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My Reitenauer Line

Here is another branch in my family tree that has had the surname spelled many ways throughout the generations. It may have originated from the municipality of Reitnau in the Canton of Aargau, Switzerland. The area was first mentioned in 1045 as Reitinouwa.

In Switzerland, the surname was spelled as "Reitnauer" or "Reitnouwer". In France, it was spelled as "Reutenauer." However, once the family arrived in America, there was an abundance of spellings (Ridenour, Ritenour, Ridenhour, etc.). As a result, different branches of the family took their spelling with them as they moved throughout the country to Ohio, Maryland, Virginia and beyond. My branch continued with the traditional spelling of Reitenauer.

The first official record of the Reitenauer line is found in Gondiswil, Canton of Bern, Switzerland (refer to the red flag on the map above). It was in a parish record for the marriage of Anthony (Anton) Reitenauer and Margaret Christen on 24 September 1611.

Their eldest son, Hans, was born about 1612. He married Catharina Schar on 10 February 1634. They raised their family in Gondiswil but, like most places in Europe at the time, Switzerland was subject to religious persecution. This led to a lot of movement as people began to relocate to find safer havens that were tolerant of their religion. As a result, three of Hans and Catharina's sons (Hans Jacob, Nicolaus and Hans Ulrich) traveled north. Nicolaus and Hans Ulrich settled in Tieffenbach in the Alsace (Bas Rhin) region of France (refer to the yellow flag on the map above). Hans Jacob settled in Rexingen.

Nicolaus "Claus" Reitenauer was living in Tieffenbach when he married Susanna Windstein, the daughter of Nicolaus Windstein and Ottilia (Eich) around 1680. Claus supported his family by working as a roof shingler.

His fourth son, Johannes, was born 5 March 1690. He married Maria Catharina Lehnhardt on 21 April 1716.

Soon the Reitenauers were on the move again. Like a lot of Europeans, particularly those who had suffered religious persecution and hardship, they were attracted to the the New World by pamphlets circulated by William Penn touting a better life in Pennsylvania. As a result, four of Nicolaus and Susanna's children decided to leave Alsace and make the ocean voyage. In 1738, their son Balthasar and daughter Christina (who had married Johann Daniel Klingenschmidt) made the trip. The next year their sons Nicholas and Johannes emigrated.

In 1739, Johannes, Maria Catharina, and their younger children sailed on the ship Lydia, captained by James Allan, arriving in December at Philadelphia. Their two oldest sons, Hans George and Johann Nicholas, did not make the trip with their parents. Hans George would make the journey later and settle in western Maryland.

Johannes and his family would settle in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Like his father, he worked as a roof shingler and a miller.

Thus began the Reitenauer family tree in the New World, specifically for my branch of the family.


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