Henry1 Henry2

After several years of research and writing “From Toleration to Expulsion” has just been published. It is a two volume set by Henry A. Fischer that provides all of the genealogical information that exists with regard to the families that lived in Ecseny, Somogy County in Hungary and its affiliated congregations in Hacs, Polany, Vamos, Somodor, Raksi and Toponar covering most of the period from 1784-1948.

It also contains information on the families that were expelled in 1948, those taken to forced labour in the Soviet Union, those who died in the First and Second World War, the families that migrated to Slavonia, the United States, Canada and Australia and biographical information and stories about individuals and families that played a special part in the life of the village.

There is an introductory portion of the book devoted to the history and life of the village and resources to further family searches. The book is being published on the 260th anniversary of the founding of the village. The set of books are available through amazon.com and authorhouse.com (the publisher). They are also available directly from the author.

For more information please email Henry A. Fischer.

Electronic (ePub) $3.99 ea.
Paperback $29.95 ea., plus shipping
Hardcover $36.99 ea., plus shipping


  The isolation the Children of the Danube experienced from the upheavals of history in the rest of Europe would no longer hold true in the second half of the 19th Century and  beyond.  At the outset, Emperor Francis Joseph’s attempts to preserve the position of the House of Habsburg in the face of the rising power of Prussia among the German states would inevitably lead to a disastrous war.  Austria’s defeat set the stage for the rise of the German Empire and the struggle for supremacy in Europe among the major powers resulting in the catastrophic wars of the next century which would destroy the only life the Children of the Danube had ever known.

  The agricultural sector was in a shambles in Hungary during the last decades of the century which had repercussions for the Children of the Danube among whom the landless were the fastest growing part of the population and among whom poverty had become a way of life.  Land was expensive and simply unavailable.  As in the past, the only remedy was emigration.  The first wave of emigrants from Swabian Turkey sought their future in Slavonia recently opened for colonization.  It was just the prelude for the massive emigration movement soon to take place to the New World.

  Some of the surviving emigrants and exiles will meet in a railway station in a small town in Canada as the final phase of the Schwabenzug takes place and the Children of the Danube transplant their roots in their new Heimat.    

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Children of the Danube 

Remember to Tell the Children:  The Pioneers

Remember to Tell the Children:  Strangers and Sojourners

Remember to Tell the Children:  Emigrants and Exiles Vol. 1

Remember to Tell the Children: Emigrants and Exiles Vol. 2

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   Children of the Danube


Numerous histories and studies of the Great Swabian Migration of the 18th century have been written and published, and the tragic fate of many of their descendants in our own time has also been chronicled.  Most of these are available in languages other than English. Much of that research forms the backdrop of “Children of the Danube”, which is the author’s attempt at telling the stories behind the history.  Personal stories that weave the tapestry of the lives of his extended family with those of the other families and individuals who joined them after venturing down the majestic, sometimes turbulent, Danube River, taking them on a quest that is common to all people: the search for the Promised Land.


  That is what they sought in the devastated Kingdom of Hungary, recently liberated after an oppressive one hundred and fifty year occupation by the Turks. Leaving the Danube River behind them, they would be confronted by a wilderness, disease ridden swamps, dense forests, isolation, primitive living conditions, marauders and brigands.  They would find themselves at the mercy of greedy landowners and rapacious nobles, and would have to endure the final onslaught of the Counter Reformation in their pursuit of religious freedom.  This is what awaited them, in responding to the invitation of the Hapsburg Emperor Charles VI.  It was hardly what the handbills circulating throughout south western Germany had promised.

   How they would respond, who they would become as a result of it, and what sustained and formed them into the “Children of the Danube”, as a distinctive and unique people among the Danube Swabians will unfold, in the telling of their tragic and yet heroic story.

Remember to tell the Children  The Pioneers

The Children of the Danube were on the move again.  They were the descendants of the settlers who had joined the trek down the Danube River in the Great Swabian Migration from Germany to the Kingdom of Hungary in the early 18th century.  Perhaps like their forebears, adventure may have been the driving force for some of them, while desperation drove others as they sought to make a life for themselves and their families.  They were faced with limited options if they remained in their original settlements: where   land was running out, restrictions against the Lutherans and Reformed were becoming more intolerable and the increasing and often unjust demands of the nobles made it more and more difficult to provide for their families.  For those reasons and others, the Children of the Danube were on the move everywhere but wherever they went they planted their roots deeply into the soil of Hungary and their faith, customs, traditions and language thrived and flourished among them in this new emerging environment for the succeeding generations.  The Pioneers tells this story through the lives and loves of three generations of the Tefner family in the unfolding story of Dörnberg where their lives intersected with the families who would eventually become part of the author’s extended family and which they shared with all the others who were part of their life together.

