Who were the good and bad guys in medieval Europe? Course, depends on which side you’re on. Well, let’s be on the side of humanity— people, family, and community. Then, it’s safe to say, that medieval corruption was spearheaded by the Nobles and the feudal lords, the Popes and the Priests and monks, and the military leaders and the local sheriffs. It would seem then that those who were in these groups might be comfortable and those who were not in these groups may be the ones prone to revolution. Well, at least in the Bios, that is not the case. They were all revolutionaries.

The Bios has it Princes and Paupers. There are Kings, Queens, Princes, knights, and dozens of lords as well as generals, sheriffs, professors, mayors, and ministers [see end for complete list]. And all of them Roman Catholics. But the Bios ancestors, from Princes to paupers, revolted—every single one of them. The affluent, the well-connected, the educated, as well as the slaves, serfs, and peasants, all raised families with moral and ethical values to change the world. And we, the children, are the proof.

The overwhelming majority of European immigrants to the early Colonies were escaping this religious persecution from the Catholic establishment, economic suppression from the ruling class, land misappropriation by the local political leaders, forced labor by the military authorities, and hunger due to severe weather and misappropriation of farmland. This is true of nearly every single one of the ancestors in the Bios collection. Unfortunately the change they sought, did not happen immediately or in totality for colonists, but our determined forebearers held steady and ultimately prevailed. The following ancestors (direct-line) and collaterals (cousins) are a few examples of this high-value, community-oriented, anti-establishment behavior. Many of whom paid the price, from excommunication, to ostracism, to whipping, prison and even death.

Ancestors Christian Fankhauser was imprisoned in Europe for his families’ religious beliefs and Robert Thomson stood up for the workers during a coal strike in Edinburgh. In 1772, Thomson’s relatives David Stoddart and John Penman, along with several of other Penman men, walked out on the bosses at Stobhill Colliery in Edinburgh. Nine years later, Penman made the same move at the Dunmore Colliery, defying the owner, the Earl of Dunmore, in the process. They wanted fair pay, safer conditions, and health regulations. They all held their beliefs high and subsequently their descendant Alexander Thompson became a successful Scottish-American entrepreneur in central Pennsylvania, with fairness of work, safe coal mining conditions, and freedom of religion.

Back in Europe, the pre-immigrant ancestors were hard-fast setting to “protest” the Catholic church by establishing Protestant religions, and the ancestors had a hand in procuring the very first. Moravianism, the earliest Protestant branch formed in 1457, was brought to the Colonies by the Fabers, a recent Moravian family, as well as the more distant Sander, Felty, Youngblood, and Bordner clans. Huguenots and Mennonites followed in protest, and by the mid-16th Century were also rebelling against the corrupt authorities. Numerous Huguenot families including ancestors Keefers and Hensels held firm for generations while other just as devoted and deeply rooted Mennonites, including the ancestral Bucher, Batdorf, Stoner and Rudy families, brought humanity, peace, and stability to our shores.

Huguenot Ancestor Isaac Lefevre was left an orphan when his father “Abraham LeFevre, another son and a faithful Huguenot, with his wife and three sons and three daughters were killed by the Roman Catholics in 1685, after the revoking of the Edict of Nantes, because of the nobility of their character.”2 Isaac escaped and was adopted and within a few years he was headed to Philadelphia, where he could start a family, a business, and freely practice his religion.

By the 1650’s Quakerism was taking root and ancestors such as the Livezeys, Humphreys, and Andrews brought it, and its struggles, to the Pennsylvania Colony. They were pacifists who helped rid the colonies of tight British authoritarian rule. Also in Philadelphia, some of the first immigrants to the New World, were the Swedish Lutherans, of which of the ancestral Culin line descends, their Protestant ways surviving Dutch, Swedish, and British rule and ultimately the Revolutionary War itself.

Incredibly foresighted were these ancestors that the most recent Catholic (i.e., the last to finally convert) was Peter Braun, a “Hessian” soldier born in 1743, who immigrated to colonies, fought as a Loyalist in the American Revolution, but immediately switched to Lutheranism and to the Rebels, securing a decades-long occupation working for President George Washington. Peter could finally be himself. Most of the Bios folks were converted by the mid-1600s.

