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The Orwig Family in Germany & the USA

Roles Played in Developing America
The Orwigs, on account of their German origin and early environments, were to a great extent, farmers, although the following generations became professionals, lawyers, ministers, doctors, dentists, civil engineers and merchants. This genealogy study, with its sketches and details of various individuals that made up the family history, illustrates the role played by the Orwigs in the development of America. We find them working in the railroads, in stores as owners, in schools as teachers, in colleges as professors, and in politics and legislative halls as influential individuals. They were also prominent among medical and dental professions, in editorial chairs, and dozens were in the civil war fighting to maintain the Union of American States. In thousands of different ways, the Orwigs played an important part in the progress, freedom and development of this great country.

Tracing Family back to Germany
Several genealogists have attempted to trace Gottfried's family roots in Germany. During a visit to Germany in 1990, Larry Orwig, author of this genealogy study, traveled through both the Grosstadt Nassau and Brunswick (aka Braunschweig) regions, which various genealogical researchers have attributed to Gottfried's birthplace. Larry discovered families in Hamburg, Germany by the name of OrTwig, but none with the spelling Orwig. Attempts to correspond with several Ortwig families produced no responses.

Rosalind Briggs from Zephyrhills, Florida believes the study completed by George W. Wagenseller in 1898, "The History of the Wagenseller Family in America," may contain some inaccurate dates because Wagenseller relied primarily on interesting family "stories" that were passed along from one generation to the next rather than validating the accuracy of the dates. Rosalind's family history is as follows: (1) Gottfried, (2) George, (3) John, (4) Joseph, (5) Catherine Orwig Noicker, (6) Clara Noicker Hutchinson, (7) James Wesely Hutchinson, (8) Ermaneldi R. Hutchinson Kemmerer, (9) James Wesely Kemmerer, (10) Rosalind V. Kemmerer Briggs.

Rosalind also noted that a widely different perspective on the Orwig family's history was presented by the late Elmer Woodrow Orwig of Shrewsbury, PA. Elmer published a book titled, "Descendants of Jacob & George Orwig". Elmer was born on February 6, 1918 and married Mary Jane Kopp on September 20, 1947. They farmed near Shrewsbury, PA and lived in the greater York, PA area most of their lives. He passed away in January 1992. The author of this genealogy study, Larry Orwig, contacted Elmer's son, Philip Orwig, who lives in Owings Mills, MD to purchase a copy of the book.

Elmer believed that the Orwig family in the United States could have evolved from two families. He cites 1784 tax records from York County, PA indicating that a Bernhard URBIG lived in Shrewsbury, PA. It appears that this gentleman changed his name to Bennett Orwigh in 1790. Additionally, a Frederick Orwigh was listed as a Hopewell Township resident in 1790 and he had a son who changed his name to Johannes Orbig. This changing of surnames became even more complex when Elmer concluded that a gentleman by the name of Johan Michal Ohrig may have been Bernhard Urbig's father. Johan Michal Ohrig came to America in September 7, 1748 on the ship "Hampshire," landing in Philadelphia according to a list of Pennsylvania German Pioneers (also see Gary Orwig's research information below). Johann Michal was listed as a 35 year old from Rotterdam and Falmouth.

Elmer explained that Orbig was "the spelling most commonly used in Germany at that time." He went on to write that the name Orbig took on many different spellings in the USA, such as Orwick, Orwigh, Orbig, Urbig, Aarwick, Erwick Owig, Orich, Orweigh, Urbich, Urbech, Ihrig, Orbrich, Orberich, Oberick, Oberich, Ortwig, and Orwig.
Elmer also discussed Gottfried Orwig's arrival (referring to him as Godfret Urbich and Godfret Urbech) at Philadelphia on October 2,1741 from Rotterdam on the ship "Saint Andrews" (Charles Stedman, ship's master). Elmer acknowledges that some family records, such as George Wagenseller's genealogy study, listed him as Johan Gottfried Orwig, native of Grosstadt Nassane, Weilburg, Dorf Moran. Elmer believes that Johan Michal Ohrig (see above) may have been Gottfried's brother, because Johan Michal was born in Germany around 1712 or 1713, but Elmer was unable to prove it.

Elmer firmly believed that his family members were descendants of Johan Michal Ohrig and Bernhard Urbig, but NOT Gottfried Orwig. He states that Gottfried's son "Henry had no children, so all the Orwig descendants are from Peter and George. But I guess not us. So we can forget about Gottfried Orwig as being our ancestor. I'm sticking with Johan Michal Ohrig although I have no proof."

