My Immigrant Ancestor -Benjamin Schiller
by Robert P. Schiller, Sept. 1997
In researching ancestral records for my original immigrant Schiller ancestor, I first examined the available information on my ancestors that were part of my family lore. A family tree for my parents, Alphonse Schiller and Emilia Charron had been researched and drawn by Juliette Trudelle nee Schiller. This tree was my starting point. Indicated at the base of the family tree is the main ancestral line for Alphonse Schiller. They were Honore, David, Albert and Jean-Charles Schiller.
It was relatively easy to obtain substantiating information on my father, Alphonse Schiller, my grandfather, Honore Schiller, my great grandfather, David Schiller and my great, great grandfather Albert Schiller. However, I had much more difficulty in confirming that Jean-Charles Schiller was my immigrant ancestor. In fact, he was not.
In my research, I was able to find considerable data on Jean-Charles and his family in the region of Varennes, Quebec. I located information on 14 of his children.1 Jean-Charles Schiller was a doctor and also he was a former "Hessian" soldier. However, there was a major problem. None of the 14 children of Jean-Charles Schiller and Marie-Reine Delfosse was named Albert.
Meanwhile, I had begun to find data on another Schiller, Auguste Benjamin Schiller2 also a doctor and also a former "Hessian" soldier. Apparently, after the American Revolutionary War, Benjamin Schiller had initially settled in Riviere-du-Loup, Maskinonge County, Quebec. (Riviere-du-Loup is now known as Louiseville.) Continuing to search, I decided to go back and look for Albert Schiller's baptismal record. Baptismal records always show the parents of the child who was baptized. I searched the baptismal records of St. Antoine de Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec. Sure enough, Albert's baptismal record3 was there. Albert Schiller, my great great grandfather was baptized on 19 October 1794, "the legitimate son of Benjamin Schiller and Marguerite Hebert." This document was the first that I had found that definitely tied my Schiller ancestral line to Benjamin Schiller who is in fact my immigrant ancestor.
Additionally, there was another piece of data that supports the above conclusion. In great grandfather's David Schiller's baptismal record4 in St .Joseph Church in Maskinonge, Quebec, it indicates that David's godfather was Augustus Benjamin Schiller. A key point here is that Benjamin signed the baptismal record as A.B. Schiller Chr. The Chr stands for "chirurgien" which is the French word for surgeon or doctor. The Chr after a name would be the equivalent of an MD written after a doctors name today. Also, it was a common French-Canadian custom for a grandparent to be a godparent. Thus, based on these documents, it seems pretty conclusive that my immigrant ancestor is August Benjamin Schiller, the father of Albert Schiller and the grandfather of David Schiller.
Being quite confident that Benjamin was my immigrant Schiller ancestor and having other data5 to indicate that he was a "Hessian" soldier, I decided to take a look at who were the "Hessian" soldiers and where did Benjamin Schiller fit into this group.
The "Hessians" were involved in the American Revolutionary War. The War started on April 19, 1775 in Concord, Massachusetts with "The shot heard around the world" and officially ended on September 3, 1783 with the formal signing of the Treaty of Paris. In 1775, when the American patriots revolted, the British troops were outnumbered by the rebel forces. After suffering heavy casualties and defeat in several battles, the Bristish withdrew from Boston and New York to Halifax, Nova Scotia, a safer area. There, they regrouped and planned their next move.
Because of the Seven Year's War and internal domestic problems, England was short of troops to put down the American Rebellion. As a result, King George III of England, who was also the Elector of Hanover obtained the help of his German relatives (and allies in the Seven Year's War.)
It should be noted that present day Germany is very different than what it was in the 1775-1783 time frame. During this period, Germany was literally split into hundreds of separate principalities, bishoprics and free cities each with its own ruler. Prussia had risen to a strong position but collapsed in 1802. As a result of the various battles and wars, the borders of Germany and many other European countries have constantly changed even up to today.
Britain signed treaties with the following German principalities6 to obtain the following number of regular troops to fight side by side with the British troops against the American rebels:
1) Frederick II, Landgrave of Hessen-Kassel 16,992
2) His son Wilhelm, independent Count of Hessen-Hanau 2,422
3) Charles I, Duke of Brunswick 5,723
4) Frederick, Prince of Waldeck 1,225
5) Charles Alexander, Margrave of Anspack-Bayreuth 2,353
6) Frederick, August of Anholt-Zerbst 1,160
Total Number of Troops 29,875
Because the largest number of troops were from Hessen-Kassel and Hessen-Nassau (19,414), the German soldiers were generally referred to as "Hessians." But in actual fact, as is shown above, the troops came from six different principalities. These soldiers were regular military units, bound by a loyalty oath and paid by their principality leader. There was no personal bargaining with the British War Office, by the individual soldiers involved. Thus, the common designation of "Hessian Mercenaries" for these troops is incorrect. My immigrant ancestor, Auguste Benjamin Schiller was a part of the Brunswick7 troops.
