Johann Bernhardt Steigner (BA1?)

It has been stated by many Stagner researchers that most Stagners in early America were descended from a man named John Barnet Stagner was believed to have been Hans BernPassenger listhart Steigner or Hans Barret Steggens or Hans Barns Ziganer or other such interpretations.

On 28 October 1738 the “Thistle” arrived in Philadelphia from Rotterdam with an intermediate stop in Cowes, England. The “Thistle” was a small two masted cargo ship of the class “Bilander”, which was used along the coasts and canals of Holland.

In addition to the crew on this ship there was recorded 42 men, 36 other males under 16, and 41 females, mostly young adults and presumably their female offspring.  Hans was listed at 24 years old. One of the passengers listed was Hans Bernhart Steigner as shown on the list above.

Also included in this list was a female shown as Marelis Tiganer, who was believed to be Hans’ wife. She was shown as 23 years old. However, it must be pointed out there was nothing in this documentation that supports a connection between Hans Bernhart Steigner and Marelis Tiganer. This only appears to be some researchers best guess.

Nothing is known about his whereabouts after his arrival in 1738. It is suspected that he was in Pennsylvania most of that time.  His name and those in the arrival list with him suggests that he was German. It is known that German immigrants tended to come to America in the early 1700s as a family unit to escape the chaos in their homeland at the time. They were most likely farmers or artisans of some kind and may have had to incur debt to pay for the ship passage to America. If they could afford the trip with advance funds they were then basically bought like slaves after their arrival to work for the rich English until they paid off their debt, typically about 5-7 years. For this reason they were known as redemptioners or indentured servants. Johann B. Steigner may have been a “redemptioner”, but this is just a guess. When their service was complete, their debt was considered redeemed and they were then free to do their own thing. If Johann B. Steigner and his spouse were indentured servants they would have been free around 1745. They may have tried to establish a farm or their own homestead and had a difficult time making it because the area where they likely were, in Pennsylvania and west of Philadelphia, was getting crowded and land was becoming expensive.

It is not known who made this initial interpretation, but it has been recorded in various places that this man, Hans Bernhart Steigner, was next identified as Barnet Stagner in Rowan County, NC in 1753.  Since no records have been found to make this connection this can only be a hypothesis until proven.

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With regard to the life of this man before immigration, the following has been reported by researcher Robert McAlear, :

“The precise location of the Stagner ancestral home has not been determined. However, it is known that in 1737, the year before his departure for America, John Barney Stagner was residing in the village of Oberauerbach, county of Zweibrücken, state of Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany. It is believed he was born about 1714. The Battweiler-Dellfeld Lutheran Church register for the town of Winterbach supplies the following information:

Johann Jacob Stegner.

Born           25 July 1737

Baptized     28 July 1737

Died           22 October 1737

Father:       Johann Bernd Stegner, Oberauerbach.
Mother:      Anna Elisabetha Findler. Catholic.
Sponsor:     Maria Margretha Findler, of Mittelbrunn.

This family was not shown on either the 1731 census or the 1742 census for Zweibrücken district. The surname Stegner is found in near-by Grossbundenbach, Oberauerbach, Battweiler, Winterbach, Mittelbrunn and are all located within a ten kilometer radius.”

It seems plausible, based on the name similarity, location, and dates, that the Johann Bernd Steigner who came to Philadelphia 1738 was the same Johann Bernd Stegner reported above. However, it must be reiterated that this is still only a hypothesis and direct proof is lacking. Maybe someday, DNA and further genealogical research can provide absolute proof.

With regards to John B. Steigner-Stegner’s parents, other researchers have proposed that his father and mother were Nicolas Steigner and Margaretha Dengel, both born about 1783 and were from Zeil, Hassberge, Bayern, Germany.  As this is some distance from Oberauerbach and Winterbach, I will defer judgement until such time as definite proof is available. This is certainly a starting point for further German research. The surname Stegner is very popular in the German Palatine region.