Other Swedes included Peter Gunnarsson Rambo, Justice of the Governor’s Council in New Sweden and later a Justice of the Peace (JOP), along with fellow ancestor Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, also a JOP. Both were early colonial settlers who held the idea of peace and fairness high during some turbulent times. After the Swedish and Dutch colonial rule, the Brits prevailed, so Rambo, along with ancestor Peter Cock and others, were selected by fellow Swedish settlers to greet their new governor, William Penn, to work together as a community.

Cousin and Quaker William Penn’s “Peaceful Kingdom” was the Pennsylvania answer to these European and now Colonial crises, and although it didn’t work as planned, it did allow for the stage for future peaceful settlements, allowing a place that was far safer and freer than the ol’ Country had even been. Ancestors John Houlston, a William Penn Welcome Claimant,and Thomas Wynne, a physician for Penn, held tightly to their beliefs and kept the community on track.

Thomas Wynne was born into the Anglican Church, he in 1655 married Quaker Martha Buttall and found himself profoundly converted. Henceforth a devout Quaker and author of several pamphlets on Quaker doctrine, Wynne faced persecution and even six years’ imprisonment in England in the 1680s. After Martha died, he married … Mrs. Elizabeth Rowden Maude … and she accompanied him as he joined Penn on his trip to America, leaving on August 30 and landing on October 27, 1682.3

Richard Lippincott, an ancestor from England, had also been imprisoned in 1660 and in 1655 near the Castle of Exeter for testifying “against the acts of the Mayor.” In 1663 he and his wife Abigail, left for the Colonies, settling in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, being a member of the first English Colony. Richard’s reason given for the founding of the land patents was in order that he and the inhabitants could experience “free liberty of Conscience without any molestation or disturbance whatever in the way of worship.”8

Richard Lippincott had been made a “Freeman” of the Massachusetts Bay colony by the General Court of Boston in May of 1640. The family resided in the nearby Dorchester settlement but returned in 1652 to Stone House, … England after [Richard] was excommunicated from the church. In England Richard became a follower of the teachings of George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends and was jailed for religious dissent. The family again immigrated to the new world … to live in the tolerant colony of Rhode Island led by the Baptist founder Roger Williams. Here the family prospered and in 1665 joined with other patentees to start the first English colony in New Jersey.4

William Rakestraw and Joseph Phipps were two other ancestors who persevered against the establishment. William was a Quaker pacifist but was vocal about how we should all get along, even against Quaker leaders, which caused him and his family to constantly be in and out of the meetings. William’s situation was summed up by the oppressors that “perhaps if they had been Puritans rather than Quakers, a few would have hung with the witches in Massachusetts.”10 Demonstrating just how widespread religious suppression had become, all who didn’t bow without question to the authority were witches.

Quaker Joseph Phipps of Berkshire was imprisoned at least seven times from 1661 to 1676 for refusing to swear the oath of allegiance and for attending “illegal” religious meetings. His wife, Sarah Phipps, had been imprisoned in 1671. These repeated imprisonments for their faith, left them but one choice, to immigrate to Pennsylvania, where they lived for over thirty years, helping their community members enjoy fairness and freedom.

Collaterals who also shaped the colonies include John Morton, Declaration signer, who died less than a year later—as did so many of the original signers who met with suspicious deaths. These men were trailblazers with great opposition. Also Benjamin Shoemaker, Philadelphia mayor, Nathan Updegraff, Delegate to Ohio’s constitutional convention and Jonas Row, Pennsylvania postmaster. Later, as the country took shape, cousins such as Presidents William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, House of Representative John Bucher (Mennonite), Pennsylvania Governor Samuel Pennypacker and Civil War General Galusha Pennypacker (both Dutch Reformists), composer Les Brown (descendant of Peter Braun mentioned above), and actorMarlon Brando,

Women were suppressed in many additional ways. Thousands of women were marked as witches merely because they voiced discontent with the ruling class religions, namely Catholic and Puritan. Few could own land, get an education or a job, or vote. Well, ancestral women took up the challenge.