Battle Flag of the Brunswick Infantry Regiment
These troops were sent to America as follows:
Year No.of Troops
In 1776 4,300
March 1777 224
April 1778 475
April 1779 286
May 1780 266
April 1782 172
Total = 5,723
Returned to Germany in autumn of 1783 = 2,708
Did not returned to Germany = 3,015
The Brunswick troops served mainly in Canada and northern New York. Hans Helmut Rimpau has published in the "Archir fuer Sippenforschung" the names of over 1,700 soldiers who failed to return to Brunswick in 1783.8 Since these German documents are not readily available in the US they were reprinted by C.N. Smith9
From this latter document, I learned that Auguste Benjamin Schiller was a medical corpsman, born in Königsberg. He was twenty five years and 3 months old and discharged in Canada in 1783. The age is based on the year 1780, which means Auguste Benjamin was born in about 1765 in Königsberg, East Prussia. On Figure 1 map below, Konigsberg is shown on the north end of the Gulf of Danzig on the Baltic Sea. Today, the Gulf of Danzig is the Gulf of Gdansk and Konigsberg is Kaliningrad and is now part of Lithuania.
Figure 1. Map of ancient Germany showing Prussia and the location of Königsberg
Juliette Trudelle nee Schiller (my sister) provided the author with an excellent source document (Reference 5) on Benjamin Schiller. The document was obtained on microfilm from the Clements Historical Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
This original document provided the following data:
Document: Muster Roll
Date taken: July 20th 1781
Location: Fort Brooklyn, Long Island, New York
Name: Benjamin Schiller,
Rank: Surgeon's Mate
Company: Major de Ehrenkrook's Company
Regiment: Brigadier General Specht's Regiment
Troops: Brunswick Troops
This document also states that the muster roll included the recruits sent over from Brunswick in the year 1780. Demarce10 indicates that Auguste Benjamin Schiller was a "fourth recruit transport" which arrived in New York. From the table above, we see that Benjamin "fourth recruit transport" would be the 266 recruits brought over in May of 1780.
From other documents11, we know that the overall Commander of the German troops was Major General Adolf Baron von Riedesel. In a book written by Max von Eelking,12 it indicated that Major General von Reidesel, was captured along with the British General Burgoyne at Saratoga on 17 October 1777. Three years later, on October 25, 1780, General Reidesel was set free in a prisoner exchange13 . After being released, Sir Henry Clinton at once confirmed the command of Long Island upon him with headquarters in Brooklyn.
On 22 July 1781, Major General Riedesel and his family, along with 900 German soldiers, mainly Brunswickers and all the recruits who in the meantime had arrived in Brooklyn departed for Halifax and Quebec aboard British ships. The general and his family were aboard the ship "Lilledale" . They arrived in Quebec City ( for a second time) after a very stormy journey on 12 September 1781. Major General Riedesel was then given command of all German Troops in Canada and took up possession of his old quarters in Sorel14 .
Meanwhile, note that the previously mentioned Muster Roll of the Brunswick troops (which included Benjamin Schiller) taken at Fort Brooklyn on July 20, 1781 (Reference 5) was only 2 days prior to the departure of Major General Riedesel. The Muster Roll was probably taken in preparation for the trip from Brooklyn to Quebec, which as indicated, departed 2 days later on 22 July 1781. It can be safely assumed that my immigrant ancestor, Surgeon's Mate Benjamin Schiller was included with these 900 Brunswick Troops transported from Brooklyn to Quebec City via Halifax.
Benjamin Schiller was discharged from his military duties in early 1783 in Quebec. On approximately 14 July 1783, he married Marie-Marguerite Hébert dit Lenoir. She was the daughter of Pierre Hébert dit Lenoir, and his wife. Pierre was a farmer and provided a dowry of 300 pounds (French) for his daughter's wedding15 . As of yet, I have not found the actual marriage record for Benjamin and Marie-Marguerite. This could possibly be because they were perhaps married in a protestant church which I have not yet searched. Lessard does point out that Benjamin received an "Abjuration de l'heresie lutherienne" in 1801, which would be part of his formal conversion to Catholicism. They had many children which are discussed further below.