As a descendant of Gottfried, this author concludes that Elmer's book generated significant historical issues, but it does not supply relevant information for this genealogical study. While the book makes for interesting reading and contains many historical names, Elmer postulated many theories and opinions that were not particularly relevant to Peter Samuel's lineage. To his credit, Elmer captured the rich family history of his ancestors, with most of his family's roots in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey. Historically, Elmer's family still has close ties to the Lutheran church in Pennsylvania and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Methodist church.

It is worthwhile noting that Elmer continued searching out Gottfried's ancestors after his book was published in 1978. A concentrated effort was launched by Elmer between 1987-88 through correspondence with Friedrich R. Wollmershauser,a genealogist in Southwest Germany (Oberdischingen, Germany). Unfortunately, Elmer passed away in January 1992 and never finished this vital part of his family research. As a result, no one has identified any current descendants of Gottfried living in Germany.

In a Lutheran parish register in Kirchheimbolanden, Germany, in records known as Landesarchiv Speyer F 6 No. 127, (1707-1754), Friedrich Wollmershauser found a few entries for the Orbig and Orbich families. One of Wollmershauser's letters expressed a firm belief that he had located the correct Gottfried Orwig. Gottfried Orwig's family lived in Marnheim (Dorf), Germany, a village in Grafschaft county near Nassau-Weilburg. Bolander (Kirchheim) is also mentioned as a place of residence. Wollmershauser summarized his comments by agreeing with the theory that the Orwig name may have evolved from other surnames (such as Urbich, Urbach, Orbe, Orbig and Orbich), but he ultimately concluded that the church records supported his original beliefs about finding "our Gottfried."

Johann Georg Orwig, Gottfried's father and a day laborer, night watchman and pig farmer, was married twice; to (1) Susanne Kohlin Sohnlein and (2) Anna Elisabeth Schultheinb. In the following information supplied to Elmer Orwig, Wollmershauser cited the surnames Orwig, Orbig and Orbich synonymously with Georg, his two wives and children.

1. Death register for Georg Orbich (junior): The son Georg Orbich (senior), a swine herdsman, died October 1, 1720 at 15 years and 6 months of age. He was buried on October 3, 1720.

2. Death register for Johann Michael Orwig: At age 1 year and 5 months, the son of Johann Georg Orwig, a night watchman, died September 7, 1709 and was buried September 8, 1709. Wollmershauser suggested that Johann Georg Orwig may have named another son Johann Michael Orwig after this son's death.

3. Birth register for Anna Margaretha Orwig: Johnann Georg Orwig, a day laborer, and Susanne Kohlin, both from Marnheim. A daughter was born June 2, 1710 and christened on June 5, 1710.

4. Birth register for Johann Valentin Orwig: Johann Georg Orwig, a herdsman, and Susannen Sohnlein, his wife. Twin sons were born June 28, 1712 and christened June 30, 1712.

5. Birth register for Johann Conrad Orwig: Johann Georg Orwig, a pig herdsman, and Susannen Sohnlein, his wife. Twin sons were born June 28, 1712 and christened June 30, 1712.
6. Birth register for Johann Valentin Orwig: Johann Georg Orwig, a swine herdsman at Kircheim, and Susannen, his wife. A son was born June 1, 1714 and christened.

7. Birth register for Johann Godfried Orbig: Johann Georg Orbig, a swine herdsman, and Susannen, his wife. A son was born 4:00 in the afternoon on September 3, 1718 and christened. Godfathers were Johann Peter Bauer from Bobenheim in Wormbs and Henry Godfried Eibfelder.

8. Marriage register for Johannes Orbig: A herdsman at (Kirchheim) Bolander was married to Anna Elisabeth Schultheinb on August 21, 1725, after the required announcement in a proper service. Anna was the daughter of the late Henrich Schultheib, a major resident in the village of Polanden.

Wollmershauser stated, "A Lutheran parish register for Kirchheimbolanden, covering the years 1689-1708, is kept at Landeskirchenarchiv Speyer. These achieves were closed for all summer 1988 because they were moved to another location. This book may contain some additional entries. Entries on residents of Marnheim are found in parish records in Marnheim starting in 1654, which are also kept at Landeskirchenarchiv Speyer. I have not yet found out to which parish the Lutherans of Marnheim went before 1808. It may be Kirchheimbolanden or Albisheim or Gollheim."

