2005 Research on Origin of Michael (Johann Michael) Joho (1678-1735)

In early 2005, Hugh Yoho and I discussed hiring a European genealogist to do further research on the origin of Johannes (John) Michael Joho and his family. . Family traditions and investigations by Denver Yoho and others reported that Johannes Michael lived in Sulzthal near Lembach Alsace in the early 1700's but his place of birth was not known. . Johannes Michael married Susanna Gelker (location unknown) and they reportedly had four children in Alsace. One of those children, Johannes Joho emigrated to America and is the ancestor of most of the Yoho families living in the U.S.

Since the sources of the records collected by Denver Yoho and others are not known, Hugh and I decided to conduct our own research into family records in Alsace. We suspected that John Michael originally moved to Alsace from Switzerland and were seeking supportive evidence. In addition, we hoped to find a connection with families presently living in Switzerland. We were also confused with the location "Sulzthal" Alsace as given in Denver Yoho's and other previous research. A search of Alsace on the internet did not reveal this location in Alsace. We did however find a Sulzthal located in Germany and wondered if there was a mistake in previous data.

Hugh made contact with a Mr. Uwe Porten (uporten@t-online.de) in Germany who advertised as a professional genealogist on the genealogy page http://www.genealogy-germany.de/ Mr Porten agreed to do research for us in Alsace. We suggested that he concentrate his investigation in the area of Lembach in Alsace, France, and supplied him with the traditional information that we had available.

Mr. Porten's research confirmed some of the traditional information.. Unfortunately, Porten's research did not find the birth place of Johann Michael, only that he was living in Alsace in the early 1700's. Porten's research was also not able to find the marriage record of Johann Michael to Susanna Gelker nor the birth records of their children in Alsace. Mr Porten did find confirmation and marriage records of these children in Alsace. We suspect as does Porten, that these records were not found because Johann Michael , his wife and children were born in Switzerland and emigrated to Alsace sometime between 1720 and 1729. Denver Yoho reported that all of Johann's children were born in Alsace. The source of this information is unknown.

Family tradition says that Johann Michael had another son John Michael Jr., but Porten makes no mention of this in his report.

Mr Porten's investigation did reveal that Sulzthal was not a village but a farm located near Lembach in Alsace. Maps of the Sulzthal location appear below in Porten's report. Evidently this farm was home to a number of families including Johann Michael Joho.

Is it John Joho or Michael Joho?

Porten's research revealed another question about traditional records and the use of the name John when referring to Johannes Michael Joho. Denver Yoho reported the name as Johannes Michael but Mr Porten spells it Johann Michael. I have referred to him as John, Johannes and Johann in above paragraphs. What is the correct name of this man?

Both Johannes and Johann (and Hans) translate to John but the spelling and use of those names make a difference in the use of the call name.. In old European naming customs, the first name is usually a spiritual name with the second the secular or call name and NOT a middle name. . Since Mr. Porten is German and he copied records directly from old European records, it is highly likely that Johannes Michael was really Johann and not Johannes. If so, Johann was a spiritual name and he would have been called Michael and not John as appears in all of the previous data... Mr Porten refers to Johann Michael as Michael in one paragraph of his report below.

The use of old European names is reported by Kerchner: 18th Century German Naming Customs:

Old European names often have two given names prior to the surname. The first is the spiriutal and the second the secular or call name. .. If two given names are used, the first is the spiritual and the second the secular or call name . The child's secular name was really John, if and only if, at baptism he was named only John, usually spelled as Johannes, with no second given name. The name John spelled as Johannes is rarely seen spelled as Johannes as a spiritual name, i.e., you rarely will see the name at baptism recorded as Johannes Adam Kerchner, etc. It is generally always found spelled as Johan or Johann when used as a spiritual name. Thus, you find the spiritual name of John recorded as Johan Adam Kerchner or Johann Adam Kerchner, not Johannes Adam Kerchner. Many researchers, new to German names, who find a baptism of an individual with a name such as Johan Adam Kerchner, thus mistakenly spend a lot of time looking for a John Kerchner, in legal and census records, when he was known after baptism, to the secular world, as Adam Kerchner....

