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Published March 6, 1998

Steeves family history mystery finally solved...
By Sandra Devlin

The Steeves family mystery which has eluded researchers for more than a century has finally been solved.

Les Bowser, a Steeves descendant, has conclusively pinpointed the German homeland of Heinrich Stief (Steeves), patriarchal ancestor of thousands of southeastern New Brunswickers and hundreds of thousands more worldwide.

With this discovery comes new insights about Heinrich: his wedding date, names of his father, two brothers and possibly his mother, paternal grandfather and uncle.

Two years of digging and thousands of miles of globe trotting paid off just before Christmas when Bowser finally found the 1745 marriage record of Johann Heinrich Stieff to Regina Stalegger in the Lutheran Church Archives in Munsingen. (Munsingen is a village of a few thousand tucked into the rolling hills of southwest Germany -- about 80 kilometres south and a little east of Stuttgart and about 35 kilometres due west of Ulm in Baden-Wurttemberg.)

Translated from German the marriage record reads, in part: “On Feb. 25 ... Johann Heinrich Stieff, legal and unmarried son of Augustin Stieff, cattleherd, with the profession of a brickmaker, was married in a praying hour with Regina Stalegger, a farmer’s daughter from Honau, county of Pfullingen.”

Long-established Steeves records name Heinrich’s wife as Rachel. Bowser believes Rachel is an Anglicized version of Regina (pronounced with a hard g).

Also uncovered in Bowser’s search were wedding records (Ehebuch in German) for two other sons of Augustin Stieff, cattleherd: Georg Friedrich to Maria Katharina Haubensack, married Feb. 4, 1744 in Schlaitdorf, near Stuttgart and Michael Stieff, shepherd, married Jan. 11, 1746 in Munsingen to Anna Barbara Walter, daughter of Christian Walter.

Bowser found even more. Land taxation and ownership records (1720-1772) show that Michael, Johann Heinrich and Georg Friedrich (the latter two “in America”) jointly owned a small tract of stony farmland (Unter dem Hungerberg) on the outskirts of the village. The tract, probably less than one acre, having traded hands several times prior to their ownership.

Heinrich and Georg Friedrich were indeed “in America.” They migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Heinrich sometime around 1749 and Georg Friedrich in 1753.

Historian Wright solidified the Philadelphia connection in the 1940s when she found the original 1766 articles of agreement between merchant John Hughes and the settlers on the Petticodiac River. Wright first published her findings in The Petticodiac (1945) and expanded her findings with Samphire Greens (1961), the Steeves genealogy ‘gospel.’

Bowser also found a death record dated May 24, 1746 for Anna Barbara Stieff, wife of Augustin, cattleherd, at age 63.
“This is probably Heinrich’s mother, but she could have been his stepmother because Augustin had two and probably three wives,” Bowser says.

Bowser’s findings might also chart the Stief family tree back yet another generation. Strong, but not conclusive, evidence suggests the probable birth date for Heinrich’s father is Nov. 30, 1683 when a birth record shows an Augustin born to Hans Heinrich Stieff, knitter. Hans Heinrich is also fathered a Johann Heinrich who married Maria Barbara and had six children between 1716 and 1729.

Bowser’s own roots trace back to five of the Petticodiac pioneer families from Philadelphia: Stief (Steeves), Jones, Somers, Lutz and Trites through his parents Phyllis (Jones) Bowser of Riverview and the late Frank Bowser. His Steeves connections are through Heinrich’s sons Frederick (on his father’s side) and Frederick and Henry (on his mother’s).

Interest in genealogy was sparked in Bowser’s teen years by his grandparents Abel Jones and Lena May (Copp) Jones of Boundary Creek. Bowser’s quest is far from over. Bowser will retreat to the Caribbean to begin writing a book about this adventure and his genealogical discoveries, complete with photographs and copies of documents. He ambitiously hopes to have his book ready for sale by this summer.

After the book, Bowser will be off to follow another “hunch” about exactly when Heinrich and Regina Stieff emigrated from Germany to Philadelphia. Even further down the road, Bowser plans a return visit to Germany to, of course, continue research and to revisit the “polite and generous” folk he encountered there.

Among those Bowser will revisit is the Martinskirche (St. Martin) Lutheran Church archivist in Munsingen whose parting words to him were: “Best wishes from Munsingen to all the Steeves descendants.”

Sources of STEEVES information:

  • Samphire Greens, by Esther Clark Wright (1961) and The Steeves Register (newsletter) both available [this arrticle published in 1998] through The Steeves Family Inc., Box 95, Hillsborough, N.B.

    Sources of general Westmorland and Albert County, N.B. information:
  • Albert County Marriage Register, 1846-1888
  • Albert County 1861 Census, by parish, alphabetically by family group
  • Albert County 1871 Census, same
  • Albert County 1881 Census, same
  • Westmorland County 1891 Census, 2 volumes, same
  • Westmorland County Marriage Register, part 1 and 2 1790-1856; 1857-1888
  • Early Families Revisited (early settlers in Southeastern New Brunswick)
  • Elmwood Cemetery, listing of all known records of large Moncton burial grounds.
    All above available from Ken Kanner [this arrticle published in 1998], 108 Candlewood Drive, RR7 Moncton, N.B E1C 8Z4; E-mail:

  • Cemeteries of Albert County Available from David Christopher [this arrticle published in 1998], 160 Sussex Ave., Riverview, N.B., E1B 3A7

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