Meanwhile, Benjamin now began to pursue his medical profession in Quebec. As previously indicated, he had been a surgeon's mate in the German company of Major von Ehrenkrooks, which was part of regiment of Brigadier General Specht in the Brunswick troops, which were under the overall command of Major General von Riedesel. It is interesting to note that when Major General Riedesel returned to Sorel, his wife who had joined him in the Bourgoyne Campaign also returned with him. She is credited with introducing the first lighted Christmas tree to Canada in 1781 at her new residence in Sorel. The home is still known today as the General's House and locally as the Christmas Tree House. The Canadian Post Office issued a special stamp in 1981 to commemorate this event. Their home is still standing today and a photograph is shown on the following page.
The First Lighted Christmas Tree, 1781
In 1783 Benjamin began practicing medicine in the civil sector as an apprentice surgeon. From Lessard we know more about Benjamin Schiller's medical profession background. When leaving the military he had a letter of recommendation from Major General Riedesel which indicated, "A young man who doesn't yet have a lot of experience but because of his diligent application shows promise for the future." The records show that Benjamin became a surgeon in 1787 17. In 1797, he received a formal license to practice medicine and pharmacy and was given the title doctor in 1800.
Figure 2. 1994 photograph of the Sorel, Quebec residence of Major General and Baroness von Riedesel (1781-1783) 16
The children from the marriage of Auguste Benjamin Schiller and Marie-Marguerite Hebert dit Lenoir are summarized below. For more complete information on these children see the data that was transferred directly from my genealogy software program, into the Appendix.
The children were:
1) Jean Benjamin Schiller, born Nov 1785 in Riviere-du-Loup
2) Marie-Louise Schiller, born 21 June 1787 in Riviere-du-Loup
3) Augustin Schiller, born 12 Feb 1789 in Riviere-du-Loup
4) Marie-Josette Schiller, born Mar 1790 in Riviere-du-Loup
5) Sophie Schiller, born abt 1792 in Riviere-du-Loup
6) Albert Schiller, born 18 Oct 1794 in Riviere-du-Loup
7) Godefrai Schiller, born Nov 1796 in Riviere-du-Loup
8) Telesphore Schiller, born abt 1798 probably in Riviere-du-Loup
My direct descendent is Benjamin Schiller's son Albert and we see this is confirmed in Reference 3, which is Albert's baptismal record. Aside from the information in the Appendix, at this time, I have no other data on Benjamin and Marguerite Schiller's children except that of their eldest son Jean Benjamin Schiller.
Benjamin Schiller Jr. served with great distinction in the War of 1812. A detailed account of his bravery in action in the field at the Battle of Chateauguay is detailed in an interesting book by J. Patrick Wohler, "Charles de Salaberry, Soldier of the Empire, Defender of Quebec" Dundern Press, 1984, pg 88-90.
Husband: Auguste Johann Benjamin SCHILLER
Birth: About 1757 Place: KOENIGSBERG, PRUSSIA14
Death: Jun 1835 Place: MASKINONGE, MASKINONGE CTY, QC 32
Burial: 10 Jun 1835 Place: MASKINONGE, MASKINONGE CTY, QC 32
Marriage: About 1783 Place: NEAR RIVIERE-DU-LOUP (LOUISEVILLE), QUEBEC14
Wife: Marguerite HEBERT DIT LENOIR
Birth: About 1760 15 Place:
Death: 15 Jul 1843 Place: CAP-DE-LA-MADELEINE, CHAMPLAIN CTY, QUEBEC15
Burial: 17 Jul 1843 Place: CAP-DE-LA-MADELEINE, CHAMPLAIN CTY, QUEBEC15
Father: Pierre HEBERT DIT LENOIR32
Mother: Mrs Pierre HEBERT DIT LENOIR32
1. M Child: Jean Benjamin SCHILLER
Birth: Nov 1785 Place: RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MA CTY QC 68 PG 18
Baptism: 7 Nov 1785 Place: ST ANTOINE/RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, QC 68 PG 18
Spouse: Sophie Charlotte CRAIG-MORRIS
