Last Updated:  2 July  2002

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Pfaff But

Pfaff  Family History

The earliest known Pfaff ancestor, Conrad Pfaff,  has been found by our cousin Karen Abel in a German village of Imsbach / Palatinate, [Pfalz] a German state connected to Bavaria [Bayern] where he died on 23 Nov 1761.  See map of Imsbach

Imsbach is near the Rhine River and presently found in the district [Kreis] of Rheinland-Pfalz [Palatinate] in Germany.

Conrad's Pfaff's birth record, however, is not found in this village. Nor is his birth record found in Falkenstein where he lived for a time.

He earned his living herding sheep and pigs.

Every villager who owned livestock, such as sheep and pigs,  turned their livestock over to herdsman who took them to certain pasturelands used in the various seasons.  Obviously this wasn't a glamorous job but he was dependable and was able to support a wife and eleven children and did not die in debt.

Conrad's son, Johann Philipp Pfaff, was born in 1733 in Imsbach. As an adult, Johann  did not follow his father into the green pastures, but took up the life as a minor in Moersfeld.

One can imagine the miserable life of a minor in 1740s to 1790s.....

The Deutsches Museum in Munich {Muenchen], Germany has a section showing the history of mining and how the men  worked underground.


It takes very little imagination to conjure up what kind of conversations occurred within the Pfaff family when they learned about free land being available in Austria-Hungary. The idea of a new and better life in a far away place must have been exciting and terrifying. We'll never know who was the driving force in making the decision to pick up and leave but it was made. Our ancestors migrated in 1794 from Moersfeld, Kircheimbolanden, Palatinate [Germany] to Torschau , Banat, Austria-Hungary [see Danube River Route]

Other German colonies were Sekitsch, Cherwenka and Neuverbas.  All were established in 1782.

Because of family tales,  we have been told that the Pfaffs traveled with Duc de Richelieu, the future Governor of Odessa  Province, from Torschau to Odessa area .

According to Joseph Height, Richelieu  did travel with 36 families from Torschau to Odessa in 1806. [Page 69 HOMESTEADERS ON THE STEPPE].

In 1806 to Freudental, Od. S. Russia which was  not far from the Black Sea port Odessa,. many of these families settled in Freudental.  The Pfaff and Orscheit families did.

The religion of the first 78 families was  listed as being Lutheran. 

In 1892 the mayor of Freudental was said to have been Johannes Pfaff.

A German traveler by the name of  J. G. Kohl visited Freudental in 1838 and voiced the village as being one of the most progressive and prosperous colony ....

My ancestor, Pauline Pfaff's father, Frederich Jacob Pfaff b. 1843,  owned a chutor [estate] near Worms / Od. They were no longer poor but apparently had prospered in Russia.

Pauline, nee Pfaff, Roemmich's son, Edward,[b. 1900] remembers the Pfaff family who were farmers were, also,  involved in limestone plaster  on the buildings in and around Worms / Od. S. Russia. As a four and five year old Edward earned one kopeck for each mud ball filled with lime which he placed in the large kiln where a hot fire would turn the lime into liquid which was used to plaster the wall of homes and walls. Not far from Worms / Od and near Freudental / Od. was a limestone quarry. And, he never forgot how generous the Pfaffs were to him. 

Pauline  Pfaff m. Jacob Roemmich+ who was drafted into the Tsar's Army and became a Quarter Master while serving in the war against Japan at Vladivostok, Siberia.....  He had written home telling his family to sell everything because he wanted to migrate to the USA immediately after he returned home.  The year was 1906 when they left Worms / Od. S. Russia and traveled by train to Germany and than by ship to Philadelphia where they landed on or a day before the 4th of July....  

The family migrated to Streeter area in North Dakota, USA in 1906.

What  Does Pfaff Mean?

Surnames for all of our families have been handed down from our remote ancestors.

