The Mother of My Wife

John Hoffman, the 1714 immigrant, had a family Bible in which he entered his parents, his birth, his first wife, their children, his second wife, and their children. John W. Wayland reported this information in “John Hoffman of Germanna and some of His Descendants,” in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (volume 63, n.4, p. 454-460, October 1955). This formed the substantial basis for an article in Beyond Germanna (volume 11, n.2, p. 618) entitled “John Hoffman: Records from his Bible, 1663-1813.”

His second family was large, twelve children in all. In the Bible record for the first seven of these children one of the sponsors was given as “the mother of my wife.” John Hoffman gave no hint in any of the records as to the actual name of his mother-in-law. We know that the wife’s name was Maria Sabina Folg. However, no Virginia record shows the Folg name except this Bible record of John Hoffman.

This puzzle was solved by Margaret James Squires and the results were reported in the first issue of Beyond Germanna (volume 1, n. 1, January 1989). The answer was found independently by Gary Zimmerman and Johni Cerny and reported in volume 4 of the Before Germanna series.

The story has its setting in the Hueffenhardt church in Baden where the people who lived on the Wagenbach farm attended church. To give the answer quickly to the question of who “the mother of my wife” was, she was Mrs. George (Barbara) Utz. George Utz was the step-father of Maria Sabina. In the German records, the Folg name is spelled Volck. The two names sound much the same and so John Hoffman wrote Maria Sabina’s surname  phonetically.

The story in the church records is complicated. There are three marriages that should be included. First, Anna Maria Unknown married Johann Michael Volck about 1685. There were seven children who were born from 1687 to 1704. The death of Anna Maria Unknown Volck is not in the Hueffenhardt church records which does have some gaps due to war.

Second, Johann Michael Volck married Anna Barbara Majer(s) on 27 January 1709. To this marriage, three children were born:
1. Maria Sabina Charlotta Barbara, b. 19 March 1710
2. Louisa Elisabetha, b. 23 March 1711
3. Maria Rosina, b. 22 August 1712
Johann Michael Volck died 7 April 1714 at the age of 51 years.

The widow, Anna Barbara (Majer) Volck married Johann Georg Utz on 10 July 1714. Two children were born in Germany:
1. Ferdinand, b. 3 April 1715
2. Johannes, b.25 July1716
and others were born in Virginia.

The head right list of the Second Colony members that Alexander Spotswood used gives these names:
Hans Jerich Otes, Parvara Otes, Ferdinandis Sylvania Otes, Anna Louisa Otes


From the count of names in the list, we know that one of the forty-eight names is missing. We can now say that the name “Ferdinandis Sylvania Otes” should be Ferdinand Utz and (Maria) Sabina Volck. The records gave all members of the George Utz party the name Otes and failed to distinguish the step-children of George Utz. There is a small problem with the baptismal name Louisa Elizabeth and the head right list name of Anna Louisa but there can be little doubt that we have the same family. From a comparison of the names we see that at least two of the children of Anna Barbara (Majer Volck) Utz died before reaching America.

The head right names are given in three places. They appear in Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, vol. 3, pp. 411-412 as abstracted by Nell Marion Nugent. Some of the names are hard to read and she did not know the names from Germany so there are some weaknesses in her list of names. There is also a list in the Before Germanna booklets by Johni Cerny and Gary J. Zimmerman with a slightly scrambled order of the names. The best list is in Beyond Germanna, vol. 7, n.3, p.385, as read from Virginia Patent Book 14, p. 378ff taking advantage of German information.

In the baptismal reports from the Hoffman Bible, for the first family there was only one sponsor or witness for each child where both parents are Reformed. In the second family where the mother is Lutheran there are three witnesses. Apparently this was a concession by John Hoffman to his wife.

John Hoffman gave Maria Sabina’s birth date as 29 March 1710, whereas the church record from Germany gives her birth date as 19 March 1710. Basically, this is the difference between the German New Style calendar and the English Old Style calendar.

We know something of ancestry of Johann Michael Volck and of Barbara Majer. Her father was Hans Majer of Wolfartweyher, a place which has not yet been identified with certainty. Something of the ancestry of George Utz is known. He came from Bavaria, just across the line from Wuerttemberg.

The list of sponsors is intriguing because we believe they were close to the family of John and Maria Sabina Hoffman. Several of the names in the history duplicate or suggest other Germanna names. For example, Volck and Walk may be the same. Also, Majer and Moyer may be the same.

What lessons do we learn from this? Foremost, is the important of consulting the German records where we can.

Photos of Wagenbach, Hueffenhardt, and of the villages in Bavaria where George Utz came from are shown on the German and Austrian Photographic Essay CD.

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