Marriage: 2 Feb 1802 Place: RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, MASKINONGE CTY, QUEBEC 69 Pg 2499
Spouse: Marie-Madeleine LAMONTAGNE 69
Marriage: 10 Jan 1819 Place: RIVIER-DU-LOUP, MASKINONGE CTY, QUEBEC 69
2. F Child: Marie Louise SCHILLER
Birth: 21 Jun 1787 Place: RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISVILLE, MASKNG CTY, QC 68 P3
Baptism: 21 Jun 1787 Place: ST ANTOINE/RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, QC68 P3
Spouse: Guillaume PAILLE
Marriage: 20 Feb 1810 Place: ST ANTOINE DE RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASK, PC 70
3. M Child: Augustine SCHILLER
Birth: Feb 1789 Place: RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASKINONG CTY, QC68 PG3 Baptism: 12 Feb 1789 Place: ST ANTOINE DE RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE,68 PG 3
Death: Apr 1789 Place: RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASKINONG CTY, QC68 PG 4
Burial: 3 Apr 1789 Place: ST ANTOINE DE RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE,68 PG 4
4. F Child: M.- Josette (Josephe?) SCHILLER
Birth: Mar 1790 Place: RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASK CTY QC 68 PG 3
Baptism: 15 Mar 1790 Place: ST. ANTOINE, RIV DU LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, QC 68 PG 3
Spouse: Augustin MOREAU
Marriage: 8 Nov 1808 Place: ST ANTOINE DE RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASK, QC 70
5. F Child: Sophie SCHILLER
Birth: About 1792 Place: QUEBEC
Death: May 1795 Place: RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASKINONGE CTY QC 68 PG 8
Burial: 13 May 1795 Place: ST ANTOINE DE RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE QC 68 PG 8
Spouse: Joseph VEZINA 45
Marriage: 11 Feb 1817 Place: MASKINONGE, MASKINONGE CTY, QC 45
Spouse: François-Xavier BRUNELLE 45
Marriage: 9 Jan 1821 Place: MASKINONGE, MASKINONGE CTY, QC 45
6. M Child: Albert SCHILLER
Birth: 18 Oct 1794 Place: RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASKNGE CTY, QC 12 PG 15
Baptism: 19 Oct 1794 Place: ST. ANTOINE/RIV-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, QC 12 PG 15
Death: Jul 1851 Place: ST MAURICE, CHAMPLAIN CTY, QUEBEC13
Burial: 21 Jul 1851 Place: ST MAURICE CH, ST MAURICE, QUEBEC13
Spouse: Sophie DAJENAIE
Marriage: Place: QUEBEC
7. M Child: Godefrai SCHILLER
Birth: Nov 1796 Place: RIVIERE-DU-LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, MASK CTY QC 68 PG 17
Baptism: 22 Nov 1796 Place: ST. ANTOINE, RIV DU LOUP, LOUISEVILLE, QC 68 PG 17
8. M Child: Telesphore SCHILLER 45
Birth: About 1798 Place: QUEBEC
Spouse: Etiennette LEMIRE 45
Marriage: 22 Nov 1827 Place: MASKINONGE, MASKINONGE CTY, QC 45
Reference Note 14
Data sheet on August Benjamin Schiller obtained from Researcher and Historian, John Helmut Merz, 304-52 Hayden St. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L9A 2X2.
Reference Note 15
Cap-de-la-Madeleine Parish Records, FHL 1,302,085 page 629. Translated as follows: "17 July1843 buried Marguerite Hebert, died two days ago, age about 83 years, spouse of the late Auguste Benjamin Schiller, Doctor of St. Maurice."
Reference Note 32
Data Sheet: On Augustus Johann Benjamin Schiller obtained from Renald Lessard, Centre d'archives de Quebec 1210 Avenue du Seminaire, C.P. 10450, Sainte-Foy, Quebec G1V 4N1
Reference Note 45
"Repertoire des Mariages de Maskinonge", 1728 - 1966 par Dominique Campagna S.C., La Centre de Genealogie S.C. 240, Avenue Daly, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6G2. Page 269
Reference Note 68
Data received by the author from genealogy researcher Beth (Mrs. Vernon S.) Davies, 69 W. 1080 N., American Fork, Ut 84003 in July 1996. Source: Index to FHL film 1,018,141. Original data from St. Antoine de Riviere-du-Loup (Louiseville), Maskinonge County, Quebec.