In summary, it has been confirmed that the ancestors of most American Yohos lived in Alsace in the early 1700's but the origin of Michael Joho (Johann Michael), his children and his parents is still unknown. Considering that all evidence to date points to Switzerland as the "birth place" of the Joho family, further research needs to be done there in the attempt to find the origins of Johann Michael Joho and his family.

NOTE: Other Joho families were also living in Alsace in the Kunheim and Algosheim area during early 1700's but no link has been found to date between these family members and the Michael Joho family. It seems highly likely they knew one another and were closely related. More research is needed to establish relationships of these families. (See Alsatian Connection)

Sunland California
Lock Haven PA


Uwe Porten's Research

Uwe Porten
Gaustrasse 40
D-55411 Bingen Germany
June 17, 2005

Dear Hugh,

I am pleased to report on the research into the Joho family.

First, I thoroughly examined the Lutheran churchbooks of Lembach, which is a parish situated in northern Alsace, only three miles south of the border to Germany. Later I also examined the churchbooks of the surrounding parishes.

There is no Joho entries in the:

Johann Michael Joho was found in the Lutheran churchbooks of Lembach. He lived in Sulzthal, which was part of Lembach parish. I found out, that Sulzthal was not a village, but only a farm, situated close to Lembach. It was located west of Lembach, in a line Lembach - Disteldorf - Krautbrunnen - Sulzthal. In old maps I was able to identify the exact location. Sulzthal does not exist anymore, only the ground-course and a forester's house is left there. I took photos of the old map that you will find on the CD. Also attached is a detailed modern map that also shows the location.

*EDITOR'S NOTE: Numbers on this map represents locations where census was conducted in the 1700's.. On another document (not shown) the following number of individuals were recorded to have lived in those locations:

The first mention of Johos was found in the year of 1729. There were three events in that year: the death of Johann Michael's son Johann Conrad, and the churchly confirmations of daughter Anna Maria Margaretha and son Johannes. We find further records in 1735 (marriage of Johannes Joho and birth of his first child) and 1737 (birth of Johannes' second child).

I examined all baptism records in the churchbook for the appearance of Joho family members acting as godparents, but a Joho appears only once as a godparent, which is Johannes Joho's wife in 1735. Since no further Joho records were found, I tried to find more information on Sulzthal, hoping for a clue. So I examined baptism after baptism, extracting those that refer to children born in Sulzthal. The following are numbers of births in Sulzthal recorded in the Lutheran churchbooks of Lembach:

Before 1722: None
1722: 2
1723: 2
1724: 3
1725: 5
1726: 1
1727: 3
1728: 2
1729: 2
1730: 0
1731: 4
1732: 2
1733: 0
1734: 2
1735: 3

From the low number of births you can see, that Sulzthal was a tiny place. Now it would be of interest to know, which families lived there, so I investigated this question. These families have children born in Sulzthal during this time (in chronological order):

The Laurs (Lau) that lived there all were children of Theobald Laur, who was Johannes Joho's father in law. Obviously, Theodor Laur was the first settler at Sulzthal. Later his children got married there and so the population increased. It seems likely that Sulzthal farm was re-erected around 1720, after it might have been deserted for some time.

Probably, the property was growing and they was a need of a meat cutter, which might have attracted Michael Joho to settle there in mid 1720's.

Theobald Laur (Lau) appears from 1714 in the records of lembach. He was a blacksmith and later became the farm administrator in Sulzthal.

Not only his daughter Susanna Catharina, wife of Johannes Joho, but also two sons Johann Christmann and Johann Conrad emigrated along with their families to the US.

By the way, there were several Swiss families in Lembach parish in early 1700's and it is very likely that Johann Michael Joho came from Switzerland to Lembach area too. His death record was not found in the area, so he might have returned to Switzerland.

Below are Family Group Records provided by Mr Porten for Johann Michael Joho, Johannes Joho, and Theobald Laur (Lau). Sources are included:



Back To Main Menu