Peter Weitzel of Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Peter Weitzel of Rockingham County, Virginia
In most Whitesell genealogies, Peter Weitzel, Sr. of Rockingham County, Virginia is considered
to be the same person as Johann Peter Weitzel, son of Johann Paul Weitzel, of Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. I do not believe that this is correct.
There are several interesting circumstances which would point toward the connection, and it is
understandable why genealogists may have assumed that the two Peters are the same person.
First, both have a wife named Anne(a).
Peter(Pa.) marries Anna Metz on 14 March, 1769.
Peter(Va.) along with “Anne his wife” appears in a Rockingham Co. land deed to their
son, Peter Whitesel, Jr., dated 21 June, 1803.
Peter(Va.) has children whose ages are consistent with the March, 1769 marriage date of
Their first child, John, was born between June 1770 and June 1771.
Their second child, Peter, Jr. was born in Maryland 20 October, 1774.
Migration to the Shenandoah valley of Virginia was very common for the Germans of Lancaster
and the surrounding parts of Pennsylvania.
Peter(Va.), before he moved on to Virginia, owned land and lived in Leitersburg,
Maryland, which is located on the Pennsylvania-Virginia migration route.
Both families have connections with the early United Brethren Church.
The family of Peter(Pa.) was associated with the First Reformed Church of Lancaster Pa.
during a time that its pastor was William Otterbein, who later went on to found the
United Brethren Church.
Peter(Va.)’s family was active in the early United Brethren Church, even contributing the
land for the first UB church raised in Virginia. Several of his descendants became pastors
in that denomination.
However, two facts make it certain that Peter(Pa.) and Peter(Va.) are different persons.
In the burial records of the First Reformed Church of Lancaster Pa. for 1820:
“June, 8. Peter Weitzel, . . . . 74. 7. 8.” [Age – 74y, 7mo, 8d.]
But: Peter(Va.)’s will was proved in 1815 in Rockingham County, Virginia.,
following his death that summer.
There are also numerous other items of circumstantial evidence which strongly support the case
that the two Peters are distinct. For example:
When Peter(Pa.)’s father, John Paul, died intestate, Peter, the eldest son, stood to inherit a
substantial legacy. Before the estate was settled an inquisition [a hearing] was held to establish
Peter’s competency. From the report of that hearing we have:
... the said Commissioners ... say ... that the said Peter Weitzell is at the time of
taking this Inquisition a lunatic and doth not enjoy lucid intervals so that he is not
capable of governing himself and his affairs and that he has been in the same state
of Lunacy for the space of fifty Years last past...
At the time of the hearing Peter was 51, so the condition  had apparently existed for the better
part, if not all, of his life. The court then appoints three men, including Peter’s brother George
and brother-in-law Jacob Johns, to provide for his care and to administer his share of the estate.
Additional confirmation of Peter(Pa.)’s condition is provided by a reference to “Weitzel, Peter”
dated 8 July, 1782 in the rolls of the Inactive Militia, by Capt. Joseph Hubley, 3rd Co, 8th
Battalion of Lancaster Militia, bearing Remarks: “...an Ideot...reside[s] within the limits of my
On the other hand, Peter(Va.) buys and sells land, first in Maryland and later in Virginia, and he
makes a will. He also, on 28 December, 1776, was commissioned, a 1st lieutenant in Captain
Peppel’s Co., Col. Bruce’s Battallion of the Maryland Militia, assigned to General Thomas
Johnson’s Brigade. None of this would seem to have been possible for Peter(Pa.) who
apparently was never of sound mind.
Peter(Pa.) is never recorded during his life in Lancaster as a head-of-household although he was
described as an “old inhabitant” of Lancaster at the time of his death. I speculate that he always
lived with another family and am hoping to find census evidence consistent with that
However.... I still believe it is possible that Peter(Va.) may be connected with the Lancaster
Peter(Pa.)’s grandfather (Johann Paul’s father) was also named Peter, so the name is in the family
from an earlier date (though it may well have been a rather common name at the time). It
wouldn’t surprise me greatly to find that our Peter(Va.) is a cousin or some other relative of
Peter(Pa.), but at this point we have found no evidence bearing on where he came from before he
lived in Maryland.
Some new thoughts:
A Metz researcher has offered some ideas which have suggested a possible new line of research.
She believes it was very unlikely that a person such as Peter who was not mentally competent would
ever have been allowed to enter into a marriage contract. Hence, Peter Weitzel, the son of Johann
Paul could not have married Anna Metz. I think I am coming to agree with that. In that case, who was
it that married Anna? We are currently speculating that there may have been a second Peter Weitzel in
Lancaster. In fact, there were several Weitzel Families in the general area, although more research
needs to be done in the records of the First Reformed Church to see if another Peter can be placed
there at the time of the marriage.
Also, there is another very tentative clue in Maryland. In the 1790 census of Washington Co., a Jacob
Metz household is listed on the same census page as the Peter Weitzel household. Anna Metz who
had previously lived near Lancaster is known to have had a brother named Jacob.
25 Mar, 1997
Rev. 2 October, 2003
 Records of the First Reformed Congregation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I had previously shown her name as
“Anna Maria”. I can find no record of the “Maria” and believe that I must have remembered it incorrectly..
 Rockingham Co., Virginia, Deed Book 000, p 110
 1850 Census of Rockingham Co., Virginia, 56th district, house no. 2180, page 312.
based on the assumption that the entry for John’s age of 79 is recorded correctly.
 Gravestone inscription, Whitesel’s Church Cemetery, Pleasant Valley, Rockingham Co., Virginia
 Frederick County, Maryland Land Record Book BD-1, pp 357, 580 
 1790 Census, Washington Co., Maryland. p 28, col. 2, line 4 [Witesell]
 Records of the First Reformed Congregation of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
 Priode, Marguerite. Abstracts of Executor, Administrator and Guardian Bonds of Rockingham Co. Virginia 1778 – 1864 p 9
The original will, as recorded, was destroyed; only the abstract survives.
 Lancaster Court of Common Pleas Docket Book, May term, 1798, pp 109-113.
 I suspect that Peter suffered from what today we would describe as a severe developmental disability,
either from birth or from a very young age.
 “Military Accounts: Militia” Records of the Comptroller General RG-4, Published A(5)VII, 850-52, date 8 July, 1782
 Journal of the Maryland Council of Safety. Correspondence to Brigadier General Thomas Johnson.
 The Lancaster Journal, 16 June, 1820 “Died.....On the morning of Wednesday week last [7 June], of a long
and lingering illness, Mr. Peter Weitzell, an old inhabitant of this city.”