Our surnames may tells us if our ancestors was tall, short, had red hair, dark eyes, crooked nose,or, the ancestor may  came from a certain village, or if he was a hero or a ill temper person, or perhaps religious, or a warrior who fought with a knife or long bow or spear..... Surnames came, also, from our ancesor's  occupation  such as an ancesotr who was a  baker or a weaver.  Whatever name our ancestor acquired, it was used for identification.  What does the name Pfaff tell us about our remote ancestor?  The words Pfaff is German. However, the root word is not German but Latin and comes from the word Pappus meaning a man with deep religious devotion and manner. The Germans translation tells me:  Pfaff: - "a man who is a monk or minister".  

Was our most remote Pfaff a monk or a minister? Haven't found a minister who was a minister or monk or even a priest.   

If our Pfaff was not a  minister or a  monk than how else could have gain such a name in this area of Imsbach or another village in the area we know as Germany?   On a web site on Imsbach there was a story about the Cellula saxea [Lat.="monk's cell" or "monk's chapel"] just north of Imsbach. Maybe, and this is just another theory,  our remote Pfaff lived in one of these  Pfaff cells which had been abandoned, and as time pasted, became known as the man who lived in a Pfaff's cell . Since humans always have the habit of shortening words, the title of "the man who lived in the Pfaff's cell was shorten to Pfaff .

These monk dwelling were dug into the hill side.. The outside held an open area with layered stone walls to protect the doorway and layered stone face which at one time may have had a limestone plaster finish. The  interior room had high ceiling with three curves resembling a three humped camel and a natural "grown" rock rear wall. There was a niche opposite the door. To the left was a door behind which was a stairway which left upward to an opening.

It was not until the 15th century the Pfaff cells took up another name, "Klause Bosch" [Hermit's dwelling in the thicket of the forest]  because of a local tale about an "Eremiten from Gangolf" ["freedom monk" who strived for  perfection out of the church from Gangolf] who lived in a "Pfaff cell" in a valley near Hahnweilerhof not far from Imsbach.

How our remote Pfaff gained his name we may never know.  All we know is, our first known Pfaff, Conrad Pfaff b. abt 1711 married in a Lutheran church in Imsbach to the daughter of a sheparder of Imsbach.  Records do not tell us Conrad'occupation at his wedding and we only know he was a shepard and pig herder the last fifteen years of his life  He might well have been a minor since the family lived for a time in Falkenstein , which was, also, a mining town. The family returned  to Moersfeld when he  became shepard and pig herder abt 1747, fifteen years before his death. Perhaps his wife's brother or some family member, who was a shepard, needed help and asked Conrad to join him.

If he came from a long line of miners, one can almost imagine our remote Pfaff living in a one room dwelling which may have been centuries earlier a monk's cell [chapel] with his family.  A dwelling in town could have too costly... 

Conrad's son, Johann Philipp Pfaff b. 1733, became a minor.

 See mining near Imsbach.

Wonder if one of our ancestors mined the silver that was made into silver steps in the old castle on Thunder Mt. ?

Family Legends

I don't recall my family ever mentioning the Pfaff family ancestors being shepards, pig herders or miners.  It was said our Pfaff ancestor, in the old German village, which was not far from  Martin Luther's Speyer Cathedral, had been mayor.  In an old bible I read the Pfaff were "nobleman"... So, at the end of this search of family history,  I expected at least one "mayor"  who might be some poor realative of some minor German nobelmen near the Rhine River by Speyer. And, with my redish  hair and freckles from my great grandmother Pauline, nee Pfaff, Roemmich, I suspected a Celtic would be there next to a Pfaff....  so, I never expected the remote Pfaff might be poor struggling minors or shepard and pig herder.

The minor's grandson Philipp Pfaff b. 1790, however, did  marry into the Closs family family who's ancestor was a Johan Jost Pfannkucken  b. abt 1639, who was a mayor of Moersfeld, so, there is a mayor. .

Moersfeld  is some distance from Speyer, however.

This search has not ended.  Who knows, maybe, someone might find an ancestor who was a Pfaff who was a minister from a village near Speyer ...... and one of his desc. migrated to Imsbach... Never know where these searches can take us.