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Franklin and Marshall College has been designated the public repository for the research collection of the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association (JSHA) an organization dedicated to the history of "Hessian" soldiers from the German principalities of Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Hanau, Waldeck, Brunswick, Anhalt-Zerbst, and Ansbach-Bayreuth who served as auxiliaries to the British crown during the American Revolution (1775-1783) and who became citizens of the new United States after the war. Available to interested researchers are family history materials, journals, monographs, and manuscripts documenting German-American families, history and culture. A complete inventory of the collection can be viewed here. The collection does not have information concerning "Hessian" or German immigrants who came to North America outside of this context, either earlier in the 18th century or afterward, nor do we have original German military or church records.
(Please note that Franklin and Marshall College does not administer the JSHA certificate program, publish the JSHA's journal The Hessians: Journal of the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association, publish the website jsha.org or otherwise have responsibility for fulfilling the mission of the JSHA. All inquiries not related to the research collection as listed should be directed toward the JSHA)
Due to the heavy volume of requests and limitations on staff time, we can no longer answer genealogical inquiries or offer photocopying services of files or materials from this collection by email, phone, or mail - including vetting or describing available materials. All persons are welcome to schedule an appointment to visit the Archives and Special Collections to conduct in-person research using the collection (wherein photocopies can be made). However, since the collection is secondary in nature and there is limited information available on specific soldiers, it is not recommended that persons make a special trip from long distances just to use the collection, as they are likely to be disappointed. In general, the collection is more helpful to those beginning their Hessian soldier search and those seeking information on the soldier's life in North America than for those who already have a great deal of information or are looking for information on their ancestor's prior life in Germany. Persons unable to visit the collection in-person may choose to enlist the services of a local professional genealogist in researching your ancestor using this collection. A list of researchers is provided through the Association of Professional Genealogists. (We cannot/will not offer recommendations or endorsements of any particular researcher.)
Please note that in many cases the material that we do have on file does not contain much more than what is listed on the JSHA's online registry or in published profiles and articles in the JSHA's Journal. This is especially the case concerning a Hessian's German origins and antecedents in which we have very little information. When looking for a name (including those not listed in our inventory or in the JSHA registry/journal) standard sources that you should consult via your local library or interlibrary loan include:
Search for libraries that have these items.
Please understand that we cannot conduct research concerning specific soldiers, nor can we conduct searches for the name of an ancestor "thought to have been a Hessian".
To enlist the services of a professional genealogist in your area and/or locally in researching your ancestor, a list of researchers is provided through the Association of Professional Genealogists (We cannot/will not offer recommendations or endorsements of any particular researcher.)
For additional genealogical tips, please visit the Johannes Schwalm Historical Association's primer for genealogical research at:
Researchers may also be interested in watching a fully realized Hessian ancestor research process on the NBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are? (Of course, results may vary).
The county or local historical society and/or library in the area where your ancestor settled may have local histories, genealogies, cemetery registers, obituaries, newspapers, etc. that document your ancestor.
County or municipal government offices such as the Recorder of Deeds, Register of Wills, etc. and local and regional church archives are another major source of documentation. For Hessians who settled in Pennsylvania who were likely members of the Reformed or Lutheran Churches the Evangelical and Reformed Historical Society and Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia may be helpful.
Information on Hessian ancestors before they settled in North America may be available in German archives. Information concerning persons from the prinicipality of Hesse-Cassel (the area supplying the majority of troops known as "Hessians") may be found at the Hessisches Staatsarchiv in Marburg, Germany and perhaps related regional archives in Wiesbaden and Darmstadt. Information about Duchy of Braunschweig (Brunswick) soldiers may be found through the Niedersachsisches Landesarchiv in Hannover, Germany. Information on Ansbach-Bayreuth troops may be found through Die staatlichen Archive in Bayern.
Information on Hessians who settled in Canada may be found at the Library and Archives Canada, the Archives Nationales Quebec, and the Marilyn Adams Genealogical Research Centre of the 7th Town Historical Society.
Information on Hessian units in the service of Great Britain including information on ship transport may be found at the British National Archives.
Additional sources of information on Hessian troops in general in the American Revolution can be found at the Sons of the American Revolution library, David Library of the American Revolution, U.S. Army Military History Institute, the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and through your local library. The website AMREV-Hessian mailing list may also be helpful.
The Archives and Special Collections of Franklin and Marshall College also maintains several other collections relating to German-American culture and history which can be viewed at this link.
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