Out of Germany

Peter Chastain and family renouncing citizenship in Grand Duchy of Hesse in 1860. (Source: Hessian State Archives in Marburg, Germany. HStAM Bestand 16 Nr. 3243.)

Document from the Prussian Ministry of the Interior recording the renunciation of citizenship by Peter Chastain and family in 1860. (Source: Hessian State Archives in Marburg, Germany. HStAM Bestand 16 Nr. 3243.)

I still haven’t found an immigration record for Peter Chastain, but I was sent the above document from the Hessian State Archives in Marburg. (Click on the image to enlarge. Peter Chastain’s record is labeled #17 on the left hand side.) It appears to have been a common practice for emigrants to renounce their citizenship prior to leaving their home country. This document records that, in 1860, Peter Chastain, his wife and four children renounced their citizenship. They were emigrating to America. They must have left between January and July since the 1860 U.S. Census shows them in Galloway, New Jersey by August.

According to this article, by the 1860s, a transatlantic crossing took an average of just eight to nine days. Long gone were the days, two centuries earlier, of the pilgrims and early settlers when a crossing to America might take up to two months. This is just as well since Peter and Kate had 4 children between the ages of 14 and 2 with them, and Kate was likely pregnant with Lizzie when they sailed.

The document records that Peter was a farmer, had a wife, had one child 14 years or older (Conrad), and three children under 14 (Francis, Peter II, and Henry). Schwabendorf was their hometown and America was their destination. There’s nothing new here, but it’s a neat piece of family history to have. And it does confirm their immigration year—1860. From Pierre Chastain, who fled France and arrived in Germany in 1687, to his great-great-grandson, Peter Chastain, who left for America in 1860, the Chastains were in Germany for 173 years. That’s 18 years longer than we’ve been in America.

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