At age fourteen Sarah Cable, sister of ancestor Rebecca Cable Knowles, was brought to trial as party to a coven of witches. The family was rocked with this local Witch trial targeting her family, after which the Cables would move their family south to Fairfield, away from the Puritan authority, obtaining the ability to practice freedom of religion and speech.

The house that ancestor Jacob Melius built in Mt. Ross, New York was described in part as “with a few small windows and with a low, wide Dutch door, marked on its top half by the cross, and on the bottom by an X, the cross, some say of witches.”9 Only the amoral religious leaders would throw such rubbish to tarnish a family.

Elizabeth Kistler’s ancestors survived through the most harrowing struggles Europe had to offer. Her parents and grandparents, although living near the town of Freiburg, which means “town of freedom,” was anything but. There was Catholic domination, high taxation from the local counts, hardships caused by the Thirty Years War, all while the lands were conquered by the French, Austrians, Swedes, and Spanish during various periods. Along with the suppression of the counts and bishops, Freiburg also endured a severe black plague and frequent witch hunts of the Protestants, including against the Kistler’s faith, targeting Mennonite women and teen girls.

As mentioned above, Sarah Phipps was imprisoned for her religious beliefs, but would only cause her fiercer determination. During these circuitously dangerous times ancestors and collaterals, such as Anna Maria Muhlenberg who pioneered Lutheranism, would push back even in lieu of the well-funded oppression. Other ancestors such as Rainey Brown and Rebecca Thompson, were African trailblazers who survived through slavery’s darkest hours. All our Georgia ancestors held firm through the  most horrid times, to finally celebrate emancipation after the Civil War.

A very outspoken and ethical woman was Quaker ancestor Mary Wright, who espoused peace from the Puritan hands. She and her two sisters voiced their discontent, and over a period of 17 years, from 1660 to 1677, Mary, Hannah, and Lydia Wright “were so moved by the persecution of Quakers in New England that they went to Boston, each on her own, to testify in the courts of Puritan authority. For their efforts, they were jailed, pilloried, and run out of town.” “Assertively and independently, each questioned the authority of ministers and magistrates, taking a course of action not considered appropriate for women in a paternalistic society.”1

Margaret Gale Thornton was an early colonial phenom, who broke barriers. She ran an Inn, a hotel and restaurant, right at the center of Bucks County’s musing for decades dur the mid-1700s. But the ancestors were not always on the side of right. Margaret broke the glass ceiling for women, but it’s possible she benefited from an enslaved staff at her Half Moon Inn. Richard Lippincott, listed earlier, had an enslaved staff early in his life. Fortunately, his wife Abigail took charge of the situation and emancipated them all. The Pennsylvania ancestors were adamant abolitionists but across the border in the New York Colony, things were different. Europeans in colonial New York may have had a flicker of freedom in the New World, if you were a man, but women and Africans had no such spark. Just as the women did, the Africans needed to find their own fire, literally and figuratively.

“In the early hours of a crisp April morning in 1712, the local minister’s house was set afire. Men of the village rushed to the aid and protection of all… and fell into a perilous trap which was orchestrated by a group of slaves who had been imported from a Dutch settlement called Cormentine. [During the commotion, Huguenot ancestor] Auguste [Grasset] was stabbed in the neck as he rushed out of his home to extinguish the fire.”5 August was one of seven whites killed by this black uprising. One of the blacks fighting for freedom was a pregnant woman. So there were ancestors on both side of this debacle, sometime at odds with one another, as they were fighting against the authority [See Chapter One of the Bios for details of Colonial Women Power].

The women, women-supporters, blacks, and abolitionists trudged on. Many, such as Abe Lincoln, paid the ultimate price. Other abolitionists counted amongst the Bios were Abraham Opdengraff, an early ancestor who signed abolitionist 1680s legislature in Pennsylvania as well as cousins David Benjamin Updegraff, a Conductor of the Unground Railroad, and Elijah Pennypacker, a diehard American abolitionist. They were outnumbered but they prevailed.