They found themselves isolated, confronted by a wilderness and created an economic miracle.  Destructive fires and raging floods, famine and drought, bandit raids and epidemics tested them but did not overcome their indomitable will, which was sustained by their faith.  A faith that was outlawed but continued underground unabated until the Edict of Toleration granted them freedom of conscience.  Nor would they simply cower before the injustices inflicted upon them by the nobles and authorities without protest.  Their lives were lived within the broader scope of the history of their times that played a vital role in their development, destiny and character.  Emperor Joseph II, the Bishop of Veszprém, Martin Biró von Padány, Anton von Kaunitz, Count Styrum Limberg, the Empress Maria Theresia, the three Counts von Mercy and countless other notable personages all make their appearance and leave their mark on The Pioneers in shaping The Strangers and Sojourners who would follow them in the next century


     It invariably comes as a surprise to most people to discover that there were Lutherans among the original Danube Swabians who were part of the first Great Swabian Migration of the 18th century into Hungary, known as the Schwabenzug.


     They were officially excluded from settling in the newly won territories taken from the Turks, but in order to secure settlers the Emperor Charles VI was not above making concessions with regard to his religious policy when it came to securing the kind of colonists he wanted even if they were Protestants.  He granted special Letters Patent providing for the freedom to practice their religion if settling in Hungary to those coming from Hesse, Baden and Württemberg.  The vast majority of these Lutheran settlers arrived in the 1720’s from Hesse and settled on the Tolna estates of Count von Mercy, the Governor of the Banat who was at the head of the colonization movement.  It was only through his intervention that these colonists were able to organize themselves into congregations and secure pastors and teachers, because when they arrived in Hungary they found themselves in the middle of the final phase of the Counter Reformation.


     Their Letters Patent often proved ineffective, because they were dependent upon the good graces of the Emperor, and that could change with the times and the seasons.  There was a sixty year long struggle on the part of the Lutherans to establish themselves and maintain their own church life and faith identity in the face of ongoing persecution, both by the Jesuits and the Hapsburgs, especially during the reign of Maria Theresia.  But some Mother Churches were able to survive and provided support to the struggling orphaned and shepherdless congregations.  In particular they were the congregations in Varsad (the oldest Swabian Lutheran congregation in the Empire), Kismanyok, Gyönk and the Reformed congregation in Nagyszekely.  With the Edict of Toleration in 1781 over fifty congregations in the counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy declared themselves to be Evangelical Lutherans and were legally allowed to organize themselves and develop their church life, but with some continuing restrictions placed upon them.


     The vast majority of the congregations who continued as “underground churches” did so through the special ministry of individuals who were variously called “emergency teachers” or “Levite Lehrer”.  They functioned as illegal schoolmasters, who also led the congregations in worship and provided some basic pastoral care including baptism and funerals.  They did not celebrate Holy Communion.  This emergency office in the life of their churches would become the norm in the future, for those congregations without a resident pastor, who were associated with a Mother Church in the area.  It was this model of church life that was brought to Hrastovac and Slavonia by the Lutheran colonists who came from the area known as Swabian Turkey that covered the geographical area of the counties of Tolna, Baranya and Somogy. 


     Large scale Lutheran and Reformed emigration into Hungary occurred during the third Schwabenzug under Joseph II.  These settlements were confined to the future Batschka and the Banat and they too would become part of the Church of the Augsburg Confession in Hungary as the Lutheran Church was then known.



This website exists to preserve and celebrate the history, traditions and heritage of the descendants of some of the  settlers from southwest Germany who joined the Great Swabian Trek into Hungary in the early 18th century.  They were part of a larger group known as the Danube Swabians but in order to highlight their own unique identity and history in Hungary they are described as the Children of the Danube.  For like the Children of Israel, they too were in quest of a Promised Land.  The reader is provided with access to resources and information about their history, culture, faith and tradtions.  It also provides assistance in researching their own family history and specifically introduces them to the settlements and villages in Swabian Turkey in the Counties of Tolna, Somogy and Baranya.

  The website also introduces the reader to the various books related to the Children of the Danube and their origins, history and destiny written by Henry A. Fischer.  It is interactive and your comments, questions and requests for additional information are welcome.

  You are now invited to enter the world of the Children of the Danube.