Some other findings reported by Wollmershauser were as follows:
1. In 1969 a genealogist, Fritz Urbich, from Oldenburg placed an ad in the genealogical magazine
Pfalzische Familie und Wappenkunde.
2. Orbe and Orbich names were found in Oberstedten parish registers (1737-1771).

Gary Orwig, a resident of Orlando, Florida for the past 24 years and a faculty member at the University of Central Florida, is one of several current genealogists who shares Orwig historical information on the Internet. He has provided this author with some extraordinarily valuable research as well as interesting perspectives and assumptions about the family name, which are explained below. But first, a little more about Gary. He grew up on a farm near Bonfield, Illinois in the Kankakee area. Although we've never met, we discovered several things in common in addition to our Illinois roots. First of all, Larry graduated from Illinois State University in 1966 and Gary graduated one year later. Secondly, Gary lived in Baltimore for a few years and Larry has lived in the greater Baltimore areas since 1979. Both of us have made trips to Orwigsburg, PA and both of us are professionally aligned to the Human Resources profession; Gary as a university professor and Larry as a practicing professional. This author is owes a debt of gratitude to Gary for his continuing support of this genealogical project.

Gary is a 7th generation descendent of Gottfried: 1. Gottfried, 2. George, 3. Abraham Sr., 4. Abraham, Jr.,
5. Allen, 6. Franklin, 7. Gary.
Abraham Sr. arrived in the Kankakee area in the mid 1840's and started farming. It is interesting to note that this was very close to the time that John, Sr. and John, Jr. moved from Ohio to Smithfield, IL.

As with all Orwig genealogists who have embarked on the pursuit of their family history, Gary has been challenged by the lack of information for tracing the Orwigs back through Germany, but he has found some clear reasons as to why there is a problem. After examining the actual immigrations records and ships logs pertaining to Gottfried, Gary noted that, "Gottfried clearly could not write in English and the Philadelphia record keepers very clearly had a problem writing his name down as he spoke it. The name was recorded in three places and endorsed with a styled + each time."

The St. Andrew ship, with Commander Charles Stedman, arrived in Philadelphia on October 2, 1741. Gary's earlier research work includes information taken from the Captain's log (list 85A) in which Godfret Urbech, listed at age 22, was one of the 103 men on board. A second list (85B) is a clerk's registration of all men who agreed to give an oath of allegiance. It contains the name Godfret + Urbich written in very fine line-script by the clerk with the + clearly representing a signature mark of the signature's "owner." A few men clearly signed their own signatures. The third list (85C) was prepared by another clerk who did not write nearly as well. It is an Oath of Abjuration (not certain of its purpose) and it has the script of Godfried + Orbig with the + once again a clear signature mark; very similar to the mark of Godfret in list 85B. The lower case "r" in Orbig is not clear, but is almost certainly a script "r." The net result: Godfret Urbech, Godfret Urbich, and Godfried Orbig. It was written three different ways, not one of them Orwig. Gary noted, "That must have come a bit later."

Any of these names could be the "phonetic" spelling of our Gottfried's real German name, (i.e., the spoken German name). It is important to remember that the German immigrants statements were being interpreted by some Englishmen about 250 years ago, who probably spoke no German and a completely different English than is spoken today.

Like Rosalind Briggs' comments above, Gary observed that the Wagenseller study, which seems to be one of the main sources of many Orwig genealogical studies, may contain some errors. Wagenseller discusses the Brunswick (Braunschweig) origin, but there is no indication from where he obtained this information. Gary commented, "Indeed, Gottfried may have been born in that region. However, the burial records of the Zion (Red) Lutheran Church state that Gottfried was a native of Groistadt Nassau Weilburg, Dorf Moran, which roughly translate into a village in the kingdom of Weilburg in greater Nassau. This is likely to be the same Weilburg currently near Limburg north of Frankfurt. Weilburg has an old castle so it was a center of royalty, and on current German maps there are still a couple of little villages, such as Merinburg, and Maienburg which could be the village of Moran. Once again, Gottfried probably spoke little English and wrote even less when he died." But, Gary has burial notes which have been translated into English and the words Moran, Merin, and Maien have convinced him that if he ever gets an opportunity to visit that part of Germany he will not look for the name Orwig.

