Section 8: The Jewish Connection
Of the children of Christian Schneÿder, we have information about only three: Johann Jacob, Frederick, and Sarah, who married Christian Frey whose family belonged to the Moravian church. Because the Frey family relocated to North Carolina in the 1750s, I contacted the Moravian Archive there in June, 2008, and received the following information:
“Christian Frey, born Dec. 22, 1731, Wingen, Alsace; died Jan. 26, 1800, Friedberg, N.C. He married April 10, 1754, at Heidelberg, Pa. to Sara Schneider, born March 10, 1737, Philadelphia. Died June 10, 1826, Hope, N.C. She married (2) Feb. 16, 1801 to Horatio Hamilton. She had no children with either husband. According to our church records she was of Jewish extraction.”
I e-mailed the Moravian Archives and asked where this information originated. I was told it must have come directly from Sarah, since it “was written about her in the church catalog” and the minister “must have gotten that information directly from her”.
And from a Frey family researcher:
“Hope Moravian Church, Forsyth Co. N.C. – Old Hope Moravian Church Graveyard Directory: Sarah Hamilton, Late Schneider, Pennsylvania. Dep. June 10, 1826, aged 89 years; b. March 10, 1737. Ms. (1. Christian Frey, 2. Horatio Hamilton). From Jewish extraction.”
In addition, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania found three pages of Old German handwriting regarding certain lots in Reading. These were brief business letters dated 1763, addressed to “Friend Mr. Weiser”. Both letters were signed with the now familiar signature of Christian Schneÿder. It is interesting to note that Rev. Henry Muhlenberg was married to the daughter of a well-known and prominent Pennsylvanian: Conrad Weiser, who died in 1760. Perhaps the letters were intended for one of his sons. The HSP found them in the Conrad Weiser Archive.
On June 11, 1770, Rev. Muhlenberg wrote in his Journal that he had to bury “Anna Maria, wife of Mr. Christian Schneider, b. 18 Dec. 1699 at Worms, [Germany] dau. of Joh. Dan. Emmerling. Mar. (1) Conrad Arnd, of Hanau, [Germany]; immigrated as a widow in 1741. Mar. (2) Christian Schneider, a converted Jew, in 1742 … ”
This confirms the information from the Moravian Archives in N. Carolina. Sarah Schneider knew of her father’s Jewish heritage. As a professional genealogist commented recently, between the 1500s and the 1700s, most European rulers determined the Christian denomination of their subjects. People had no choice. So, whatever the state religion was, that was what immigrants brought with them. If the Schneÿders were of the Jewish faith, they may have been officially identified by the state religion they left behind. We have no idea when or how Christian Schneÿder may have taken on his new given name, and relinquished the religion into which he was born. Remember that in 1747, he wrote “Christian Schneider, Goshenhoppen, known as Juden Schneider, urges payment of debts due him.”