   At the beginning of undertaking my research into my family origins in Hungary, I ran across references in some Danuabe Swabian histories and studies to some settlers whose origins were not from the German speaking principalities within the Holy Roman Empire, but from France, Italy and Spain.   Most of these references dealt with the Banat in present day Serbia and Rumania.  When I managed to discover the list of the earliest settler families at Kotcse in Somogy County dated April 1730, a few of the Lutheran and Reformed settlers from the Palatinate and Hesse had non-German names.  The one that struck me in particular was Gaspari, which is Italian.  There were others that were of French origin but had been Germanized and this would be true in several other villages.  Names like Simon, Rollion, Wallis, Thorau and Lafferton to mention just a few.

   In my later research I discovered that several of these families came from the village of Russelsheim in Hesse, which was also true of some of my own family connections, the Wolfs and Bruders who were among the settlers in Kotcse.  That reference provoked consternation on my part later when I followed up on other aspects of the Counter Reformation in Europe that might have affected the persecution we endured under the Habsburgs and Jesuits in Hungary.  In investigating the barbarous Albigensian Crusades unleashed by the Papacy in the tenth and eleventh centuries in southwest France, there were also references to the persecution of the followers of Peter Waldo, who were known as the Poor Men from Lyon, a movement that had spread throughout Provence in France.  The survivors were later known as the Waldensians.  They were dissenters against papal wealth and power and the corruption of New Testament Christianity and became an underground movement as wandering missionaries that spread across Europe preaching an apostolic gospel.  Many of them were tradesmen and merchants and in this way their teachings against Rome were circulated everywhere.  I had found a reference to them in Odenburg  (Sopron) in Hungary in the 15th century when their mission there was exposed and then suppressed by the local clergy and several of the town folk both men and women were burned at the stake.  Odenburg would later become a stronghold of Lutheranism with the introduction of Martin Luther’s writings in the early 1520s when clandestine study groups emerged among the citizenry that led to the formation of a congregation that exists to this day.

   The persecution of the Waldensians by the papacy would go on for over eight hundred years, and yet they managed to survive, principally in the Piedmont valleys, in the alpine borderlands between present day France and Italy, and most of the Waldensian were of French and Italian origin, and found sanctuary in the mountains and a beneficent Savoyan princess.  But the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV of France in 1685 that ordered the conversion of all Protestants to Roman Catholicism led to the flight of hundreds of thousands of Hugenots (Protestants) across the Rhine into Holland, England and the German territories, where a notable number received asylum into Hesse.  Unlike their other French compatriots the Waldensians refused to flee and stood their ground and faced crusading armies for the next thirty years, in which their numbers were decimated and many of the women and children fled into the French and Italian speaking cantons of Switzerland and southwest Germany.  In the end their resistance was broken and some ten thousand of them went into exile into Western Europe, primarily Holland and the German principalities that were Reformed or Lutheran while other hid in the mountains.

   Of those who fled across the Rhine, there were numbers who were settled in the territories of Count Ludwig Ernest of Hesse, who allowed them to form colonies of their own and allowed the use of their language in church and school.  The land they were given, was often not of the best, nor was there much additional land available to them as the colony grew.  One of these colonies was at Russelheim and is the link to our family history and our history of dissent.  The Gaspari family had its origins there and their many descendants spread throughout Somogy and Tolna Counties.  It was because of that I undertook a study of the history of the Waldensians that I would like to preserve for our descendants as part of their self-identity and heritage.

  I have also translated a History of the Waldensian Church from German, and my handwritten notes are available to any who are interested. 

  Excerpts from correspondence with Pastor Ronald Lommel of the Lutheran Parish Nieder-Gemünden Hesse.

  As indicated, the following information is contained in some personal correspondence I had with Pastor Lommel following my visit to his parish a number of years ago.  At that time he was unaware of any emigration from Hesse to Hungary in the 18th century, but my visit piqued his interest and he undertook some research into the matter on his own.  I had originally gone to Elpenrod where the parsonage for the parish was located because at that time I thought that I had found the origins of my own branch of the Fischer family but my investigations there indicated I had to look elsewhere.

                                                                                          Henry Fischer

  After a long search and stumbling around in the Church Books and the old Family Registers, I can provide the following facts with regard to the Hungarian emigration.

  Johannes Fischer, Hainbach

  In the year 1724, Johannes Fischer from Hainbach left for Hungary.  His first wife, Anna Elisabeth had died the year before.  They had five children: Konrad born 04.05.1711, Johannes born 03.04.1714, Kaspar born 18.02.1716, Maria Elisabeth born 02.11.1719 and Elisabeth Katharina born 11.09.1722.  In March of 1724 he married a second time and his second wife was Anna Julianna born in Hainbach but residing in Nieder-Ohmen.  Johannes was born in Hainbach on 25.10.1689.

