52 Ancestors – #46 Rudolph Manbeck. Where There’s a Will – Part II

Have you ever wanted to time travel and get to see how a particular ancestor lived? What he or she did for a living, or to help support the family? What kind of furniture did he/she have? What was most important to him/her?

Rudolph Manbeck 1740 or 1743 – 1794

Flax plant

Flax – vintage illustration, Linum usitatissimum L., Common flax or Linseed.

Well lucky me, I’ve just returned from a bit of time travel to the end of the 18th century where I visited my husband, Ken Badertscher’s 4th great-grandfather and  grandmother, Rudolph and Christina (Ziegler) Manbeck. My time travel vehicle is the will filed in the Tulpehocken Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania court by Rudolph Manbeck in January 1794 and probated in February 1794.

Unfortunately, my time travel machine would not take me all the way back to Germany where Rudolph and Christina were born, but I have more than enough information about their lives in Pennsylvania to keep Ken and his family busy for years.Rudolph arrived in America in 1765 with his father and his two sisters (and probably his mother). He settled in Berks County, Pennsylvania and attended the Altahala Evangelical Lutheran Church at Rehrersburg, Pennsylvania, a church founded in 1757 to serve German immigrants. In the 1950s Manbecks were still active members of the church.

What did I learn from the will and inventory of belongings?  I learned much about Rudolph and Christina’s life, but also got a lesson in vocabulary.

Rudolph was religious. His will starts with language that is familiar to readers of wills of the 17th through 19th centuries, in thanking God that he is still of sound mind although “at Present Sickly and Weakly in Body.” He admits to mortality “it is appointed for all Men once to die”. The first order of business is to “commend my Soul into the Hands of God who gave it, Hoping through the Merits of our Savior Jesus Christ to receive Remission of all my Sins and an Happy Admission into the Regions of Bliss and Immortality.”

Rudolph was a traditionalist.  I know that because he followed the assumed pattern of German primogeniture.  His land and accumulated buildings went to his oldest son, John, who was also tasked, along with Christina, Rudolph’s wife, of administering the will.  That does not mean that Rudolph six or seven (I’ll explain the “or” in a bit) other children were left with nothing.  In fact, John had to pay 300 pounds for the farm, doling it out to his siblings according to a formula spelled out by Rudolph. Which brings us to another trait.

Rudolph was the decision-maker

–perhaps even a bit of a control freak.  Besides the specific formula by which John is to pay back his siblings for the farm, 1/3 of the will contains details about what his wife is to inherit and how John is to keep his mother after Rudolph dies. A long paragraph specifies a grocery list of food stuff that she must get yearly from major items like Eight Bushels of good Wheat  to “half a Bushel good Salt, 1/4 li (superscript – latin abbreviation for pound) pepper, 1/4 li Alspices, 1/3 li Ginger” and more.

As though he does not trust John to have good sense to proper care for his mother, he instructs on the care of the cow she is to have.  She is to “Keep a Cow, Summer and Winter’s in provender like his own Cow’s and when said Cow dies or is old and unfit, then to find or give her a young one again from his Cows.”

I could also herar his preachy voice saying “John, you need to give your mother grain, but you also need to take it to the Mill and have it ground and then take the meal back to her.” The wording in the will is, “Eight Bushels of good Wheat, four Bushels of good Rye and to the same from time to time as she Need go into the Mill and fetch these Meal and Bran Home into her dwelling.”

John gets more instructions about Christina’s dwelling place, again with lots of detail. He is to share the farm house and give her the use of “Kitchen, Garrett, Cellar, Spring House, Bake-Oven with Free Egress and Regress and in Case they cannot live peaceable together, then he is to make new Room on the Spring House in good order with a pipe stove and fireplace in it….” One hopes that they lived peaceable.

Rudolph Manbeck

Rudolph Manbeck signature on will 1794

You can see from Rupert’s signature, that he was in bad shape physically. Although he was only in his early fifties, he probably had suffered a stroke. What a terrible blow that would be to the tough old soldier (he was in the militia and served in the Revolutionary War) and a man who was used to giving orders.

Rudolph was a farmer

His major crop was flax, which is a change from the many dairy farmers I have been writing about.  he owned only six horned cows and 7 swine according to the inventory. Oh, yes, and a hive of bees that he gave to one of his daughters.

Out of 63 lines of inventory, many listing two or even three items, 11 lines contained one or more items having to do with flax, plus there were other items that might have been used in growing it (like rakes and scythes) or in making cloth (like spinning wheels, baskets, etc.). The picture below shows two items that are listed–a spinning wheel and reel.

Spinning Wheel and Reel

“Charlene Parker, spinner, at Knott’s Berry Farm” by DTParker1000 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlene_Parker,_spinner,_at_Knott%27s_Berry_Farm.JPG#/media

I am still learning more about raising flax and what you do with it after you raise it, but here are the terms that I was unfamiliar with in the inventory of his property.

Flax Brakes: Tool to crush the stems and release the fibers.

Hackles: Combs that straighten the fibers.

Hatchels: Another term for Hackle

Towlinen: Coarse cloth made from shorter fibers of flax.