Pacificism was mentioned earlier, as was war. The ancestors who fought hand-to-hand during war need to be commended for bringing freedom and abolition to fruition. But not without hardship, as many died or were imprisoned. Daniel Updegrove was a POW in the Libby Prison in Virginia during the Civil War and ancestors Claus Mantz (held in Sugar House, New York), Peter Braun (the soldier mentioned above), and Michael Garman were all imprisoned during the Revolutionary War.

Quaker ancestor John Thornton was so moved by the American Revolution, that he enlisted even as his church excommunicated him. He was a peaceful man but knew that the British authorities needed to be met head on. He served for years, was promoted from Private to Corporal, and secured peace through the only means available. This was the conundrum that hit Quakerism and other pacifist communities, when all peaceful means have been exhausted, freedom may only be attained through war.

Other ancestors joined the cause include three Sergeants, Frank Row, Michael Garman, Jacob Servis, and six Captains, Isaac Whitehead, Samuel Green, William Clark, Conrad Bucher, James Anderson, and Philip Enders. Enders had been a decorated soldier in the Holy Roman army, having served in the cavalry during the Seven Years War. In 1764, he emigrated from the Palatinate with his wife Apollonia and volunteered for the Pennsylvania Militia, fighting against the same oppression his former Romans leaders had themselves perpetrated for centuries. These men and so many others gave their sweat and toil, and many others their lives, to stand up against the political and religious tyrants of the time.

Soldier Isaac Whitehead, became a colonial judge and soldier Samuel Green a Surveyor General, both crucial positions to further the goal of freedom and community. Two of these soldiers became ministers, Conrad Bucher, a Mennonite, and James Anderson, a Presbyterian. During the early times, Protestants were bullied, ostracized, and often killed in Europe. It was a slippery slope even here in the Colonies, but one these men took to fervently, personally, and selflessly.

This empathy for others, also shone brightly in these Colonial ministers, all ancestors: Lutherans George Bager, Lucas Raus, and George Gmelin and Mennonites Christian Baughman, Nicolas Rittenhouse, William Rettinghaus, Martin Kolb, and Hans Herr. Collaterals who also made a splash were ministers Michael Enderline and Conrad Weiser, and Henry Louis Baugher, all of whom gave everything to their community in search of peace and freedom.

But this wasn’t a colonial ambition. As mentioned previously, it started in Europe. Ancestor Wendel Bauman’s Great-Grandfather was Hans “The Martyr” Landis, a Mennonite minister who “was arrested and ordered to stop preaching. He was offered the chance to immigrate to America. He was imprisoned and tortured but he refused to stop preaching. Several of his children and grandchildren were also imprisoned and tortured. He was apprehended, and sent in irons from Zurich …, where he was rigorously examined concerning his doctrine, and when he would in no wise desist from his godly purpose or from his faith, they showed in him, that their decree of eighty-four years previous was not yet forgotten, neither had the spirit of it died of old age; for, according to the import of the same, they sentenced him from life to death, and hence, in the month of September of the aforesaid year, 1614, for the sake of the truth he was beheaded as a true follower of Christ.”6

From the Lehman line, “Wilhelm Lehman of Affterleen near Hassli in the Emmental is the earliest Anabaptist of this family of whom we have record. He was imprisoned in October 1566 because he refused to take the oath of allegiance. Both he and his wife testified to their faith when questioned. Wilhelm was sentenced to death by the sword. After eleven days of anxious waiting for his execution he did take the oath and was pardoned. During the difficult times of the first two decades of the 18th century most of the Lehmans left their Emmental home. Some went to the Palatinate, others to Alsace or the Bishopric of Basel, and some to Pennsylvania.”7

These near and distant ancestors all held human values high and who, against the great numbers of well-financed and well-connected oppositions, led the way for their American descendants to follow their grassroots ideologies. These folks could have easily been swept up in the Royal or Religious politics or perpetuated the injustices, but they took the rockiest climb, that of freedom, humanity, and good will to all.