In 2001, while on a business trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, Gary spent an evening in the LDS Family History Center looking up a microfilm of a church in Germany during the 1700's. Aided by the earlier work of Elmer Woodrow Orwig and Friedrich R. Wollmershauser, a genealogist in Southwest Germany, Gary was able to locate some of the records from the Evangelisch church in Germany. A summary of Gary's 2001 research work and his observations follows.

Summary of Gary Orwig's 2001 Research
From the LDS Family History Center

From: LDS microfilm Record No: 0247621

Birth and Baptism record from the Evangelisch church of Kirchheimbolanden, Pfalz, Bayern Church records for 1707-1770.
38. Johann Godfried Orbig.
38. Johann Godfried Orbig.
Johann Georg Orbig Schweinhirt allhier und seine Ehefrau Susannen Shnlein ist gebohren d. 3. t. 7br geg 4
Uhr nach Mittag, und getaufft d. 5. t. ejusdem. Gevattern waren: Joh. Peter Bauer von Bobenheim zu
Wormbs gehrig, und Henr. Godfried Eifelder, Bergmann, so dan Agneta, obgedachten Bauers' Ehefrau.

Johann Georg Orbig, a swine herder resident, and his wife Susannen a little son is born the 3rd day of September toward 4:00 in the afternoon, and baptized the 5th day of the same month. Godfathers were: Joh. Peter Bauer of Bobenheim a part of Wormbs, and Henr. Godfried Eifelder, miner, also present Agneta, the previously mentioned Bauer's wife.

Notes and observations from Gary Orwig:

In this church register there are records for births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths of Orwigs (sometimes spelled "Orbig" as above, and sometimes spelled "Orwig." As far as I can tell, they all relate to a few years (1709 - 1725) of the same family. The spelling of the name seems to simply have depended upon which Church official wrote the record.

From what I can gather, Johann Georg Orwig and Susanna (Kohl) Orwig had children:

George [b. Apr 1 1705] d. Oct 1 1720
Johann Michael [b. Apr 7, 1708] d. Sept. 7 1709
Anna Margaretha b. Jun 2 1710 in Marnheim
Johann Valentin b. Jun 28 1712 d. Jan 2, 1713 (twins)
Johann Conrad b. Jun 28 1712 d. Jan 8, 1713 (twins)
Johann Valentin b. Jun 1 1714
Johann Gottfried b. Sep 3 1718

Johann Georg Orwig married Anna Elisabeth Schultheiss Aug. 21 1725

Most of these records are already identified in the LDS online database, although I think I came across the death records of the twins on my own. It is very possible that there are other Orwig records on this microfilm, but I have not had the time to sit and sort through every one of the thousands of entries. I don't know German, let alone early German script! It is very, very difficult to search for names under the best of conditions.

The birth record of Gottfried is one of the sharpest impressions on the microfilm. Many of the records from this church register have been badly damaged by water or some other liquid (wine?) and are unreadable by anyone other than a true expert. On that note, my thanks goes to Larry Orwig, who forwarded to me some documents that Elmer Orwig had collected before his death. In those documents I found some partial translations of several of the same records by a professional German genealogist, Mr. Friedrich R. Wollmershauser. I've taken the original scripts, Mr. Wollmershauser's notes, and my "best guesses" around to several German speaking individuals at the university where I teach. The script has been a real puzzle to those who can read modern German. Much as an early English script would baffle most of us!

Requests from Gary Orwig:

If you know anyone who can read German script, print out the script below (enlarge it if you can) and ask them to translate it. See if they come up with anything close to what we have assembled so far.

Things to think about and consider some of the other problems: The birth date for Gottfried is off from other records we have.

Aug. 24, 1719 based upon birth date stated on tombstone. The Zion (Red) Lutheran church of W. Brunswick Twp. Schuylkill Haven, register lists Gottfried's death (a native of Groistadt Nassaue Weilburg, Dorf Moran) as May 26, 1804 at age 84 years, 9 months, and 2 days which places his birth date as August 24, 1719 ... the same as the birth date given on his tombstone.
However, the tombstone also states death date May 26, 1804 age 85 years, less 2 months which would place his birth near July 26, 1719. Probably just a 1 month "typo" and the days were just rounded.