Reference Note 69
"INVENTAIRE DES CONTRATS DE MARIAGE DEPOSES AUX ARCHIVES NATIONALES DE
TROIS-RIVERES 1647-1918", Tome - Q-R-S-T-V-W-Y. Societe de genealogie de la Mauricie et des Bois-Francs. En Collaboration: Archives nationales de Trois-Rivieres. Page 2499. In possession of the author, received from Mrs Beth Davies, Genealogist, 69 W. 1080 N., American Fork, UT 84003 (Copy in possession of the author)
Reference Note 70
Repertoire des Mariages de Louiseville, (Paroisse St Antoine de Riviere-du-Loup) 1714 - 1941, Page 310. Par: Dominique Campagna S.C. Repertoire Numero 16 Le Centre de Genealogie S.C. 240, Avenue Daly, Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6G2
1. Registre du Baptême, Mariages et Sepulture de la Paroisse de Sainte Anne de Varennes, Comte de Vercheres, Quebec 1778-1783
2. Petition by William Vondenvelden, Notary of Quebec City (a former Lieutenant of Hessen-Hanau) on behalf of of 317 former German soldiers, dated 30 September 1800, Quebec city. A
copy of petition is in possession of the author. Also check the National Archives of Canada, "Lower Canada Land Petitions, (RG 1, L3L) - Benjamin, Shiller, 1824 (pp. 977-978, reel C-2493; pp. 91914-91917, reel C-2566).
3. From the records of St. Antoine Church, Riviere-du-Loup (Louiseville), Quebec, FHL microfilm no. 1,018,137:
"19 October 1794 by us, the undersigned priest baptized Albert born yesterday of the legitimate marriage of Benjamin Schiller and of Marguerite Hebert. The godfather was Albert Harnois and the godmother Genevieve Normand who has signed with the father. the godfather declared he did not know how to sign". Signed: Genevieve Normand, A. B. Schiller, Bertrand Priest
4. St Joseph's Parish Records, Maskinonge, Quebec - FHL Film No. 1,302,038, Volume D, Pg.52.
" 6 November 1820, by me priest, the undersigned baptized David, born yesterday of the legitimate marriage of Albert Schiller of this parish and Sophie Dagenet. The godfather was Auguste Benjamin Schiller and the godmother was Marie Felicite Philibert who could not sign. The godfather and the father signed with us."
Signed: A.B. Schiller Chr, Albert Schiller, L. Marcouin Priest
5. Microfilm, German Muster Rolls 1776-1782 Complete. Clements Library, University of Michigan, Benjamin Schiller, Surgeon's Mate, Company of Major de Ehrenkrook, Detachment of Brigadier General Specht, Brunswick Troop's Regiment.
6. Volm, M. H., "The Hessian Prisoners in the American War of Independence and Their Life in Captivity", Univ. of Virginia.
7. Lowell, Edward J., "The Hessians and Other German Auxiliaries of Great Britain in the Revolutionary War." New York: Harper & Brothers, 1884, Pg. 299.
8. Rimpau, Hans Helmut, "The Brunswickers in Nordamerika 1776-1783." "Archir fuer Sippenforschung" , Heft 43 (August 1971), pp 204-219; Heft 44 (November 1971), pp 293-308; Heft 45 (February 1972), pp 346-355.
9. Smith, Clifford Neal, "Brunswick Deserter-Immigrants of the American Revolution", Westland Publication, McNeal, Arizona, p.41.
10. DeMarce, Virginia Easley, "The Settlement of former German Auxiliary Troops in Canada after the American Revolution", First Edition published by Joy Resinger 1020 Central Avenue Sparta, WI 54656, 1984
11. Doblin, Helga, Translation "The Specht Journal: A Military Journal of the Bourgoyne Campaign", Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut 1995.
12. Von Eelking, Max, (German Version) "Diedeuschen Hülfstruppen im nordamerickanischen befreiunngskriege, 1776-1783", II Part.
13. Hadden, "Journal Upon Bourgoyne's Campaign", Books for Libraries Press, Freeport, N.Y., 1970
14. Brown Jr., Marvin L., "Baroness von Riedesel and the American revolution", Journal and Correspondence of a Tour of Duty 1776 - 1783, Univerity of North Carolina Press.
15. Lessard, Renald, notes from his book regarding "Doctors and Surgeons in Quebec in the XVIII century" 1996.
16 Photograph of General and Mrs Riedesel home received by the author from researcher and historian John Helmut Merz 304-52 Hayden, Hamilton, Ontario L9A 2X2.
17 Copy of Benjamin Schiller's license to practice medicine received by the author from researcher and historian John Helmut Merz 304-52 Hayden, Hamilton, Ontario L9A 2X2.
...Robert Pierre Schiller, 1997
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