wilhelm's brothers James and Severinus aka Saffrenes, and his son Adolph, were killed during the battle. Johann Wilhelm and his brother Jacob were mortally wounded and died soon after. As a result, there are fewer civil records of the family, such as land and probate records, than would have existed had the men survived the war.

About this website

        Much of the information and analysis on this website is based on research I have done in the church records of the Alsatian and Swiss towns where the Seebers lived before emigrating to America.  Here's what you will find on other pages of the website:

  • What's New has a chronological list of significant changes and additions that are made to this website. 
  • About Me explains how I became interested in the family, and how my knowledge of the family has evolved.

  • Short History of the Family is an overview of the first four documented generations of the family, beginning in Switzerland and leading through Alsace to America.

  • Genealogical Details includes a detailed report listing the known ancestors of Johann Wilhelm Seeber and his siblings (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the attachment), and information about my public member tree at Ancestry.com entitled "The Seeber Family of Switzerland, Alsace and New York's Mohawk Valley."

  • In The Case for Bischwiller, I summarize the evidence indicating that the Seeber family of the Mohawk Valley came from Bischwiller in Alsace.

  • Jacob was a popular name in the Seeber family, and The Five Jacob Seebers attempts to make sense out of the limited information available about them.
  • DNA Testing has a report by Charles Seeber on a Y-chromosome project conducted in 2008.
  • Among the documents that reference the Seeber family, a few stand out because they contain significant information; these documents are discussed on the The Keys to Unlocking Seeber Secrets page.
  • Unresolved issues and unanswered questions about the family are discussed in Remaining Mysteries.

  • Seewer Coat of Arms includes information about the coat of arms for the Seewer family of Gsteig, which is on file at the State Archive of Bern, Switzerland.

  • The Acknowledgements page lists other researchers who have advanced our understanding of the family, and people who have helped me with my research.

   If you have any questions or comments about the website, or my Ancestry.com tree, please get in touch with me at Peterbushgenealogy@gmail.com.


1 When the Revolutionary War began, Sand Hill was a cluster of houses and businesses on what is now Route 5S, north of the current village of Ft. Plain in the Town of Minden, Montgomery County, New York. There was also a church and cemetery.

2 Henry Seeber, a brother of Johann Wilhelm, was living in the house at the time. An account of the raid can be found on the Henry Seeber (1741-1845) page of this website.

3  Royden Vosburgh, "Introduction" to his transcribed records of the Reformed Dutch Church at Fort Plain, page iii, on Family History Library microfilm no. 534,216.

4  Ken D. Johnson,“A History of the Reformed German Church at Canajoharie,” undated, published on his website, www.fort-plank.com, page 10.  To view the article, click here and scroll down toward the bottom of the page, then click on the name of the article.


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