A old birth date can easily be a year (or even two) off when it is based solely upon age and memory. It is very easy for a person to lose track of a year or two of age over a lifetime ... ("Am I 54 or 55 years old now??). However, it is unusual for the birth month and day to slip. That is a hard one to figure out! Is it possible that this is actually another Johann Gottfried Orwig, and not "ours?" After all, Johann and Gottfried were some of the most common names around back then!

An additional bit of confusion goes back to the old German church location. Gottfried's death record at the Zion (Red) church states, "a native of Groistadt Nassaue Weilburg, Dorf Moran", as I earlier mentioned. This translates to "a native of greater Nassaue in the "kingdom" of Weilburg in the village of Moran." Old "preGerman" records clearly establish the location of the "country" of Nassaue and the "kingdom" of Weilburg. I use those terms loosely because the lands held by old royalty don't really correspond to countries and kingdoms as we think of them today. Anyway, Weilburg still exists today, complete with its castle. I've attached a copy of a modern German map. The yellow dot north and west of Frankfurt is Weilburg.

The village of "Moran" has been a greater puzzle. It is clear from early records that Gottfried could not write in German (as previously noted, he signed documents with a stylized "X"). He almost certainly never learned to write in English. As a result, he most likely passed stories of his heritage by spoken word. Today there is no "Moran" near Weilberg. There are nearby towns that might have evolved from such a name... Marienburg, for example.

The Evangelisch church of Kirchheimbolanden lists the residence of Gottfried's family as Marnheim (the yellow triangle attached to the map below), a village that still exists today near the town of Kirchheimbolanden, about 100 kilometers south of Weilburg . I've asked several German speaking friends if the spoken word "Marnheim" could be heard and eventually recorded as "Moran" and they feel that it would be possible for one to evolve into the other over a number of years.

Yet a bit more to the puzzle ... This part of Europe was dynamic, to say the least during the late 1600's and 1700's. Royalty gave away and received land as gifts for weddings, payments for debts, and offerings of peace. Often land was taken through far less than peaceful methods. However, I can find no old map or record that indicates that the area around Marnheim was ever a part of the kingdom of Weilburg. It may be out there and I just have not found it. It is possible that this is not our "Gottfried!"

Or ... this could be our Gottfried even if dates and locations don't add up so far. I did a very quick scan of the church records beyond 1725 and could find no further records of Orwigs at the Evangelisch church of Kirchheimbolanden. I should note that Mr. Wollmershauser the German genealogist did not come across any either. It is possible that Gottfried's father moved his family north soon after his marriage to Anna Elisabeth Schultheiss in 1725. Possibly they settled in an area closer to Weilburg. Gottfried would have been only 7 years old or so, and he may well have identified the area around Weilburg as the area where he grew up.

This is where the adventure runs out of steam. I have just started looking for microfilmed records of Lutheran churches in the area around Weilburg. Since the family had their births, baptisms, weddings, and deaths recorded at one church, it is possible that they continued the practice if they moved. Or... it is possible that the first wife and mother of Gottfried (Susanna) was the religious individual of the family, and the family simply stopped attending to religious records after Johann Georg's marriage to his second wife.

Gary concluded his 2001 research work by stating, "Any insights would be greatly appreciated!" Please contact Gary Orwig at the University of Central Florida;

For readers of this genealogy study who would like to pursue more of the Orwig history in Illinois, Gary suggests using the Internet web site:;archives/data_lan.html At this site, researchers will find Illinois land purchase records showing original purchases from the US government.

Gary plans to further his research after he retires. Much of Gary's information comes from: Pennsylvania German Pioneers, a publication of the original lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia From 1727 to 1808, by Ralph Beaver Strassburger. Edited by William John Hinke and published by the Genealogical Publishing Co.,1934, vol 3, ISBN 0-8063-0882-6. Reprinted in 1980. The Pennsylvania German Pioneers was also cited as a reference by Elmer Orwig (see above).

Also via the Internet, Keith van der Wal, ( a resident of British Columbia, Canada, advised Larry Orwig that his genealogical study indicated a possibility that the Orwig family originally migrated from Norway to Germany. The first mention of this is in the publication, Port Essington (prince Rupert) BC, Canada, but Keith says these facts are still "unconfirmed." Keith is researching the Orwig family history in behalf of his wife whose 2nd great grandfather was Torsten Matheas Orwig; born in 1849 and died June 9, 1924.

For more information Gottfried's birth place, see the "Coming to America" chapter of this genealogy study, the paragraph titled, "The Orwig's German Heritage".

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