European Notables

Alexander Mack, Shriesheim minister

Alexander Stewart Thomson

Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar

Arthur Champernowne, Devon Sheriff

Benjamin Basnage, French Calvinist minister

Brian of Stapleton, Knight of Yorkshire

CCaspar Forstmeister von Stuttgart, il. child of Ulrich V

David Leslie, Baron of Pitcaple

Dr. Hans Hector Schad von Mittelbiberach

Edmund Carew of Mohuns Ottery

Edward I, King of England

George Ross, Lord Ross of Halkhead

Gilbert Hay, Knight of Dronlaw

Hans Vautrin, Kirrberg maire

Henry Nisbet, Edinburgh Lord Provost

Herman Opdengraff, Krefeld Mennonite leader

James Ross, Lord Ross of Halkhead

Jan de Voss, Hanschooten Burgomaster

Jean Guerne, Eschert Burgomaster

Johann Georg Stoll, Baden minister

Johann VI, Count of Salm

Johannes Geiselman, Baden judge

Johannes Jacob Peter Batdorf, Hessian professor

Johannes Neuffer, Münsinger Bürgermeister

Johannes Wolf, Swiss Reformed theologian

John Alexander, Lord of Blair

John Gilmour of Craigmillar

John II of Nassau-Wiesbaden-Idstein

John IV of Nassau-Dillenberg

John V, Lord of Blair

Malcolm Fleming, Duke of Tipton

Martin Neuffer, Palatine Professor, lawyer & doctor

Marx Röist, Burgomaster of Zurich

Miles Stapleton, Lord of the Manor of Ingham

Otto II, Prince of Lüneburg

Philip Champernowne, Devon Sheriff

Philip the Younger, Count of Lohr

Prince Alexander Steward, Earl of Buchan

Robert II, King of Scotland

Robert Plumpton, Knight of Yorkshire

Thomas Stanley, Baron Stanley & King of Mann

Toordh Bonde Röriksson, Lord of Pennigby

Valentine Klinge, Schriesheim councilman

Wilhelm von Hottenstein, Esslingen burgermeister

William Bardolf, Baron of Wormegay

William Cochrane, Earl of Dundonald

William Ross, Lord Ross of Halkhead

NOTE: Also descended from Charlemagne (Karl de Grosse), Alfred the Great, William I of England, Henry II of England, Baron Burkhard Maier von Oberkirch, Lady Elizabeth Schennee,Hugh Capet, Willem van Oranje, Emperor Ferdinand I, John William, Cleves,Johann Jakob Wolff von Todenwarth,John Anderson, Lord provost of Glasgow, and arguably descended from King Philip VI, King Rudolf I, Duke William, Count Jacques de Sellaire, Countess Clothilde de Valois de Reni9 van Collans, Finnish Noble family


1 – Mildred DeRiggi, a historian with the Nassau County Department of Museum Services, said at a 1996 history conference

2 – Wikitree, https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Lefevre-82

3 – Wikipedia

4 – Findagrave, ancestry.com tree, submitted by Jerry L. Lippincott

5 – The Slave Insurrection in New York in 1712, New York Historical Society Quarterly 45, 1961: 48

6 – Wendel Baumann’s Story, Brief History of Lancaster County (1710, Lancaster County, Colonial America), Posted 16 jul 2013 by debmakelki; http://durrellbowman.com/?page_id=235]

7 – Lehman Genealogy, https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Lehman_(Lehmann,_Layman,_Leemann,_Leeman,_Leaman)_family

8 – Richard Lippincott, https://www-personal.umich.edu/~bobwolfe/gen/mn/m21683x21684.htm

9 – Vol. 6: Memories of Mount Ross A Hamlet in the Town of Pine Plains, 2003, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nylnphs/V6/6.htm, Posted 02 Mar 2010 by melaniemorrill1, Byrne R.S. Fone

10 – William Rackstraw, family tree, ancestry.com

[see the Bios for full list]