  Burkard, Bormann, Elpenrod

  He originally came from Altenburg near Alsfeld and married a Christiana Freiensehner in Elpenrod in 1698.  On 12.06.1709 a son was born to them and a daughter in 1713.  The Godparents were represented by proxies, that indicates the family was either not living there or just passing through.  There is a notation that he left for Varsad in Tolna County in Hungary in 1723.  

  Johann Peter Fischer, Elpenrod

  He was born on 09.11.1674 and married Katharina Schlosser of Elpenrod who was the daughter of the schoolmaster on 27.01.1701.  They had numerous children whose births are recorded in the Church Register.  A family researcher who had no knowledge of the  emigration to Hungary noted that all eleven of their children must have died because there is not record of any of them ever marrying.  However, in an older Family Register there is the notation, “left for Hungary in 1724”.

  Johann Peter Christ, Elpenrod

  Here I have to report on a special notation I found:  In a Family Register there is the following entry:  J. P. Christ who was born in Elpenrod in 1703 along with his wife Anna Elisabeth Carle from Elpenrod left for Gyönk in Hungary in 1724.  In the Church Books in Queckborn (located close to Grunberg in Upper Hesse) it is reported that a son was born to him posthumously (following his death) named George Dietrich on 20.09.1725 in Gyönk in Hungary and on the 22nd was baptized by a Roman Catholic priest in Bormont*.

  It is further reported that his pregnant wife married a countryman from Upper Hesse named Caspar Röder in Majos, Hungary on 20.06.1725.  (He in all likelihood came from Queckborn.)  Both of them returned to Queckborn and George Dietrich Christ married in Queckborn in 1751 as well as his step-sister Anna Katharina Röder.

  Johann Heinrich Jäckel, Hainbach

  He was the son of Johann Ludwig and Anna Katharina Jäckel whose maiden name was Weiss and came from Hainbach, and he was born in 1714 in Hainbach, he married Eva Vinkenstock from Nieder-Gemünden and had a son with her, Johann Valentin born 17.11.1740.  It is noted that he and his family along with two single sisters, Anna Maria born in 1711 and Katharina Elisabeth born 1728 went to Kistormás in Hungary and there are no further entries with regard to them in the Family Register.

  Anna Julianna Nagel, Nieder-Gemünden

  She was the daughter of Mathaus and Anna Barbara Nagel whose maiden name was Pabst from Nieder-Gemünden and was born 26.01.1730.  In Hungary she married Johann Konrad Zarth.  With regard to the fortunes of her brother Konrad born 18.03.1734 as well as her parents there is nothing available.  It is possible that they too…

  Pastor Lommel further writes:

  “Following our discussion I decided to immerse myself in all of the available information I could find in the area in order to discover if there was any evidence of the emigration to Hungary.  I was able to find two or three sentences about it in various village histories, for instance in Bleidenrod and Alsfeld.  And with regard to some of the family names you shared with me I found traces of them in Ruppertenrod, Nieder-Gemünden, Gross-Felda as well as others all in the immediate vicinity where I serve and these family names are still familiar to this day.  But the population in this area is not conscious of any large-scale emigration to Hungary.  Only the memory of the emigration to America 100 years ago is still spoken of.

  The major reason for the emigration to Hungary was the material poverty of the population.  Today we can hardly imagine the situation in which people found themselves and as the saying goes, they had nothing to lose.  The limited agricultural production could only meet the essential needs of the people and then there were always crop failures and famine.  The inheritance right meant that only the oldest son could inherit the family home and property, and the younger sons and daughters had to hire themselves out as hired hands and maids.  It was the same case when it came to the tradesmen, like the tailor, shoemaker, wagon builder, blacksmith, weaver only the oldest son could continue the family trade.  There were also shepherds and herders.  Most farmers were simply poor, very poor.

  It was no wonder that when the recruiters and soldiers who came into our area to publicize the invitation of the Austrian Emperor Charles III to settle in far off Hungary and be given house and land and freedom from paying taxes, it fell on receptive ears.  About fifty settler families from the area around Alsfeld were involved in the first wave of settlers down the Danube during 1719-1725 becoming the Danube Swabians in their new homeland according to H. Jäkel in his Zur Geschichte des Kreiss Alsfeld published in 1972.  Their descendants can still be identified by their Upper Hessian dialect and their allegiance to Lutheranism.

*This community or a facsimile of it is unknown to me

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