Many have speculated about the origins of the name, Pfrimmer. The most plausible case from the evidence is that the German word "pfriem" refers to an awl used in shoemaking and saddle making, and that the individual who used the awl was referred to as a "pfriemer" or "pfrimmer". Families with the spelling "Pfriemer" are found today in Germany and in America, but no connection has yet been found between Pfriemers and Pfrimmers.
In the earliest records, the Pfrimmer families of Alsace (a German speaking province in France) are located in the village of Eckwersheim, about 15 kilometers north of Strasbourg. In the last half of the 16th century, six Pfrimmer families are recorded in Eckwersheim with births, marriages, and deaths. They were the families of Claus, Erhart, Hans, Mathis, Sixt, and Wolff Pfrimmer. For each of these families, the oldest child was born in 1569 or 1570. This would indicate that the parents were of about the same age. However, no relationship between any of them is indicated; the father of one, Sixt, is identified as Hans.
These six families had a total of 44 children, of whom 26 were females and 18 males. One would have expected that the size of these families would have led to a continual vigorous growth in the Pfrimmer population. But it did not; the number of Pfrimmer births, marriages, and deaths dropped sharply between 1600 and 1650. The cause was probably the depredations of the Thirty Years War, several plagues, and a massive earthquake in 1601 which is said to have destroyed the church and the entire village of nearby Vendenheim and, presumably, affected Eckwersheim as well. By the second half of the 17th century; however, the Pfrimmer families had been firmly reestablished, and by 1675, they consisted of fourteen separate family groups with children and grandchildren that have a continuous line of descent to the present day.
As a result of the gap in the first half of the 17th century, only three of the 16th century families, those of Claus, Erhart, and Hans, have a clear continuity between the 16th and the 17th century. At the same time, one other family, headed by Anton Pfrimmer (his family origin is not known) is well established in the 17th century. Descendants of these four families (Anton, Claus, Erhart, and Hans) comprise the entire group of Pfrimmers in the 17th century and onward. A search for Pfrimmers in other parts of Alsace, in France, in Germany and elsewhere, has not turned up any Pfrimmer who is not descended from these four families. For many years, Pfrimmers were synonymous with Eckwersheim.
Pfrimmer migrations from Eckwersheim to other nearby villages began as early as 1665 when Hans Pfrimmer of Eckwersheim married the widow of Anthoni Haman of Berstett and lived and raised his family there. A George Pfrimmer and his wife Anna Arbogast are found in Vendenheim in the mid 17th century. In the 18th century, a considerable number of Pfrimmers migrated to other villages in Alsace; in the surrounding cantons of Brumath, Schiltigheim, and Truchtersheim to live in a total of 26 villages such as Bischheim, Breuschwickersheim, Brumath, Lampertheim, Mundolsheim, Duntzenheim, and Weitbruch. The first permanent Pfrimmer migration to Strasbourg took place in the mid 18th century. These migrants were two brothers, Johannes and Andreas, from Vendenheim, sons of Hans Pfrimmer and Eva Lobstein. Johannes was a flour merchant and Andreas was a stoneworker.
A few Pfrimmers migrated beyond Alsace to other countries. John George Pfrimmer, born in Berstett in 1762, married Elizabeth Senn in Sissach near Basel, Switzerland, and migrated to America in 1788. In the middle of the 19th century, he was followed by his brother Michel's two grandchildren, Charles and George. Michel lived in Bischheim. And in the 1840s, three Pfrimmer brothers; Valentin, Christian, and Andreas, children of Valentin Pfrimmer and Catherine Schuster of Eckwersheim, migrated to America and lived in Canada. The descendants of these American migrants, numbering over 4000 on record, are traced in a genealogy, "The Pfrimmer Families of America."
Evidence about other Pfrimmer migrants, most of it scanty, indicates that one was a missionary in South Africa, another was a vine-grower in Algeria, one worked in a hotel in Turin, Italy, and another was a Methodist minister in Switzerland. Five Pfrimmer families are in the current German telephone directory, but only one has been firmly established in the family genealogy. He is descended from Jacques Pfrimmer, born in Breuschwickersheim in 1891, who migrated to Nurnburg, Germany, where he founded a medical technology firm. His grandson, Wolf Pfrimmer, now lives in Germany and manages the three-generation old firm, Pfrimmer and Co., which distributes medical technologies throughout the world.
In their occupations, the Pfrimmers were typical villagers of the time. Some were "cultivateurs", which indicated some ownership or management of farm property, while others were farm laborers and shepherds. Some were artisans such as wet coopers, barrel makers, tailors, or shoemakers. Several were blacksmiths, a trade which seemed to run in families from parents to children and grandchildren. A number were innkeepers and in some cases, that occupation continued through several generations. Claus Pfrimmer (1649-1712), for example, was innkeeper at the Crown in Eckwersheim and so also was his son Hans (1709-1791) and, in turn, the second husband of Hans' daughter, Brigitta (1738-1819), Johann Freyss. Another Pfrimmer was innkeeper at "The Lion", another inn in Eckwersheim while Michael Pfrimmer was innkeeper at the "White Horse" in Bischheim.
The Alsatian Pfrimmer families have been described in a genealogy, "The Pfrimmer Families of Eckwersheim" produced by Samuel Pfrimmer Hays of Pittsburgh, PA, a descendant of the 1788 migrant to America, and a copy is in the library of the Cercle Genealogique d'Alsace in Strasbourg as well as libraries in America. A second edition of this genealogy has been retitled, "The Pfrimmer Families of Alsace."
The Pfrimmer genealogy in Alsace is based on two set of documentary records: village parish records which continue up through 1793, and the civil state registrations from 1793 onward located in the departmental archives of Bas-Rhin. The scope of the genealogy has been extended through the work of six Pfrimmer family genealogists in France who have contributed their research to the family history.
Professor Samuel Pfrimmer Hays, University of Pittsburgh (Retired), e-mail: [email protected]
Copyright (c) 1998-2013 Charles Pfrimmer.