Riddles:  Sieves for sifting seed–there were specific Flax Riddles, I am told.

Culling Box: Another device for separating seed. Not necessarily specific to Flax.

Flaxen Yarn:  The long-fiber thread that would be made into linen

Tow Yarn: The short fiber thread that would be made into the inferiorTow.

This paragraph from Mother Earth on line, explains many of the terms and the process.

Processing the bundles of stems to extract the fibers for spinning is a complex task that requires simple but special tools, a lot of hard physical work, and a sense of timing and judgment that comes only from long experience. The first step, called retting, involves soaking or wetting the stems for a period of days or weeks to promote bacterial action, which separates the different layers of stem tissues and loosens the fibers. After retting, the stems are dried again, then crushed between the wooden blades of a tool called a break or brake, which breaks the woody core into short bits that fall away from the mass of fibers. Finally, the bundles are combed through metal-tined combs called hackles. The result: a smooth bundle of long, straight fibers called line flax and a pile of fluffy, tangled, shorter fibers called tow. The line flax is used to make crisp, glossy fabrics, and the tow is used for everyday goods.

And this web site has a series of pictures showing the whole operatoin.

Christina Spent a Lot of Time Spinning and Weaving

There were a total of 6 spinning wheels and a reel listed in the inventory. One was specified as a Woolwheel, so presumably the rest were used for flax. Christina must have woven the linen and the tow, also, because Rupert leaves her quantites of yarn–both the amount of flaxen yarn and the amount of tow yarn were increased from what was originally written. (The first amount scratched out or written over). Fifty pounds flaxen yarn and thirty pounds Tow yarn. Additionally, the inventor lists 54 pounds of flaxen yarn and 20 of Tow yarn. Although there is no loom mentioned in the will, she most certainly was going to weave that yarn.

If the family was not in the business of selling cloth, they surely must have used it in barter for other goods.

Rudolph was Frugal

When he made his will, Rudloph owed 37 pounds, 6 pence to others, but he had 110 pounds, 10 shillings and 10 pence in cash on hand, which is a healthy amount of money for the time.

In the roughly 32 years since he arrived in America, Rudolph had created a successful 70 acre farm, and with Christina raised 7 (or 8) children.

More Work to be Done

At the beginning of the will, Rudolph specifies a paltry ten pounds as the legacy in full of his “Son Leonard”, to be paid to him or his attorney two years after his decease, with interest.

I have no idea who Leonard is, when he was born, or why he does not get the equal share that “my six children–my four Sons, George, Nicholas, Jacob and Daniel and my two Daughters Christina and Catharine”–plus John, who gets the major portion, and is not counted in the list.

Was Leonard actually a son, or a step son? Or was he perhaps a god-son? Or was he the eldest who under the rule of primogenture had to get something no matter how estranged the father and son might be–so he gets a token. Or did he marry a rich woman, and Rudolph didn’t think he needed any more? And why did he have to wait two years? The most obvious reason would be that he was not yet “of age”.

I find records for John and for a Johannes Leonard.  The Johannes Leonard Manbeck had a son that he named John in September 1794–nearly nine months after Rudolph Manbeck died.The son John who inherited the farm, according to the history of the Grim family of Pennsylvania that includes some Manbecks, was born in 1766,  which is one year after Rudolph arrived in America.According to that same source, he married around 1790.

The other problem is that I cannot verify the information in the Grim family book. I have very little information on Christina.  Although the Grim Family book says that her maiden name is Ziegler, I have not been able to confirm that. I don’t know for sure if Christina and Rudolph married in Germany or in America.  There are hundreds of Christinas among the German immigrants, adding to the confusion.

So there is much work to be done. I probably will leave it to Ken’s sister to finish some day.

Meanwhile, I’ll follow this post next week with one on Rudolph’s father’s will. And I’ll talk a bit soon about Christina’s kitchen.

How Ken is Related

  • Kenneth R. Badertscher is the son of
  • Agnes Bair Badertscher, who is the daughter of
  • Adam Daniel Bair, who is the son of
  • Daniel Manbeck Bair, who is the son of
  • Elizabeth Manbeck Bair, who is the daughter  of
  • Jacob Manbeck, who is the son of
  • Rudolph Manbeck and Catharina Ziegler Manbeck

Notes on Research:

Estate Files, 1752-1915; Author: Berks County (Pennsylvania). Register of Wills; Probate Place: Berks, Pennsylvania Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993, Rudolph Manbeck, 1794. On line at Ancestry.com

Pennsylvania, Revolutionary War Battalions and Militia Index, 1775-1783, Vol. 2, pg 260 Rudolph Manbeck, Corporal. From Ancestry.com

Pennsylvania, Tax and Exoneration, 1768-1801, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission; Records of the Office of the Comptroller General, RG-4; Tax & Exoneration Lists, 1762-1794; Microfilm Roll: 316, Rudolph Manbeck, 1781. From Ancestry.com

A historical booklet of Altahala Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rehrersburg, Berks County, Pennsylvania : published for the 200th anniversary, Sunday, June 23, 1957, Rehresburg, PA: Brossman, Schuyler C.,Church Council, 1957.  From Ancestry.com

Genealogy! Just Ask!  I received help on unfamiliar terms in will from this Facebook Page. Principally from Marlys Pearson, but many others chimed in as well.

 Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen or Medicinal Plants, Franz Eugen, 1887, Germany. This is the source of the beautiful vintage plant illustration of the flax plant. In the public domain. Found on the web site: Plant Curator.

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11 thoughts on “52 Ancestors – #46 Rudolph Manbeck. Where There’s a Will – Part II

  1. Chris Nicholson

    My maternal grandmother was also a flax raiser and linen weaver.
    Christina (Kristena) Jonssdotter (Johnson) was born in Vännäs, Vasterbotten, Sweden in 1864.
    When she immigrated to Manistee, Michigan in 1893 to marry Peter Sundling she left behind
    the many (30??) sheets she had made for her future household needs. She was the only member of
    her family who left Sweden. I never met her as she died in 1931, 4 months before I was born.
    According to my mother Esther Sundling she married Peter in America because she felt that she
    would not be able to live in a comfortable way with any of her family in Sweden because of class
    differences. She married at 29, which was pretty old in the sparsely populated Norland.

    I have an embroidered dresser scarf made from the remnant of a sheet she wove, having
    raised the flax and spun the linen. Christina Baldwin Nicholson

    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Wow! Chris. That is wonderful to have that linen. I have lots and lots of old linen and other fabric heirlooms from my side of the family. Mostly, I don’t know the exact origin, but one is a wool blanket that my mother said HER great-grandmother made from wool from her own sheep.
      My husband, however, has no remnants of his ancestors. He did not know he was related to this Manbeck family, let alone that they raised flax. He grew up knowing about the Swiss dairy farmers, but not about the German side of his family.
      Did she come expressly to marry Peter? Were they acquainted in Sweden? Or was she a “mail order bride”? Have you been able to visit your ancestral lands in Sweden? My sister-in-law’s parents came from Sweden, so I”m sure she’ll be interested in your grandmother’s story.

      1. Guje Oskarsson

        Det var intressant att få reda på så mycket om familjen. Det var oerhört noga förr när man skrev testamente allt skulle vara med som det är här. Jag har lakan handdukar som varit min mormors som odlade lin på gården i Småland. De vävde sydde virkade breda spetsar. Man tog till vara på allt två av hennes syskon emigrerade till USA. Det är roligt att bevara det gamla. Det är intressant det du berättar om din släkt. Det viktigt att finna sina rötter för att veta vem man är.släktforskar på min farmors sida och min farfars sida också har kommit ner till 1600 talet. Men jag har haft hjälp av gensvar jag tycker det är svårt att hitta alla uppgifter själv. Lycka till med fortsatt släkt forskning!

        Med vänlig hälsning! Guje Oskarsson

  2. Tom Fair

    Hi Bunny

    I really enjoyed reading this story, particularly about the manual processing of flax and weaving skills, and the huge chunk of time it took a self-sufficient farming family to produce their finished fabric products. We so take that for granted these days. Thanks for sharing this.

    Tom Fair

  3. Joe S

    Hi Vera,

    Thanks for the blog! I stumbled upon it while doing some “casual genealogy” online. I am a direct descendant of John Manbeck (Rudolph’s son). I am his great x 5 grandson and grew up in Schuylkill County, PA where his son, also John Manbeck, relocated from Rehersburg. I now live in New Orleans, but travel back to PA frequently.

    This was a great read and I really appreciate the time you put into researching this. I frequently ponder what my ancestors were like and what they did in their day to day lives. You made that easy to imagine!

    Everything you found was consistent with what I know about Rudolph and his will. However, I can share that my family records show that Rudolph had 8 children, including Leonard (and “Mary Caterina” as Catharine is listed on what’s been passed down to me). Sadly, there are no dates or additional information included with the names.

    Thanks again and please let me know if you or your sister-in-law unearth any new info. I’ll be checking the blog frequently!


    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Hi Joe. So glad you found Ancestors in Aprons. It is always nice to meet one of my or my husband’s cousins–no matter how distant.Sounds like your family records leave us right where the will did, mentioning a son Leonard without explaining anything else–like age, or why he was treated separately in the will. Thanks also for verifying through family records some of the information I gleaned from the will and Ancestry.com

  4. Katie Holley

    Hello Vera,

    According to a German friend of mine, the name Ziegler is Austrian rather than German. (My Ziegler ancestor emigrated from France, just to make things more complicated.)


  5. Mary Yetter

    I love the way you wrote each of Rudolph Manbeck’s character traits as a heading! It is organized in a way that the readers can learn something important about him in a glance! Also, the media you included (photos and videos of flax and flax spinning) creates in the reader an extra layer of understanding about Rudolph’s life! You have so many great features in this post! Love it!

    1. Vera Marie BadertscherVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Thanks, Mary. I’ve been blogging for seven years on another blog, and picked up a few tricks along the way. I don’t always achieve my goals of “tel an interesting story” and “tell it clearly”, but I try.


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