Journal d'Alsace













From the Journal d'Alsace, 26 July 2000                                                         Version française
the Cousin from America

Passionate about genealogy, American Sheila Rider found descendants of her ancestors in Friesen.  A reunion took place in the small village of the Sundgau.

The XIXth century knew several periods of migration of Alsacians to North America.  The valley of the Largue, among others, provided a significant number of emigrants.  There was hardly a village which did not have one inhabitant or another with


Between forty and fifty people of Friesen and surroundings made a point of meeting their distant relation from Fayetteville in North Carolina.  This day made it possible to join together all Hansi of the village (nickname of this branch of the Philipp family).

an "uncle in America."  Friesen was no exception.  In 1828, François Joseph Philipp, son of the tailor Jean Thiébaud Philipp and Anne Stein, left Friesen with his wife and his six children to seek a better life in America.  He established himself as a farmer in Fairfield County, Ohio, and took the name of Joseph Philipp.  In 1847, Thiébaud Philipp, Joseph’s nephew, joined his uncle.  Lastly, in 1849, another nephew of Joseph, Thiébaud Sahm, son of Marie Anne Philipp and Mathias Sahm, in turn joined the emigrated family.  In 1860 he married the widow of his cousin Joseph Philipp, Jr. and took the name Debold Saum.

François Joseph Philipp and Debold Sahm today have many descendants scattered throughout the United States.  Among them, the great-great-grandaughter of Regina Philipp, elder daughter F.  Joseph, Sheila Rider, director of children’s services at the public library of Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Paul Wilson, her husband, teaches theatre in a college of the city, but has other cords in his bow as well.

Sheila Rider and her husband are passionate about genealogy.  When she learned that one of her European ancestors came from Friesen, she wanted to know more about the village, the Sundgau and Alsace.  Thanks to the Internet, her wish could be quickly granted.

But all the e-mail, all the Internet sites, do not replace direct contact, which is why the Wilson family decided to come to France to the great pleasure of Friesen and the many cousins remaining in the village.


The meeting took place at the end of July, favourable to the holidays.  The couple Paul Wilson and Sheila Rider arrived in Friesen accompanied by their daughter Elizabeth.  Lodged with their correspondent Maurice Gross, they were welcomed by the village to raise a glass of friendship with all their distant Sundgauvian relations.  On this occasion, Jean-Pierre Pfleger, the Deputy Mayor, recalled the departure 172 years ago of the ancestor who established himself in Ohio as a farmer: "His memory would have been definitely forgotten without you Madam, his great-great-great-granddaughter, who, caring so much about genealogy, made a point of restoring this bond."  Very moved but in excellent French, Friesen's guest made many occasions to thank her hosts.

Bernard Vogelsgsang, whose wife is also a relation, saluted Maurice Gross (former director of the school and town hall secretary) "for his remarkable research task which, in collaboration, with Yves Guern, made it possible to welcome our distant cousin today in this year 2000."  He then yielded the speechmaking to his son Lionel who translated the chief speakers into English.  The uninitiated will still have recognized the names of "Flammakuacha," "bier," "carpes frites" and other Alsatian specialities to taste in Friesen.  The guests intend to remain eight days in Friesen, a few days in Paris and the remainder in Alsace.

A beautiful program for the "Alsatian-at-heart" that Sheila Rider has very quickly become.